Sunday, December 30, 2012

HT Internet Monk: Why C.S. Lewis didn't write for Christianity Today


Before introducing the world to The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis published Miraclesin 1947. It was his last straightforward defense of the gospel. Lewis told his friend and biographer George Sayer that he would never again write another "book of that sort." And he didn't. From that point forward he published primarily fictional, devotional, and biographical material. His passion for explaining and defending the Christian faith could now best be found in a magical world of talking animals.

That's why when Carl Henry asked him to write articles on topics of Christian doctrine, he had to decline. As Lewis told Henry, "My thought and talent (such as they are) now flow in different, though I trust not less Christian, channels, and I do not think I am at all likely to write more directly theological pieces. The last work of that sort which I attempted had to be abandoned. If I am now good for anything it is for catching the reader unawares - thro' fiction and symbol. I have done what I could in the way of frontal attacks, but I now feel quite sure those days are over."
One of the things evangelicals seem to feel obliged to do is to see theological points in everything.  Everything has to be justified by a theory of justification, so to speak.  Americans in particular can want there to be some "redemption" in the stories they embrace.  The idea that a story could be about someone who doesn't find "redemption" (like the protagonist in John Woo's The Killer, or King Saul within the biblical narrative) or even a character like Wickus in District 9 who stumbles upon redemption without accepting some invitation, and this even amidst his various ethical failings, is not what evangelicals seem interested in.  We want our redemption straight, no chaser.  We want the unmediate 200 proof propositional statement, preferably explicated in the past-tense so there's no doubt who the redeemed one is.  We may say we affirm an Augustinian approach to sanctification in American evangelicalism but in pop culture we seem to have more of a, how do we put this, Keswickian approach to the sanctification of somone in his or her character arc. 
We can pay lip service to the idea of vocation but for cultural artifacts we may know but we don't care that it's possible to do things as Christians that don't have to announce at every single step "This was made by a Christian."  I spent a few years over at Mars Hill and while some folks can talk about going "upstream" where culture gets made it remains to be seen whether or not that infiltration project has worked out or that it even needs to be consciously undertaken by a group of people gathered together under 501(c)3 status for that to be accomplished.  After all, if you just do your job you're not actually going to change the world unless your job happens to be changing the world. 
Suppose, for the sake of making a polemical point, the essential difficulty of evangelicalism is we've wanted to do the direct propositional hour-plus sermon about things.  The writerly axiom is that you show rather than tell and evangelicals want to tell, tell, tell all the time.  A skilled writer knows there is a time to tell and certain roles within the life of faith do, in fact, involve telling things but there's also the showing part and that may be where we have a lot of people who only know how to tell and haven't managed the showing part.  It is funny that even within the art of writing there is an axiom to show rather than tell.  How do you tell in a way that shows and in the visual media how do you show in a way that tells?  That many people opt not to bother with these questions does not mean the questions don't get answers. 
If many of today's evangelicals had gotten what they wanted they'd have gotten a Lewis who wrote more variations on Mere Christianity and never wrote any fiction.  How obvious is the doctrine of justification by faith alone in the narrative of Samuel-Kings?  I'm not saying it isn't in there, I'm just pointing out that in the narrative literature even the Bible itself seems to completely fail the propositional statement approach to doctrine that many evangelicals have wanted for how Christians write about Christian belief. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Old Life: What New Calvinists can learn from Old Calvinists--Failure

Collin Hansen lists the top-ten theology stories of the year. Number ten is the boom-and-bust cycle of Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin. Hansen goes on to wonder why Christians follow celebrities and don’t reflect on failure (possibly because the Gospel Coalition is built on fame and ignores the troubles of folks like C. J. Mahaney):
Tebow wasted away on the New York Jets bench behind an inept starter after the Broncos traded him and prospered under the precision passing of Peyton Manning. Lin also left his team when the Knicks declined to mach an offer from the Houston Rockets, where’s he’s played reasonably well. Why would God not want these men to succeed and spread the gospel through a growing platform in the nation’s largest city? How can they testify to Christ in failure and disappointment? Too few have explored these questions with the same fervency that greeted their ascendance to international celebrity.
If the young and restless would-be Calvinists read much in the history of Calvinism they would know that failure and defeat is par for the course of the church militant (neo-Calvinists’ postmillennial optimism to the contrary).

But to be something other than postmillenial is to be pessimillenial, right?

And in a sample flourish of why D. G. Hart is considered by some to be a "Grumpy Calvinist" ... :

... However we estimate the size, scope, and power of the modern nation-state, the reality is that Reformed Protestantism was on the ground floor of the construction of modern Europe and its colonial proliferation, a period that ran from 1600 at least to World War II. No wonder, then, that conservative Reformed believers pine for the days when their faith mattered to the mission of a particular nation. Scottish Presbyterians still long for the days of the National Covenant. Abraham Kuyper endeared himself to Reformed believers by evoking a golden age of Dutch history. Meanwhile, American Presbyterians have their own version of this nostalgia and attempt to construct a Christian founding of the United States even though the very point of the new nation was to bring an end to the pattern of confessionalization that had torn apart Europe (and especially England) during the seventeenth century.

Yet, the question remains whether Reformed Protestants were hoping to remake Europe or reform the church. Thanks to a host of Holy Roman Emperors, from Constantine and Charlemagne to Charles V, thinking about Europe apart from the church was impossible. Even so, the reforms that the original Protestants initiated were overwhelmingly ecclesial and bore directly on doctrine, liturgy, and church polity. Only because the church was part of the established political order did church reform translate into broader social and political developments. The Reformation was first and foremost a religious effort and only secondarily did it affect politics and culture.

The desire fo revival to bring about national transformation is so endemic to American spirituality that the idea that there are ways of being Christian that are not predicated on the tacit assumption that "real" Christianity will transform a society into something by process of a kind of spiritual social reverse-engineering process is often not on the table.  Now, surely, if a Christian influence in society improves things that's nice ... but the Metro-Evangelicals sometimes seem to frame transformation of culture as having an importance that can take precedence over being salt and light in mundane ways.  And after all has been said and done (as if) was the goal of reaching the culture for Jesus to really do this for Jesus, who by Christian belief already owns everything that exists anyway, or was it to, through the promulgation of Jesus as savior, reverse-engineer, if possible, the culture into something closer to what we were hoping to see? 

This world may be passing away but a really missional approach to a gospel-centered effort to redeem culture should inspire us to see that the Bible speaks to everything in life and that means we should be able to move all the lawn chairs.  Whether the old cultural warriors like Dobson and Falwell made a point of taking America back for God or whether newer sorts of self-appointed vanguards of evangelicalism like Mark Driscoll want Christians to "go upstream" where culture gets made (in the big urban areas) the style may seem different but to secularists, progressives, and anyone not already in the broadly American evangelical Protestant camp wouldn't all of this look like a distinction without a difference? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

a few things planned for 2013 ...

Those who grew up in but outgrew premillenial dispensationalism were probably not fretting at all about the alleged Mayan apocalypse.  Thus it was with Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Instead of mulling over end times stuff thoughts have been turned more toward fun things to eventually blog about in 2013.

How about an analysis of "Cirex" as an example of the chamber music for double-bass and guitar of
Annette Kruisbrink?  Sound fun?  Well, sounds fun to Wenatchee The Hatchet.  How about a brief analysis of a Samuel Adler duet?  Possibly some short album reviews of chamber music for guitar & saxophone, or guitar and mandolin, or guitar and bassoon?  We might go there.

This year there was this movie in which a character quoted a line from an old movie about how big things can have small beginnings. Sometimes a thing can seem to end up small that began big, maybe even about $4 million big?

Curiosity made some news exploring Mars this year and curiosity has led to exploring bits of the Martian landscape that cartographers have not, at least on blogs, necessarily paid much attention to (except, in one case, Halden Doerge, maybe).  You won't see any awesome pictures of the Martian landscape in 2013 at this blog ... but you might get to read an overview of what can be observed about recipients of a masters in missional leadership and an overview of the run-up to a program that's ... taking a break, maybe.  We might even do a little bit of research to look at case studies of graduates re:train our eyes on the topic a bit more in 2013. 

But that's for 2013.  Hope you all had safe and pleasant holidays. 

Mere Orthodoxy: Are the Metro-Evangelicals right?

... there is a timbre amidst all of this city-centrism that troubles me.

Maybe this is because the metro-evangelicals are not counter-cultural, but rather a baptized version of New Urbanism. In a culture that idolizes living in a loft in a gentrifying art district, a church planter is not exactly bearing a cross in deciding to “rough it” under such conditions.

