Sunday, October 18, 2020

2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 1 Mark Driscoll’s interview with Carey Nieuwhof, sharing how Mars Hill had an internal conflict over transgenderism and same sex marriage, a counter-claim to every account of Mars Hill decline presented in the last five years

2020 turned out to be an unusual year in post-Mars Hill Church chronicling, because Mark Driscoll broached the topic of the late Mars Hill in an interview with Carey Nieuwhof promoting the new Driscoll book Win Your War, but more crucially because former executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas went on the record sharing their roles in the late Mars Hill. If it may be asked by jaded readers why anyone should take any of these accounts at face value, nobody said we had to, but the confluence of testimonies do take on a coherent if unsettling shape.

Warren Throckmorton has spotted that Mark Driscoll plans to interview Senator Martha McSally.


To the extent that Mark Driscoll feels confident enough to wade into interviewing a political figure it seems to that extent it is necessary to discuss how the political narratives of what happened in the late Mars Hill have taken shape as presented by the three former executive elders of the former Mars Hill Church.

So we get to Part One 

Mark Driscoll’s interview with Carey Nieuwhof, sharing how Mars Hill had an internal conflict over transgenderism and same sex marriage, a counter-claim to every account of Mars Hill decline presented in the last five years


Back in March 2020, Carey Nieuwhof had Mark Driscoll as a guest to discuss the new Mark and Grace Driscoll book Win Your War and talk about, among other things, the last days of Mars Hill Church.

2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 2 Driscoll to Nieuwhof in 2020, “ … I’m not going to say I’m Jesus and I’ve never done anything wrong … .”, a review of post MHC books in which Driscoll compared himself to Jesus, and Jesus to himself.

There’s something else about Mark Driscoll’s conversation with Carey Nieuwhof that needs mentioning.  Driscoll told Nieuwhof, as quoted above, “ … I’m not going to say I’m Jesus and I’ve never done anything wrong you know.” that’s a hasty transcript on the punctuation side.


The thing is, having read Mark Driscoll’s two big post-Mars Hill Church book releases through Charisma House I was struck by the ways in which Mark Driscoll compared himself to Jesus or compared Jesus to himself. 


Now let’s take a visit back to Spirit-Filled Jesus and see whether or not Mark Driscoll hasn’t had moments where he did write as though he knew how it felt to be Jesus carrying His cross to the place of the skull.  Fair Use precedents being what they’ve been, I think it’s necessary to ask whether or not Mark Driscoll can consistently say “ … I'm not going to say I'm Jesus and I've never done anything wrong … .”


2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 3 Spirit-Filled Jesus and Mark Driscoll’s observations on what can happen to a leader, some other leader, “you” and not “me”

Near the end of his first book post-Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll shared an extensive description of something he’d seen in his twenty years of ministry, a process of disillusionment that often happens, especially in the life of a leader.  Which leader?


 Well, you’re going to have to guess who it is since Driscoll prefers to use the word “you” rather than “I” for the following passage, a passage that’s a few pages long and which I feel obliged to share (with all Fair Use precedents and considerations in mind because I’ve been surprised at how seemingly no earlier reviews or journalistic discussions of Spirit-Filled Jesus have discussed this passage at all). There’s a not at all subtle pivot from “I” to “you” in this passage:


2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 4 Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas go on record about the last year of Mars Hill with Ryan Williams and then Warren Throckmorton, describing their role in crashing The Strange Fire conference and what the plagiarism scandal was like on the inside.


2020 has turned out to be the year that the other two former executive elders of the late Mars Hill Church decided to start speaking on the record.  From March 27, 2020 through to May 29, 2020 former Mars Hill pastor Ryan Williams had podcast conversations with former executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas in the Older Pastor/Younger Pastor” series. The topics of conversation were lessons from Mars Hill Church, very often about lessons of what not to do.  These interviews spanned many hours and would be difficult to summarize succinctly.  The links are as follows:


I’ve discussed things that stood out for me from those discussions at the following links:


One of the things Mark Driscoll told Larry Osborne was that he met with about thirty former elders of Mars Hill and it was almost like they had a common script.

2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 5 Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas talk with Warren Throckmorton about ResultSource

The revelation that Mars Hill Church used Result Source to get Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage a No. 1 spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list came on the heels of the plagiarism controversy that erupted when Janet Mefferd accused Mark Driscoll of plagiarism in late November 2013. I’ve published a timeline of the formidably numerous public relations snafus and scandals Mars Hill managed to be embroiled in or sought out by the time Warren Cole Smith reported that Mars Hill used ResultSource. 


It may be important to note, for those unfamiliar with the history of Mars Hill, that the Result Source contract signing happened after a significant leadership transition, namely Jamie Munson deciding to step down from executive leadership at Mars Hill at the start of September 2011.  There was never any really clear reason as to why he would make such a decision.


Sutton Turner described the process of ResultSource being signed in the past and the key claims are not exactly new but it was still interesting to hear and read what he had to say to Warren Throckmorton.


2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 6 Warren Throckmorton, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas discuss the Dave Kraft allegations and how the BoAA chose to handle charges

One of the first things Throckmorton discussed with Turner and Bruskas in his lengthy interview was the formal charges that had been made by Dave Kraft and how the Mars Hill leadership handled those.


2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 7 The path to the `14 investigation, domineering behavior and the resignations of Paul Tripp and James MacDonald

On the admittedly long way to the charges and the 2014 investigation, we have to pass through Throckmorton asking Bruskas and Turner if they ever personally witnessed Mark Driscoll behaving in ways they regarded as domineering.


