Friday, February 22, 2019

a fun long read from Kelly Hiser at NewMusicBox on the Hammond organ

I never knew the Federal Trade Commission ended up having a hearing over a controversy about whether Hammond was considered to misrepresent what it's electric organs could do in relationship to more traditional pipe organs.

Jessa Crispin on the industry norm of publishing fake memoirs that publishers don't spot

I suppose it's of a piece with my dislike of the Romantic artist-genius myth, but one of the things about this persona is that there's a big industry to it, though it's not necessarily literally rock stars.  There's more than one way to do the rock star thing and in our era that can be through the memoirists epics.

Whether or not the lives are lived is less material in literature than it may be in music.

It should come as no surprise that the long literary con of Dan Mallory began with a fake memoir. Fabricating pain for profit is, after all, a time honored publishing tradition.

Mallory, who published his bestselling, Hollywood-optioned first novel The Woman in the Window under the name A.J. Finn, was exposed last week as a serial liar by the New Yorker. He faked his resume, he faked cancer, he faked his brother’s suicide, he faked that his novel about an agoraphobic woman who thinks she possibly witnessed a crime in her neighbor’s apartment wasn’t just a hodgepodge rip-off of better written works like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, the Barbara Stanwyck film Sorry Wrong Number, and the Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver 1980s thriller Copycat.

But what got him into publishing in the first place, where he became an editor and from there a novelist, was a faked memoir. His essay on his taking care of his mother as she died of cancer and he himself discovered he had a brain tumor, written while he was a grad student at Oxford, caught the attention of Craig Raine, the editor of Areté literary magazine, who called it an “astonishing” piece of writing. Areté publishes some of the biggest names in British literature, from Julian Barnes to Tom Stoppard to Ian McEwan, and Raine wanted Mallory to join their distinguished company.

The problem was the story wasn’t true. Mallory’s mother did have cancer at one point, but she was certainly not dead, just living on Long Island. Nor was his father dead, although Mallory had committed linguistic patricide on him in the same essay. Nor his brother, who... you get it.


While Mallory’s story seems remarkable — a con man using a sob story to sashay his way to literary power — it’s actually extremely common. The publishing industry not only attracts but rewards these fraudsters in large numbers. It fetishizes and exploits so-called authentic experience, especially from marginalized populations, but its insularity and homogeneity makes it ill-equipped to detect fakery.

There was a time, not too long ago, when every memoir detailing a miserable, marginalized life turned out to be written by someone from the suburbs. Margaret B. Jones, whose story of being a half-Native inner city gang member was lavished with praise by The New York Times for being “unsentimental” and “humane,” turned out to be a white girl from the suburbs. James Frey wrote a memoir about violence and hardship and a life of addiction, and he turned out just to be some guy from the suburbs. Danny Santiago wrote a supposedly autobiographical novel about a teenage Chicano moving in and out of gang life on the hard streets of Los Angeles, and he turned out to be some white guy from the suburbs. JT LeRoy wrote autobiographical fiction and memoir about his time working as a gas station prostitute, about coming out (and going back in) as trans, about having AIDS, about his abusive relationship with his mother. He turned out just to be some white lady from the suburbs.

Imagining and selling tragedy works. [emphasis added] Mallory’s literary career may have been very different had he not captured a gatekeeper’s attention with a fake memoir that followed the template of every other successful hoax. Publishing insists it is a meritocracy, but it is mostly a matter of having the right bylines and knowing the right people. The sob stories of family tragedy and cancer treatment were used to explain work absences, gain sympathy, and make himself noticed, as told in the New Yorker profile.

According to Christopher L. Miller’s Imposters: Literary Hoaxes and Cultural Authenticity, the key to a successful fraud is to downgrade your societal position, to “cross a boundary from a realm of greater privilege to one of lesser privilege.” In order to successfully mimic authenticity, pretend to be poor if you’re rich. If your family is intact, break them up or kill some of them off. If you’re straight, go gay. If you’re white, try some literary brown or blackface. An authentic experience is an experience of difficulty. The act of writing is then an act of overcoming that difficulty.

The reason these frauds happen is because of the publishing industry’s and the audience’s hunger for authentic voices, particularly voices of suffering. Apologies to Barthes, but the author didn’t die, she became the text. Literature’s job — to articulate the unspeakable, to contextualize the seemingly chaotic and random, to humanize the other — is now handed over to the author rather than the book. If you, like Mallory, write a character who has agoraphobia, you had better have suffered from agoraphobia yourself. It makes the characterization and plot more legitimately authentic. Mallory invented many different parallels between his main character and himself during interviews and events, all in the name of promotion. The personal connection becomes the selling point. It gives the work the shine of authenticity, whether real or stretched or fabricated.


The power of the sob story is a power indeed.

Melodramas are still with us, as memoirs.  

Ryan Adams and music journalism on the male genius and its vices--to demystify the cult of the male art-genius we'll first need to demystify the music and ... that will involve a lot of theory

wish I could say I was surprised by the New York Times report detailing allegations that the singer-songwriter Ryan Adams offered to mentor young women, before pursuing them sexually and turning nasty after they turned him down. His ex-wife, the musician and actor Mandy Moore, described him as “psychologically abusive”. When the musician Phoebe Bridgers began a relationship with Adams after he offered to mentor her – at the time he was 40, she 20 – she said he quickly became emotionally abusive and manipulative, “threatening suicide” if she didn’t reply to his texts immediately.
Stories like these are eminently familiar to me and many other women who work in the music industry. Surely to men, too, although if they talk about them, it’s rarely to us women. The industry has been slower to reckon with its abusers post-#MeToo than other art forms, partly because it is built on a generally permissive culture of excess and blurred lines between work and leisure – but also because the myth of the unbridled male genius remains at its core. The male genius is the norm from which everyone else deviates. He sells records, concert tickets and magazines. And because he resembles most of the men who run the industry, few of them are in any hurry to act when he is accused of heinous behaviour, lest their own actions come into question.
The concept of male genius insulates against all manner of sin. Bad behaviour can be blamed on his prerequisite troubled past. His trademark sensitivity offers plausible deniability when he is accused of less-than-sensitive behaviour. His complexity underpins his so-called genius. As I wrote for this paper in 2015: “Male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of ‘difficult’ artists, [while] women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don’t understand art.” This was after, in response to an interview request, Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek told a crowd that I was a “bitch” who wanted to have his babies. Note, too, how many female geniuses are dismissed as divas, their art depicted as a symptom of disorder, their responses to mistreatment and calls for respect characterised as proof of an irrational nature.

