Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ourkouzounov-_Balkan songs (based on folk songs from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Serbia)

The settings are for small vocal ensemble accompanied by two guitars.  Both as a former choral singer (high school and college) and as a guitarist I find these arrangements very satisfying.  :)

Damon Linker muses upon the pending death of most rock and roll legends and some assorted thoughts on why I wouldn't be a "rockist"

A slightly older piece by Damon Linker on the pending death of most rock legends.

From the beginning, rock music has been an expression of defiance, an assertion of youthful vitality and excess and libido against the ravages of time and maturity. This impulse sometimes (frequently?) veered into foolishness. Think of the early rock anthem in which the singer proclaimed, "I hope I die before I get old." As a gesture, this was a quintessential statement of rock bravado, but I doubt very much its author (The Who's Pete Townshend) regrets having survived into old age.

It's one thing for a young musician to insist it's better to burn out than to fade away. But does this defiance commit the artist to a life of self-destruction, his authenticity tied to his active courting of annihilation? Only a delusional teenager convinced of his own invincibility, or a nihilist, could embrace such an ideal. For most rock stars, the bravado was an act, or it became one as the months stretched into years and then decades. The defiance tended to become sublimated into art, with the struggle against limits and constraints — the longing to break on through to the other side — merging with creative ambition to produce something of lasting worth. The rock star became another in our civilization's long line of geniuses raging against the dying of the light.

Rock music was always a popular art made and consumed by ordinary, imperfect people. The artists themselves were often self-taught, absorbing influences from anywhere and everywhere, blending styles in new ways, pushing against their limitations as musicians and singers, taking up and assimilating technological innovations as quickly as they appeared. Many aspired to art — in composition, record production, and performance — but to reach it they had to ascend up and out of the muck from which they started.

Before rock emerged from rhythm and blues in the late 1950s, and again since it began its long withdrawing roar in the late 1990s, the norm for popular music has been songwriting and record production conducted on the model of an assembly line. This is usually called the "Brill Building" approach to making music, named after the building in midtown Manhattan where leading music industry offices and studios were located in the pre-rock era. Professional songwriters toiled away in small cubicles, crafting future hits for singers who made records closely overseen by a team of producers and corporate drones. Today, something remarkably similar happens in pop and hip-hop, with song files zipping around the globe to a small number of highly successful songwriters and producers who add hooks and production flourishes in order to generate a team-built product that can only be described as pristine, if soulless, perfection. [link to Linker's piece on Taylor Swift hidden in that last phrase]

This is music created by committee and consensus, actively seeking the largest possible audience as an end in itself. Rock (especially as practiced by the most creatively ambitious bands of the mid-1960s: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and the Beach Boys) shattered this way of doing things, and for a few decades, a new model of the rock auteur prevailed. 
The veneration of John and Paul withstanding, I regard The Beatles as pop art via committee, an exceptional capable committee but a committee all the same.  Rock is a formulaic popular idiom descended from the legacy of Tin Pan Alley era songwriting mediated by folk influences from blues, country, gospel and shifts in the jazz era into jump band styles, in other words rock as an accumulation and assimilation of elements of popular styles isn't as unique as rock fans may think it is.  As Randall J. Stephens has proposed in his book The Devil's Music, it would be useful for us to remember that rock emerged from R&B, true, but the early pioneers of rock also emerged from identifiably Pentecostal backgrounds.  The history of musical innovation isn't "just" rebels and rock stars flipping the proverbial bird to the established power, even if rock fans and rockists would like to imagine that any musical history worth telling is that core story.  In Deuteronomy 31, after all, we read of Moses being instructed to teach the Israelites a song, a song that would be a witness against them when they disobeyed, and there's a case to be made that the "song" can be understood as making reference to a song but at a more general level the Torah itself (and if you're game to read a not too technical overview of interpretation of Deut 31 and redaction analysis head over here).

Not every variation of "corporate rock still sucks" is a benevolent cry.  I'll just be blunt and point out that when Richard Wagner wrote his anti-semitic rants he may have thought he was just declaring some version of what we could translate into the contemporary vernacular of "corporate music has no soul". The trouble was (and is) that there are people whose idea of what that means involves a history of vitriolic polemic against Jews.

I should probably put cards on the table, as the idiom has it, and say that I'm not a rockist or exactly a poptimist.  I admire Stevie Wonder and Joseph Haydn, I admire Blind Willie Johnson and Bela Bartok, I enjoy Johnny Cash and William Byrd.  I'm not against canons that have developed through a mixture of popularity and scholarship but I am against what Richard Taruskin has described as the Matthew Arnold style of art-religion.    To borrow some observations written by Michael Markham at the LA Review of Books:

poptimism itself emerged as a backlash against a hegemonic order of criticism. The complaints of forced conformity hurled at poptimists today are nearly identical to the ones they themselves were lobbing at the music journalism establishment 10 years ago. According to the poptimists, the preceding “rockist” dominance excluded an awful lot of music, and thus an awful lot of people, in its obsessive praise of “white guy rock” from Led Zeppelin to Nirvana. Left out of serious music writing in the ’70-’90s was disco, funk, hip hop, soft R&B, and romantic balladeers (“chick” music to rockists, the only women who counted being the few who “rock”), a list of what most people were listening to. Austerlitz admits that a strong turn toward “pop” was a necessary corrective step to “undo the original sin of rock ’n’ roll: white male performers’ co-opting of established styles and undeservedly receiving credit as musical innovators.” It was an antidote to what he, himself, calls “‘Rolling Stone disease,’ whereby Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen were treated as geniuses and the likes of Marvin Gaye and Madonna as mere pop singers.”

The result, according to Kelefa Sanneh, in what is widely regarded as one of the first (2004) important manifestos of poptimism, is bad, or at least myopic, journalism. Rockism took little account of the real cultural impact of music in favor of an imagined ideal audience and a museum of “serious” works “increasingly far removed from the way most people actually listen to music.”

Part of a rockist mentality could, to allude once again to the work of Randall J. Stephens, focus on rock as emerging from just R&B as if there were no roots in the music that can be traced back to Pentecostal musical traditions in black and white churches.  As an ex-Pentecostal I find this avenue of scholarly exploration intriguing because it reminds me that while I have a few differences of conviction from Pentecostalism as a tradition regarding second blessing teaching and eschatology I still admire the ways in which early Pentecostalism insisted upon dismantling color lines.  There was a swift and unfortunate tendency toward segregation but that's another topic for another time.

Now ... sometimes I'm tempted to write an essay on why Jeff Buckley was the male hipster version of Mariah Carey ... but I don't feel like writing that yet.  I like some Jeff Buckley songs and Carey has some songs that, if they're on the radio, I prefer them to Greenday songs.

I still hate Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll".  I find that I hate music that celebrates itself, more or less regardless of style.  So I hate the Seger rockist anthem passionately.  There are musical works about music that I love, like Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" but that exception more or less proves the rule.  Wonder's post-Motown lover letter to the greats of the big band era is not a song that is about the musical style the song is written in.  It's more like a musical demonstration that so many joyous and beautiful things about 1970s era soul and R&B grew up from ideas you can hear, if you have the ears for it, in Ellington, Miller, Basie, Armstrong and Fitzgerald.  Wonder's song is a celebration of music as a form of musical history that celebrates named influences.  Seger's rock anthem rejects tango, disco and other styles.  If you can't get into Astor Piazzolla, alright. Not everyone enjoys his work.  If you can't appreciate anything about disco, well, okay ... but that gets at another element about the Seger anthem I find detestable, the abjection of other styles as part of what is ostensibly a celebration of "old time rock and roll".  As I've been alluding to early rock history, the boundaries between early rock and Pentecostal music can be a matter of the lyrics.  Ray Charles incensed a few church folks by retooling well-known gospel songs into songs about money, women and sex.

Another reason I couldn't exactly be a rockist is ... to joke about it, Presbyterians basically don't rock, do they?  Fred Rogers became a national treasure but the ordained Presbyterian minister was basically anti-rock in terms of persona and musical style.

So Damon Linker is right to point out the obvious, the rock and roll legends are all gonna die here before too long.  Rock and roll will surely die, contra Neil Young, both as a musical style (it's already faded into the past) and even as an ethos.  For many a Pentecostal to say that someone acted like a rock star would be to say that they had vulgar and obscene ways of talking and that they celebrated carnality, criminality and the kids should be discouraged from behaving that way.  While rockists might celebrate the rebel yell ... that reminds me ... how "sincere" was Billy Idol?  Maybe there's a kind of paradoxical camp to the authenticity of rock.  Linker seems to recognize this but, well, rock is rock to Linker.