2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 8 Mars Hill ejection from Acts 29: Bruskas on Matt Chandler talking to Driscoll and Driscoll seeming he didn’t get what was coming

Bruskas shared with Throckmorton that Mars Hill’s ejection from Acts 29 was a catastrophe that led to a mass exodus of campus pastors. Now I had documented a steady trickle of resignations that had been going on from roughly 2011 through 2013 but Bruskas has a point saying that 2014 saw a catastrophic wave of resignations. Mark Driscoll had, by most on record accounts, successfully insulated himself from being the subject of criticism because he was able to “discipline” through informal processes. I mention this because years ago a friend asked me if I thought something could happen to pierce through the shield Mars Hill seemed to have and that Mark seemed to have regarding criticism. My proposal was Mark Driscoll seemed to insulate himself from facing the consequences of his words and actions by using waves of proxies and that at some point that defense that seemed impregnable was going to become a fatal weakness if he pissed those people off. My hunch seems to have been right. Call it a providential guess, though, because a whole lot of things that happened in 2014 were startling, and the Acts 29 ejection of Mars Hill Church was a surprise.


2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 9 The formal investigation, a conflict between MH boards, and Mark Driscoll’s Richard Nixon moment

Since the closure of Mars Hill Sutton Turner has written about how there was a rift in the Mars Hill Board over whether or not to scapegoat him over ResultSource and Mars Hill Global, and I’ve written about this topic in the past, but it’s also worth quoting Turner directly:
Posted by Sutton Turner on April 24, 2015
...When the criticism of Mars Hill Global began in the Spring of 2014, I wanted to communicate about what happened with Global, its history, the financials, and my mistakes. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to discuss these things just as I was not permitted to discuss the ResultSource situation in the detail that I felt it deserved. There was actually a division on the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) as some men wanted to put all the blame for both Global and ResultSource on me, but I am thankful for men who did not allow that. [emphasis added]

Eight difficult, grievous months have passed since I resigned; four sad, yet hopeful months have passed since Mars Hill held its last service. I began to work on each of these topics through blog posts several months ago with the wisdom, counsel, prayer, and blessing of many friends who are former elders and staff members at Mars Hill.


So Turner’s past account of an intra-board rift on the Board of Advisors and Accountability  helps us keep in mind that in 2014 it was possible for there to be a rift within the Mars Hill boards between the Board of Overseers (who would review formal charges and call for investigations) and the Board of Elders (those assigned to actually do the investigating). The history of governance in Mars Hill is probably not more complex than that of any other church but it is still extensive.           


Because it will be hard to follow what Throckmorton discusses with Turner and Bruskas without having some background on the boards, let’s do a quick review of who was on which board in late 2014.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

so I WAS going to write about another guitar sonata from Matiegka but short incubation process (maybe)

Something has come up that is notable enough I've shifted gears to finally start getting back to writing about a set of topics I wanted to get to over the last few months.  Longtime readers probably won't have to wonder what.  If somebody is finally hosting an interview with a political figure actively running for office then the political history of somebody in the life and death of a 501(c)3 has a news peg too salient to just sit back and let incubate what can be written about.  

There's still going to be stuff about music, of course, and I've been wanting to write about Matiegka Op. 31, No. 3 for a while and to write a piece about how the "death of melody" in pop in the last thirty years has nothing to do with, say, rap, and a lot more to do with Kurt Cobain and Mariah Carey but that stuff can wait.  :)  

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

guest post at Bryan Townsend's blog by Jack on guitar counterpoint

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I've written about counterpoint, music for guitar, and counterpoint and guitar over the years.  I've also started reading The Music Salon blog in the last couple of years and so, of course, I'm going to link to this guest piece.

Now I do have Dusan Bogdanovic's Counterpoint for Guitar and will, eventually, I hope, write about it. I've been meaning to blog about his guitar sonata cycle for years now but life is what it is, full of unexpected events and delays and sidetracks, so that hasn't happened yet.  But, while I incubate any number of blogging projects connected to music (like, say, an analysis of Matiegka's Op. 31, Sonata No. 3) I sometimes link to other stuff I read that I want to share.

Monday, October 12, 2020

against both Columbus Day and Indigenous People Day, the statue toppling in Portland of Lincoln and Roosevelt can be a reminder that no American heroes will be heroes to all Americans

Complaining that Columbus was a bad man is more than merely a fad because the vices and hubris of Columbus and the Spanish royal family would be hard to argue against in the twenty-first century ... but I don't see that alternately proclaiming an Indigenous Peoples' Day has any value since it is, of necessity, parasitically dependent on the pre-existing federal holiday. That Columbus Day is paradoxically a victim of its own success probably doesn't matter to people who have settled in their hearts that Columbus' legacy in the Americas is only bad and yet, well, here we are. If you live in the United States right now and you're not 100% Native American able to chart your ancestry down to an unbroken line of never-married-non-Native-peoples-even-once-in-five-centuries then you exist in the United States because, at some point, people who are now identified as "white people" show up.  

Not that they were necessarily that kind of white back then since the concept of whiteness has evolved and changed to the point where Italians and Irish got added into the mix which would not have been taken seriously in the days of, say, Abraham Lincoln or even Teddy Roosevelt, whose statues have been knocked down by protesters, apparently, in Portland as of last night. People from the Mediterranean didn't get viewed as white for quite some time.  Not that anyone has any reason to care what I think but I suggest the day get retired, whatever it is called.