Other writers have written about the very idea of what genius meant, has meant, and means has changed over the centuries.  I can't really remember any Ryan Adams songs, and it took a few years to not confuse Adams with Bryan Adams, whose songs I know and don't necessarily love.

That the music industry is not particularly egalitarian doesn't seem like a big shocker, I'm afraid.  But what I find in writing about music and the way people write about music is that ... well ... Leonard B. Meyer was pretty accurate in saying that the Romantic era has never really ended and that by the time he wrote that observation in the later part of the 20th century it seems that it "still" isn't over.  The Romantic notions of genius, the artist as some kind of prophet-priest stand-in and the great man who is not necessarily bound to the petty and parochial moral strictures of others isn't all there was to how people thought from the Romantic era on to our time, but the Romantic artist-hero cliche seems to permeate writing about musicians who say and do very, very badly.

Andrew Durkin's Decomposition was a mainly disappointing book but if he was trying to articulate a set of arguments against the ideal of the solitary rule-breaking genius that's had coin since the Romantic era I was on board with that particular mission decades before I read Durkin's book.  I've been pretty anti-Romantic in my interests and sympathies ... though as I get older I can appreciate that some fantastic music was written in the 19th century.  It's just that I find Richard Wagner's views abominable and even if I can overlook his vitriolic anti-Semitism I simply don't see that claiming that art can do for religion what religion can no longer do is necessarily a more virtuous alternative to the perceived vices of religion and religious orders.  It seems pretty damned obvious by now that when the arts get treated like religion that more or less the same kinds of systemic abuses get perpetrated by the clergy of the art-religion as get perpetrated by more formal religion.  Or as Eric Cartman riffed on the matter in a South Park episode whether it's Catholic priests or a Sandunsky the abuse looks pretty much the same. 

Although I can sort of appreciate bids at insisting on a kind of listener response theory that helps imbue music with what feels most inspiring about music, I am not sure this is going to work.  Take this conclusion in a piece at The New Yorker that discusses the Ryan Adams coverage and events:

Part of the problem is that music thrills and bewilders us in a way that can feel at odds with natural laws, so we instinctively codify and exalt its creation. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about what happens to a person when they hear a song that they love, and what sense, if any, can be made of that strange, glorious melting. When I look at my own record collection, I see a desperate monument to my desire for that feeling—for some fleeting brush with the sublime. There are neurobiological processes to point to, and loads of social and cultural cues that help explain and unpack fandom, but the experience itself is such a hard thing to hold on the page. Never being able to fully explain it in a concise or useful way is a big part of why I first began writing about music, and why the work remains interesting to me. There’s a little bit of God in it.

But mystifying the creative process also allows for the genius myth to expand and endure. When nobody can say for sure why a certain melody is so satisfying, or so evocative, or so pleasurable—and this is criticism’s grandest prerogative, to somehow get close—we inevitably begin to imbue its creator with supernatural strengths. Ergo, people get away with things, for horrifyingly long stretches of time. It seems essential that critics remain vigilant about who is being granted leniency, and for what. But I also wonder if there’s a way for critical discourse to make more room for the receiver—to give more credit to our own consciousness, and the magic it makes of sound. That communion, after all—between player and listener, in which both parties create something extraordinary together—is just as sacred. Perhaps we can start to look for the genius in there instead.

Art religion by another name ... is still art religion.  I can appreciate why Adorno had it out for bourgeois art religion, despite not being particularly Marxist and despite loving the art of music as a practice.  I love writing music and I like to listen to music.  What I don't think music is, necessarily, is divine.  The people who make songs are people not even "just people", people who are no better in any respect than people who don't make music or can't enjoy music.  That Adorno comes off in his writings like an elitist chauvinist anti-Slav jerk doesn't mean he can't be right about some things. Art in administrative cultures, he proposed, sold the illusion of freedom and expression as a balm for the lack of any of those things in the lives of most people.  The rock star life, as Jacques Ellul indirectly put it, is the surety for contemporary society being what works.  Ellul went so far as to say that art is the thing that most assimilates us into technocratic societies and tells us it's okay.  The artists live a vicarious "freedom" for us and we buy the products.  Take Adorno and Ellul together and the indictment of what Adorno called the culture industry could be pretty severe indeed.  

The things that come to light about men like Ryan Adams or R Kelly or Michael Jackson make it seem as though the last thing we want to do is elevate musicians to the role they have been elevated to.  I mean, at the risk of giving a possibly lame counter example, the musicians you come across in church services aren't rock stars but they are musicians and they make music of a sort where if you're not bringing your own participation to the music the music in a very real way isn't going to happen. 

It's not like singers in opera weren't like rock stars in the sixteenth century.  The rock star impulse has always been around.  The potential failure of standing against the rock star impulse with a listener response approach isn't that we don't need that approach in pedagogy or theory, it's that it's not clear that in the United States that level of musical literacy is going on.  It is in the sense that people are musically literate enough to know what they like.  

But if criticism's grandest prerogative is to somehow get close to saying for sure why a melody is satisfying criticism hinges on that element of music which is least appealing to writers on music and writers of music in many cases, theory.  Theory in music is, as a music theory professor once put it to a class I was in, pretty much entirely after-the-fact descriptions of what people have found "works".  This is not just in the sense of what the "rules" are for solid counterpoint or effective harmony but what "works" in the sense that people have loved the music enough to keep coming back to it.  

But there remain facile and ultimately stupid bromides about how writing about music is somehow like dancing about architecture.  I frankly don't believe Gene Kelly couldn't have danced about the Chrysler building. Martha Graham could have found a way to use dance to describe a building.  There are axioms in writing about music that are not attempts to preserve what is mysterious about music but curtain pulling gambits to keep mysteries where they are profitable.  I don't mean to sound conspiratorial in putting it that way.  What I am trying to say is that as objectionable and tedious as many writers and musicians find theory, theory won't demystify what makes an appealing melody appealing, but what it can potentially demystify is the mechanics of how such melodies come together and, taken up with cognitive research, give us a clearer sense of what our minds do in interpreting music that leads us to embrace one song and forget another.  

In other words, the journalists and academics who, on paper, and quite literally on the page, inveigh against the male cult of the genius who are nevertheless not interested in completely demystifying the technical and theoretical approaches to music-making as far as humanly possible are condemning the cult of the Romantic male genius in the worst possible kind of bad faith.  