If I had bought any pop albums since ... Portishead's 3rd doesn't count ... probably neither does Johnny Cash's desolate American V ... and before that ... Bjork's Vespertine ... I haven't bought a whole lot of pop albums in this century. It's not that I'm particularly against popular songs even.  A lot of my personal exploring has been figuring out what ways there are to burn down the boundaries between "high" and "low" in musical processes and forms so that classical and popular song, to some degree, can have a restored synergistic relationship.  As Charles Rosen put it, this was the possibly singular achievement of Haydn and Mozart, later Beethoven, and Schubert ... but I would contend that successful amalgams of "high" and "low" have persisted since that time and that Rosen was too narrow in the way he delineated his conception of a successful fusion of "pop" and "rock".

As I get older and think back on the 1990s I sometimes have these moments where I think about how Jeff Buckley can be thought of as the indie rock hipster male equivalent of Mariah Carey because basically he was. He did Leonard Cohen covers and Van Morrison covers and sang a Benjamin Britten song, if memory serves, and had a multi-octave voice and his singing was in some ways more polished than the craft of the lyrics he wrote and in all sorts of ways he was the Mariah Carey equivalent but when I was in college plenty of guys and gals who wouldn't listen to Mariah carey would listen to Jeff Buckley.  Yet in terms of cultural suffusion and influence we've heard "All I Want for Christmas is You" thousands of times in the last twenty years.  Carey has had more cultural impact, by far, than Jeff Buckley.  Of course a rockist of the Robert Christgau variety consigned Carey and Buckley to the same swath of not-rock which may reinforce the point. 

But the older I get the more I get a sense from reading about music that there are a lot of extramusical cultural values that are injected into discussions of music and that there has been, as Raymond Knapp has indicated in his work, a legacy of German Idealism playing out in Anglo-American musicology and music criticism that I think people are rebelling against and I am sympathetic to that rebellion.  My concern, because I admit to being moderately conservative about a lot of stuff, is that our moment of American rebellion against the hegemonic influence of German Idealism and post-Beethoven art-as-religion has been retroactively held against the entire Western literate musical tradition.  This runs the risk of replicating ... I'll just call it the moral failures of the German Idealist art-religion venture but on behalf of American popular music over against European art music. 

I've written recently about my concern that Wesley Morris flipped the script of the Romantic era derived mythology of the innovative artist-prophet-hero so that it's black American popular music rather than white European symphonic music.  I believe we should reject the script altogether rather than flipping the script.  I know that there are people who would reject the "classicist" approach but Leonard B. Meyer's proposal that we've never actually left the legacy of the Romantic era and that the Romantic legacy has played out both in terms of the high modernist idioms that evolved out of Romantic ideology on the one hand and on the other hand has given us an ideology of "elite egalitarianism" as well as formulating what Richard Taruskin has described as a Matthew Arnold style art religion, all that is to suggest that what poptimists may have trying to dismantle is the German Idealist project and its baleful effects in American music education and criticism, as chronicled in part by Douglas Shadle. 

I'm okay with that despite the fact that my favorite classical composers include Bach and Haydn.  I don't think Bach or Haydn made art their religion, they had their respective Lutheran and Catholic convictions.  To be a bit playful and provocative, that rock and roll emerged in part from a Pentecostal movement within which worshipping in racially mixed groups was one of the points can be a reminder that, yes, there's a history of religious groups defying segregating impulses, as the Quakers began to do long ago and as Pentecostals did a century ago.  If there is a signal failure in the rockist mythology it may be at precisely this point, that the rockist ideology so lives in the body and celebrates the body that there can be a de facto definition of R&B in terms of a race narrative that can ignore the role religion and class played as part of the emergence of rock.  That rock and soul were pioneered by bad Pentecostals sticks with me, ex-Pentecostal that I am.  As I'm reading Randall J. Stephens' book on Christians and rock it's interesting to read his observation that the group that most readily embraced Christian rock was the group that historically rejected it as a defilement of church music, Pentecostals.  It's not that surprising a thesis that the religious community that helped birth rock would, after a period of rejecting it, manage to incorporate it successfully into its culture by recognizing that if they helped invent it then the music, as music, didn't have to be about sex and drugs and defiance if generations earlier the music was singing about Jesus.  But by then rock and evolved rapidly in twentyyears and so ...

Christian rock has been held in contempt and not without reasons.--the South ark episode "Christian Rock Hard" remains the double myrrh standard satire of how and why Christian rock is regarded as lame, yet the episode also plays with the idea that, if you looked at sales, you might find Christian rock was selling better than "real" rock was. Cartman's bet, after all, was he could sell more albums making a Christian rock band than Kyle and Stan would doing "real" rock.

I'd hesitate to say that Taylor Swift's songs display pristine if soulless perfection ... but then I have joked for years that The Beatles were just a boy band that overcame the constraints of their idiom with a lot of help from George Martin.  Rock has been a corporate enterprise both in social terms and economic terms but it depends on a mythology of the auteur in order to insulate itself from the reality of its economic and social foundations within Western capital; rockist mythologies depend on Romantic Byronic art-prophet-hero myths to protect the music from being recognized as the corporate product that it has been.  Poptimism represents an ideological counter to rockism as a polemical stance by highlighting all of the other popular music that is not admitted into the "rock" category and explores the ideological, political, sexual and other grounds by which something that is 'pop" is not granted the status of "rock".  My hunch is a lot of what is at the core of "rock" is an ideology that Leonard B. Meyer described as emblematic of the Romantic era, the ideals of elite egalitarians ... although that's probably best saved as another topic for another post. 

I'm close to being done with Randall J. Stephens' The Devil's Music and it's not ironic, really, that the Pentecostal movement from which early rock and soul pioneers emerged in the 1950s would, by the 1970s, turn out to be pioneers in Christian rock, ballyhooed though the genre often is.

Rock and roll was the peak prestige style of popular music for two generations thanks to journalistic and academic commitments but it's time has passed.  But as has been reported at The Atlantic, when record companies began to measure actual sales more accurately in the 1990s they began to discover that country and hiphop outsold rock.  When the mediating presence of shop owners began to be taken out of measurement it turned out rock wasn't the top selling musical style after all.  The 1990s weren't the beginning of the end of rock so much as they were the era in which more accurate market measurement revealed that rock was, possibly, never the peak of popular music as much as its advocates thought. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Arthur Farwell Polytonal Studies XX (E flat minor & A major) and XVIII (F minor & F# minor) played by Lisa Cheryl Thomas

E flat minor and A major

Arthur Farwell was a pioneer in a musical movement called the Indianist movement that developed in the early 20th century, although this particular work has nothing much to do with that movement as such.  If you guessed that "Indianist" refers to Native American rather than Indian culture from India you guessed correctly.  Farwell was determined that American composers ought to draw on musical inspirations that were ... not-German.  So while arguments that German music has too hegemonic an influence on American musical education might feel relatively new in musicology in the United States for those reading about that it's helpful to remember that there have been Americans who have felt Americans shouldn't be so beholden to German conceptions of musical canonicity going back a century and more.

F minor and F# minor

There's still a Romantic vibe to these studies ... think polytonal Chopin, if you will, more than Charles Ives. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

there will be music posts again, eventually

It's just that I've been immersing myself in some reading.   I've been incubating some posts about sonatas by Matiegka, sonatas by Angelo Gilardino (all five of his sonatas are gems), and there's some stuff about ragtime and classical music I'm incubating.  I've also been working my way slowly through a few books I hope to write about.  There's a dense monograph on depictions of Native Americans in "classical music", for want of a better phrase, that I've been working through.  It's how I learned about Samuel Taylor-Coleridge's work, for instance, and I'll eventually get to the "Indianist" Arthur Farwell, whose work I noticed getting some mention by Joseph Horowitz over at his blog at ArtsJournal.   Thanks to his recommendation I read the new Dale Cockrell book.  Cockrell's book Everybody's Doin' It: Sex, Music & Dance in New York 1840-1917 is a swift read. 