A "day of rage" is a useless gesture and, if anything, gives 45 even more ammunition to agitate his supporters into action. This is the kind of thing that John Halle seems to have referred to off and on as "gifts to the right" made by progressives or people who think of themselves as left. Tawna Sanchez and others could point out, besides the fact that tearing down statues and damaging property isn't the same as going through democratic processes, there's also another point, which is that now is not the best time to take a symbolic action that, we're talking about tearing down a Lincoln statue, could just as easily have been done by neo-Confederates who think Lincoln was a power-made bloodthirsty war criminal.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

links for the weekend, the Mbird series on ATLA continues; Get Religion on Ravi Zacharias, Rust Belt Catholics & the Nones in 2020; John Ahern on neo-Platonic and Pythagorean background to Pauline instruction on music

First off, a new installment in the Mbird series on Avatar: The Last Airbender went up this last week.

by way of Ethan Iverson, Steve Reich's Tehilim; Kyle Gann on the history of minimalism; some thoughts on a style that had any interaction with the pop of its era and the post-war Pax American context that made that possible

A week late but ... Steve Reich had a birthday recently ...

Ethan Iverson rightly points out that it would be hard to find someone more eloquent on the history of minimalism than Kyle Gann but I'm going to go so far as to point you to the chapter where Gann discusses the movement because, as I hope long-time readers know, I've referenced Gann's writings on a semi-regular basis here, at least when the blog is dealing with music.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Norman Lebrecht trolls Wagner fans by saying "remove Wagner and the rest of music continues ... " as though music history was all about composers and nobody else

Wagner brings out the worst in power-seekers. The German word for megalomania is Grossenwahn, or grand delusion. That’s what Wagner does, a reckless reordering of normality. He named his own house Wahnfried, which means peace after madness. He’s a menace.

Ross has an intriguing chapter on Wagner’s gay side. His patron, the homosexual and half-mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, was besotted in every way and Wagner only encouraged his arousal if their letters are anything to go by, forever trying to be all things to all men and women.

“Throughout his life,” writes Ross, “Wagner pursued an ideal of androgyny, a spiritual merger of the sexes.” Although a dominant male to his wives, he sought sexlessness in Parsifal, “androgyny elevated to the level of religion”, in which “the Saviour redeems the world by overcoming the duality of gender.”

His sexual ambiguity spoke powerfully to Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and Thomas Mann, whose novella Death in Venice is both an evocation and a validation of Wagnerian themes, “pederasty made acceptable for the cultural middle classes”, as the Berlin critic Alfred Kerr acridly put it.

My impression is that minorities, be they sexual or religious, are drawn to Wagner by a perception of permissiveness and transgression. His operas breach Biblical taboos of adultery and incest. He wants to destroy the world that prejudices those who differ from the norm. He speaks for those who have no voice, hurling their missiles in the face of a worshipful establishment, making the elites at grand opera houses humbly submissive to his art.

While Alex Ross enumerates his conquests among the creative classes, I am not sure he has fully grasped his appeal to our subversive unconscious. He is not alone in this reluctance. Freud, who knew the Wagner operas, was strangely muted in his analysis.

At the risk of undermining his own thesis, Ross quotes Nietzsche in advocating that no statement should ever be made about Wagner without the word “perhaps”. I am well past 600 pages before I see the flaw in his case. Ross states that Wagner is — perhaps — the most influential figure in the history of music. He isn’t. Remove Bach and there is no history. Take out Beethoven and everything grinds to a halt. Eliminate Verdi and there is no Italian opera. Without Stravinsky, no twentieth century.

Remove Wagner, however, and the rest of music continues regardless. Wagner is a one-off, an ego, a restless provocateur. To Wagnerites, he’s the fusion of all arts. To Wagner-sceptics like me, he’s a genetic anomaly, a genius without anxiety.

Norman Lebrecht's piece that is sort of about Alex Ross' book Wagnerism and more about Lebrecht's dislike of Wagner is ... fairly typical for a piece about Wagner.

Lebrecht's deliberately tendentious assertion that if you remove Wagner the rest of music continues regardless delimits Wagner's influence to music when Wagner's ambitions were more all-encompassing.  The total work of art has so thoroughly influenced post-Wagnerian ideas about the arts and the arts that it's worth summarizing just a handful of English-language books on the legacy of the total work of art.  Ever been to Disneyland?  Welcome to the total work of art?  Ever watched movies?  Cinema as a descendant of the music-drama is not that hard to make a case for and the Marvel cinematic universe can be thought of as a residually Wagnerian project with some two dozen movies spanning the birth and death of the Earth in superheroic monomythic style.

Star Trek, for instance, is a half-century franchise that distills nearly everything about what the total work of art as instigated by Wagner was expected to achieve?  What's that, you may ask?  A summation of all the arts toward the aim of telling a story and presenting a vision of a perfected or perfectable humanity, the existence of which is catalyzed by the total work of art is pretty much Star Trek to both t's.