Power ballads are not that difficult to unpack.  You play a mid-tempo stew of I-V-vi-IV chords and have a crooning/mumbling pentatonic melody with gooey lyrics in a lower register.  You maybe set this up with some slow harmonic rhythms at first, sit on the tonic and don't get to a new chord until you're about to shift into a new structural unit.  When you do you set up for the big soaring four-chord chorus, though.  And then you jump into said chorus with abandon and let the chord changes evoke the feelings that thanks to generations of song-plugging many people are operantly conditioned to shed tears to.  You maybe wail passionately what you sang in earlier verses an octave higher with a pinch in the throat or you scream stuff to add emphasis.  Kurt Cobain mastered these formulas and sold a lot of records, a lot of records.  

But the risk of demystifying these kinds of musician techniques is that the mystique of the artist can wither.  There's a risk that the aura of Kurt Cobain evaporates if we look at the songwriting technique and music in technical and theoretical terms.  The problem isn't that, per some Roger Scruton canard, we'll discover that, oh, the voice-leading is bad.  That's its own kind of bad faith absurdity.  Cultural conservatives too often invoke an 18th century ideal of contrapuntal and harmonic writing when they want to impugn pop music and then, woah, suddenly it's just so fantastic that Schubert used mediant key relationships and broke free of the 18th century norms.  Look you scolds, you can't just declare that breaking all the rules of the 18th century as mediated by 19th century pedagogy is somehow awesome when it's classical music but that 20th century onward pop musicians can't break the rules and also be considered heirs to the Romantic era legacy.  That kind of double standard is a separate topic I might vent my frustrations about later.  What I'm trying to articulate at this point is a proposal that critical-literary and academic conventions have everything to lose and nothing to gain by truly demystifying music as an art form.  Music educators, by contrast, could gain a lot.  

If we could teach every one how to read music the upshot might not necessarily be that everyone would venerate Mozart (why should they? I like Haydn and Hummel better, personally).  If soemone who might otherwise be under the thrall of a musician can play and write the same stuff then perhaps in this imaginary and can't-really-exist world someone could hear a Ryan Adams song and say "That's not that hard.  I know a dozen people who can do that much."  

That's more what I'm trying to get at by way of demystifying music as an art.   We could talk endlessly about how genius is a social verdict and get into discussions about what forces and interests catalyze such verdicts.  We could do a lot of talking about demographic designations as to what or who is or isn't genius in what context and why.  We could try to argue that the cult of the genius is patriarchal but that might leave out other considerations.  

We live in an era that seems to have a residual Romantic commitment to the idea that genius is individual rather than collaborative even when we recognize genius that emerges from collaboration.  We can read endless gushing about Lennon and McCartney that stops well short of observing that the Beatles were a corporate product, and not just in the sense of being a collective of creativity greater than the sum of its parts.  Leonard B. Meyer pointed out that we had transitioned into an era in which art was developed by teams and committees.  Another way to put this is to say that we have lived in an era of popular song, full of songs that are often put together by teams but that are tethered in imagination to individuals or small groups.  We tend to evade the corporate aspect of the patronage system.  Sure, pop music could be against capitalism and so on, but here Adorno and Ellul had cold water to throw at us, reminding us that you ultimately can't separate the product from the production system by just insisting that it could be more.  I think an answer to this concern is to point out that repressive patronage systems have always been with us in the fine arts and that folk arts (not folk art in the post 19th century political activism version, but the traditions of countless never-professionals) could be an alternative to the high art systems.

Fortunately the boundaries between all these categories of musical life are a whole lot more permeable and unstable than journalists and academics tend to remember to say they are.  

I am not sure that music will get demystified in this way I'm imagining or that it can.  

on axioms and anti-axioms

You have to believe me when I say that it’s not my intent to carry on eviscerating children’s television. I’m only in my late-twenties but I fear my online persona at times comes across too curmudgeonly. Nevertheless, the vocals from my 2-year-old’s favorite Disney Junior show recently assaulted my eardrums…and my theology.

I’m no stranger to Sofia the First. My daughter’s incessant affection for Sofia and the chronicles of her adventures has resulted in my wife and I cycling through the four breezy seasons over a half-dozen times (each). And though I don’t know how much my little princess grasps of the show besides its fantastical colors and talking animals, sometimes the show’s affinity for morals through musical numbers reaches out and slaps me with lessons I’d never want her to remember. Such was the case when, upon my fourth viewing of an episode called “Minding the Manor,” I actually listened to the lyrics of its featured song, “It’s Up to You.”

Many a self-identified adult who maybe writes or speaks about adulting does not get around to engaging what is broadly known as children's entertainment and media until actually being a parent.  but when I write "children's entertainment" I don't necessarily mean animation because The Wind Rises isn't a movie for kids.  I don't necessarily mean The Powerpuff Girls, either.  

No, what I'm getting at is that there are a lot of writers who don't bother to engage with whatever it is they regard as kid stuff until they have kids whose interest in such designated kid stuff makes it impossible for them to not, eventually, by dint of sheer exposure, begin to think about what is in designated kid stuff.

" ... I actually listened to the lyrics of its featured song ... ."

That might sum it up right there.  It may come as some kind of revelation about what-our-culture-is-really-like to people who couldn't be bothered to pay attention to this stuff before parenthood that the messages that "we" give to kids seem pat and overly optimistic or triumphalist, even.  But it can very often be the luxury of having enough time to spare to watch that episode of, say, Blues Clues all five days in the week that the little one watches it, and though for that little one whose long-term memory functions are not yet developed that episode seems sparkling and new in some way each day the child watches it, "you" find yourself noting the repetition.  The things you do from love ... . 

Anyway, of all the faux lightning bolt realizations self-identified grown-ups have about kids' shows one of the most pedestrian ones is that kids shows have simple moralizing messages that are not really true about how the world really works.  That rank heresies can come with catchy and artful tunes is a point that could be brought up but it's probably implicit even in the article quoted above.  Still, there's a patness to regarding a song as an assault on the ears and on one's theology.  Surely there are many times where a song is merely an assault on one or the other rather than both at once.  Depending on one's confessional tendencies one may feel obliged to lambast the theology of the Wesleys despite the robustness of their hymnody traditions.  

But what sticks with me as I remember this piece and its introduction is that in a sense the methodology can be distilled into a paradigm, the bromide is met with the anti-bromide.  It is written that a proverb is useless in the mouth of a fool in the way that those with disabled legs are unable to walk with them, and perhaps it can be argued that part of wisdom is knowing when, how and even if a proverb is applicable.  