I may write a small bit about Cockrell's book in the future but the main reading project of late is Randall J. Stephens' The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ’n’ Roll, which is an interesting read.  Stephens has highlighted how the early pioneers of rock and soul, black and white, hailed from Pentecostal church traditions and that one of the paradoxes of early rock was that Pentecostal leaders felt that Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin were doing wrong by church music singing secular songs about sex that sounded similar to church music, while observers who were not Pentecostal could at times complain that the Pentecostal musical style sounded like dance hall music.

Which gets to Cockrell's sweeping, breezy survey of sixty some years of dance hall music evolving in dance halls, dives and tenderloin district scenes where prostitution flourished and musicians developed recursive dance-driving musical styles to keep business brisk.  Cockrell writes at just moderate length at how much racial integration and interaction occurred in this proverbial underbelly of New York and how much of that cultural history is difficult to trawl through because it was populated by people who, as Cockrell describes them, were beneath the level of public record--lots of men and women who were the wrong class or race or sexuality to get mentioned in respectable society by way of newspaper articles ... save for crime reports. 

I'm about halfway through the Stephens book and it's interesting but if you aren't already conversant in a lot of musical styles and also conversant in the theological distinctions necessary to understand the differences between Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Nazarenes and a variety of other Protestant American movements The Devil's Music could alienate a reader very quickly who isn't able to juggle all of the religious movements and the musical movements at the same time.  I'm not finding it difficult but that's because this kind of book is a perfect nexus of two of my hobbies.  Taking the Stephens book with the Cockrell book it feels like these books are confirming a hunch I've had that in European music many of the innovators of the 20th century came from high liturgical traditions while in American music the most historically significant shifts in American popular music, if Stephens' survey of the ways in which early rock was catalyzed by some very, very badly behaved Pentecostals is accurate, emerged from the low liturgical church scenes, so low liturgy that if you were to ask Pentecostals what their liturgy is they would often likely deny they even have one.  I think I can safely say that on account of having been raised Pentecostal into my early 20s. 

I'm just getting to the part of the book where Larry Norman shows up.  It's a fascinating irony that many of the early rock and soul pioneers drew inspiration from church music traditions and then Pentecostal leadership attacked the early rock and soul stars for stealing church music or for being too worldly but, Stephens' points out, there was some uneasiness among Pentecostals about criticisms from outsiders who had more mainstream religious establishment credentials that the Pentecostal musical style seemed too decadent and dance-hall derived to avoid being salacious or crazy.

So, when I finish the book, I want to write a bit about it.  I'm ex-Pentecostal for a variety of reasons but there's some spectacular stuff about the musical traditions I've never felt any reason to cast off. 

And ... there's still that longer form treatment of the possibilities for fusion of ragtime and sonata forms I'm incubating.  That will now entail some analysis of a piano sonata by Richard St. Clair and a ragtime with interrupting fugue by Henry Martin.  You can infer from that description that in order to do that sort of thing a good deal of score study and listening is involved since I "can" play the piano when I have to but it's not my preferred or most fluent instrument. 

I'm still waiting for the eventual release of a recording of all the Atanas Ourkouzounov sonatas.  I will totally buy that CD when it's ready to come out but ... in light of everything I've just written, if it doesn't come out for a while yet, that's alright.  I'm pretty busy as it is. 

HT Jim West, Katharine Gerbner on Quakerism and slavery, they didn't start off as staunchly abolitionist as they were later known to be
Pennsylvania may have been the first “official” Quaker colony, but it was not the first Quaker community in the Americas. There was a large Quaker presence on Barbados, where thousands of Friends lived. In the 1670s, it was called the “Nursery of Truth” because it was so filled with Quakers.

When Pennsylvania was founded in 1682, William Penn and others used their Quaker connections in Barbados to purchase enslaved Africans. As Pennsylvania’s social and economic structure developed, ties with the West Indies and other trade outlets flourished. The trade with Barbados was a source of pride and a symbol of prosperity for many English Quakers who considered slavery to be necessary for economic development.

I realized that I needed to tell this story. Like other stories that are shameful or embarrassing, this one had been largely suppressed in the Quaker histories that I read. Much of the scholarship about Quakers and slavery in the seventeenth century acknowledged that Quakers owned slaves, but they focused on finding the “seed” of abolition in these early Quaker records.

I decided to ask different questions. Instead of reading Quaker abolition back in time, I thought it was important to understand how these slaveholding Quakers fit into their own time. None of them would have predicted the demise of the slave trade or slavery. So if I really wanted to understand them and the relationship between Quakers and slavery, then I needed to take a different approach.

Why did Quakers accept slavery in this period? How did they justify slavery within their theological worldview? How did their views compare to other European Christians who encountered slavery? I also wanted to think about what Christianity might have meant to enslaved and free Black men and women who joined the ranks of the Quakers as well as other denominations. When and why did they convert? These became the questions that fueled my research.
Seventeenth‐century Quakers, I came to understand, were radical but not because they were abolitionists. Instead, Quakers like George Fox were radical because they suggested that Blacks and Whites should meet together for worship.

Quakers were not the only Christians persecuted for meeting with enslaved people. As I began to investigate this issue further, I looked beyond the Quaker records to the archives of Protestant denominations⁠: members of the Church of England (Anglicans) as well as other smaller denominations, like the Moravian Church. As I did so, I realized there were some intriguing similarities in their experiences.

In each case, English slave owners attacked Protestant missionaries and enslaved Christians for meeting together. On the island of Saint Thomas, for example, Moravian missionaries and Black converts were beaten and attacked by White colonists. Slave owners stole Bibles from enslaved Christians, and they burned Moravian books.

... English slave owners thought of Christianity⁠—and especially Protestantism⁠—as a religion for free people, and they worried that a baptized slave would demand freedom and possibly rebel. As a result, they excluded most enslaved people from Protestant churches.

I felt that this was an extremely important aspect of early colonial slavery and that it had not been fully recognized. So in my book, I gave it a name: Protestant supremacy. Protestant supremacy, I came to understand, was the forerunner of White supremacy. White supremacy uses racial designation to create inequality. But in the seventeenth century, the concept of race, as we know it, did not exist. And most significantly, the concept of “Whiteness” had not yet been created. So slave owners created the ideology of Protestant supremacy, which used religion to justify slavery.
It was in response to free Black Christians like Charles Cuffee that English slaveholders began to create White supremacy. Soon after Cuffee brought his children to the baptismal font, Barbadian lawmakers wrote a new law, redefining citizenship to include the word “white” as well as “Christian.” This was one of the first times that the word “white” was used in the legal records. The law declared that “every white Man professing the Christian Religion … who hath attained to the full Age of One and Twenty Year, and hath Ten Acres of Freehold … shall be deemed a Freeholder.”

Twelve years later, lawmakers refined their definition of Whiteness further. A 1709 law clarified that a “white” person could have “no extract” from “a Negro,” thereby establishing the “one‐drop rule” as the definition of Whiteness and laying a new foundation for slavery and social oppression that made race seem like a natural category⁠—something that was innate.

What we see here is the codification of Whiteness as a legal category that was specifically intended to exclude free Black Christians from the full rights of citizenship. We often take “Whiteness” as a given, but it has a very specific history. We assume that race is a biological reality when it is actually a political category. Slaveholding politicians actively created the category of “Whiteness” as part of a political strategy to protect slave ownership and restrict the voting rights of free Blacks.

With the creation of Whiteness, slave conversion became less threatening. Whiteness, rather than religious difference, became the new way to justify and enforce slavery.
This reminds me of something John Gray wrote in Seven Types of Atheism, that when we retrofit earlier epochs with the concept of racism we can make a significant category mistake not so much because there weren't people we could define as racist but because the concept of racism as we know it didn't fully emerge until the Enlightenment.  

There's more to the article than what I've quoted and it's moderately long but that's a fairly hefty summation of the core ideas for the TL:DR sort of reader.

Her monograph looks interesting.  If I hadn't swamped myself with existing reading projects I might have to add her academic monograph to my reading material.  

Monday, September 09, 2019

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic writes on how the three biggest metros in the United States have been shrinking


In 2018, the New York City area lost more than 100,000 people to other cities and suburbs—that’s 277 people leaving every day. The Los Angeles and Chicago areas lost, respectively, 201 and 161 residents each day. It’s quite a change from the post–Great Recession period, when an urban renaissance was supposedly sweeping the country and all three metro areas were experiencing a population boomlet.
For many years, the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago areas have seen more departures than arrivals among nonimmigrants. Domestic migration to these metros has been negative for most of the 21st century.
There’s little mystery about where people are heading, or why: They are mostly moving toward sun and some semblance of affordability. The major Texas metros—Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin—have collectively grown by more than 3 million since 2010. The most popular destinations for movers are now Phoenix, Dallas, and Las Vegas, which welcome more than 100,000 new people each year.

