Saturday, October 05, 2019

The Friends theme song, in which the clapping is transformed into Clapping Music by Steve Reich

Having never been much of a watcher or fan of Friends, this transformation of the clapping from the theme song into Clapping Music by Steve Reich is amusing.  Kudrow's attention to the antics of Gracie Allen can be noted without necessarily caring much for the show or cast at large.   Anyway ...

You'll get the idea by the end of the first minute or so.

Friday, October 04, 2019

some thoughts on academic musicology, music analysis and a persistent problem with turf war battles in American musicology when we could be exploring possibilities of stylistic/formal fusion

Ethan Iverson has written that he harbors skepticism about academic musicology even when it's wonderfully written stuff by the likes of Kyle Gann and Richard Taruskin.  I partly agree, but I want to give a specific example of academic debates and discussions surrounding a specific book.  Along the way I hope I can take a shot at articulating what it may be that Iverson finds dodgy about academic musicology by way of a semi-lengthy tangent into ragtime.  I've gone on and on about ragtime from time to time at this blog so nobody who has read this blog will be shocked that I'm going to get to ragtime often enough.  With that perfunctory introduction ...

Elements of Sonata Theory is a dense and long book.

There has been some spirited interaction with and objection to claims made by Hepokoski and Darcy in their dense and long book.  Julian Horton has written, for instance, a piece titled "Romantic Sonata Form and the Tyranny of Classicism" that is about how Elements so favors the Classic era it skews discussion and perception of Romantic era approaches to sonata form and 19th century approaches.  Since Horton has written quite a bit about Brahms and Bruckner this would ... not exactly be a surprise.  For those curious to read Horton's piece go here.

"Tyranny of classicism" is kind of a strong way to put things and since in American musicology post-Susan McClary there are American musicologists who might regard the entire topic of sonata forms as a "tyranny of classicism" Horton's title can come across like an intra-classical music battle that could not literally be more academic.

Paul Wingfield registered some concerns about the Mozart-centric approach of Hepokoski & Darcy in 2008.  As Wingfield put it, "The main aim of my concluding remarks is to sketch an alternative approach with particular reference to sonata‐form works of the first half of the nineteenth century."

Fans of and advocates for Romantic era music can find the approach of Elements troublesome and inaccurate.  At the risk of invoking some claims made by writers like Cornelius Cardew and John Tilbury in Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, there might be another way to approach Elements of Sonata Theory besides academic musicology and theory battles about whether the proposed elements properly account for 19th century sonata forms. 

What could we do with the concepts in the theory in discussing contemporary music?  The usefulness of the theory may not merely lay in whether it lets us account for a Brahms symphony or a Lizst piano sonata, although it may do that or it may not--there's also such a thing as taking Types 1 through 5 as flexible scripts that can be used to develop sonata forms in styles that historically have never been considered suitable for sonata forms or even inimical by nature to sonata as a developmental process.

To be more blunt, I read Elements of Sonata Theory and was able to use the concept of "rotation" and the range of sonata types and formal components described in the book as a springboard for composing ragtime sonata forms.  It's a simple process to determine that the P and the S with C regions can correspond to the A and B strains of a ragtime, or the AA and BB space that the respective strains occupy.  Instead of literal or embellished repetitions of an A or a B strain the space where repetition would happen can be treated as a "zone" that can serve as a modulating transition or a developmental episode.  AABBA in a Joplin style rag can become an exposition with a first theme, a transition, a second theme, and a developmental space that can forestall the return of the A material until it can become both the return of the A strain that would be conventional in a ragtime piece and also the recapitulation of the first thematic group typical of a sonata form.  The S material could be regarded as the B strain and, crucially, we can observe in early rag that it was not uncommon for composers of rag to end works with a recapitulation of A or, more commonly, B strains.

In Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History (9780486259222) David A. Jasen and Trebor Jay Tichenor catalog the rags and forms of the rags written by early pioneers of the style.  What is most notable in their discussion of Charles Leslie Johnson is they point out that his most common structure can be graphed out as AABBACCBB.   You can find this on pages 38-46 if you want to read through the structures of Johnson's rags for yourself. 