Now I'm not a parent but I am an uncle and I admit that I made a point of showing children programs their parents had pre-screening decision-making power over.  Fortunately what they wanted the kids to watch, what the kids in question wanted to watch, and what I wanted to watch very often coincided.  Spoiler alert, Batman: the animated series; Pixar films; the original Powerpuff Girls; and select Hayao Miyazaki films passed muster.  What might make my situation slightly different from the "usual" American adult is that I wanted to get into animation and comics when I was a child. I discovered, very quickly, I didn't have the eyes for doing a lot of that kind of work.  I mean, I could draw, do a bit of painting but mixing colors was challenging.  I was not so good at working with clay and merely passable at charcoal but I was interested in exploring visual media.  My artistic heroes growing up were Charles Schultz, and in my teens I added Rembrandt and Bill Watterson to the list of artists I admired.  The thing is, as I grew up I never assumed that what I enjoyed and respected in animation and comics had to be dropped as "kid stuff".  

I'm suggesting that many an American parent who all of a sudden discovers kids shows have objectionable messaging was so busy putting the "childish things" behind them they didn't stop to consider how potently they are shaped by these things.  The cult of Star Wars did not just emerge, it was cultivated across generations.  

Merely formulating an axiom against another axiom doesn't necessarily get at the cognitive and social processes through which axioms are formed.  Although I'm not sure I could call myself or that anyone would call me progressive, there is a sense in which I can appreciate that what some progressives try to do is argue that are processes of axiom formation are anchored to cultural norms that do not necessarily lend themselves to creating accurate axioms. 

Jewish wisdom literature might be more blunt and say there are fools who cumulatively create foolish cultures who endorse modes of foolishness as being wisdom.  Wisdom can entail recognizing the foolishness that is abject and displayed. Wisdom can entail recognizing that something that seems wise is, upon further examination, still foolish.  

Jewish wisdom literature, as I've come to appreciate it over the decades, shows a battle between an impulse to respect revelation and an impulse to provide axiomatic and literally proverbial wisdom about how to live in and with this world as we are thrown into it.  The older I get the more it seems that a lot of objections to ideals as stated in kids shows are a kind of Job's comforters theological objections, they are objections that can sound smart and look wise when presented in abstract terms but which may be strictly confined to generic observations.  I suppose another way to put this is to say that there's a type of Christian cultural criticism that boils everything down to the soteriological issue as if no other elements of life are up for consideration.  In a pop Lutheran form or in a Cavinist presuppositionalist idiom everything stands or falls on whether the soteriological paradigm perceived to be inherent in cultural artifact X is correct on confessional grounds.  

As a fan of Hayao Miyazaki's films I'm never going to be a pantehist but I can appreciate that there is an element of his pantheistic conviction I can appreciate even as a Calvinist, which is to say that however fractured or refracted the idea is, a pantheist can grasp in part an observation from Jewish and Christian writings that humanity bears the divine image.  What this means is difficult and sometimes mysterious, but what I'm saying is that if you don't insist on confining all discussion of things conventionally understood as being for kids in terms of a soteriological paradigm a chorus of "it's up to you" doesn't have to be some semi-Pelagian declaration, it could also be something more prosiac such as, "if you're the princess then all of these decisions are yours to make."  There are, even in what seem to be the most simple-minded programs made for kids, different levels of interpretation and meaning and relational dynamics between characters that can be explored.

I've spent decades enjoying animated shows and films, with and without children, and, of course, since childhood.  I don't see any reason to not engage with the art form as seriously as I would deal with the writings of Kafka or Dostoevsky or Robert Frost's poetry or the music of Haydn.  Thinking critically, so to speak, is something I like to try to do regardless of the brow of the art and without exemptions for the target demographic.  I can tell that the creators of Blues Clues thought a lot about cognitive development in children as part of how they structure their stories, why they repeated the same episode every day across a broadcast week, and what kinds of induction and deduction they were encouraging children to do.  If I wanted to be a pop Lutheran I could say that the song "You can be anything that you wanna be" is wrong ... but I also have better things to do with my time, too. 

In a way I guess I get that parents who stopped thinking about kids shows until they had kids just did something normal and average.  But at another level, I get the feeling that in many ways adult art has been made in reaction to what the perceived mistakes of childhood lore.  Maybe generations grew up with Tolkien and Lewis and decided that that wasn't very realistic.  Tolkien could depict battles of good and evil over who would have power but a Martin may conclude Tolkien failed to explore in fantasy the difficulties of wielding and keeping power and ... Game of Thrones.  But I wonder if that isn't, in the long run, an anti-axiom against an axiom, an anti-bromide against a bromide.  It's not clear to me that the anti-bromide arrives at wisdom by interrogating the weakness of the initial bromide, assuming the bromide has been clearly understood. 

Which very loosely and conceptually gets me to Ecclesiastes, which Martin Shields once described in his monograph on the wisdom book as a kind of battle in which the Preacher pits proverbs against proverbs to test the limits of what the proverbs can really teach us about the world we live in.  But having gone that far I feel like leaving it at that.  That's probably enough for this one post. 

a piece on the problem with Apple Music and classical music comes down to metadata

I was already thinking of writing about this topic (again) when this article came up at another blog I read as part of the Friday miscellanea
here it is

It's hardly the "only" problem or even the "big" problem with classical music but a lot of the troubles with digital music for classical music and streaming purposes in terms of being able to find what you want or recognize tracks when you see them has a lot to do with metadata.

Which is .... ?

Basically it's the information that comes up (or doesn't!) when you attempt to rip a CD on to iTunes that you just bought.  iTunes has gotten a lot better than Amazon metadata but that's another matter, in its way.

For a survey of writings on metadata as applicable to classical music .... here's a few randomly selected links.

Why is classical music so hard to enjoy on streaming services? In one word, it's metadata. Metadata is the information that coexists with every digital music file: each and every piece of information about a selection of music that a listener might find useful to know, and what makes the information in one file discernible from the next. In the case of classical music, relevant and important metadata includes the name of the piece of music, the composer, the album it's from, the performers, the label that released the recording and the year it was recorded.


But not everyone agrees that metadata is the ultimate problem.  There's a case to be made that one of the big problems in classical music where digital content is concerned could be solved by "make the covers bigger".

 In the past if you had an album with a dozen or more musicians who all got named on big old vinyl album covers in the 21st century the various artists are crammed, if named, ,into a digital reproduction of the album art that might, ,if you're fortunate, spring up in a display screen as an image anywhere between two to four times the size of a postage stamp.