Having grown up on the western coast of the United States and lived here my whole life I admit to an occasional perplexity at the status of the big three but New York in particular.  I once heard an aspiring jazz musician say that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere.  So ... why not make it anywhere, where ever that is, and then only go to New York if you feel like it?  

There's more to the article but the core idea being explored is that the big three metropoli of American legend appear to be waning, for now, at least (and possibly for a while yet). 

some riffs at The American Conservative on a debate between Ahmari and French as being about theology, not politics with some ... lively description

Perhaps we could open with ... some purple prose from ... Matt Purple:

For months now, we’ve been told that so-called fusionist conservatism—the synthesis of traditional Christianity and individual liberty—is dead. In its place is arising something more muscular, more direct, unafraid to harness the power of government to achieve good ends. At the furthest reaches of this new school are those like Sohrab Ahmari, who recommend a bracing dose of Catholic morality delivered unabashedly by the state. The goal is no longer to defend the boundaries of the public square but, as Ahmari puts it, to “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square reordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”
He couldn’t even win a debate. Last week, at the Catholic University of America, Ahmari sat down with National Review scribe David French, a fusionist conservative, and was thoroughly trounced. He was unable to defend his most basic positions; matters of constitutional law stumped him. Asked by French what he would actually do to make America more moral, he recommended hauling the “head of the Modern Library Association,” which doesn’t exist, before a committee of Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, which also doesn’t exist. The row between these two began when Ahmari accused French of being insufficiently outraged over drag queen reading hours at local libraries. Yet by the end of Ahmari’s performance, even the most ardent social conservative had to be hoping a gay pride float would crash through the debate room wall.
Ahmari has a habit of being uncharitable to articles published on this website, and being a hardened TAC integralist myself, I’m forced now to draw my sword in defense. Because, really. I mean, really. Conservative commentary is more robust and energetic than it’s been at any point since the 1960s, yet we’re sitting here quarreling over whether a Catholic Church that can’t even govern itself should inform the governance of a country only one fifth of whose population is Catholic and of that only some of which actually practice. This is hoppingly, eye-wateringly idiotic, which is why it thrives on Twitter and explodes on contact with real life. That some of the commentary is trending in this direction should embarrass those of us who are Catholic.
Let’s first be clear what we’re not talking about here. This has nothing to do with thoughtful conservatives who want to use antitrust to break up Google or desire a federal ban on abortion or think the government should slap tariffs on Chinese goods. It has nothing to do with whether nationalism is a salutary force in politics or whether the Trump era will turn out well. It also has nothing to do with the fatuous old question of whether we should “legislate morality” (of course we should; are we to legislate sociopathy?). The contention at the heart of Ahmarism is that the government ought to impose a putatively Catholic conception of the common good unchecked by notions of individual liberty and so-called “proceduralism” (which the rest of the planet calls “the rule of law”).
The enemies of Ahmarism, then, are libertarianism with its emphasis on personal freedom, classical liberalism with its rules of governance, and progressivism with its debauched social ethic. These things the Ahmarists roll up into a ball and term “liberalism,” which they then inveigh against in columns that at first were interesting but now sound heavily mad-libbed. As with all ideologues, they refuse to recognize distinctions—between ordered political liberty and unlimited license, for example. As with all fanatics, they blame the enemy for all that’s gone wrong and credit him for nothing that’s gone right. (This is not, I should point out here, a critique of Patrick Deneen, whose Why Liberalism Failed is more a warning of what’s to come than a theocratic alternative. A conversation between Deneen and French would have been genuinely interesting.)
Ahmari’s politics is the sort held primarily by adolescents. It divides the world into easy categories, one strong (Ahmarists), another compromising (liberals), and a third evil (leftists)—and is there really such a difference between those last two at the end of the day? It’s the speech at the end of Team America rinsed in holy water. ...
For anyone who has seen Team America ... that last flourish is something.  Purple goes on and eventually writes:
... Ahmari is, as Burke put it, one “of those democratists who, when they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time, they pretend to make them the depositories of all power.”
What this is really about is cultural imperialism, taking America as it is and replacing it with something it’s never been. ...
Emma Ayers' take at TAC is that the debate was not really about politics but about theology.
Last Thursday, at Washington D.C.’s Catholic University of America, two representatives from different sides of the conservative divide faced off. The New York Post’s Sohrab Ahmari and National Review’s David French sat in armchairs on a Heritage Hall platform, flanking moderator and New York Times commentator Ross Douthat. 
Before the debate even began, there was a pseudo-hysteric energy permeating the room. Everyone’s brow seemed a little furrowed, perhaps because we’d all arrived expecting an ideological brawl. And boy did we get one. French had shown up in a mood of obvious indignation—and understandably so. It was out of nowhere that Ahmari had lambasted his moral and political courage in a May First Things piece. Throughout the evening, sincere anger over that attack peeked through French’s speech, and with each personal goad on the part of Ahmari, his face grew redder and redder. Indeed, when Ahmari cast suspicion on French’s bravery during his service in Iraq, Douthat, positioned between the two, appeared a little afraid for his physical welfare.
Yet in the end, it was all a circus, a pointless display. Because the two men ultimately weren’t arguing about politics, on which they might have found common ground. They were arguing about theology and faith.

Politico has run a long-form piece on Jerry Falwell Jr and Liberty University ... and GetReligion's Bobby Ross Jr. regards the lack of named insider sources as a core shortcoming in the piece

There's an extended piece at Politico about Jerry Falwell Jr. and while it makes for an interesting long-read ... Get Religion has in many respects zeroed in on how a lot of the material is from on the record stuff that's been reported by now and a lot of the new stuff is anonymous statements from people who aren't sourced.  A fairly simple for instance ...
Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants—including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty—photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.

At Liberty, Falwell is “very, very vocal” about his “sex life,” in the words of one Liberty official—a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support. In a car ride about a decade ago with a senior university official who has since left Liberty, “all he wanted to talk about was how he would nail his wife, how she couldn’t handle [his penis size], and stuff of that sort,” this former official recalled. Falwell did not respond to questions about this incident.
no names named ... apart from Falwell Jr.  Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet didn't hear a Christian celebrity going on and on about how awesome sex is and how hot his wife is in the Puget Sound area from roughly 2000 to 2009 ... what's reported is almost boilerplate for a dude-bro sort of preacher. 

The Get Religion response is significantly shorter ...

That there's a potential case that insider dealing has been going on might merit further investigation ... but if relatively few people are willing to go on record then it will involve a lot of digging. 

Saturday, September 07, 2019

at The Baffler Kate Wagner writes on capitalism, and the core lie of classical music education in America, which reminded me of Paul Hindemith's bleak assessment of American music education
... The world of classical music is neither noble nor fair, though its reputation says otherwise. This is partly because to be classically trained means being regarded among the highest caliber of skilled musicians. Those who achieve such heights are capable of playing the most complex, technically difficult music on equally complex instruments that take decades to master. The prestige that comes with this mastery is, of course, heavily dependent on rankings—orchestra rankings, seating charts, a general fetishization of skill and dedication.
I should have thought twice about the career choice I had impulsively made at the age of seventeen when my parents explained they could only afford to send me to an in-state school instead of an out-of-state, high-end conservatory. My unshaken worldview relented, telling me that if I worked hard, I would succeed no matter which school I attended. I enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the fall of 2012. Frankly, I’m glad I went there and graduated debt free instead of going to an expensive conservatory, where the crushing of my dreams would have been far more expensive.
I studied music but didn't major in it.  I opted to major in journalism because, of all the useless fields of study that interested me, it seemed ... in the 1990s at least ... that that was the field that would have more remunerative possibilities than biblical literature, philosophy, music or literature.  

By the time I got my not so very useful journalism degree I began to discover how gutted the job market in journalism actually was and this by the late 1990s.  I have basically never worked in journalism in a professional capacity in the last twenty-two years.  I also got some advice from one of my music professors which warned me that I was probably never going to be a professional musician but that if I could land work that left me time enough for family and friends and still also make music that would be a pretty successful life.  In other words, I was advised by music educators that my most fruitful future as a musician would be as an amateur.  That turned out to be true.  It has made me grateful that I didn't get more formal music education than I got, overall.  It's not that I'd say "no" to music education on principle, it's that it's never been financially practical for me.  So I read Wagner as someone who realized quickly that musical life in professional terms wasn't in my future.