The Ring of Truth by Roger Scruton (on Wagner’s ideas about art and humanity)

The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace by Matthew Wilson Smith

Art and Enlightenment: Aesthetic Theory after Adorno by David Roberts

Dialectic of Romanticism by Peter Murphy and David Roberts

particularly The Total Work of Art in European Modernism by David Roberts

I mentioned these books in another context, because if Norman Lebrecht really wanted to argue for the cumulatively negative effect of Wagnerian bombast he should have made some kind of case that the total work of art influences franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars or made Michael Bay's Transformers franchise possible.  Yes, yes, we can look to the late Roger Scruton's argument that Wagner told us the story about our stories but if we want to widen the lens a bit and ask why, say, Philip Ewell and other American musicologists have discussed the "white racial frame" of musicology and how Germanophile it has been Wagner has to come up.  

Having said that, the idea that Wagner could be "removed" from music history and we'd still have music history, unlike removing "Bach" or "Beethoven" is dubious.  Which Bach are we supposed to remove for there to suddenly be no music history?  I admire the music as J. S. Bach but he was about a dozen generations descended from a line of vocational musicians.  Telemann was more popular and widely known in Bach's lifetime.  Handel was the bigger deal in the English-speaking lands.  It wasn't that composers didn't know and admire J. S. Bach, it's that the Bach who had a palpable influence on Haydn, for instance, was C. P. E. Bach.  

Lebrecht's polemical taxonomy of who you can "remove" doesn't mention teachers.  Remove Nicola Porpora and you don't have Haydn after which you don't have Mozart as a matter of course because Haydn encouraged Leopold to encourage his son's musical gifts and practice.  Haydn was the trend-setter in his era for plenty of good reasons.  Remove the theorist and teacher Anton Reicha and you lose the musician who instructed Lizst and Berlioz and if you lose those two composers you've precluded Wagner practically by default.  Merely because Wagner began extending the music-dramatic potential latent in the idee fix and thematic transformation across large-scale forms that were previously explored by the French Berlioz and the Hungarian Lizst doesn't mean someone else besides Wagner couldn't have carried those ideas to a vaguely Wagnerian end.  

To be clear, I'm pretty much in the anti-Wagnerian camp but I don't ignore Wagner's hemisphere-changing influence.  I also don't see any reason to make a bad faith claim that Wagner can be "removed" and the history of music, let alone all the other arts in the post-Wagnerian West, go on as before.  

Wagner was an inspiration to Scott Joplin, for instance and Alex Ross has a section on African American intellectuals and artists inspired by Wagner's legacy. We have to account for the Wagner problem in the U.S. at least, if for no clearer reason than what Douglas Shadle called the way that the "Beethoven problem" became the "Wagner problem".  Think of it this way, if there was no Wagner there was still opera but the total work of art as a bid to "change the world through art" persists.  Specialists on the legacy of the total work of art, noted above, have proposed that while the idea has been thrown aside with prejudice in western Europe the idea is literally bigger than ever with Disneyland and Hollywood and video games as completely immersive experiences of interactive world-building adventures. In other words, the Wagnerian concept of the total work of art migrated to the United States after the end of World War 2 and so whether we support, oppose, or ruefully concede it's here to stay and try to decide which variants of it are more or less hazardous or personally amusing the Wagnerian total work of art is something we have to contend with.

For those who have read my writing for a while you may know I've written about how a key failure of the Christian pastor, writer and apologist Francis Schaeffer was attempting to account for the arc of modern Europe and the modern West without once referencing or dealing with Richard Wagner's legacy. Schaeffer wrote about John Cage and did so in a way that showed he paradoxically agreed with Maoist criticism of John Cage's ideas, but Wagner never came up in Schaeffer's work. That evangelicals have a vexed relationship to pop culture and technology while relying on arguments against the culture industry they may not even realize were formulated by Marxists is something I've touched on in the past, but something else I've merely alluded to in passing is what David Roberts explained at three books' length on how European thinkers and creatives floated the idea that the arts could take over for Christianity as an explicitly civic religious social bond.  Leonard Meyer wrote extensively about that, too, but I'm trying to keep this relatively brief.  

For those religious adherents to one or another of the Abrahamic religions in the West to get some idea of how and why we have endlessly rebooted franchises that paradoxically envision a never-arrived at love-death utopian realization of humanity in the midst of self-sacrifice you ... kind of have to pay some attention to Wagner.  Lebrecht knows this after decades in the arts and entertainment coverage industry, which is why his piece seems so obviously in trolling bad faith.  Without something like Wagner's Tannhauser Scott Joplin might not have heard and might have been less passionate in trying to write operas like A Guest of Honor or Treemonisha. I mean, to play with Lebrecht's polemic, had there been no Wagner Scott Joplin might have still wanted to write operas but without a Wagnerian legacy he might have cast about for someone else to write the libretto to Treemonisha.

To say that without Verdi there would be no Italian opera seems pretty stupid when you could say that about, oh, the Florentine Camerata instead and have it actually be true.  Lebrecht isn't trying very hard and that shows but it's this particular kind of not trying very hard and leaning on a history-wouldn't-happen-but-for-this-one-person as a foundation for saying "except we don't need this guy" is the kind of thinkpiece we've never "needed".  Robert Craft could seriously entertain the idea, for a moment, that if you removed Mozart nothing of Western music history was really lost since Haydn and Clementi could still get us Beethoven and the rest of music history.  But Craft immediately said that obviously nobody should, or has to, think of the arts this way and that the beauty of Mozart's work was its own best defense whether or not he "needed" to exist for the rest of "music history" to happen.  If we're going to insist on games of status and relevance then Robert Craft is always going to be a bigger deal, more relevant, and more insightful than Norman Lebrecht by the measure of Lebrechtian provocation.  