Which is no problem if you're listening to the Rolling Stones or Kanye West.  If you're listening to the Sixteen with soloists X, Y and Z backed by Ensemble W performing something by Frank Martin, well, whatever.  You just have to know that already because odds are odd whether or not you'll get that kind of information on the basis of metadata.  

Metadata was, as best I can tell, designed to be a handy range of reference points for popular music and for popular song.  The industries that arrived at metadata to identify music did so on the basis of the musical styles and forms most likely to be sought out on the basis of such metadata, pop music, in a phrase.   So if you're looking up "Tears of a Clown" as performed by Smokey Robinson, you'll look it up on the basis of Robinson, for instance, or, since Stevie Wonder wrote so much of the song, you'd look it up on the basis of songs associated with Stevie Wonder.  But let's just pretend we're trying to look for this on the basis of things fans of classical music care about, you're not likely to find "Tears of the Clown" on the basis of the bassoonist who performed the wicked cool bassoon part on the song. :) Seriously, the most rock and roll bassoon solo in the history of 20th century song.  

There are other things besides metadata as to why classical music is as marginal as it is and at one level I don't mind that it isn't a booming musical field.  At another level I sort of mind a lot, but I've written about my conviction that what are colloquially described as art music and pop music have balkanized into camps that are full of pedagogues who don't commit to cross-breeding elsewhere.  

Monday, February 18, 2019

additional coverage and updates on the Harvest Bible Chapel/James MacDonald situation, with a comparison to the MH statement regarding Driscoll's three areas of weakness as a leader

The turning point for church leadership may have been the audio recordings broadcast on Erich “Mancow” Muller’s morning radio show on WLS-AM 890 in which MacDonald appears to disparage his critics.

Muller, once friends with MacDonald, said last week that MacDonald is “a carnival barker actor” who was running the church as “essentially a giant Ponzi scheme.”

In a January message to church members announcing he was temporarily stepping aside, MacDonald did not specify the “sin.” But Harvest leadership has been accused by a few vocal former members of financial mismanagement and dishonest operations.


Even though the former pastor’s contributions for growing the church will be remembered, said Sperling, “the elders concluded that there is a sinful pattern of inappropriate language, anger and domineering behavior.” [emphasis added]

It isn't that difficult to recall how and why that might resemble another church situation from just a few years ago.
Pastor Mark Driscoll's Resignation
By: Mars Hill Church
Posted: Oct 15, 2014

On Tuesday, October 14, Pastor Mark Driscoll submitted his resignation as an elder and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. The Board of Overseers has accepted that resignation[emphasis added] and is moving forward with planning for pastoral transition, recognizing the challenge of such a task in a church that has only known one pastor since its founding. We ask for prayer for the journey ahead.

As is well known, inside and outside of Mars Hill, Pastor Mark has been on a leave of absence for nearly two months while a group of elders investigated a series of formal charges brought against him. This investigation had only recently been concluded,[emphasis added] following some 1,000 hours of research, interviewing more than 50 people and preparing 200 pages of information. This process was conducted in accordance with our church Bylaws and with Pastor Mark’s support and cooperation.

While a group of seven elders plus one member of the Board of Overseers was charged with conducting this investigation, the full Board of Overseers is charged with reaching any conclusions and issuing any findings. 
In that capacity, we believe it appropriate to publicly mention the following:
  1. We concluded that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner. While we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry. [emphasis added]

Finally, Mark Driscoll was not asked to resign; indeed, we were surprised to receive his resignation letter. [emphasis added]
It would seem that Driscoll and MacDonald ended up being described by their own respective boards at their respective churches as having similar character flaws.  These were not character flaws that precluded the men from being considered fit for ministry to begin with, obviously, but were character flaws that came to be seen as ... liabilities to the public reputation of a church as corporation?

It is worth remembering that MacDonald left the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability about the time Paul Tripp did.

Julie Roys article at WORLD mentions a 50k gift given by HBC/James MacDonald to Mark Driscoll to help launch of The Trinity Church, an overview of MacDonald's role in Mars Hill board leadership
Bob Langdon, the former financial director of HBF who also participated in the audit, confirmed Wisen’s account. He said some of the items HBF paid for appeared to benefit Harvest Bible Chapel much more than the fellowship. For example, Langdon said HBF paid $500,000 for a church management systems upgrade that included new hardware for Harvest’s main campus in Elgin.

HBF also paid about $570,000 that Langdon said his boss, former Harvest Chief Financial Officer Fred Adams, had allocated for “overhead” and discretionary expenses. (Adams resigned at the end of 2017 and did not respond to a request for comment.) Langdon said those expenses included a percentage of the salaries for certain top Harvest Bible Chapel executives and a $50,000 donation to pastor Mark Driscoll’s Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Driscoll, a longtime friend of MacDonald’s, resigned from the former Mars Hill Church in Seattle in 2014 amid charges of domineering leadership.) Langdon said that during the audit, Wisen and auditors repeatedly asked Harvest executives to give justification for various HBF allocations “and there really wasn’t one.” [emphases added]
MacDonald, for those who may remember that Mark Driscoll had a book out last year, endorsed Mark Driscoll's Spirit-Filled Jesus by way of a blurb at the front of the book.

Driscoll, who is hosting a church governance conference, used to have MacDonald, for a time, on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability.  In light of the recent statements from Harvest Bible Chapel about their former preacher it has begun to seem as though the two men Driscoll and MacDonald have been described by their own former leadership boards as having similar vices.  The descriptions, however, are still rather general.  The future of HBC is in transition. 

Whether or not it survives remains to be seen.  Maybe it will.  Most of the former Mars Hill campuses survived, with a few notable exceptiosn that folded before Mars Hill was dissolved and the recently folded former Mars Hill Portland.  HBC may weather the storm ... but a sermon on David dealing with Amalekites doesn't seem like it might be the most apt sermon text in light of what has taken place.  Then again, there's a long and not necessarily venerable tradition of preachers transforming sermons on narrative literature from the Old Testament into talking points about recent church politics.  Who at Mars Hill during the 2007 period could  entirely forget the Nehemiah sermons? 

We'll get back to other topics that are more musical in some time but the events of late in the realm of megachurches have enough ties to the former MH it seems necessary to note some of the recent events.

Door of Hope site updated with Tim Smith listed among staff and elders

It took a while, but Door of Hope now lists Tim Smith as among their staff and elders, per earlier announcement.