One day, around the beginning of my junior year of college, it occurred to me that I wasn’t going to make it. I had already developed carpal tunnel and tendonitis from years of improper violin technique taught to me by my rural music teachers. I was out of money to go to festivals, and I had no way of making lasting, important connections in a field where who you know matters more than anything else. I had no serious job prospects, nor any hope for job prospects. At work one night, the falseness of the “work hard and you will succeed” ethic washed over me: the truth was the music world was a two-tiered system, and I was in the second chair. Hungover, in the comfort of a dark recording booth, I began to cry. Few things are as life altering as realizing your preferred life is unalterably a fucked impossibility.
As someone who basically never made it into the second tier I'd say there's probably a third tier ... if such a tier could be recognized, the amateurs, the folks who make music in their spare time but have never had the resources to get into the second tier of musicians as laid out by Wagner's piece.

So when Wagner builds up to the following conclusion it's important to add the implicit "business" to what she has to say about classical music as an educational/industrial performance complex.
Classical music is cruel not because there are winners and losers, first chairs and second chairs, but because it lies about the fact that these winners and losers are chosen long before the first moment a young child picks up an instrument. It doesn’t matter if you study composition, devote years to an instrument, or simply have the desire to teach—either at the university level or in the public school system. If you come from a less-than-wealthy family, or from a place other than the wealthiest cities, the odds are stacked against you no matter how much you sacrifice, how hard you work, or, yes, how talented you are.

Despite its reputation as being a pastime of the rich and cultured elite, classical musicianship is better understood as a job, a shitty job, and the people who do that job are workers just as exploited as any Teamster. Classical music has a high rate of workplace injury, especially chronic pain and hearing loss. Many musicians don’t own their instruments, some of which can be as expensive as a new car. My high school orchestra teacher, who played in a regional symphony, was still paying off a viola that cost $20,000. Even the elite among players don’t own their instruments outright; many of these instruments, including Amati and Stradivari violins, are loaned by philanthropists as gifts. I had to rent violins from the same company for sixteen years before I had accrued enough credit to buy one outright at $7,000, right before I graduated from college. One percussionist I interviewed, who works as a middle school band teacher, told me: “As a percussionist, another point of privilege comes with equipment. To own everything we could ever need professionally is very costly, especially a marimba, vibraphone, and full set of timpani. So that’s another huge point of privilege when, for example, one of my middle school students . . . his parents bought him a marimba earlier in the year. Which is great for him, yet here I am with my master’s degree, and I definitely don’t own one yet. I probably won’t for a long time.”
That's the kind of stuff that makes me feel grateful I never bothered to formally study music beyond what I crammed into a really big music minor.  

In this context, the efforts to diversify classical music, while certainly important in a field so notoriously white and male, do little to rectify this essential class divide. Is the presence of a female composer’s work on the program of a prestigious ensemble really progressive if that composer came from a wealthy, culturally connected family in New York City? What use is the admission of a black cellist into a conservatory or prestigious festival if that cellist can’t afford to attend? Sure, there are scholarships, maybe a handful, which allow the underprivileged to compete against one another for scraps before the wealthy waltz in.
A recent blog for the publication New Music Box, titled “It’s Time to Let Classical Music Die,” written by Nebal Maysaud, a nonbinary composer of color, relied on the analogy of an abusive relationship to describe what it’s like to be a minority in classical music. “Western classical music,” Maysaud writes, “depends on people of color to uphold its facade as a modern, progressive institution so that it can remain powerful. By controlling the ways in which composers are financed, it can feel like our only opportunities for financial success as composers [come] by playing the game of these institutions.” A prime example: in 2018 the Peabody Institute touted its hiring of a more diverse faculty while at the same time an exposé in the Johns Hopkins Newsletter uncovered the shockingly racist behavior of faculty toward the Institute’s black students, and the lengths to which the administration swept it under the rug. According to Maysaud, the only solution to this systemic racism and exploitation in classical music is to leave. I don’t disagree.
This is the way of arts under capitalism, in a culture where the abandonment of government funding results in a void filled only by wealthy donors and bloodsucking companies—it’s not altogether different from when composers and musicians worked as servants for the aristocracy. Nor does this encourage orchestras to play original music by diverse new talents; finance rather encourages them to stick with Beethoven until their reliable, aging patrons finally unburden us with their deaths. Perhaps, for good measure, they’ll throw in an easy-going piece by a minimalist composer in their eighties, or tokenize one of the few African American figures in classical music history—if we’re lucky.
Anyone who has done a moderately deep dive into the history of Soviet music will know that under communism those who didn't fit within the paradigm of a curiously short-lived socialist realist paradigm could end up cut off from funding and performances.  There are those who insisted that Soviet music didn't even rise to the level of art but we'll be able to ignore the relevance of Adorno's virulently anti-Slav tendencies and keep in mind that the arts under not-capitalism has not necessarily been better, whether in the East or the West, for those who have been regarded as not-quite-read-for-prime-time.  Zaderatsky not only had all his music banned from performance and publication he ended up in the Gulag a couple of times.  It's only here in the twenty-first century that people in the West are getting a chance to hear more of his work.

The Maysaud essays did not convince me that classical music is predicated on white supremacy.  The essays, as a whole, culminated in an advertisement for Maysaud's music.  Wagner read it as an indictment of the racist history of classical music and it's not as if that hasn't existed ... but as I've discussed about the Wesley Morris NYT 1619 piece it's not as though racial essentialist narratives of authenticity and legitimacy haven't been transferred from white European classical music to black American popular music in the last half century by critical, journalistic and academic establishments where European concert music itself has not been the primary focus.  In other words, American imperialism that makes Beyonce or Taylor Swift queens of pop is not going to be a better American imperialism because Beethoven and Mozart aren't the idols of choice in music education programs.  We had to wait a few years after the death of Michael Jackson before leaving Neverland.  

To the extent that Maysaud's polemics are part of an indictment of the ability to make a living wage in classical music it's a reminder that even if there were no questions about color and discrimination, the cranky old German emigre composer Paul Hindemith had a bleak assessment of the underlying lies he regarded as the bedrock of the American musical educational industries.

In A Composer's World: Horizons and Limitations he wrote:

(page 175)
Let us assume that a country has, at a given time, five thousand active music teachers in colleges and music schools a number not too high compared with the number in this country. The duty of these music teachers is, of course, to instruct professional musicians and amateurs, and among the professionals  so instructed, new music teachers are produced. Now, if each music teacher produces not more than two new music teachers each year which is not an exaggerated estimate and if no interfering war, plague, or earthquake hinders this happy propagation, the result can easily be foreseen: after the first year we will have an additional ten thousand music teachers, in the fifteenth year every man, woman and child in the United States will be a music teacher, and after about twenty years the entire population of our planet will consist of nothing but music teachers.

I admit that the example slightly exaggerates the results of our teaching system, but it demonstrates clearly that we are suffering from overproduction. There is in each country a certain capacity for absorbing music teachers. Once the saturation point is reached, they will either go idle or have to look for other jobs. In this country nobody knows this fact better than the directors of music schools and the deans of music departments. Each year the problem of finding teaching jobs for their graduates becomes more and more desperate, because the saturation point is reached.

For those who haven't read Hindemith's book he was making this wry exaggeration in the 1950s.  Americans who have written on Hindemith's take on American musical education have tended to view him as a bitter emigre crank, but what if Hindemith was right, or partly right?  What if the American music educational system did generate overproduction?  That changed in the 1970s and 1980s as changes in education policies took place but that wasn't the only charge Hindemith leveled against American musical education:
page 176

We are teaching each pianist or violinist as if he had a chance to become a Horowitz or a Heifetz, although we know that the entire concert life of the civilized world can hardly absorb more than ten or twelve great soloists in each field. Even if for regional demand in each larger country another ten are acknowledged, what in heaven happens to the remaining hundreds and thousands? [emphases added]
The core lie Hindemith saw in American musical education was telling music students they could have jobs in music, even jobs at the highest levels of musical notoriety.  Capitalism might have played a role in that lie but the educational-industrial complex couldn't sell people on music as a career choice without the help of some kind of mythology in which "you", dear student, could be told that if you studied hard enough, had enough hustle, and enough vision you would inevitably land work in the field.  By contrast, Hindemith regarded the most important participants in cultural music-making as those American musical education was ignoring:

pages 176-177
Among those taught by our endless phalanx of pedagogues the nonprofessional, the man who wants instruction for his own amateurish fondness of playing with musical forms, hardly counts at all. He who normally ought to be the music teacher's best customer has, as a numerical factor, dwindled to almost nothing, and as a musical factor he usually wilts away after several years of a training that, instead of flattering and fostering his layman instincts, has administered an indigestible virtuoso treatment. Thus the clan of music teachers is now living in a state of ever growing artistic isolation and infertile self-sufficiency. Their teaching of teachers who in turn teach teachers, a profession based on the resentments of the frustrated concert virtuoso and not aiming at any improvement of human society's civilization, by its very activity removed from the actual demands and duties of a real musical culture, must inevitably lead to the sad goal reached by every other kind of indiscriminate and large-scale inbreeding [emphases added]: after a short period of apparent refinement a gradual degeneration and slow extinction. ...