Maybe it is that some of its advocates tell a story that previous generations fearfully abdicated the dirty, sinful cities. Thus, all this new “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” generation needs do is show up and things will get better. It’s worth noting that this mythical Evangelical abandonment never really happened and we should be more careful at imputing impure motives to previous generations of believers.

Or maybe the metro-evangelicals’ claims of self-importance are so hyperbolic that they insult the gospel work being done in less densely populated zipcodes. For example, some urbanist church planters claim that cultural transformation emanates exclusively from cities, as Mark Driscoll writes:
[C]ities are of greater strategic importance because they are upstream where culture is made and changed, yet most Christians today are downstream and subsequently are incapable of effecting cultural transformation. (Vintage Church, p. 298)
Incapable. Incapable? I do not think that word means what you think it means. /Inigo_Montoya_voice

I did my time in the Big Apple, but now reside in a thriving metropolis of 8,305. Yet I live alongside a whole lot of faithful Christians who sacrificially love their neighbors, share the gospel, build civil society and raise their families in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It may take some time, but I would wager that these folks will have some kind of transformative impact on the culture when all is said and done.

Remember the story of Abraham and Lot. When they parted ways over business squabbles, Lot chose to pitch his tent near the affluent big city while Abraham sojourned in wilderness isolation. Yet which of them ended up displaying a greater capacity for cultural transformation?

Cities may seem to be of more strategic importance but as some authors at Seattle's local paper The Stranger have insisted, cities are also often more liberal (language warning well in advance for those who've never heard of this paper).

For people who imagine that great innovations happen in the great cities and thus that's where we should focus our effort you can buy that but the thing about history is that history isn't always made in the big places where you might expect it to be and not always through easily anticipated means.  While in Haydn's time Vienna was the place to be he didn't exactly change the history of music by being in Vienna for most of his career.  These days people might sooner think of the film Showgirls than Haydn when hearing or reading the name Esterhazy.  Such is life.  Haydn managed to become famous across the world while being stuck in an estate in Hungary even though Vienna was consider the hot spot to be. 

As Tom Wolfe put it in The Painted Word, an artist can go get Windsor & Newton paints just about anywhere in Ohio but they dream of "the loft" in "the city", THE city, New York. 

Palestine was not exactly the most important place in the world at the time Jesus showed up, was it? 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

JS Bangs: A Call to Inaction

Bangs inks to this and shares a few of his own thoughts.

I'll quote from part of the linked article:

Unlike many libertarians, I am fine with a ban on automatic weapons. But no need to hop over to to start a petition to ban them; machine guns have been illegal in the United States since 1934, and since the 1980s, it has been illegal to manufacture and sell any automatic weapon. Apparently unbeknownst to Twitter, we have also already made it illegal for the mentally ill to buy or have guns, and have background checks aimed at prevented just that.
But beyond the strange calls to make serial killers pray more and outlaw things that are already illegal, the most interesting thing is how generic they were. As soon as Newtown happened, people reached into a mental basket already full of "ways to stop school shootings" and pulled out a few of their favorite items. They did not stop to find out whether those causes had actually obtained in this case.

So a ban on things that are already illegal wouldn't have made what happened less likely to happen.  Armed schoolteachers would not have made a shooter less likely to shoot a bunch of people.  Violent video games can't be construed as necessarily having caused what happened.  Even if we account for a synergy of all the independent variables there's no way we can really say that what happened was something that could have been prevented by any one magical policy change any of us would like to see implemented.  There will be no end, however, to ideologically driven idiots left, right or even libertarian proposing that now is the time to exploit the occasion to push for something that seems reasonable to one proponent and insane to others.  But perhaps the real insanity is imagining that in a world as big as ours with the possibilities it has that these kinds of massacres either "shouldn't" happen or "couldn't" happen even after we've done everything possible. 

Some of my married friends have said that there is no form of birth prevention that is 100% failproof.  Sometimes despite all odds a baby is conceived and born.  Death is the same way, it can burst in upon us no matter what reasonable precautions we may take to forestall or completely evade death in any given circumstance.

At close enough range with enough velocity even rubber bullets can kill people. 

There's a terrible syllogism that tends to follow on tragedies like this:
1. Something must be done
2. This is something
3. Therefore this must be done.
. . . and hello, Gulf War II.

And everything with it.  What is sad is that I've seen people who backed Gulf War II and the War on Terror eight and ten years ago who, now that a Democrat is in office, believe that the things they backed years ago as necessary are civil rights violations now.  Why is this sad?  It should be obvious but it probably won't be to everyone--ideologues don't care that solution A to problem B seems like a tyrannical act just so long as group C didn't come up with it or isn't able to implement it but if "my" group does, then it's necessary. 

There is, as Bangs puts it:

I understand that we want to do something. But sometimes we must consider the fact that there is nothing to be done.

Those people died and that's as obvious as it gets that there is nothing now that could be done to have saved them and there's not necessarily anything that could be done that is constitutional that will prevent such a thing from happening in the future.

There could be a disturbed young man here in my town. Tomorrow he could steal a weapon, go to the preschool, and kill my boys. There is nothing I could do to stop him.

This is the fear that haunts the calls to action. This could happen to any of us. And if it did, there is nothing we could do about it—but we desperately wish that there was.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Update on Lief Moi HT Joyful Exiles

HT Joyful Exiles

Longtime readers will know pretty much why the semi-dormancy is "semi" when updates of this sort get published. 

Tim Challies reviews James MacDonald's Vertical Church with a mixed assessment.

Some of you long-time readers may remember that my first impression of James MacDonald was a distinctly bad one.  His name showed up in a post titled something like "With friends like these multisite churches don't need enemies".  I have linked only sporadically to things connected to The Elephant's Debt.  Blogger Tim Challies has of late reviewed Vertical Church and he likes, as he puts it, 120 pages of the 300.  The trouble is, which Challies discusses at at least a little length, the bad in the other 300 outweighs the good in the 120. 

The set-up, Challies writes, is promising and the concepts about worship in particular are good ... but the application turns out, according to Challies, to be weak and even dangerous in terms of practical application.  At length the blogger notes that he simply could not review the book on the terms of the book itself and had to consider the last two or three years of James MacDonald's public conduct and speech in his pastoral role and finding it wanting in several areas.

... [on prayer] MacDonald too often allows his personal and culture preferences and his extroverted personality to be prescriptive.

And then there are times where he shows shockingly poor judgment in illustrating with his own life. At one point he writes about the role of prayer in saving his church from bankruptcy. He prayed to the Lord and then called a contractor whose work had been woefully substandard. “Sensing the Lord infusing [him] with still greater boldness” he told this man, “If you do not ship the remaining steel for free, we will close the construction project permanently, take the entire church into bankruptcy, and I will spend the rest of my life pursuing a legal remedy for all damages incurred by your company’s failure to perform. You have until tomorrow at five o’clock to give me your answer, but don’t call at 5:05, because there is a big part of me now hoping your answer is no.” This kind of personal intimidation does not at all stand as an example of the fruit of the Spirit

This blog does not, as a rule, tend to keep very close track of MacDonald because he's not much in our neck of the woods.  He may be a good friend to a certain preacher now, for however long that lasts, but there've been good friends over the years about whom nary a word has been said in public as of years ago.  Times and places and namees uttered publicly in affection can be fickle. It is not a given that the latest named good friend may be so for any longer than the good friend who co-founded a venture.  Besides, there are other people who sometimes keep tabs on MacDonald (about 40:28)so that blogs like Wenatchee The Hatchet can accumulate ideas for blogging about music by Samuel Adler (into the ... 2013 year) or about some graduates of a school.

But that's stuff that may or may not pop up in detail in 2013.  We're semi-dormant here at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  There'll be some activity

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mars Hill Trademark/Logo clarification from October 22, 2011 and your church (maybe)

This blog post from us is intended to alleviate any confusion. As a clarification, we have not sued any churches and have no plans to sue any churches. We have not sent any similar letters to any other "Mars Hill" churches, and we are not planning on asking any church with "Mars Hill" in their name to change their name. 

In light of the above if your church, or the church of someone you know, has been approached by anyone from Mars Hill since October 22, 2011 with a request that you change your name ask them when and if they changed their mind about this statement.  As a clarification, since we blogged about the subject of name, trademark and logo associated with Mars Hill a month ago it seemed useful to set out clearly what Mars Hill said they had not done and did not plan to do, just in case Mars Hill might have done something that could be understood as a reversal of the publicly announced stance they decided to take back in October 2011.