If we didn't have J. S. Bach we'd still have music history, though it would be a different kind of music history we can't easily imagine because of the significance Bach's music took on from the nineteenth century to ours in music education in the West.  That we might find it hard to imagine what "music history" would be without J. S. Bach says as much about our inability to call to mind Vivaldi, Buxtehude, Hassler, Schutz, Monteverdi and countless other composers who were active through what is known as the Baroque era as it does about Bach's posthumous influence.  

And now we've got Lebrecht sniffing this year that someone wants to "cancel" Heinrich Schenker (whose theories I never found useful at any point in my life) but if Lebrecht is willing to claim that we can "remove" Wagner and music history will go unchanged then surely this absurd gambit can be applied even more to a mere music theorist such as Schenker than it could to Richard Wagner who, while I can't abide Wagner's music, influenced composers whose work I do like, whether Shostakovich or Debussy (in reaction) or ... there aren't a lot of us Hindemith fans out there ... and even indirectly on Scott Joplin.  

I mean, if we want to play what if games, what if Vsevolod Zaderatsky's works weren't suppressed by Soviet authorities and he wasn't sent to the Gulag?  Would he have written his 24 Preludes and Fugues if he wasn't in the Gulag?  Virtually no one knows who Zaderatsky is and would be hard-pressed to explain why or even if he "matters".  But he composed his contrapuntal cycle between 1937 and 1938 while in the Gulag. If you want to hear some of the cycle there's places online you can go.

Since we don't live in a world where Zaderatsky's preludes and fugues were recognized as probably being the first such cycle composed in the last century (because stuff has to get published before scholars know it exists) it's moot to imagine an alternative history around that because it simply wasn't "history" as a written chronicle of events to any of us here in the United States until this century.  

But to float something scholars could, you know, debate, that first Zaderatsky fugue in C major makes it seem as though a musical language like jazz had been around in select regions of the Baltics as far back as 1919.  

If we wanted to find an example of why some musicologists and music theorists have tired of the "great man" way of defining history Lebrecht has given us a pretty straightforward if possibly inadvertent example. Now I don't think we can really escape stories about heroes, that's how people are.  I don't think we will ever stop having canons in the arts and education by its very nature canonizes. Those caveats ever in mind, I've been pretty plainspoken about my lack of enthusiasm for the gods of Romantic era art religion. There's nothing particularly "wrong" with the "perfection" of Beethoven and Mozart if I'm just considering the music, even if I think Beethoven was prone to bloated bloviation and Mozart seemed too glib, preferring Haydn to both. 

The problem I do have, however, is the idea that because pedagogues two centuries ago came around to the idea that Beethoven and Mozart wrote better than average music that often involved the piano that I, as a guitarist, can "only" assess musical qualities in light of that pianist/symphonic literature.  I have all the Haydn symphonies and dig them, but there's often a moment where I think I prefer Hummel to Beethoven and there are Clementi piano sonatas I come back to where I just don't find Mozart all that enthralling.  To put this another way, the perfection of two centuries ago doesn't give me any inspiration for how to address the musical challenges of the early twenty-first century that actually interest me. 

I am, to use the jargon Leonard Meyer coined in Music, the Arts and Ideas, a formalist--what that means, per Meyer, is that I am willing to latch on to music that I find interesting because it helps me solve formal problems I'm interested in solving.  So for me Beethoven and Mozart are, eh, okay, but Haydn and Clementi writing monothematic sonata forms?  That helps me think about possibilities for a synthesis of blues, jazz, ragtime, country and other American popular styles with a range of sonata form scripts.  

In other words, guys like Lebrecht (and they are, as a few contemporary writers have noted, so very often old white guys) make it their business selling and re-selling a version and a vision of music history.  Lebrecht can write a piece at The Critic trolling Wagnerians but as David Roberts argued in his books on aesthetic theory after Adorno, the West has been in Wagner's shadow and even the East--you can think of Stravinsky's dystopian ballets as a kind of anti-Wagnerian summation of the arts as an act of negation rather than "uplift" but for that case you'd have to read David Roberts.  We've been living in Wagner's world whether we wanted to be born into it or not.  I'm working through Alex Ross' book and I doubt he's going to convince me to become a Wagnerian but even an anti-Wagnerian has to take seriously that a Lebrechtian proposal that if we "remove" Wagner "history" doesn't change is the kind of bad faith assertion that can, well, show up via link on a website called Slipped Disc.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

links for the weekend: an Mbird series started on Avatar: The Last Airbender; the pending end of Internet Monk; assorted music/musicology and gender-y stuff

Being the animation fan that I am, I've considered writing about The Last Airbender for years.  For the US-made adventure animated series I'd say the three touchstones of the last thirty some years in American cartoons for me would be: Batman: the animated series (fold the rest of the DCAU in if you want); Samurai Jack, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Skip Legend of Korra, though. Legend of Korra is to The Last Airbender what Star Wars Episodes I-III are to the original trilogy.  Pass it by in favor of Miraculous (aka Ladybug and Cat Noir) which is a blast if you watch it with the original French voice ensemble.  I haven't seen Spider-man stories capture the old Lee/Ditko vibe of the original run as well as the French language superhero cartoon has.  Still have to get to seeing season 3, though.  