Making people learn the virtuoso warhorses of the concert repertoire was a good way to alienate potential music students who maybe just wanted to have fun playing simpler stuff.  Now the German emigre composer largely hated American popular music and he really hated what he regarded as the noise pollution of popular music via loudspeakers in stores and urban centers, so I don't want to give the impression that Hindemith could be considered enlightened by the measure of being open to popular music.  Biographical reports have had it that he loved Ellington's band when he heard the band but there are also tales of his willingness to tell anti-semitic jokes in spite of his wife being half-Jewish.  In other words, Hindemith had his foibles and his work is considered cerebral, conservative and arid by a lot of folks.  But ... I have wondered whether Hindemith's withering assessment of the lies he regarded as core to American music education weren't, his flaws withstanding, still pretty on point.  

If people want to study Chopin and Mozart, cool, but there's a lot of ways in which we don't "need" Chopin and Mozart or, to make this point more explicit, if music education cranks out people who are trained in canonical works all of which are pretty well-represented in commercially available recordings then do we "need" that?  I love Beethoven's Op. 111, don't get me wrong, and I regard it as a remarkable work.  But let me ask you, dear reader, what do you think a classical guitarist who's into Haydn and Stevie Wonder can do with Beethoven's last piano sonata?  Play it?  No.  Transcribe or arrange it?  Maybe.  What a guitarist could do is take a tiny riff from Beethoven's Fifth, flip it upside down and play with what's possible on the guitar drawing inspiration not from Beethoven at any very literal level but from his developmental economy.  One such guitar sonata could sound something like this.  If you wanted a possible case study of what a guitar sonata drawing inspiration from late Beethoven pianos and late Shostakovich string quartets might sound like you can go follow that link.  If  you wanted to hear a guitar sonata that draws inspiration more from Muddy Waters, Scott Joplin, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr. and Fernando Sor you can go to this link.  

The point I'm trying to make as a guitarist is that Hindemith's comments about the overproduction of music education for the traditional Western canonical literature doesn't necessarily apply to the guitar or to plucked stringed instruments.  But as Matanya Ophee put it, the guitar is regarded as the not-as-legitimate also-ran instrument.  His advice was practical advice, guitarists should make a point of not playing the same old warhorses everyone else was already playing.  Depending on who we talk to the canonical works of the nineteenth century guitar masters were not and are not as compelling in musical terms as twentieth century repertoire, a sentiment with which I agree but I'm getting way off topic here.  

Sadly that grand essay has gone offline in the wake of Ophee's passing but if you take time to read it he did a fine job of explaining how we guitarists must be reminded that to many people in the official concert music business that's often called "classical" we guitarists don't count.  We should not have an inferiority complex about either our instrument or its music.  On the other hand, taking an implicit bit of advice from Hindemith, we should also not presume that everything worth doing on a musical instrument is only worth doing if you're getting paid to do it.  Kate Wagner may be convinced that capitalism is behind the core lies of the educational system but I'm skeptical.  If we didn't have anything like capitalism we could still have an American cultural assumption that the only music education worth having is the kind that you believe should land you paying gigs after you've gone through that education.  The possibility of playing music at the local church or synagogue or arts event or arts festival as an amateur might be more feasible than making a living touring.  That gets to what I've come to regard as one of the more devious lies in arts education, an emphasis on taxonomies and histories of arts and artists that skip past the questions of "what did these people do to pay their bills?"  Learning that many of the early guitarist composers had military sinecure positions or taught at schools helped me get a clearer sense that even in "the good old days" very few musicians were "making a living" doing the music gig thing.  

comebacks for Tchividjian and MacDonald
Through a spokesperson, Tchividjian said his “infidelity in 2015 was completely wrong, morally and ethically.” But, he said, there was no element of abuse in that or the other affair.
“I don’t care what role a person has, a consensual relationship between two adults is not abuse. And some of these people will try to make the case that, ‘Well, because you’re in a position of authority, it is abuse,’” Tchividjian said. “And I’ll go, ‘OK I can see how that has been and can be used by people in those positions.’ ... (But) that just was not true for me. I was not abusing my authoritative role to try and find women.”
By his own description, Tchividjian’s journey back to leading a congregation has been winding.
After leaving Coral Ridge, a sabbatical funded by donors to Willow Creek Church in Central Florida ended abruptly in spring 2016 around the time that details of one of Tchividjian’s extramarital relationships were made public, Tchividjian said.
Willow Creek’s leadership later condemned him in a December 2016 statement.
“We would also like to state in the clearest possible terms that we do not believe that Mr. Tchividjian should be in any form of public or vocational ministry,” the statement said. The statement has since been taken offline, but Senior Pastor Kevin Labby told The Palm Beach Post that the church’s leaders stand by the 2016 statement and declined to comment further.
Tchividjian married Stacie in August 2016. They spent more than a year living about 60-70 miles north of Houston, he said.
Tchividjian calls his time in Texas “my year of spiritual, mental and emotional detox and rehab,” when he says God was “deconstructing me to the core.” It was a “very, very, very painful, but necessary” time in his life, Tchividjian said.

It got the attention of Get Religion and some commentary and observation from Julia Duin.
By the way, well-known folks on the Christian speakers circuit usually start at $5,000 per engagement (I learned this while culling through one prominent speaker’s bureau listings), so Tchividjian is probably making out well.
I do wish the Palm Beach Post had captured more of the rage out there on Twitter and in the blogs about how Tchividjian has basically gotten off scot-free in this whole episode.
Julie Ann Smith’s Spiritual Sounding Board blog talks about Tchividjian’s pursuit of multiple women from 2013-2016, how this guy should never be in ministry again and asking why a major Christian publisher like David C. Cook still publishes his books, including the paperback version of his devotional this past February.
But hey, the guy has almost 90 million Twitter followers. Can’t argue with that, right?

A bit snarky, yes, but the article does include a comment from TT to the effect that between consenting adults something can be sinful but would not be abuse.  Whether that is the case or not is ... let's just say that it's pretty clear not everyone agrees that simply declaring that what happens between consenting adults cannot possibly be abuse.  The times have changed on that matter.  When contributors to The New Republic can wistfully reminisce about an affair with a professor yet still conclude an affair between a student and her professor was wrong the tides have shifted and not necessarily to some new Puritanism or neo-Puritan practice or ethos.  TT is far enough out of any group I've encountered or dealt with here in the Pacific Northwest that all of that stuff is a bit abstract for me.

Things are bit less abstract in the case of another pending comeback, James MacDonald, since JM was part of what used to be the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability and MacDonald was with Driscoll when Driscoll decided to crash the Strange Fire conference.
Former Harvest Bible Chapel pastor James MacDonald is signaling that he may soon be back in ministry.
The longtime pastor of the Chicago-area megachurch — who was ousted earlier this year after derogatory comments he made were played on the air of a local radio program and following months of controversy over alleged financial malfeasance and an abusive church culture — posted a message Thursday in a Facebook group called Walk in the Word Partners, according to independent journalist and radio broadcaster Julie Roys.


Brian Auten piece at Mere Orthodoxy on evangelical dark web and counterinsurgency reminds me of, well, Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill circa 1998 to 2008, which could be regarded as a case study in "evangelical dark web" the beta version

There's a new and brief piece at Mere Orthodoxy by Brian Auten that discusses an evangelical dark web.  There is a preface from Jake Meador.