Since the "Clarification" has no by-line or credited author then, in lieu of an actual name to back up the reliability of the above-quoted statement made by Mars Hill last year, questions could conceivably get run by Justin Dean, currently overseeing public relations, communications, and social media for Mars Hill.  Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet actually has any questions on this subject ... but you might.  Dean has had a public role in clarifying previously unclear communication such was what took place in the disciplinary case of a former member named Andrew.  We'll let you go look up that Slate article yourself, though.  This blog post from us is intended to alleviate any confusion.

dormancy, sorta

As you'll have noticed we're not quite so productive in blogging here at Wenatchee The Hatchet as earlier this year.  You'll see from the blog archive that there was an explosion of activity on the blog this year but in the last few months the output has shrunk down to more conventional productivity.  This may be how things stay for a little while.

But there are plenty of things in the hopper to eventually, here's hoping, make it up here.  We've kept track of a few things that didn't get a lot of coverage from other blogs or from media outlets.  This is a niche blog (as all blogs in the end probably must be).  So there were blog posts about a certain church and its real estate acquisitions and bylaws and culture.  There were blog posts dealing with chamber music.  There were blog posts dealing with superheroes.  There are various other blog posts and about those we have no need to get overly detailed. 

With a bit of input from blogging friends like Wendy and Bill we've got a drastically different look that, I hope, makes the blog easier to read.  I've also actually bothered to tag posts with themes which will facilitate easier searches on topics that may be of interest to people.  There's still a mountain of completely untagged stuff you could search through if you like but at least this year I started tagging stuff for easier referencing. 

Either we'll actually have a bundle of content prepared for 2013 or we won't.  We can't make any promises there. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kitten Doesn't Like Apples

Nice synchronization of the soundtrack to movement in this video.  If Henri the Black Cat is existentialist French cinema than this is, well, the Ridley Scott horror film alternative., obviously.

and while we're at it, Nikita Koshkin's Suite for guitar "The Prince's Toys"

The Mischievious Prince

Mechanical Monkey

Doll with Blinking Eyes

Tin Soldiers

The Price's Coach

Grand parade of the Toys

There are a couple of CDs on which this fine suite has been recorded and there's a neat doctoral dissertation on Koshkin's solo guitar music that's been published as of about six years ago.  I don't remember the details off the top of my head so I'll let you hunt around for stuff if you like Koshkin's music and are discovering it.  I think if I had to pick favorites from Koshkin this suite for solo guitar and his sonata for flute and guitar would be my favorites. 

Way back when I started this blog I wanted to write a blog about cross-movement cyclical development of motiff in Koshkin's sonata for flute and guitar.  I might yet finally get around to doing that.  You're going to have to accept that this will not include musical excerpts because I'm not interested in breaching copyright.  I could, however, link to Koshkin's neat videos of the performance of his sonata and provide explanatory notes of how certain themes derive from a motto that opens the work.  But all that's for later ... and by later I mean possibly out into 2013. 

Anyway, enjoy the suite. 

Asya Selyutina plays Koshkin's Usher Waltz

On the one hand her recordings of his 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar and their publication by Editions Margaux can't come soon enough.  On the other hand, we don't want to rsuh a project like this that is, so far as I know, unprecedented in the history of the instrument, a contrapuntal cycle composed for the guitar by an guitarist (give or take focal dystonia).  For now, Selyutina does a nice job with Koshkin's most famous waltz.

Nikita Kohskin: Megaron Concerto

I haven't written about music in a while, though I had planned to.  Still collecting a variety of thoughts and ideas.  So instead of attempting to blog about music again before I think I'm actually ready to do so let's just link to the recently completed and premiered guitar concerto by Nikita Koshkin. 

The concerto is on CD and is available this year, I think on the BIS label.  Concerti are okay, for my interests it's that the new CD has a quintet for guitar and string quartet that intrigues me.  I admit to liking the guitar more when it has a smaller, more intimate canvas.  On the other hand, fun though it is we guitarists don't want to keep hearing just Concierto de Aranjuez forever and ever, amen, so the possibility of a new concerto to be an alternative might be nice, too.  :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

cinemagogue, the book

Of course Wenatchee The Hatchet is going to note this bit of news, if a day late. Follow the link and see what James Harleman's written, particularly if you went to any of his Film & Theology presentations over the last twelve years. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

a fun (and long) post on damned Raimi protagonists is up at Cinemagogue

Of course Cinemagogue has an overview of protagonists in Sam Raimi films.  After all, Oz is coming out soon enough and Cinemaguy's affection for Raimi's work is easily looked up.  Drag Me to Hell was a fun movie! Not every story has to end with "redemption".  Often, as Harleman pointed out in his presentation on District 9 (if memory serves) so much of the time we moviegoers are used to a story of "redemption" in which a guy on the wrong team realizes he's on the wrong team, has a change of heart, turns around and goes from being a peon for evil to being the hero and savior in his own narrative.  If you want a stereotypical example of this sort of story look to James Cameron's AvatarDistrict 9 provides us with a protagonist who manages to stop being on the side of oppression and injustice but who never really becomes the "hero" that we've been primed to think he should be by American action conventions. 

Well when Sam Raimi's not playing with characters created by other people he's got no problem depicting people who seem "good" and turn out to make harrowing, awful decisions that destroy the lives of others and which lead to their own damnation.  In the case of Drag Me To Hell that damnation of the self is just as literally realized in the story as the title tells you it will be.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Skyfall: places of shadows and people who pull triggers

There's plenty that's been written about the new Bond movie Skyfall in the last month.  By now if you don't know it's Judi Dench's last film as M then, well, er, spoiler alert?  ;-)

A bit has been made of the observation that the new James Bond movie depicts an older, depressive Bond who dislikes the nature of his work and has become too old to pass field work tests and probably has substance abuse issues.  Yet Bond shows up for duty even after he's identified as dead during a battle in which a field agent attempts to shoot a data thief and, through her own failures in aim, shoots 007.  Cue one of the few actually decent Bond songs in the last ten years.

Bond returns, like an old Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to deal with an evil that the new generation of cops can't understand or defeat.  James Bond Returns.  But he returns to an MI6 that is positive it doesn't really need him any longer.  Mallory, whom Bond describes as "a bureaucrat", makes a blunt petition to M (Judi Dench) about her team's failure to prevent the data theft.  He says M has had a good run and that there's no dishonor in retiring early and getting a pension and that after such a big failure it's okay to retire and retain some dignity.  To this M replies indignantly, "To hell with dignity! I want the job done."  This becomes a thread through the film in which there are people who work in and with MI6 who consider personal standing or renown or welfare and those who say "to hell with dignity ... ."

But an equally obvious theme in the storyline has to do with "the shadows".  Mallory tells M that she and Bond are, basically, relics from a Cold War time, a bygone era whose methods and tools are no longer relevant. Working in the shadows doesn't make any sense when, thanks to modern technology and information resources, there aren't any shadows.  When Bond is equipped with a gun and radio by Q, the young man mentions, "I can do more damage in a single day with a laptop than you can in a whole year out in the field" (I paraphrase).  Bond retorts with a question of why on earth he even needs to be around at all.  The obviously strictly indoor Q says, "Eventually somebody has to pull a trigger."  Later in the film Q will unwittingly let the necessary villain (Silva) break into the data systems of MI6 and Silva attempts to assasinate M during a hearing on problems in MI6 security and policy. 

It is during the hearing that M explains why MI6 still needs to exist, because the changing nature of the enemy means the adversary is no longer a nation or an army but those who dwell in the shadows.  This is possibly the first James Bond movie that has a theme and at least one potential theme in the film is the question of what the shadows are.  Mallory believes the shadows don't exist and M is certain that they not only exist but that both the evils that face society (like Silva) emerge from there and that Bond has lived within the shadows and is the sort of person who can fight men like Silva.  At length Silva turns out to have been a former agent of MI6 who overstepped his authorization and clearance, risked compromising MI6's operations, and was given over by M to Chinese authorities during the 1997 transfer of Hong Kong to China.  Some have written that this backstory is implausible.  Okay, so what exactly is supposed to be "plausible" in a James Bond story can be discussed at some other time.

M's point in the film about the shadows invites a question (for those who actually feel like asking these sorts of questions), what are the shadows and where are they?  Even after Mallory said there were no more shadows MI6 is blindsided by an attack from a former agent.  The shadows are not merely some place or places but gaps in attention.  The shadows are where the people in the light are not looking, even if everything might otherwise be bathed in light.  The shadows are in the details you missed, the people you overlooked, the directions in which you were not looking.  This is the world in which James Bond, in pretty much any incarnation, has always lived.  The shadows, again, are not merely where there is no light, the shadows exist where there is some light (even) but you're not looking.