Annette Kruisbrink: Etude et fugue (style baroque) for solo guitar, with video score

Here's a lovely etude and fugue by Annette Kruisbrink for solo guitar.  I love how the etude theme transforms from duple to triple meter and shifts across registers throughout the etude.  The fugue is beautifully made and the etude idea returns in a couple of chorale forms to wonderful effect in the coda of the fugue.  So I wanted to share the music this weekend and hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

John Ahern's Theses on Church Music and Economics, some semi-organized thoughts

There aren't 95, for those fearing an evocation of Luther, there are just 31!

I won't be mulling over all of them or in great deal since it's the weekend and this is the internet but I got to wondering something as early as Thesis 1.

Samara Ginsberg plays the theme for Airwolf on 8 cellos

So I watched the show as a kid and I remember the theme song being pretty good.  1980s shows may not have aged well in terms of production or writing or acting or ... but, anyway, the 1980s was a veritable golden age of opening theme songs. :)  Ginsberg also tackled the opening theme songs for Knight Rider and Thundercats.  Yep, a lot of my childhood comes back with those theme songs. 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Six Miniatures for Guitar & Bass by Harriet Steinke

While music for guitar and doublebass is an esoteric niche that reality means that there are new pieces to discover when you go looking for new works for this ensemble.  Harriet Steinke's Six Miniatures for Guitar and Bass is worth checking out, for instance, and I only discovered it this week.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Annette Kruisbrink--Alamanda for guitar solo and plectrum orchestra

I've linked to performances of Kruisbrink's compositions over the years and still hope one day to discuss her chamber music for double bass and guitar as I think that Cirex and Five Dances should form the foundation of any canon of repertoire (pedagogical or repertoire) for these two instruments.

a haiku for 9-30-2020 in the United States

 Abraham Simpson

debating Eric Cartman

is what we're stuck with

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Adam Neely and Ethan Hein discuss the absence of rappers covering rappers--a sideways thought on Robert Gjerdingen's excavation of Neapolitan partimento as a tradition in which kids jammed on existing bass lines as part of learning to master the craft of music

First, Ethan Hein has a post and video discussion about rap covers and how, although there are covers of rap songs rappers do not cover each other's work and how there is a norm against "biting" other rappers.

For me one of the most memorable "Major Interpretation" covers of this century was Johnny Cash covering Trent Reznor's "Hurt".  At the risk of a digression, the line between major and minor interpretation can depend a lot on reception history.  Stripping down a song in terms of instrumentation is one of the patterns that shows up, such as Cash covering Reznor but his example is just of many potential case studies.  Anyone remember the cover of "Mad World" by Tears for Fears at the end of Donnie Darko?  I suspect that the difference between "major" and "minor" may depend on popular music being what Theodore Gracyk described as "ontologically thick", which is to say that this timbre created by playing this guitar through that amp with these settings through these pick-ups is important. I haven't played the Telecaster in a while but I know the Tele and a Gibson hollow-body have VERY different sounds and you'll want one sound for one kind of song and the other sound for another.  But I've digressed pretty early into this post ... .

This is fascinating to hear about because there have been anti-rap polemics that have argued that sampling shows a lack of musical creativity (this was my stance twenty-five years ago when I was a teenager and first heard rap). I have, over the course of twenty years, come to a point where hip hop isn't exactly my favorite style of music but, you will note, I have referred to it as music, which it is.  As Leonard Meyer used to put it, a democracy doesn't mean everyone will like the same thing but it means that everyone can and should be prefer to like the music that they like.  

"The Arts Have Failed Us" by way of The Critic, by way of Norman Lebrecht, but if the arts decorate life rather than give it purpose what kinds of decorations can this era afford?


Too much can be expected of art. The cliché that art has become a substitute — or even actual — religion for too many civilised people is a commonplace for a reason: they have mistaken what art is there to do. Which, more often than not, is to decorate life, not fulfil it. Art serves purposes, it doesn’t provide them.


On the one hand, such a claim is the ultimate bullet to the head of "autonomous music" anyone could have written, for popular magazine standards.  On the other hand ... there's Lebrecht's reaction to suggestions that Beethoven represents a racist and elitist standard ... .

If art decorates life rather than fulfills it then who can afford and would also find suitable to buy the "decoration" of another Beethoven box set?  I love Beethoven's last piano sonata.   Just because I generally hate Beethoven's choral music and think he had a penchant for being a bloviating blowhard in some of his works doesn't mean I don't admire Beethoven!  Mozart and Haydn wrote better choral music because they sang in choirs and anyone who has sung and sung choral literature can feel that two of the Big Three had actually bothered to sing in vocal ensembles!  All the same, since the folks at The Critic made a point of saying art decorates life ... 

Friday, September 25, 2020

A W Nix sermon "Watch Your Close Friend", an early recorded sermon

Basically just because. Nix was an early success in the recorded sermon genre.  If in a non-studio setting preachers were known to preach much, much longer than a mere 2 minutes early recording put pretty severe time constraints on sermons, so you could hear this as a kind of blues homily on a passage in Judges (which reminds me that I never got around to blogging about Barry Webb's commentary ... )

The great Blind Willie Johnson may have been one of the great exponents of gospel blues but the musical vocabulary and style he refined was taking shape in the 1920s and onward.  

some back and forth stuff between Fredrik deBoer and Nathan Robinson's shifting take on The Cult of Smart, with an Alan Jacobs interlude

 Robinson's review of The Cult of Smart is over here and, even for Robinson, it's rather long-winded, even bloviating:

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Perchance to Dream: Dream Divination in the Bible and the Ancient Near East--basically just sharing the title (reading and writing about it may come much later)

Perchance to Dream: Dream Divination in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Ancient Near East Monographs)

Oh, this looks like it could be a ton of fun!  