So if one of the early ragtime composers made a habit of closing with B strains (i.e. Theme 2 material) in close to half his composed rags as chronicled by Jasen and Tichenor then we have a precedent for arguing that a ragtime sonata form should be simple enough.  Rather than C material we could transform what in a Joplin rag would be the second B and return of A sections into a development section and what would traditionally be a CCDD passage can become the recapitulation of A with a non-modulating transition that leads to B (i.e. Theme 1 and Theme 2 respectively).  Theme 2 could be repeated so as to affirm the kinds of structural repetitions that are typical of classic ragtime. 

Now having spent a good chunk of my own time studying sonata forms by guitarist composers such as Molitor, Matiegka, Diabelli, Carulli, Sor, Giuliani and other late 18th/early 19th century guitarist composers I can say that the Type 2 category has been a useful category in guitar scholarship and it has been since the advent of Hepokoski and Darcy's Elements that I've noticed any long-form analyses of guitar sonatas at all.  Fans of 19th century symphonic and piano music from the Romantics may object to a Mozart-centric approach to Elements but the elements are useful even when used to analyze recent works.  I can use the concept of "rotation" to explain how sonata movements work in living composers such as Dusan Bogdanovic and Angelo Gilardino, which I hope to do some time in 2020.  There is no requirement in Hepokoski and Darcy's book that you have to use all the elements of sonata theory they propose, after all.  If some elements are useful then use them, if not, then don't.

What I have found useful is the general theory that sonata forms can be approached as flexible scripts rather than rigid plans and, to that end, I've been playing with writing sonata forms in ragtime styles.  It is also possible to take the concept of "rotation", the proposal that themes appear in a set order across exposition, development and recapitulation, and use this in ways that are not specified by Hepokoski or Darcy but which are obviously latent in the concept itself.  Let me put it this way, the concept of "rotation" can let a composer create an exposition that has a theme in a ragtime style which could be transformed into a blues theme, even a theme played using bottleneck technique, in the recapitulation.  The concept of "deformation" is flexible enough to provide for the possibility that when Theme 2 returns it can be drastically changed in terms of style and could become a new secondary developmental space in which Theme 2 can become the basis of variations. 

To give a musical example where all of the above happens ... go over here.  Ragtime sonata exposition with three themes is presented that is followed up by a development; recapitulation brings back Theme 1 and when Theme 2 is set to return there's an interrupting episodes with bottleneck technique that invokes Theme 3 from the exposition as a slide guitar solo before launching into Theme 2 as a set of variations on a hymn from Southern Harmony in the style of Blind Willie Johnson as a separate variation form that is completed with the return of Theme 3, which is no longer in ragtime style but has been recomposed to fit more into an early 1970s R&B or funk sound. 

I get that Julian Horton thinks that Elements doesn't adequately account for things that go on in Brahms or Bruckner, for instance.  I like a lot of Brahms.  Brahms is one of the few nineteenth century composers I actually do like.  Bruckner ... eh ... if you're into Bruckner, alright.   I get that Wingfield feels that Elements slights Clementi and I dug into Clementi's Op. 40 piano sonatas because of the blogging of Kyle Gann.  I would actually advise guitarists to skip Mozart and study Clementi because if you want to learn how to work with monothematic sonatas (a term Hepokoski and Darcy reject, I think, without sufficiently compelling reasons) you'll benefit from studying Clementi and Haydn.  Given the limited resources of the guitar studying those composers will, I think, be more beneficial.  Guitarists can often be accused of bashing the same narrow range of riffs over and over in popular music and classical guitar literature so, hey, if you're going to do that anyway, Clementi's way of comprehensively reworking and developing a single set of gestural ideas is something guitarists could only benefit from. 

Yes, I agree that the concept of "rotation" is too hard and fast as used by Hepokoski and Darcy.  But as I've already mentioned, the concept of rotation shows up in guitar sonatas by Bogdanovic and Gilardino, whose sonatas are decidedly not in anything like traditionally tonal musical languages of the eighteenth century variety. 