Tim Smith
timsmith  @  doorofhopepdx.   org

Thursday, February 14, 2019

a Valentine's day musing on real divorce in the wake of Real Marriage, "we" weren't better than "them" after all, like I figured was the case back around 2002, and the gimmick of marriage books is still part of the star-making machinery of Christian pop publishing for red and blue state audiences

It was back at the start of 2012 that Mark and Grace Driscoll were promoting their book Real Marriage.  Post Mars Hill Driscoll would sometimes refer to "marriages saved" or the number of baptisms as an indicator of God's work.  His discussions tended to stay at that rather vague level.

Back in the 2002-2007 period, Mars Hill had what I and others would refer to as its "courtship craze".  It was ... an idiotic period in the history of the church.  Driscoll would hold forth from the pulpit about what courtship was and how superior it was to other forms of dating and mating.  It's not that I can't appreciate some of the positive aims of the courtship craze, it's that it seemed there was a gap between theory and practice.

The way I put it back when I was at Mars Hill was to say I didn't really care how many people were meeting and marrying at Mars Hill circa 2002-2007, I really wanted to know how many of them would still be married in 2012 to 2017.

You can lose touch with a lot of people over the years.  Nonetheless, through the grapevine of people who have been to Mars Hill and through your own social life you can find out that, well, marriages have fallen apart.  Whether they fell apart "because" of Mars Hill teaching about marriage and sex or whether they were going to end in divorce anyway is not something I, or probably anyone could prove.  I'm thinking more about the thinking, that because at Mars Hill we do things differently our marriages are going to be better than the average.

It's never been clear to me that was the case, even when I was otherwise a happy and loyal member of Mars Hill circa 2002-2006.   It didn't seem to me there was any reason to boast in advance of the actual marriages.

By now there are marriages that have ended or are ending that passed through what used to be Mars Hill.  I'm not sure that just deciding to be "against" whatever was taught at Mars Hill amounts to being "better", just as I'm not sure that the Mars Hill way was better.  Deciding to be a feminist in response to what was misogynistic at Mars Hill is probably doing nothing right by way of the ideals of feminists.  To put it another, blunter way, cultists who were at Mars Hill are only going to change what cult they pledge their devotion to, not their essentially cultist mentality.  And to put it in another blunt way, fans of people like Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage probably don't change for the better, despite convincing themselves they are better than the fans of that other person.  Not that I even think that people who think they think for themselves are even an improvement.

The first unavoidable case of divorce within Mars Hill was a reminder that we were not, in fact, any "better" than anyone else outside the walls of the church.  I am not sure if we were worse, either, and I doubt that it makes sense to attempt to say we were different from the average without the kinds of statistical data mining that perhaps Mars Hill was at one point very good at but to which we've got no access now.  The data mining culture of Mars Hill was, as far as can be gleaned from statements by the higher level leaders, modest yet formidable.  There might have been some leaders in the upper echelon who could have guessed that they could guess which marriages might be in trouble based on podcast listening habits.  Maybe, although "listening for a friend" isn't impossible to imagine.

This isn't an invitation to folks to say their marriages from the Mars Hill days failed.  Nobody probably wants to volunteer that and with good reason.  But this Valentine's Day, considering that a number of marriages that, back in the days of Mars Hill seemed to be pretty solid, are no more or are falling apart, it makes it seem that my skepticism that Mars Hill had anything at all on anyone else talking about marriage was, well, justified.

There are plenty of people who were married when they came to Mars Hill who are still married to this day, and celebrating the day.  There are also a fairly large number of couples I can think of who met and married at Mars Hill who are still married and have kids and are, plus or minus some hard times and painful losses due to the passage of time, going strong.  I'm glad for them.  I managed to get through Mars Hill rising and falling and didn't marry at all.  On the whole I don't feel certain I missed out for not marrying.  If anything, during the 2012-2015 period I was probably blessed to be unmarried--the more that came to light about nondisclosure agreements and conditions of employment the more it seemed that those who were trying to be good providers for family could find that leveraged against them to keep quiet about their concerns or risk losing some support their families needed.

Now that Nadia Bolz-Weber has a book out I can see that sex sells and the gimmick works across the spectrum in pop Christian publishing.  That back in 2012 Mark and Grace Driscoll had Real Marriage and Ed Young had his shtick and that, now, Bolz-Weber has hers, I think too many people who buy these sorts of books and read these sorts of books miss the gimmick for specific planks in a platform they care about.  Do Bolz-Weber and Driscoll differ on gays?  No doubt they do but the more basic question as to why it is anyone should trust either of these authors to give marriage advice is the question that seems to not get asked.

You can have conservative or progressive convictions and sympathies regarding marriage and, by now, you should probably be able to find something fantastic in your set of convictions that is also some book that is gloriously public domain.  If you think that humans are so much different now than they were ten years ago and that that's why a new book has to be written then, well, you're part of the problem, not the solution as far as I'm concerned.  Of the writing of books there is no end It's not so much that I don't think new books should be written, it's that my time at Mars Hill and observing how pop Christian publishing rakes in money on the ostensibly red state and blue state divides has left me thinking that the scam is that "you" need to buy these new books.  Whether it's a Bolz-Weber or a Driscoll the promise of the pop Christian book about marriage and sex could still probably be boiled down to "do it this way and the marriage will be stronger and the orgasms longer and the children better behaved (maybe) and if not, well, we're still better than those people who don't do it this way and let me trot out statistics to insist upon that point, which is another reason why you should own and read this book.."


But that's how these pop literature level Christian celebrities build their empires, regardless of where they ostensibly land on the political or theological spectrum, selling people on this set of ideals.  It's also a way to ensure that stars are made.  It doesn't matter to me that Bolz-Weber and Driscoll really do have some differences on a variety of doctrinal and practical matters.  That's not what I'm getting at.  What I'm getting at is the stunt nature of the deal, the promise that if you buy this then that can be yours by way of reading the book, that element of the Christian pop publishing can be exactly the same in spite of the differences that people will keep fighting about across doctrinal and political spectrums.  That's what the pop publishing market thrives on.  Somebody like Rachel Held Evans may not be qualified to talk about anything to do with the Bible any moe than anyone else who can write on the internet but she was given a platform.  Why?  By who?  It's not that she doesn't have a right to speech, she absolutely does, it's that I got the impression that the star-making machinery of pop Christian publishing thrives when people like Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans stake out positions that inspire people to fight for one or the other and the same publisher that publishes both authors makes bank running with it.