Preface from Jake: The “evangelical dark web” is a designation adopted by a group of evangelical social media personalities and bloggers centered around a few various web sites such as For the Christian Intellectual, Pulpit and Pen, Sovereign Nations, and Enemies Within the Church. The movement is a self-proclaimed insurgency meant to combat perceived liberalism in other evangelical organizations and denominations. While it’s own positions are broadly in keeping with the political beliefs of the old guard Religious Right, it’s rhetorical positioning is more in keeping with a neo-fundamentalist stream of evangelicalism.

Auten's piece begins in a pretty straightforward way.  It has reminded me that, as he used to joke from time, Mark Driscoll used to say he wanted to put the "fun" back in fundamentalism.  But let's look at the checklist Auten provides because the range of behaviors might be what some readers would wish to attribute to a Mark Driscoll but they could just as easily be implemented by figures like John Shelby Spong or Nadia Bolz-Weber types and their associated fans. In other words, these techniques are techniques that don't have to be deployed by people because of specific doctrinal, dogmatic or political commitments.  But in this checklist case note the target population of 18 to 30 year old males, that IS a target demography that fits with Mark Driscoll's lifelong mission statement about which people he's wanted to reach and present himself as a role model to.

One could assert that the self-proclaimed “evangelical dark web” is insurgent in character. Its overall aim is institutional takeover. Its intermediate aim is intellectual capture of the “target population” (e.g. 18-30 year old conservative evangelicals, particularly males).
Its strategy is multi-form and typical for insurgencies:
  • embarrass the regime in power
  • make it [the regime] appear weak and corrupt
  • create (online) zones of counter-control
  • tempt the regime in power to over-respond in a heavy-handed and/or inept manner
  • through expansion of its captured target population over time, overwhelm the regime.
Its primary tactic: the rhetorical hammer.
Granting that characterization, an obvious question for those orthodox Protestant Christians who reject the evangelical dark web is how to run an effective counterinsurgency against the “evangelical dark web?” These are some embryonic thoughts: ...
For those who were at Mars Hill but more particularly between 1996 and 2008, one of Driscoll's methods was to contrast the Mars Hill community with traditional denominations, whether Episcopalians or Baptists or Methodists, which were presented as not taking scripture seriously or as insisting upon regulations, rules and restrictions that Driscoll and the other leaders said were not actually in the Bible.  Driscoll honed the art of the public relational stance within which he presented himself as the sensible centrist.  He wasn't John Macarthur nor was he John Shelby Spong.  But, in summary, embarrassing regimes in power (more traditional denominations) and making them appear weak and corrupt was a fairly steady part of Driscoll's rhetoric in the earlier period of Mars Hill before it went into its second phase of multi-site organization.  The first multi-site phase was around 1999 to 2004 ish when there was Harambee, Ballard and the U-District campus arrangement.  The church consolidated down to a single site around 2004-2005. It was during that period that preaching consolidated around Driscoll more exclusively.  In the earlier multi-site phase Mike Gunn preached at Harambee, Lief Moi preached at the U-District site, and Driscoll preached at Ballard.  
On the matter of creating zones of counter-control, Midrash 1.0 and particularly 2.0 seem relevant.  The earliest Midrash was a php discussion forum that had no moderation and was open to the public.  Midrash 2.0 was a members-only strictly Mars Hill version of the same core idea but it had moderators, well, officially there were moderators but the extent to which it was moderated could be up for debate.  Driscoll would eventually say in the 2013 through the present that the very idea of a php discussion forum was a bad idea but that is, to be terse, a rhetorical hammer move.  Driscoll clearly had no problems with Midrash in its early forum when he was writing as William Wallace II.  
For those who only read about "Pussified Nation" and have never read the whole thing you may need to know that despite reports of Driscoll's denigrating comments about gays and women that he reserved special vitriol for James Dobson and Promise Keepers.  This would seem strange since people would imagine James Dobson to be on the Religious Right and therefore in the same basic wheelhouse as Driscoll.  But ... if we're looking at Mark Driscoll's early activity in terms of a range of dark web activities then the focus we'll want to keep in mind is that it would make sense for Mark Driscoll, in Seattle, in the late 1990s, to emphatically declare that Dobson and Promise Keepers were the real losers.  It was part of brand delineation.  
When William Wallace II writings made headlines there were headlines to the effect that Mars Hill lost members over Driscoll's homophobic and misogynistic rants and that's possible, but that is more in the realm of editorial commentary rather than analysis of what Driscoll was saying and what the social and historical context was for his stunt.  I've written at some length on how Driscoll's agitprop in "Pussified Nation" (which you can read pretty much in full at Wenatchee The Hatchet if you go through the posts with that tag) is probably best thought of as a kind of agitation propaganda to see who would be on board with what would later be called Dead Men, an integration propaganda campaign in which men in the 18-30 range, more or less, were summoned to participate in becoming more active and integral parts of the Mars Hill community.  Extent writings from Mark Driscoll as William Wallace II can be read at Wenatchee The Hatchet by way of a tag, too.  What is striking about that persona is that through WWII Driscoll explained what he intended to do, to rile people up, criticize the way things were done (particularly by the James Dobson/Promise Keepers wing) and see who was with him on his mission to do better. Midrash 1.0, though Driscoll has long since repudiated it, was an essential aspect to William Wallace II's activities.  
I'll go as far as to suggest that the rise of Mark Driscoll is inexplicable without reference to the concept of the "evangelical dark web".  The people at Mars Hill who set up the church website and the php discussion forum circa 1998-2002 may not have realized they were making evangelical dark web, the beta version, but that is in essence what they developed.  That was, per Brian Auten's taxonomy of methods used by participants in the dark web, the formulation of a means of counter-control by younger guys who founded Mars Hill, if we want to discuss what they were doing as a kind of prototype to a "dark web" system before there was a more recent "dark web" to discuss.  
At the risk of casting the net a bit more widely, Driscoll wouldn't even be all that unique in developing a proto dark web system.  Douglas Wilson has arguably done more or less the same thing in his orbit.  What writers on the progressive and left side have noted is the extent to which what they identify as alt-right or new right groups have appropriated the techniques of the left as a way to poke fun at establishments.  It may be the case that the nascent alt right groups have learned enough about left/progressive tactics to turn them around on the left.  Since I've referenced Jacques Ellul in the past I might suggest that the techniques of mass media technocratic cultures for assimilating, agitating and integrating partisans isn't strictly "left" or "right".  
When Auten turns to a practical set of methods to address the evangelical dark web a number of things stick out.
Granting that characterization, an obvious question for those orthodox Protestant Christians who reject the evangelical dark web is how to run an effective counterinsurgency against the “evangelical dark web?” These are some embryonic thoughts:
Counterinsurgency has three traditional components: isolate and degrade insurgent activity, build target audience resiliency (e.g. strengthen, defend, and counter-radicalize), and lastly, if and where needed, reform the at-risk regime.
For countering the evangelical dark web particularly, these steps will need to be taken.
[1] Demand citations and evidence for every assertion. Demand context for every pull quote. Fact check every infographic. Force them back to original sources (books, dissertations, etc.) at every possible juncture.
[2] Question all characterizations every time (e.g. if they say someone is a “socialist” or “cultural Marxist,” always make them define the term and support the assertion with evidence).
[3] Interrogate the interrogator: research, write and post accurate stories about the individuals and groups in the “evangelical dark web” (e.g. what things have they been involved with in the past; previous attempts at this type of activity; how do they get their funding?)
Having been part of a journalistic process chronicling the Mark Driscoll plagiarism controversy of late 2013 these general observations have substance.  Mark Driscoll was not really "taken out" by secular or progressive or liberal media.  His reputation collapsed when Reformed and evangelical conservative writers began to dig into the allegation that he was a plagiarist and substantial evidence was found that he had used the work of other authors without giving them credit in the first editions of his published books.  Those books have since been revised and updated in second editions.  For those who weren't following the coverage of the time, when Janet Mefferd provided evicence of Mark Driscoll's plagiarism she pointed out that she wasn't even the only or even the first person to have broached the topic of Driscoll and intellectual property, and linked to work I had already done before her.  Of course her materials were taken down and her show did end up off the air but that is more a question for how institutional Christian media platforms handle dissent, which is thematically related to the evolution of an evangelical dark web but not exactly the same as that.
Auten mentions something in his point 5 that I want to consider.
[5] Fight the temptation to get certain outlets or personalities to do battle on your behalf. A critique of the “evangelical dark web” by the Gospel Coalition, ERLC, the New York Times, Washington Post, or the Southern Poverty Law Center, or a byline by Emma Green, Peter Wehner, John Fea, Warren Throckmorton, et. al. will backfire and easily become ammunition for the next round of attacks.
When one of my relatives wanted to learn about Mars Hill in 1998 he asked if the church could provide a doctrinal statement. What he got was a photocopy of the 1998 Mother Jones article that discussed Mars Hill and other churches.  In hindsight it seemed sketchy but it arguably gets at the heart of Auten's warning, if Mark Driscoll and the early Mars Hill Church could be seen as a forerunner of what is today's evangelical dark web then hostile press from a vetted institution, particularly in the press, will be used as publicity material for the group that received negative coverage.
Within Reformed communities The Gospel Coalition is being regarded more and more as a bad joke.  One of my friends from the Mars Hill days and I were discussing TGC a couple of years ago and he said that he's found that among the ex-MH people we know fewer and fewer take TGC seriously, particularly when the topic is whether they're saying things that could be construed as historically Reformed.  Now folks with an Internet Monk or Boars Head Tavern background might reminisce about the Truly Reformed a bit, but this is to say that Auten's caution has cause.  Even among writers in the progressive and left wing there have been some criticisms about the way the Southern Poverty Law Center has handled things.  Take Nathan V. Robinson's "The Southern Poverty Law Center is Everything That is Wrong with Liberalism".
The Southern Poverty Law Center, the wealthiest civil rights organization in the country, has ousted its founder, Morris Dees, and president, Richard Cohen, amid unspecified allegations of workplace misconduct by Dees. Dees had been with the organization since creating it in 1971, while Cohen had joined in the mid-’80s, and the SPLC’s shake-up can be seen as part of the MeToo reckoning in which conduct that was accepted for years is finally being dealt with appropriately.
But the organization has long been dysfunctional in even deeper ways, and the story of Dees and the SPLC is useful for illustrating some of the worst and most hypocritical tendencies in American liberalism. If we understand the full extent of what went wrong in this organization, we’ll better understand the ways in which a shallow “politics of spectacle” can take hold, and see the kinds of practices that need to be categorically rejected in the pursuit of progressive change.
The Southern Poverty Law Center perfectly shows social change done wrong. It was a top-down organization controlled by an incompetent and venal leadership.* It was hypocritical in the extreme, preaching anti-racism while fostering a racist internal culture and being led by men whose own commitment to equality was questionable. It didn’t care about listening to and incorporating the viewpoints of the people it was supposed to serve. It was obscenely rich in a time of terrible poverty, and squandered much its considerable wealth. Finally, it picked the wrong political targets, and focused on symbolic over substantive change. Each of these practices goes beyond the SPLC, and is endemic to a certain kind of “elite liberalism” that desires “progress” without sacrifice. It is the kind of liberalism recognized by Phil Ochs in 1966, and its chief characteristics are a deep hypocrisy and a lack of willingness to seriously challenge the status quo.