In a gun fight in the hearing room the younger generation that would see Bond and the old M kindly on their way into some dignified retirement are all attempting to make killshots on Silva, who has come into to kill M for what he believes was her treachery toward him.  As people like Mallory and the field agent who will turn out to be the famous desk agent Eve Moneypenny attempt to shoot to kill and fail Bond pulls out his gun.  He shoots to confuse, using his famous Walther PPK to saturate the courtroom with fire retardants from the fire extinguishers in the room.  Silva ends up being thwarted, of course, not by the youngsters who have said there are no shadows anymore and that M should step down, but by the man who is considered physically, mentally, and emotionally unfit to be in the fight, our dear old James Bond.  As Q put it, eventually someone has to pull a trigger and Bond's reticence about his work is how often and why a trigger has to be pulled.  Having been shown unable to make easy shots after being wounded in the moment of real crisis Bond, of course, comes through and has true aim. 

Of course the usual blandishments of the Bond franchise are present but the Bond girl motiff takes a tertiary role to the aforementioned themes.  The most important Bond woman in this film is M and it's fitting that after being in the franchise so many years Judi Dench is given an actually significant role.  Severine ends up being almost purely incidental, the path to Silva.  It's the agent revealed in the end to be Moneypenny who ends up being the second most important woman in Bond's travels in Skyfall, a well-meaning younger agent who has bad aim and taunts Bond about being the old dog who somehow learned new tricks. Unlike the other generation of youngsters Moneypenny is willing to take Bond's frank and unflattering advice that with the kind of aim she has he'd feel awfully safer knowing she wasn't firing guns out in the field and that she's not cut out for field work.  By film's end Moneypenny turns out to accept Bond's blunt advice and Q has been humbled by the discovery that Silva was able to best his technology and defeat his laptop.  This being a Bond movie that's no surprise. 

Having said all that that's about as much as I think needs be said.  The new Bond movie is a veritably solemn affair but it seems that Sam Mendes is better off giving Bond movies some actual themes than cranking out self-congratulatory films like American Beauty.  Sometimes taking a big dumb movie franchise seriously and giving it some themes to play with is more fun that attemtping to be above genre trappings and being stuck in the most hoary convention of all, the shallow suburban existence in which dissatisfied people questing for meaning and personal fulfillment do ethically questionable things.  After all, you can get that stuff in Bond movies and throw in a few chase scenes. 

Old Life: When Transformation Transforms the Transformers

... the example of the Amish (as Berry understands them) may also be instructive for those wanting to transform out culture. Instead of infiltrating the city to redeem it, the Amish have fled the dominant culture to cultivate a Christian culture (as they understand it). In so doing, they have avoided the problem that generally afflicts the infiltrators — that they become like the culture they inhabit, that is, in the case of city transformers, they become as urban and hip as they are Christian. The Amish are also apparently free from the self-delusion that often infects the transformationalists, then one where to justify redeeming the culture the cult loses what makes it distinct (the salt is no longer salt).

... This is not, by the way, an endorsement of either the Amish (whom I admire) or the project of Christian culture. I am more and more persuaded that the longing for a Christian culture is illegitimate and whets the soul’s appetite for something we cannot have in this world. But if you are going to look for examples of Christian culture, the Amish may have unwittingly outscored the neo-Calvinists. ...

A surprisingly sloppy post not so much in the ideas presented, which are clear enough, but in the word choice.  Maybe the post was published using a mobile device that kicked in with auto-correct.  The thoughts are, however, interesting enough that some obviously off-kilter words don't keep the idea from coming across.  The Amish have cultivated a Christian culture that is robust and recognizable by not being in the culture around them.  Neo-Calvinists, as yet, have not produced a culture that has become so recognizable or long-lasting and this "may" be because they haven't had time or, as Hart implies, they will always lack the foundation form which to build a "Christian culture" because the enterprise itself is dubious.  Whether or not you agree with Hart on that is a matter all its own. 

Having seen the earnestness with which some pastors in this area have said they want to win people to Jesus, people who will "move upstream" and "shape culture" I've also seen what can happen when people realize they are probably never going to move upstream and shape culture.  They despair, they give up, they get resentful, and in some cases bail on church altogether.  When a goal of Christian living is to "redeem culture" it may happen to happen but it ends up putting the cart before the horse.

I suppose I could write more on the matter but I don't feel like doing so. 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Light's Home: a new ministry/counseling project spearheaded by James Noriega (former pastor at Mars Hill)

As has been discussed at some length at this blog, James Noriega is no longer employed as a pastor by Mars Hill Church.  He stopped being listed as a pastor approximately 12-14 months ago, back around September or October 2011.  This is what he's been working on over the last year, for those who may be interested in reading about it.  Here are a few testimonials with some names some of you regular readers may recognize.

Testimonials of note are from Andrew Pack (Anchor, a MH plant); Gary Shavey (MH Bellevue); AJ Hamilton (MH Albequerque); and Amanda Hightower. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness ... okay

Something tells me this movie will not necessarily feature Spock doing battle against evil sentient flying pancakes that sound like squeaking doggy chew toys. 

Mockingbird on Dave Brubeck and a few thoughts of my own

Earlier this year, when I wrote a guest piece for Internet Monk, I mused on how if in Christ there is no slave or free, Jew or Greek, or male or female then this meant that there is no high or low, art or pop, indie or mainstream but all are united in Christ who reconciles all things to God the Father through Himself.  It's fitting to remember in the week of Brubeck's passing that he was Catholic (I'm Protestant but let's set aside a few of those ceaseless differences, significant though they are, to consider an element of Brubeck's legacy).  Brubeck was catholic in his faith and musical interests and the cool sound he helped develop was a sound that fused "classical" with "jazz" in ways that were new and interesting. 

I heard Brubeck twenty years ago and my musical thinking has never been the same since.  What may be tedious or unappealing to many music listeners about Brubeck's music could well be summed up in "musical thinking".  Brubeck was often a cerebral musician in how he came across, how he'd improvise an idea.  There was, particularly for his detractors, something un-swinging and eggheaded about his musical approach.  Even twenty years ago when I was introduced to his music I met people who said that Brubeck did not play jazz.  About sixteen years ago the magazine Downbeat noted by that time Dave Brubeck constituted one of the pillars of mid-20th century jazz composers and pianists because, quite simply, he'd outlived pretty much all the jazz critics who refused to recognize his music as jazz.  When all the dissenters have died off and you're still alive and kicking and touring and recording then, well, you kinda won that battle, didn't you?

Decades ago I wrote a little instrumental piece mainly in 5/8 that people thought I had written after hearing "Take Five" by the Brubeck Quartet.  That piece is associated with Brubeck even though it was written by Desmond and when I wrote my 5/8 piece I had never even heard of Dave Brubeck or Paul Desmond.  What I had heard was John Coltrane's "Afro Blue" and Tom Petty's "Breakdown".  I liked both songs and wanted to come up with a song that was somewhere in between.  So betweeen the buoyant 6/8 of Coltrane and the weirdly agitated lethargy of Tom Petty's four-on-the-floor I came up with a slightly astringent 5/8.  Nobody at college who heard the instrumental believed I hadn't heard of Brubeck when I wrote the thing ... except for a friend of mine who was an old bandmate who says that the way I think about music the Coltrane/Tom Petty fusion into 5/8 totally makes sense. 

Some twenty years on I'll happily say that Brubeck's music has been a touchstone for my way of thinking about composing and to some degree my musical goals.  Theere's also Hindemith, Penederecki, Messiaen, Haydn, Bach, Stravinsky, Stevie Wonder ... but Brubeck was one of those seminal discoveries in which this guitarist and composer discovered a kind of fusion (and there are many kinds of fusion) that took hold of me. 

Let me say something in defense of cerebral music.  It is often said that music is a thing that speaks directly to the heart but it is taken for granted in a preponderance of tacitly dominant musical styles that something is understood and perceived by the mind to be actually be a musical style and an acceptable one before the "heart" has an emotional response. In the last one hundred and fifty years styles have exploded across and within regions.  We live in the most polystylistic musical moment in the history of the entire human race.  We live in an era in which the very idea of purity of style could be a quaint notion and it would be difficult to say there are any "rules" left to break except, perhaps, two sorts of rules:  1) the rules limiting what is possible with sound due to sheer physical limitations in tone production and human perception (though musical works exploiting infrasound are still feasible) and 2) limits in what is considered to be the barrier between Style A and Style B. 