It's available via the link but it may be a while before I have anything close to a write up about it.  The next post I was aiming to write would be an analysis of Matiegka's Op. 31, Sonata No. 2 in A minor but, obviously, that post hasn't arrived yet.  It probably has to wait for the weekend.  

Rhodope Song and Dance (Premiere), for Cello and Guitar, by Atanas Ourkouzounov. Duo Villa-Lobos

As I wrote long ago back when I first started this blog, I like the music of Atanas Ourkouzounov. Here's a performance of a duet for cello and guitar he's written.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Lukas Krohn-Grimberghe outlines reasons why the streaming subscription service royalty system currently does not help classical musicians

Lukas Krohn-Grimberghe makes a case for why the contemporary winner takes all music model adversely effects classical music in the era of subscription stream.  Besides the lump sum pot from which musicians get royalties and the fractions of a cent royalties paid per play, there's a third problem that Krohn-Grimberghe says harms the possibility for musicians to net royalties when they're in genres and styles of music that are not at the top of the listening habits of subscribers:

There is a third problem — an important detail — that is typically overlooked: In this streaming business model, user fees are effectively re-distributed based on the overall listening behavior of all subscribers: If 5% of all streams this month were accumulated by Beyoncé, 5% of my subscription fee would go to her whether I listened to her music or not. Conversely (and this is why this model is particularly problematic for niche genres like classical), if I listened to only classical music this month, but overall classical streams accounted for 1% of all streams, then only 1% of my subscription fee would be attributed to classical.  

The result is an increasing divide — on one side there is a winner-takes-all mentality in which the superstars and major labels rake in millions, while at the same time there is an erosion of music’s middle class and numerous stories about how artists are suffering from this model, because the revenue they receive is incremental.

There is a simple fix (yet certainly not the sole solution): Distribute revenue on a per-listener basis, which means that your subscription fee would be shared out only to what you listen to. This would result in fairer payouts and most likely redirect revenue to the artists the money actually belongs to. But, as the current model works in favor of those who own the most content, and with the three major labels contributing about 70% of the catalogue, this solution has, so far, been blocked.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Friday, September 18, 2020

Blind Willie Johnson (1897 to 1945)

Today is the 75th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest rural blues musicians the United States has ever given the world, Blind Willie Johnson

So little can be firmly documented about Johnson's life that even if there is officially a biography about Johnson reader consensus is that the biography adds little to nothing you can't find out in liner notes.  It "may" be better to run with Jas Obrecht's book Early Blues instead.  There is now agreement that he died September 18, 1945, although an earlier account placed Johnson's death in 1949, so there's an outside possibility that if the later date could be confirmed as correct this wouldn't be the 75th anniversary of Johnson's death, after all.  Still, to go by contemporary consensus, today is that day.

If you have never heard Blind Willie Johnson's music and have any interest at all in early blues then do yourself a favor and get his complete recordings, whether through Amazon or maybe preferably your local music shop.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Vox Switched on Pop series discusses Beethoven's 5th and gets pushback ... thoughts on canards about B's "breaking the rules" that he didn't exactly break and on the elevation of a more modern B whose gotten criticism for her Americanist pan-African symbolism that ignores contemporary Africa

Although in terms of sheer airplay and exposure Michael Jackson's Thriller is more prominent, at a cultural-symbolic level Beethoven's Fifth Symphony has had it said in its favor that "we didn't know we needed the Fifth until Beethoven wrote it".  That could, as far as assertions go, be said about Michael Jackson's Thriller.  By way of reports of abusive fathers the King of Pop and the crowned king of the symphony seem to have had some things in common, one of which can be the searing loyalty of their cultist-devotees.

Someone could argue Michael Jackson was "the greatest of all time" because he wrote songs, he could sing, and he could dance while Stevie Wonder could sing and write songs but wasn't a dancer; Marvin Gaye could sing and write songs but couldn't dance like Michael and before long I notice that there's a distinctly post-Wagnerian total-work-of-art argument that is explicit in the case for Jackson being superior to Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye.  That such a set of claims on behalf of Jackson reflect what are ultimately and paradoxically Wagnerian ideals of the total work of art transposed on to a single human life as mediated by the cumulative reception history of music journalism and scholarship is only paradoxical in the sense that Wagner's views on race are not those of twenty-first century Americans, by and large.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Alex Ross' book Wagnerism is out and I will, of course, read it ... if not perhaps at a speedy pace. :)

Fifty years after the initial publication of the first book in his trilogy, Francis Schaeffer's legacy of attempting to grapple with cultural change in the West arguably fell short of contending with the scope of what happened in the long nineteenth century for the simple reason that he never once dealt with the legacy of Richard Wagner and to not deal with the legacy of Richard Wagner is, perhaps even more than with Beethoven, to not really deal with the scale of Wagner's influence in Western European art and thought since his death.

So ... if you want to take a long but not-so-long-as-could-be trek through Wagner and his legacy Alex Ross' new book Wagnerism "might" be the book for you.

And a few reviews, because sometimes you can pick up things from reviews that help you decide whether you want to read the book to begin with.  I made that decision as soon as Ross mentioned he was writing the book but your experience may vary so ...