Now having not read much by John Fea I don't have anything to say about Fea, but having read Warren Throckmorton over the years I would say there's a thought experiment to do.  Since Trump has been elected Throckmorton has made reference to the "court evangelicals" who approve of Trump's policies and ignore Trump's conduct.  I didn't want Trump to get the nomination and regarded it as bad that he won ... but I have also written about how as racist presidents go Trump may be bad but he's not necessarily Woodrow Wilson ... or even where Native American concerns are involved a Theodore Roosevelt.  
Here's a thought experiment, imagine that someone were to describe the late Rachel Held Evans as a "court Episcopalian" in the way that Warren Throckmorton makes mention of "court evangelicals" in his more recent writing.
Rachel Held Evans, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Rachel Held Evans is a Christian blogger and the author of Faith Unraveled, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Searching for Sunday. In addition, Ms. Evans speaks at retreats, conferences, universities, and churches across the country. She has been featured on NPR, Slate, The BBC, The Washington Post,  The Huffington Post, CNN, The View, and The Today Show, and in 2012, she was named one of Christianity Today's “50 Women to Watch.”  Ms. Evans received a B.A. from Bryan College.  
There's no compelling reason to not regard the late Rachel Held Evans as a "court Episcopalian" in the same way that, say, Franklin Graham, could be said to have a "court evangelical" connection with the Trump administration, is there?  That any of these "court" religious leaders may only have a position that is a formality without actual political influence and that referring to them at all is basically a waste of time is where I land, personally, but I recognize that a lot of people will disagree with that position.  Granting that difference of conviction ... 
For denizens of any dark web those kinds of rhetorical flourishes on the part of writers like Throckmorton signal their ultimately institutional loyalties and that is getting at what Brian Auten's warning is about; relying on figures such as Fea or Throckmorton or establishments such as The Gospel Coalition or the SPLC will boomerang in connection to dark web campaigning.  
Within the history of Mars Hill if criticism came from Slice of Laodicea, the Sola Sisters or John Macarthur in general these criticisms were categorically ignored.  These were regarded as anti-charismatic institutional rejection of whatever Mars Hill in general and Mark Driscoll in particular was about.  A similar dynamic happens across the theological and political spectrum where once people are identified as residing in a particular doctrinal or political position they are not to be taken seriously.  Think of it as being akin to people who read AlterNet not going out of their way to read Pat Buchanan and vice versa maybe.
Now, obviously, from the sheer amount of material I've written about Mars Hill Church I believe it's a topic that merits scholarly, historical and journalistic investigation.  Auten's recent piece on the evangelical dark web has reminded me that there's a great deal about the roughly twenty year history of what used to be Mars Hill Fellowship and then Mars Hill Church that could be a case study in a church that helped to pioneer techniques and technologies that helped lay a foundation for what is more recently called the evangelical dark web.  At the moment the only academic monographs that have addressed the history of Mars Hill have come from more progressive or non-Christian writers.  
I recommend Jessica Johnson's Biblical Porn as, so far, the only academic monograph discussing any aspect of Mars Hill that I consider to be worth serious study.  I've got my differences of conviction with Johnson which, if you've read more than a dozen posts here you'll know already, but her work is what I regard as the first serious step toward a chronicle of Mars Hill in academic literature that relies on enough primary source material to be taken seriously.  To go by how evangelicalism as a whole and low church Protestantism in the United States have decided to handle things, there are not likely to be any other academic monographs examining Mars Hill as a case study in theological, technological, social or other developments.  Driscoll himself seems to be leaning toward acting as if those twenty years of his ministry in some sense just didn't happen.  
The rise and demise of Mars Hill Church may be one of the more useful case studies of how a church that in several respects helped create an evangelical dark web has ended, with the spin off churches surviving (with exceptions like the late and dead Mars Hill Portland assimilated into Door of Hope) but as more conventional evangelical church entities.  
"I submit to the elders, and they discipline me I promise you that. There's a few that like to remind me continually of my arrogance and they're very good at it and I thank God for them. There have been certain decisions that I've wanted to make in the church, there's been certain things I've wanted to do and they've said 'no'. And in retrospect every time they have been right, every time they have been right and I have been wrong. And I thank God for that headship because otherwise I would have messed things up. It's good to have Godly wise headship."
-How to Take a Wife part 1, 3/17/2001 00:46:40
Here we are in 2019 and Driscoll seems reluctant to discuss the history of Mars Hill beyond a few general statements about how there was a governance war and how some guys felt he needed to repent but didn't explain what that would entail.  In 2001 Driscoll was willing to say he needed elders to check his arrogance and that when he'd wanted to make certain decisions those decisions got shot down and, in retrospect, every time they had been right.  That's something to bear in mind as a contrast between the Mark Driscoll of 2001 and the Mark Driscoll of 2006-2008.  Based on Driscoll's own account in Confessions of a Reformission Rev the signal change in his thinking about governance, real estate and leadership principles may have happened after a conversation with Larry Osborne and another innovation in the "shoot your dogs" variety happened, apparently, after Driscoll had conversation(s) with Jon Phelps.  
The history of Mars Hill Church as a potential case study of dark web pioneers suggests that by the time evangelical dark web now gains traction it will most likely turn into the institutional system it has critiqued but with, to go by observations I've been able to make about the late Mars Hill, even more incompetence, graft and cult of personality than the institutions Mars Hill leadership at one point spoke and wrote critically about.  That doesn't mean anyone involved in the earliest years of Mars Hill was insincere, far from it.  That's what makes the self-immolation of Mars Hill seem sad but that's another topic for some other time.