Brubeck was a musician who spent a lifetime crossing back and forth between what we might call Style A and Style B.  He may not have always had equally effective and compelling moments in any of those two way stations, if you will, but that he was able to travel so freely and readily between those stations is itself an example for us to consider both now and in the future.  We have lived through so many fractures and revolutions that the possibilities for moments and movements of consolidation and fusion may seem hard to imagine.  Those moments were not hard for Dave Brubeck to imagine, he imagined them in all sorts of ways.  It may be both too corny and too obvious to say that this enterprise of fusion and consolidation requires acting in faith and yet, as we know if we've listened to more than just a little Dave Brubedk he wasn't afraid to be either corny or obvious when he decided that it was musically worth doing. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dave Brubeck has died

I meant to write more than just noting the passing of the pianist and composer but life happens.  Dave Brubeck died this morning at the age of 91.  Perhaps I'll get around to blogging more about him, his music, and passing later.  Today's just not turned out to be that day.

HT Mockingbird: The Humblebrag

There’s nothing new about false modesty, nor its designation as a form of bad manners. But the prevalence of social media has given us many more canvases on which to paint our faux humility — making us, in turn, increasingly sophisticated braggers.

... a humblebrag is an opportunity for the attention-starved to stake a claim on our sympathy.

Indeed, this may be why false modesty is no less discomfiting to its audience (and is sometimes more so) than outright bragging. Outright bragging expects to be met with awe, but humblebragging wants to met with awe and sympathy. It asks for two reactions from its audience, and in so doing makes fools of its beholders twice over. The practice is also ineffably irritating because it ultimately and slyly asserts the triumph of business over the personal: given that there’s a higher tolerance for bragging in business than social circles, many falsely modest statements on Twitter and Facebook try to fly under decorum’s radar by whispering to their readers, “You’re my fan, not my friend.”

The humblebrag, unsurprisingly, appears from people in ministry at megachurches.  Despite having mentioned almost completely in passing about how his church was even able to rent the city of Ephesus for a day a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody managed to tweet this.

Mark Driscoll@PastorMark 19 Jun 12
What do you call a guy expected to do what he cannot do with resources he does not have?


Could be a humblebrag, maybe.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Duo Rubicund, set of links to a Seattle flute and guitar duet

Er, they've been a flute and guitar duet up until about now.  They're closing shop as the flutist is leaving town, if memory serves.  But here's a bunch of links to stuff they've done.  I'd encourage you to give their stuff a listen and check out some of their videos on YT.

Duo Rubicund
flutist Erica Coutsouridis and guitarist Meredith Connie

I hear local Seattle guitarist Michael Partington has a new album out of works by Bryan Johanson.  I also hear another Seattle guitarist, Hilary Field, has an album of viola and guitar music that should be officially released some time soon.  As Wenatchee The Hatchet kinda tackles chamber music for classical guitar as a blogging topic from time to time you can anticipate that blogging about things like that will be a goal. 

Some of you may have noticed there's more links and less lengthy blog posts and not as many of them.  There are reasons for that.  Sometimes life off-line keeps you busy in ways that are beneficial.  I had thought about blogging about Skyfall and how it's sorta trippy that there's a James Bond movie that has a theme but I don't know if I'll necessarily do that now or not.  I mean, the movie was out practically a whole month ago, wasn't it?

PsyBlog: Why people believe weird things and 8 ways to change their minds


People love sensational stories. They like to pass on tales that make the listener very happy, disgusted or afraid: anything that provokes a strong emotional response.

Neutral stories, which are probably more likely to be true, but much more boring, therefore get short shrift.

I've noticed this can happen on the internet from time to time.  :)  I could comment at greater length but it would not have any impact on those who might most benefit from such a discourse.  ;)

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Doonan vents his spleen on the travesty of modern art, a travesty observed by Calvin & Hobbes 2 decades earlier

By all means read all of THIS link ...
before skipping to THIS link.

Bill Watterson was famous in the industry for his staunch views on artist rights and control over licensing and merchandising over against what his publisher wanted to do.  Word has it that there's a documentary about Bill Watterson developing Calvin & Hobbes that's wrapping up, or should be, by late 2012 (according to a piece in Wired).  If the movie wraps and gets a 2013 then that movie and not others will be the most anticipated film of 2013 for this blogger. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Annette Kruisbrink: Dances 1, 2 and 3 for double bass and guitar

Excerpts from Annette Kruisbrink's fantastive Five Dances for double bass and guitar. 

Go find yourself the album Cirex by Kruisbrink where she plays her music for double bass and guitar with her brother.  It's a fine album and Kruisbrink has composed what I consider to be the largest and most substantial body of chamber music for this pair of instruments.  Time and resources permitting I'm hoping to do a detail analysis with linked Youtube video of Kruisbrink's fantastic and moody minimalist/fusion piece Cirex.  :)  I might have to keep that in store for Chamber Music Week 3 ... or 4. 

duets for trombone and guitar are a bit rare but they do exist.

Then there's Contrapunctus 14 for trombone and guitar.  Yes, THAT Contrapunctus 14.

They do a good job. 

I have been working through sketches for a sonata for tenor and trombone for years and, well, shameless self-promotion here, if I were to contact an ensemble about that sonata when it's done these would be the folks I'd want to contact. 

I've got some testing out of some things to do with my sonatas for guitar with trumpet and for guitar with tuba before I try tackling trombone, French horn and euphonium. 

Alessandro Penezzi e Alexandre Ribeiro (Youtube)

Here's a fun clarinet and guitar duet.

Friday, November 30, 2012

from the Carnival ... "The invisible women bishops of Phillipi"

If you saw the last post and remember that I read Jim West's blog and Scotteriology then you may have worked out what the Carnival is.  Well, here's something from the latest Carnival.

A very lengthy quotation:

I’ve been pondering yesterday’s reading for St Clement. (For me it’s also tomorrow’s reading as I’m preaching at a transferred patronal festival.) It includes these verses from Philippians:
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (4:2-3 NRSV)
Here, even more than in many places in Paul, it’s hard to reconstruct the details of the situation that is being taken for granted by Paul and his addressees. However, it seems to me that we can say the following.
  • This touches on the main reasons for the letter. Paul’s appeal to Euodia and Syntyche echoes the language of his appeal in chapter 2 “to be of the same mind” which leads into the famous Christ-hymn.
  • A personal disagreement between these two women seems to mirror, perhaps cause, a disagreement in the life of the church.
  • Their position and their relationship is important enough for Paul to direct much of his argument towards healing it.
  • There is no appeal to any other leader to solve the problem, knock heads together, etc, and there is noticeably no appeal to any man to exercise any authority over these women. Even Paul does not try to make his appeal one to authority, but one to friendship and mutual loyalty.
  • The identity of the loyal companion Paul addresses is unknown. He is, however, a man asked to assist them. There is no male superiority assumed as a right.
  • The women are equated with Clement (traditionally identified as the later bishop of Rome) and all Paul’s fellow-workers who have struggled with him in proclaiming the good news.
The most likely explanation of these observations and deductions from the text is that the women belong to, and are even among the leading figures in, the leadership group of the church. Only a prior ideological commitment by the reader to male leadership alone would make this an “impossibility”. For every other reader, it seems a very plausible – I suggest the most plausible –explanation.

Thoughts?  Invitations to comment at Wenatchee The Hatchet are invariably met with the endless throng of the singing of crickets across the cosmos.  Maybe that's what we deserve for having disabled comments on some of the posts that were most likely to have inspired comments?

Theology and Music, 2 Samuel 18:33 as chant HT Jim West

I remember being surprised when I discovered the priest at the church in Patmos was also the choirmaster. He looked at me, a complete stranger, when I appeared at choir practice, introduced by the hotelier from Chicago, the owner of the hotel where we were staying on that small Greek island in the off-season, February 1997. And he said two words "maggiore, minore"? And I replied with major and minor thirds. I was younger then and I could sing them without wobbling. And he said - "You - sit here!" and directed me to a place beside him where I could receive instruction. I sat through the entire session, watching the others tape the whole rehearsal so they could learn it at home. The priest had not had someone there who could sing and hold the drone - so that was a good job for me, for I could neither read Greek nor read their strange chironomic notation above the text.

But there it is - all Orthodox priests have to be musicians. They continue the liturgical empire. Well - and so do the Anglicans. I have a couple of new projects starting - who knows how long they will take? But I have interested production staff, performers, composers, and arrangers here and all have now been introduced to the performing of the music of the Bible as deciphered by Suzanne Haik Vantoura.

There's quite a bit more but that's the teaser to get you to, I hope, follow the link.

any news about Nikita Koshkin's 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar?

I heard that Selyutina's been working on recording them and that Editions Margaux is the planned publisher but actual release date or publication date for recordings and scores has been a mystery.  Obviously I'm keen to get both when they become available.  Seeing as it's been a couple centuries since the Well-Tempered Clavier was put together for this kind of achievement to get tackled by a guitarist is unique.