PNW on fire--an unprecedented number of fires in the region, rumors of arson circulating

There's a startling number of fires burning across the Pacific Northwest.  I have lived in this region my whole life and the sheer number of them is disturbing.  Air quality is at outright hazardous levels in Eugene, OR, for instance.  Air quality here in Seattle is bad, not officially hazardous but in the very unhealthy to breath it category.

Down in Oregon the fire marshal has resigned and is under investigation for entering an active fire zone without authorization from zone overseer, which is relatively late-breaking news for someone in the Seattle area.

Monday, September 14, 2020

a Canadian tale of loss of click-through rate due to algorithms at The Walrus

I have something like a tenth of the readership now that I had in the summer of 2014, which is fine.  I don't monetize this blog; don't plan to monetize the blog; and have explained why (more or less).

I know that in the past some folks have claimed that what bloggers do is post stuff that gets more clicks to get more attention but I have at various times taken the opposite approach.  There would be times where readership was high and related to Mars Hill stuff and I would decide to drop all of that kind of blogging to discuss the guitar music of Ferdinand Rebay (which I enjoy and plan to blog about again in the future) or about something like the tenth anniversary box set of The Powerpuff Girls (still a great show!).  I've also adopted a writing style that, I admit, deliberately punishes readers who want to jump straight to the pull-quote or the bottom-line.  I'll even admit that I formulated a writing style as a contrast to Driscoll's public speaking style, if he went Carlos Mencia then I'd go for written fusion of Jane Austen and Joan Didion (who are two of my favorite authors, as a matter of fact).

But because I've never monetized the blog I've never had to worry about "losing the job".  If it were a job I would have lost that job years ago.  I can't say how many people will even bother to read the blog posts I eventually want to write about the guitar sonatas of Angelo Gilardino ... but I'm not looking for audience size and click-through-rate as goals that inform what I write about.  I do agree with the above piece that algorithms that vanish content people could otherwise read has some problems.

Terry Mattingly writes (again) at GetReligion on how, in contrast to the axiom that white evangelical votes turned the election in `16 for Trump, Rust Belt Catholic voters turned out to have done that

In Seattle it has been axiomatic that white evangelicals tipped the scales in favor of Trump's electoral victory in 2016.  For various reasons it has since been popular to hold that one group as symbolically responsible for Trump's win and books have come out describing how and why evangelicalism but specifically white conservative evangelicalism (as distinct from black or Latino or Asian evangelicalism, which does exist, too) turned the election.

As time has gone by, however, more detailed study of the election patterns has revealed, as Terry Mattingly has written before, that research into the demographic spread of voting shows that Rust Belt working class Catholics shifted the election in favor of Trump in 2016.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

links for the weekend: Social Media use as Freudian death drive; David French on use and abuse of critical race theory; The Critic on nepotism in the arts; Joseph Horowitz plugs Alex Ross' Wagnerism

once again, some links for the weekend

Fredrik deBoer on "Here's a Thing That Used to Happen";a tangential riff from Ellul on how the right of the present (1970s) repurposes myths originated in the left

Since he has a custom of often self-destructing posts I sometimes consider posts that stick with me for posterity.  The whole process of preserving content posted to the internet for the sake of posterity was a habit I picked up on a ... very different author/speaker and set of topics a few years ago but, anyway ...

September 10, 2020

the fires in Oregon are bad, there are at present 34 uncontained fires burning across the state. update from Phoenix Preacher

I grew up in western Oregon and so it's very bad news to see fires raging down there where friends and family from my younger years still are.

As of this morning there are no indications any of the 34 fires across the state are to any degree contained.

Also down in Oregon is Michael Newnham, aka Phoenix Preacher.

He and his family are okay but a lot of homes and businesses have burned down to the ground and things are still terrible down there.

I have heard of evacuations and pending evacuations in my loop. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Easter in September ... at The Trinity Church ...

No one would conventionally have the impression that Easter, whether Western rite or Eastern rite, could be commuted to the day after 9/11 but ... an Easter party will be under way ... in a few hours now.  Where?

Theopolis Institute conversation on secularity and the problem of church music ... I'm not sure the problem of traditional vs vernacular is a problem of secularity as much as its a challenge of high liturgical white guys not being sure how to get the music of low liturgical POC to fit into their traditions

First I'll load up the relevant links and then, assuming you've read the whole conversation, I'll proceed with some thoughts about it after the break:

Doug Shadle has mentioned the Beethoven problem in US; Madeline Sayet essays the Shakespeare problem in US theater

In his book Orchestrating the Nation, Douglas Shadle described the "Beethoven problem" that American symphonists faced. The core of the double bind presented by critical  reception history could be summed up as follows: 1) if you wrote an American symphony that did not aim to sound like Beethoven then the music you wrote was frivolous and unworthy of being considered a serious contribution to the art of music, however 2) if you wrote an American symphony that did aim to invoke the influence of Beethoven then you were found wanting in comparison to the great master and didn't trust in relying on American inspirations.  

Beethoven's canonical status in nineteenth century music and the evolution of what Mark Evan Bonds has recently called The Beethoven Syndrome meant music was heard as a direct expression of the personal feelings of a great soul and so on (I'm starting into said book).  Well, a comparable canonization process happened for William Shakespeare and so it's no surprise that American indigenous theater in all possible variations of the concept has found the cult of the Bard as repressive as American symphonists and at least some music educators have found the cult of Beethoven.