For that matter, the Result Source deal as signed to ensure that Mark Driscoll would have a bestseller on the New York Times bestseller list in the self-help category on ... sex and marriage.  This shtick is as American as apple pie but more superfluous.

Whether it's a Mark Driscoll then or some other pop-level celebrity Christian this year the promise is ... actually fairly explicit, do it this way and you will totally get the special person in your life and totally get laid.  And that, folks, is how you know you're really human in the way that matters.

Since I've been on an Adorno reading binge the last few years I can't help but note something he wrote in Current of Music, a mess of notes about radio and American music education.   He mentioned that contrary to every conventional Freudian reading of texts, American popular song was bursting with sexual innuendo of the cheapest and most vulgar kinds in almost any random popular song.  Adorno proposed that, as subtexts and some paradigm of inverted Freudianism went, there had to be some kind of explanation.  If in the old way of reading popular song things that didn't seem to be about sex were about sex, it was likely that all the songs that seemed to be implicitly and explicitly about sex were really about something else.  What?  Adorno proposed that the overtly sexual lyrics of American popular songs were formally about sex but ultimately about status and status anxieties, whether or not someone "fit in" and sexuality was the easiest way to establish one's market value.

How does this connect to the way we talk about Valentine's day?  It might seem too obvious to mention.  We live in an era in which some progressives think American culture is at risk from "incels", as though every guy that can't get laid is potentially the Alberich whose curse on the Rhinegold will doom space-time and the cosmos given enough time.

For about ten years I would come across this or that person in the Reformed blog world bewailing the "epidemic of singleness" as if the failure of men and women to pair off in formal matrimony were an actual disease.  Never mind any statistical indicators that people marry later when economic disasters hit or when they have student debt or when they have lower incomes relative to living expenses.  That sort of thing is immaterial to social disease of people not being married already and making babies to the glory of God.

But, and here I come back to Adorno's spiky remarks about American pop culture, all of the sex talk ends up being a rant on status and status anxiety.  So in a way this reminds me of something I wrote back in 2011.

What I haven't seen in pop Christian publishing is a suggestion that, well, if your "market value" isn't very good to just be, you know, celibate in some fashion.  This is not a more miserable day than any other unless you insist upon it on the basis of ... what?  What in older terminology would be called coveting?  The grass is not greener on the other side.

I'm happy for the couples I met at Mars Hill who are still married today.  I'm not saying that because they met and married at a place many consider a cult that those marriages are somehow "invalid".  There is a case to be made that marriages stand or fall in some form tied to community.  Why else would advocates for gay unions consider it important those unions be accepted?  There may be other reasons, I suppose ,but that there is a communal/social element to romantic pair-bonding is not hard to figure out even for the longtime single.  There's also a case to be made, as an author put it, that unhappy families are unhappy in unique ways.  There are marriages that fall apart, and I was once told that marriages tend to fall apart because of unmet unrealistic expectations--if the expectations were realistic they could be met and if the expectations were unmet but realistic they could be attained.  The point that I've been making is that I don't think Mars Hill, the various marriages that have and haven't survived withstanding, was a place where guys like Mark Driscoll seemed to present realistic expectations about what marriage would be like.  Maybe they did for a lot of other people.  Real Marriage mainly suggested to me that if this was the Driscollian ideal of marriage that a life of celibacy might be better. Others, no doubt, feel differently.

But on this Valentine's day I can't help thinking of the marriages that started at Mars Hill and ... are no longer.  It seems like a lot of us sold ourselves on a line, the line that we really were better than those other people.  It was one of the lines I couldn't buy about Mars Hill and marriage.  I ended up being skeptical about this particular spiel when it gets presented by someone like Driscoll or when its presented by a Bolz-Weber because at this point in my life, what I see is the mercenary gimmick to sell books that are ostensibly raw and edgy and out there that embody what seems like a rote, standardized way to make celebrities out of writers who ... just maybe ... have no more business writing about topics such as marriage and friendship than any of the rest of us but who, for whatever reasons, are promoted by publishers as knowing what they're talking about.

and on that note, happy Valentine's day. I hope you're having a good day.

on the "Mancow" broadcast and the MacDonald removal from Harvest Bible Chapel, the lesson to not learn might be as important as some "lessons learned"

In a post- Mars Hill Puget Sound I've shifted blogging back to things that bore people out of their minds like musicology and associated topics, but it still comes up now and then that things connected directly or indirectly to the legacy of Mars Hill comes up at this blog.  Since James MacDonald was at one point on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability, he is occasionally a topic of interest here.

The most blunt headline account of what happened that I saw was at The Wartburg Watch.

James MacDonald Has Been Deposed and It Took a Recording Played by Mancow to Send the Elders Over the Edge

Something I've been thinking about is that a radio broadcast by a radio personality seems to have been the catalyst for the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel removing MacDonald.  As these things go it would seem we're talking about one mass media figure publishing material that catalyzed the removal of another media figure.  It might be too soon or too dubious to suggest that members of a spiritual community can bring issues to light about problems in a leader or leadership culture without facing retribution across the board.  It's hard to suggest such a thing not just because things are still playing out but also because, and I think this part is crucial, we're talking about elders removing someone at MacDonald's level with someone with a radio program made a point of publishing material.  In mass media and broadcast media terms this is still an intra-media caste situation.  

Justin Dean once tweeted about:
Had that dream again where the bloggers won and our church closed down.
12:35 AM - 28 Jul 2015 

The tweet is gone by now, but it once existed.  The bloggers didn't "win" because Mars Hill Church shut down.  Maybe thousands of people were leaving Mars Hill because of what was published and discussed at blogs, but it would be a stretch to say that "the bloggers" could be said to have "won" and that by Mars Hill Church closing down.  I admit for some time I prayed that either the culture of Mars Hill would truly reform or that, if its leaders wouldn't reform, it would die a miserable death.  If Justin Dean would be willing to grant that believers who prayed such prayers had their prayers answered then, okay, that might be one thing we could agree about, that God answered the prayers of those Christians who prayed that if Mars Hill leaders wouldn't repent and reform their culture that God would providentially destroy that empire.  I'm not holding my breath about that if you hadn't guessed that by now.

But these kinds of moments with Harvest Bible Chapel do invite a question as to what level of public status a person has to have before the things they disclose become game-changers for governance boards inside of churches of any size.  

Does Harvest Bible Chapel have a crisis plan along the lines prescribed by Justin Dean in PR Matters?  We won't find out directly, in all likelihood.  