Now while I can appreciate that some people believe that the whole idea of writing in every major and minor key for solo guitar no longer seems relevant in our age I would suggest the opposite may be the case.  To the extent that a steady body of works in all major and minor keys has not had much traction in the guitar this gets to what some might call the question of an inferiority complex among guitarists as performers and composers. 

In other words, to put things in polemical terms, if we never bothered to master musical expression and the development of musical ideas in all keys as happened for the keyboard then there's a sense in which moving along with modern styles is moving along in a way that doesn't mean the same thing it woudl for keyboard literature.  Perhaps it's like jumping on a motorcycle without having ridden a bike.  A guitarist can jump into the modern, anything-goes approach to music or skip over how sonata form and fugue are staples in the early keyboard literature and speak as though we just be happy with the literature we have;  it may not be music that's necessarily as profound as the warhorses of keyboard or string literature but who wants to hear the clangy and loud piano? 

Well, me for one.  I enjoy Angela Hewitt's Bach recordings, for instance.  I've got all the Beethoven sonatas.  Is there some reason we guitarists should not compose in every possible key simply because Schoenberg showed up before Ponce wrote his sonatas?  I don't see how that seems relevant at all.  Let's say for the moment that the guitar was something Segovia wanted to elevate to the level of other instruments.  Whether or not he succeeded could depend on the sort of repertoire that was available, right?  How was that repertoire going to happen (if we eliminate Bach and Albeniz transcriptions) if guitarists as a group scrupulously avoided taking the comprehensive approach to keys that keyboardists tackled centuries ago? 

So whether or not Koshkin's preludes and fugues for solo guitar end up being warhorses in the literature or if they become a curio "almost" doesn't matter.  What I've heard so far is promising.  Whether or not Koshkin uses true countersubjects or has dared to write a double fugue remains to be seen. 

I've read some say that the fugue is a difficult form to tackle for the guitar because it can too often end up sounding like a scholastic exercise rather than real music.  Perhaps we should say "real music" because people have stopped thinking and listening in contrapuntal terms as of longer-ago than pop music.  Berlioz didn't always have the nicest things to say about Bach's work, for instance.  Guitarists can, as a group, have an actually physical aversion to contrapuntal music. :)  But I digress ... as usual. 

Mere Orthodoxy and Rachel Held Evans

As complementarian/egalitarian interaction goes this is almost a unicorn.

These are worth reading and the first because Evans has written that it is one of the first written responses from a complementarian to listen first and disagree in a respectful way. 
Per an earlier post this week I think that blogging "merely" provides an opportunity for the presentation and discussion of ideas.  In most cases this ends up being preaching to a choir at best or self-involved soap-boxing at worst.  That's for "normal" blogging.  But for not-normal blogging there is the sometime possibility that ideas and information can be presented and shared in a way that provides a newer level of informed assessment and decision-making. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Things I Think and things I think about blogging

1. As I end yet another year of blogging , I’m amazed and discouraged at how right I was years ago and how little difference it makes. I knew the internet would become the new Wittenburg door, but I thought minor “reformations” would follow. Didn’t happen…if anything, things are worse in terms of ecclesiastical accountability.

I wasn't around Phoenix Preacher back when that observation was made, that I know of, but if the observation was that simply blogging about things would not change anything then I pretty much agree.  Blogs set up to catalyze change can't accomplish much by themselves.  People have to make decisions and take actions and blogs are almost by definition incapable of doing this merely as blogs.

However, as the blogging community of textual scholars and specialists in biblical and apocryphal literature showed earlier this year, there are things blogging can do.  The irony may be that the little that blogs seem able to do may be the most important things they can do, inform. 

So often blogs are about whatever the latest flash in the pan in blogland may be.  It means that many blogs will have a proverbial fifteen minutes of fame and then those minutes will burn away with the next thing.  Some blogs stick around for the long haul by being able to jump from wave to wave or making waves.  In the blogs I read Rachel Held Evans gets discussed, though for precisely how long is nobody's guess.  Evans could be around for years or decades depending on a host of things nobody can anticipate. 

Helping people make informed decisions and assessments by getting them the best information you can is about the best (and maybe all) a blogger can do.  Well, there's also encouraging and inviting discussion.  This blog may not be the most wonderful blog about facilitating conversation because it deals with a lot of esoteric stuff and I admit the learning curve can be a little steep and unforgiving.  It's not meant to alienate comment or conversation.  I do admit that there are certain kinds of comments and conversations I tend to implicitly discourage but that'd be another post unto itself.

Not as active on the blog these days, obviously. 

the feeling of never being out of the woods

Ever since I was young (as in substantially younger than I am now) I tended to think of myself as a bit of a fuddy duddy.  I wouldn't have said I was an "old soul" because I didn't exactly think I was wise beyond my years and there's that proverb about how you should let another praise you and not yourself.  The phrase I preferred to think of applying to me was (and is) "old at heart" in both bad and good senses of that term.  In the good sense, for me, I found it easier in my teens to relate to and converse with people older than me.  Call it an interest in transforming any potential relationship with someone older, male or female, into at least a possibility for apprenticing in life.

In the bad sense ... well ... perhaps it would be in the form of a kind of pessimism ... .

Maybe pessimism isn't quite strong enough a word, actually.  A friend of mine has joked that if he's like Superman I'm like Batman.  He likes to see the positive side of things and how people are basically good and can be trusted.  Me ... heh heh ... you may have already begun to see the comparison work itself out.  But I'll proceed anyway.  I tend to have a grim view of human nature.  We are not so smart and we are often dumbest when we are sure we're brilliant.  We are not as rational as we think we are in our most "rational" moments. 

There are things in life where how things work out can seem to be the opposite of what might be implied.  I've joked that Arminians emphasize how free we are as individuals in the ordo salutis but they can be emphatic about the need to find God's best will if you've grown up in Wesleyan settings of any stripe (let alone a Pentecostal/charismatic scene were working out your divine destiny/spiritual gift/place can be obsessive.  Calvinists, notoriously, posit that you can't possibly choose God of your own accord and that the Lord must intervene on your behalf for you to even make a choice.  Yet many Calvinists go through life blissfully unconcerned about what, exactly, God might want them to do.  So long as it's not something expressly forbidden in the Bible and you want to do it, don't bother working out whether or not you "should" do it.  If it works, great, if not, well, that happens. 

By extension a counterintuitive application of my kinda gloomy view of the human condition is a desire to give individuals the benefit of a doubt.  Maybe I'm wrong about something and maybe this other person knows all kinds of stuff I don't.  One of my siblings described this disposition in contrast to people who are optimistic and trusting about people but become withdrawn and upset when hurt or disappointed.  This optimistic sort could be described as a sensitive optimist, where as the sibling and I could be described as "friendly pessimists".  We have a view of the human condition generally that can be grim ... but since you're here and all that's no reason we can't get to know each other.  As I put it to a friend years ago, I tend to anticipate the worst so that when the worst doesn't happen I can be pleasantly surprised.  The friend said he always assumed the best whether for outcomes or expectations of people and that this was why he would get so morally outraged over his disappointment.  Moral outrage is the sort of thing that falters the more a boy cries wolf so I'm not usually eager to get angry about people.  THings ... I can have a bad temper about.

Well, part of this disposition is a feeling that you're never really out of the woods.  The trees may have thinned enough that you can see a prarie or a lake.  You might even come to the lake but you're technically still not out of the woods.  Even in my teens and twenties the inevitably of death was not something I was able to put out of mind for long.  Life is short and fragile.  I had ambitions and dreams and so on like many a teenager would but in my teens the spectre of End Times stuff meant that any ideas for a lasting legacy were mooted by End Times stuff.  I may have cast off dispensationalist futurism in my mind but perhaps at some emotional level the feeling that everything a person says or does can get swept away into nothingness by the end of life on earth can stick with you even when you don't necesarily want it that way.

I've had a rough few years, possibly some of the worst years I've had.  I don't stop considering, from time to time, that things can still get worse and that death could be around the corner.  In the setting I used to be in I heard a lot, and I mean a lot, about people building legacies.  From someone who went through Ecclesiastes about three times the emphasis on legacy seems weird because Ecclesiastes goes on at some length about how death destroys legacies overnight and names are forgotten in scarcely two generations, maybe even within the generation itself.  But adventures in Ecclesiastes is for some other time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

and another HT to Jim West: JEsus and the Jehovah's Witnesses cartoon

Let's just say you don't really have to be able to read German to get this one.

Jim West makes a passionate case against X-mas and gets into the Greek alphabet

... X (the English letter) is not equal to Χ (the Greek letter). Ξ is. Further, really, how many people know the Greek letter Χ and use it, and know that they’re using it in reference to Christ? Finally, the abbreviation for χριστος in the nomina sacra is χρ with the line above, never, to my recollection, is it simply χ (though I’m happy to be shown the error of my ways if someone can provide an example). ...

As Christian bloggers go this would be the part where we nod thoughtfully and discuss how irenic West's post was.   After all, that's what you're supposed to do in the Christian blogosphere, right? ;-)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

possibilities for Chamber Music Week 3

I've been wanting to do Chamber Music Week 3 at Wenatchee The Hatchet superbad for a long time now.  I've been running through ideas of stuff to write about in some detail and have realized that the mundane responsibilities of off-line life are going to make that kinda tougher to pull off (though that's actually a good thing in itself that I'm not going to necessarily explain here).

So that's to say Chamber Music Week 3 might resemble a Linkathon from Phoenix Preacher only instead of a link to something about a hot topic or a person there might be links to specific Youtube performances of chamber pieces.

Or I may end up doing thumbnail overviews of albums I'm pretty sure you won't have heard about.  Now if you happen to go digging up recordings of quartets by Rebay, or a CD dedicated entirely to music for mandolin and guitar then maybe what is in the works won't be new to you.  Here's hoping, however, that Chamber Music 3, when it finally comes together, will introduce you to at least a little bit of music for classical guitar (or not) that you haven't come across and may even find interesting. 

We're not done blogging about Rebay by a long shot, for instance.  There's also some interesting stuff for alto saxophone and guitar to discuss and there's an analysis of an Annette Kruisbrink piece I've been thinking about doing for a while.  It's not as though I ever completely gave up on that proposed project explaining cyclical motivic development in Koshkin's sonata for flute and guitar but there's a point where a blogger realizes that something with a title like that is more a master's thesis kind of thing than just some blog post.  Any long-time readers remember hints that there might be this "little" project for Mockingbird?  Yeah ... well, some 20,000 words later it's not nearly as little as any of us thought it would be. 

Motivic augmentation in "Dear Prudence"

Sometimes when attempting to explain a musical idea or compositional device the most obvious and potentially boring example is actually the best example.  Augmentation is the idea of taking a melodic gesture and multiplying the durations of the notes.  As simple demonstrations of melodic augmentation goes it would be impossible to find a simpler or more effective example than "Dear Prudence" off the White Album.  Yes, dear readers, we're going to be that obvious.

The sun is up
the sky is blue
it's beautiful
and so are you

You all know the words, and you all know that the vocal line draws out all these notes at double their previous duration at the end of the song.  Interspersed with this drawn-out form of the chorus are rising guitar riffs that form a response to the vocal call.  As pop songs go it's genius, a combination of augmentation of a simple gesture with an antiphonal instrumental response decorating, expanding on, and sequentially developing a mirror-phrase to the augmented melody.

But there's something about augmentation of a melodic line that can be easy to overlook that makes or breaks whether or not the device is possible or effective.  That "something" is that the melodic idea you expand rhythmically has to have a harmonic rhythm that you can play with.  You have to be able to draw it out linearly in space and time, and when you do that there has to be more room to play with.  To put it in reverse, the musical idea that sounds good all long and drawn out also has to make sense musically in a much tighter, more compressed harmonic rhythm.  In other words you need a rocking chord change implicit or explicit in whatever you're subjecting to augmentation or diminution of harmonic and melodic durations.  Surely after about half a century we know that "Dear Prudence" delivers this by the truckload. 

If you don't know the song "Dear Prudence" and haven't heard it, well, even this not-necessarily-a-Beatles-fan might have to wonder what you've done with your life!  Listen to the song (again) and I think you'll find that the experience of hearing with your own ears can better illustrate the concept of augmentation than mere words on a blog could provide (especially since the song is under copyright and all that).  I might digress into the subject of the descending bass line as foundation to a passacaglia or how descending linear progressions show up in other Beatles songs ... but this blog entry is going to just stick to "Dear Prudence" here in the Emerald City where the sun is most definitely not up, the sky is definitely not blue, but it gets to beautiful and you do, too. ;-)

Don't come out to play, though.  Seattle drivers are lame in the rain.

Friday, November 23, 2012

HT to Jim West: Black Friday is a bunch of meaningless hype

If you follow the link from Jim West's blog you might have to click through an HP on-line advertisement to get to the article, which just adds a meta level of amusement to the piece.

John Podhoretz has come to a new appreciation of cinematic Chicken McNuggets in eight years
July 01, 2004, 8:49 a.m.
The Best of the Worst
Spider-man 2.

Calling the new Spider-Man film the best comic-book movie ever made — and it is, without a doubt, the best comic-book movie ever made — is a little like calling a Chicken McNugget the best processed fast-food poultry product ever produced. It's praise, but how substantial can the praise really be, given the source?

Movies and television shows based on comic books constitute the worst single genre in the history of filmed entertainment (with the exception of porn). ...

Evil Undone
The moral clarity of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series.
Jul 30, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 43 • By JOHN PODHORETZ

Christopher Nolan’s astounding third Batman feature, The Dark Knight Rises, represents the true maturation of the superhero movie—and provides the key to understanding the bottomless craving moviegoers have for these films, 34 years after the Christopher Reeve Superman gave birth to the genre. It’s not because the odds of seeing something good go up when you buy a ticket to a superhero picture, because most of these movies are lousy (a point on which even diehard fans agree).
Nor is it about the dazzling special effects, the killer action sequences, or the empowerment fantasy that the stories provide to young kids and teenagers who feel so powerless in their own lives—though all that helps, to be sure. You can have all of these, as John Carter did earlier this year, and fail miserably.
What people adore about superhero movies is the signal quality of the Christopher Nolan films—their complete lack of irony when it comes to the portrayal of heroism and the need for heroes to confront evil. When they grab you, and the utterly riveting and entirely gripping The Dark Knight Rises grabs you as few movies do, it is because the filmmakers discard the knowing winks and go all-out, turning their stories into moral pageants dedicated to the elevation of self-sacrifice, selflessness, and heroism.

Somehow Podhoretz failed to notice that this was exactly what Sam Raimi was aiming at in Spiderman 2.  Did he not notice it back then because there was a Republican president in 2004? ;-)

two Thanksgiving posts by Wendy at Practical Theology for Women
Here are a couple more links related to Thanksgiving from Wendy. 

post-Thanksgiving link: The Language of Thanksgiving by J. S. Bangs

A small blog post by J. S. Bangs about his sons.  It's well worth reading. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The perfect piece of music for all the rain we're getting in Seattle

Yes, longtime readers, it's exactly what you guessed I'd link to, Gyorgy Ligeti's Symphonic Poem for 100 Metronomes. 

Sure, why not. Links to Paul Hindemith's Op. 22 string quartet played by the Amar-Hindemith quartet

String Quartet Op.22 by Paul hindemith
Performed by the Amar-Hindemith quartet, recorded in 1927
Movement 1
Movement 2
Movement 3
Movement 4
Movement 5
The recording from 1927 has the limitations you'd expect from the time and in movement 2 the quartet sounds like they hit the resonant tone of the room which leads to a sustained hum that, I assure you (having studied the score over the years) is not in the score.

It's Thanksgiving week here in the United States and so you'll forgive me if I end up just throwing up a bunch of links to things that interest me and you won't be hugely surprised that ends up being music. 

Anthony Joseph Lanman Sonata 46, performed by Duo46

Truly I've been interested in picking up recordings by this violin and guitar duo for years but have been, as the mysterious Mr. Yotsuya used to tell Kyoko Otonoashi, "temporarily short of funds".

Here's a video of Lanman's replete with the score, which is fun to read along with during the recording.
And here's a video of Duo46 playing the piece where you get to see them playing the same. They really tear into the aggressive passages in this one.  :) The lyric moments are also a bit more lyric, almost Romantic but it's all gloriously late 20th century in its sound.

... starting to wonder if this is becoming a de facto chamber music week 3. 

Into the Radiant Boundaries of Light, duo for viola & guitar by Samuel Adler

Into the Radiant Boundaries of Light, a duet for viola and guitar by Samuel Adler
Performed by Duo Fresco

Movement 1

There's two more movements and they're pretty sweet, too but we'll just link to the one we could find.

Ester Magi: A Tre (trio for violin, guitar and cello)

I heard this piece at the Icebreaker series in Seattle years ago.  Now there's a video of the piece.  It's a nice little chamber work for guitar.  Hope you enjoy it. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Daniel Corr recital Nov 17, 2012 Frye Art Museum

Remember that post where I mentioned this was coming up?  This is the post where I write about the recital.  You didn't think I'd mention a recital and not go to it, did you?  :)

Daniel Corr put on a very fine recital on Saturday.  I'll let you look up his bio and background because that stuff is easily found.  I'd like to devote some time writing about what he played and why I liked it.