Are all the HBC suits actually dropped?  Not just the suit involving bloggers, what about the other one with a lending institution?  At this point having active suits may be the prerogative of an entity to keep pursuing but amidst a leadership change other questions haven't gone away.  There are other issues pertinent to HBC that don't just go away even if MacDonald does.

Whether or not HBC makes it remains to be seen.  Mars Hill dissolved but even in his promotional discussions of his book, Dean seems to have indicated a good number of the churches that were once Mars Hill campuses are doing fine.  Not Portland, obviously, which got absorbed into Door of Hope without so much as a single indication I've been able to see that Tim Smith is in any capacity on staff.  That's mysterious ... but in the history of Mars Hill guys suddenly vanishing from online sites without any explanation is basically normal.

Where ever MacDonald lands next he probably won't land at a place that has congregational polity.
This is still the guy who at one point published that Congregational Government is From Satan.
and claimed that critics of his criticism were satanic

Although I personally attend a Presbyterian church I would never say congregational polity is from the devil.  There can be very healthy and unhealthy ways for just about any sort of ecclesiology paradigm to function, whether congregational, presbyterian, episcopal or so on. 

It's been reported the suit against the bloggers said to be associated with The Elephant's Debt and aso against Julie Roys has been dropped and the report has been it was dropped because a court stated that discovery was going to be what discovery normally is, as best I understand it, where lawyers can ask for a variety of documents as part of litigation.  While HBC was at liberty to drop its suit rather than deal with the realities of discovery this raises a question as to how and why anyone at HBC wouldn't have thought about those issues before filing a suit to begin with.  If it seems esoteric and pedantic, it is, but it's relevant because in the history of this blog I got a certified letter from a leader who was at Mars Hill asking to meet with him to talk about my blogging, despite the fact that publicly Mark and Mars Hill were pretty dismissive of bloggers having any relevance at all.  Back in 2012 or so I had some folks who had left MH or were leaving ask what could it hurt to meet with leaders at Mars Hill if they wanted to talk?  I had an admittedly cryptic response, from the end of Judges 8 through Judges 9.

But even in the case of Mars Hill, the bloggers didn't "win".  It wasn't until the mainstream and independent press picked up that something was going on and began to investigate more fully that crises developed from which mars Hill did not manage to recover.  Blogs played a role in keeping material available for public consideration but Mars Hill did not die because of a hostile secular liberal press corps having it out for Pastor Mark.  If that was all that was necessary Mars Hill would have crumbled in 1998 under the coerage of Mother Jones.  Clearly that didn't happen.

It has seemed that by opting for litgation HBC took a path that suggests from here in Puget Sound, that some people thought it was better to double down on a defense-by-offense approach.  That ... seems to have boomeranged on HBC.  The Mancow broadcast, which I haven't taken the tie to hear yet and might postpone until later, is still, when all is said and done a radio broadcast.  This is media figure vs media figure in the most important ways.  It may make the difference between a Mancow broadcast that leads an elder board to remove a pastor on the one hand and a storm of prolonged press coverage and social media controversies that culminate in a board putting a pastor on some kind of leave during which he designs to resign rather than start complying with the restoration plan he said he agreed to submit to.  At the risk of putting this in terms that even I feel are a bit too stark and jaded, the difference between a Mars Hill resignation and an HBC removal seems to have had something to do with the prestige level of the media format in which audio with incriminating statements tied to a by-now-former pastor at a church has been disclosed. 

Mark Driscoll's fortunes as a public figure and preacher took a substantial hit when he was confronted on air by Janet Mefferd who, in her own way, could be thought of as a sort of Reformed radio personality.  The parallels are perhaps cosmetic but it would seem "possible" to say in both cases it took radio figures bringing material to light for things to change in the case of what used to be Mars Hill and for the current Harvest Bible Chapel.

That should not give anyone who could otherwise think of themselves as rank and file tithing members of a church, or even on staff members of a church leadership culture, the impression that it will go in a remotely similar way of they attempt to use social media or mass media to confront what they regard as problems in the life of a local church.  I realize that maybe Justin Dean felt, at one point, and possibly no longer at that, that "the bloggers won" but anyone who carefully combs through the history of Mars Hill's long history of public relations crises and disasters would be hard pressed to say that "bloggers" were the reason the former Mars Hill shuttered its doors. 

We'll get to find out how Harvest Bible Chapel weathers the current circumstances and wehther it makes it without its founding personality.  The former Mars Hill campuses are, for the most part, still active and stable as best as I have been able to keep some track of them.  The future of Harvest Bible Chapel is going to be a topic best left to other people much closer to the situation and people.  But it does seem worth noting that, as Wartburg Watch led in their headline, it took a radio broadcast to change things at HBC with respect to MacDonald. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Harvest Bible Chapel update regarding James MacDonald

Dear Harvest Bible Chapel Family:

It is with great sadness that we as the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel wish to convey to you a very recent development that has caused us to take immediate action regarding our Senior Pastor, Dr. James MacDonald.

Following a lengthy season of review, reflection, and prayerful discussion, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel had determined that Pastor MacDonald should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor. That timeline accelerated, when on Tuesday morning highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported. Given that and other conduct under consideration, in accordance with the procedures in our Bylaws, Pastor MacDonald was removed as Senior Pastor and as an Elder of the church for engaging in conduct that the Elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church. His employment has been terminated from Harvest Bible Chapel, effective today, February 12, 2019. This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors.

Our Elders and Staff are committed to fulfilling our fiduciary duty as the leadership of this congregation, knowing that at times the outcome may be misunderstood or emotionally painful. A more detailed communication regarding next steps for our church will take place in our weekend services.

We sincerely thank you for your prayers, your support, and your patience as we work together to restore a trust in leadership, a humility to surrender to biblical authority, and a firm resolve to move forward as a church family. Please continue to uphold our church, the Elder Board, staff, and the MacDonald family in prayer at this time.
– The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel

The audio in reference seems to have been here, to go by reports.

It seems necessary to point out that James MacDonald's history with Mars Hill as a member of the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability included joining Mark Driscoll for his publicity move to hand out copies of A Call to Resurgence at The Strange Fire conference.

It would appear that unlike his one time associate Mark Driscoll, MacDonald has actually been removed by the elders of HBC.  In that sense, it began to look like some people were not learning any "lessons" from the demise of Mars Hill and at another level maybe some people did learn some lessons if MacDonald is currently removed.