If you've hung around guitarists, particularly classical guitarists, there can be two rather broad categories of us and by "us" I mean caricatures.  There are those guitarists who play warhorse after warhorse for audiences who don't themselves play the guitar and then the second sort, so to speak, grumbles about hearing the same small set of pieces over again.  There are guitarists who don't want to hear the Rodrigo concerto ever again because they're sick of it.  They may admit to not even listening to most of the music of Sor or Giuliani because they find it daft and they may (or may not) corner you to discuss Henze or Ginastera (personal confession, I still loathe that sonata and couldn't get into Henze despite a weekend immersing myself in the score and a recording (I've since heard) was not the ideal presentation).  I just rambled too much ... but blogs are not always for finely refined prose.

I'm happy to report that Corr's program was mostly not warhorses.  But the program was full of Rebay, Guastavino, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Barrios, and Fred Hand. In other words, it was a fine balance of works by composers you "may" have heard of and others you'd have to be a specialist to even know about.  There was a nice diversity of styles even though all the repertoire technically qualifies as 20th century music. 

The opening piece was a set of variations on a folk song "Das Lieben bringt gross Leid" by Ferdinand Rebay.  This is a relatively short set of variations and one that I hadn't heard.  Rebay wrote hundreds of works for guitar, many of which were unpublished during his lifetime, so there's a wealth of music from Rebay I hope we'll get to hear more and more of over time and it was a treat to hear the variations as the opening piece in the recital. 

Rebay's approach to variation form, from what I've been able to hear so far, is heavy on character variation, which is what we'd expect from a composer inspired mainly by the Romantics.  Rebay was particularly fond, in my listening so far, for adapting tunes by Schubert for guitar or ensemble with guitar.  The dirty confession I have to make is that I don't actually like Schubert's music ... but Rebay had a knack for picking Schubert tunes that sound allright by me and then doing fun things with them.  There's something to be said for a composer taking themes by another composer you don't much like and getting you to like things about the other composer's music.  On that particular matter Rebay has helped me kinda sorta appreciate Schubert's music, at least when Rebay is playing with his themes.  Who knows if Rebay won't help me actually enjoy Schubert in another decade?  Corr's playing was pleasing and fluid and he chose a neat, charming little set of variations to open his recital with.

Corr followed up the Rebay with Carlos Guastavino's first sonata for guitar, a work cast in three movements.  Sonata allegro form is, as Corr noted during the recital, a rarely used form for the guitar so he was excited to present (and I was excited to hear) a sonata form in a guitar sonata.  Often guitar sonatas by name don't necessarily use a sonata form (or in some cases, like Koshkin's massive Sonata for guitar solo the forms are technically used but with a somewhat disappointing disregard for the tonal hiearchy and architecture that, in the hands of the masters, gave the form a vibrant sense of momentum and drive ... but this blog post isn't supposed to be one where I nitpick Koshkin's handling of sonata allegro form)

Guastavino's sonata opens with a boistrous theme in D minor and a straightforward one.  Thanks to drop D tuning this work opens with a nice, pleasant bang and the contrast between themes is appealing.  What particularly sticks with me about this sonata form, days later, is how deftly the recapitulation got handled.  The second group that appears in major in the exposition is presented in parallel minor in the recapitulation, something that seems unusual to me.  Sonata forms are rare and sonata forms in minor keys for solo guitar may be more rare.  The amount of physical effort to play a major key theme in parallel minor may be enough that in many cases guitarists avoid it unless the theme is very short and that seems to occur more in variation forms than sonata form, so hats off to Guastavino for writing a sonata with a solid recapitulation. 

Yes ... this is a theory nerd sorta of recital overview, isn't it? 

Guastavino was an Argentinian composer who assimilated folk and popular elements from his country into traditional forms.  For want of a better way to get this idea across think of it this way, in the 19th century European nationalistic composers emerged, finding ways to inject regional flavor into what were, in a post-Beethovenian Europe, pretty standardized forms.  In the 20th century nationalism and folkloric movements in concert music were more likely to start from the "raw" material itself and work back into more abstract forms or to start with more abstract neapolitan forms and working steadily away into more regional musical detail.  I admit to being a bit too lazy tonight to provide examples that go beyond passing references to Villa-Lobos or Bartok as case studies to contrast with earlier generations of composers advocating for national legacies such as Dvorak or maybe Smetena (?).

I'd be interested in hearing more sonatas by Guastavino and it was cool that Corr played this sonata in his recital.

Tre Preludi Mediterranei by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was a work by a composer whose work I've grown steadily familiar with over the last six years and it was nice to hear these pieces, as well (I like the whole program, for that matter).  The Tedesco was followed up by the Barrios work Julia Florida, which I thought sounded nice.  This is one of those works that has been described as saccharine, sweet to the point of kicking you into diabetic coma territory but Corr played the piece in a way that I found pleasant.  There's such a thing as not over-doing sentimentality in sentimental music and letting the music's formal elegance do the work of charming an audience and that is, I think, what Corr did a fine job of doing with an alternately loved and hated staple in the solo repertoire. 

The last work intrigued me, Frederic hand's Trilogy.  This is a work inspired more by jazz than "classical" music and the rhythms of Dave Brubeck's Blue Rondo a la Turk pervades the work.  Since I happen to own a few Brubeck albums I enjoyed this piece.  As a form nerd I admit there were a few spots where Hand's form sprawled a little for me but his work has an unerring sense of proportion and timing.  He knows how long to run with an idea and develop it before shifting gears into a new idea, and he has a good sense for when to bring back ideas. 

Corr mentioned that Hand began synthesizing and consolidating musical elements across classical and popular styles in the 1970s when jazz/classical fusions were rare (and the few fusions there were that I've heard besides Hand were, often, ineffective).  Trilogy was a nice jazzy way to wrap up the recital.

The recital's balance of style and form and region was impeccable.  I love that Corr was able to begin with the Romantic-inspired sounds of the Austrian Rebay and move to Argentinian sonata forms, visit the Italian expatriate in America through Tedesco's work, and transition through Barrios to end with Fred Hand's work.  This kind of program represents a kind of trajectory of emigration in flight from totalitarianism, at least that's my willfully idiosyncratic take on the program (Rebay's wife was Jewish and Castlenuovo-Tedesco was Jewish, both composers who in different ways faced anti-Semitism and both of whom, if memory serves, ended up fleeing their homelands for years).  Now I admit that finding such a narrative implicit in a recital program is abstract but if you've read this blog for any length of time ... .

Corr put on a great recital and I'm glad I went.  Kudos to Corr for playing music by Castlenuovo-Tedesco and Rebay.  :)  It's been exciting to hear more of Rebay's work and see that it may get saved from the near oblivion it's been in for decades.  I'd encourage you to seek out his concerts if he's playing in a town near you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Slate does a Graeme McMillan with "Were Prehistoric Statues Pornographic?"

If you've never read an article by Spinoff's Grame McMillan ... well ... do yourself the favor of not looking any of them up or clicking on them by accident.  Yes, this is going to be one of those petty, snarky posts where we open with an observation about how annoying a certain writer on comics and films can be. 

Anyway, the article opens with a question whether prehistoric statues were pornographic and the rather short answer is "That would entail modern people reading their own biases back into ancient art." The Venus of Hohle Fels doesn't immediately strike me as looking like a human figure, it strikes me very much as a mock-up for one of the dancing chickens in the video for Peter Gabriel's song Sledgehammer.

A short excerpt of the article, which was republished from New Scientist:

JI: Aren't other interpretations of paleo art just as speculative as calling them pornographic?

Yes, but when we interpret Paleolithic art more broadly, we talk about "hunting magic" or "religion" or "fertility magic." I don't think these interpretations have the same social ramifications as pornography. When respected journals—Nature for example—use terms such as "Prehistoric pin-up" and "35,000-year-old sex object," and a German museum proclaims that a figurine is either an "earth mother or pin-up girl" (as if no other roles for women could have existed in prehistory), they carry weight and authority. This allows journalists and researchers, evolutionary psychologists in particular, to legitimize and naturalize contemporary western values and behaviors by tracing them back to the "mist of prehistory."

If you're not familiar with the flak evolutionary psychologists have gotten in the last ten years for identifying gender as having physiological and prehistorically encoded hard boundaries then, well, you have some catching up to do and this blog wouldn't be the place to do that.  Think, for the moment, about dancing chickens.