As I was saying before, there's no requirement all of the "elements" be used at the same time.  I have found it most useful to combine the Elements approach to macrostructure with William Caplin's microstructural observations about classical forms.  Caplin is strong where Hepokoski and Darcy are vague and vice versa.  Matthew Riley freely availed himself  of both approaches in analyzing the minor key symphony in Vienna in the era of Haydn and Mozart, a book I am going to have to write about at some point in the future.   When Riley talks about the role of the major key tutti passage that often appears in transitions in minor key sonata movements of symphonies he points out that the tutti passage can often play the role of creating a propulsive continuation phrase in a recapitulation.  If your experience is more with popular music then I'm going to be free-wheeling here and say that the role of the "tutti" in transitional passages in minor key sonata movements from symphonies could be likened to any tutti passage in a James Brown song where he shouts "Take me to the bridge!" or just "Hit me!" and the whole band kicks in with a rambunctious bridge passage to the next part of the song. 

The fact that I just made a comparison and linkage between Haydn symphonies in minor keys and James Brown songs should give you a clearer idea of what I am interested in doing.  We have the conceptual and theoretical tools in contemporary music analysis to develop ways to approach sonata forms drawing inspiration from ragtime, country, blues, soul, funk and any number of other popular or vernacular styles.  This could be easily done but it won't be done by academic musicologists because ... to go by the way academics are discussing Elements of Sonata Theory in particular, turf wars abound about whether the elements and the theory "work" and if they "work" for nineteenth century music or not.  In other words, these theories are being debated and discussed by theorists as theorists, not as composers or practicing musicians. 

When I finished reading Elements of Sonata Theory my first inspiration was not to use it to analyze Clementi or Bruckner, my first inspiration was to go write a sonata using ragtime that could then transform into Texas style gospel blues in the recapitulation.  That's what I wanted to do ... but the small sampling of writing about Elements I've referenced highlights an implicit contrast that I have attempted to make explicit here.  Where academics could debate whether P and S and C can't be reversed in a recapitulation I think more in terms of P could be a theme by Thelonious Monk, S could be a theme by Ellington, C could be discarded or be an original theme or something--the idea being that if the "time space" a la George Rochberg's theory about music occupying space in a linear/directional musical work can be invoked, then there's no reason Theme 1 and Theme 2 in a sonata can't be jazz standards. 

Given that Haydn and Clementi wrote monothematic sonata movements, there's no reason that a suitably selected head tune by Ellington or Monk couldn't become the self-contained basis for a slow sonata movement, for instance.  The things you could do with "Pannonica" as a sonata-fantasia movement ...  You could compose a sonata form in which Theme 1 could be Ellington's "Morning Glory" and Theme 2 could be "`Round Midnight" for instance.  If jazz can often seem trapped in the routine of continuous variation then break out of continuous variation by transforming that continuous variation into some kind of sonata form.  You could do some kind of Charles Ives approach and develop a cumulative form in which all sorts of riffs and ideas develop in quasi-sonata formats and eventually culminate in the revelation that the foundational theme is something by Monk or Coltrane.  Instead of playing "Giant Steps" ad infinitum the way jazz bros do what if it were used as a springboard for a two-part or three-part invention? 

Of course I have favored ragtime because the majority of ragtime is gloriously public domain, so if I wanted to compose a big solo guitar sonata on a ragtime by Joseph Lamb that's public domain I'll do that rather than try to tinker with music that is still under copyright.  That's a pragmatic reason to favor writing ragtime sonata forms but it's an important reason.  Ragtime is part of the musical roots that grew into jazz, and ragtime also has had a formative influence on Tin Pan Alley songwriting and country.  Rag is the musically liminal space between classical and jazz and popular music in American music and it's a gorgeous musical style and tradition I've loved playing with much of my adult life.  There's no need to experiment with jazz theme foundations for sonata forms if it's just going to run afoul of copyright issues when the wealth of early and classic ragtime has, since 2019, passed into the realm of the public domain. 

It's not that I want to tell Bruckner fans to shut up or stop liking Bruckner, it's that debates about whether someone's theories about sonata forms explain Bruckner or Brahms isn't the only way to discuss theories.  I've made a point of using Hepokoski and Darcy's work and William Caplin's work as a springboard for exploring the possibilities of incorporating ragtime into sonata forms because if I can take ideas from Joseph Lamb or James Scott or Scott Joplin and make sonatas out of ragtime strains then the path to doing something similar with themes by Ellington or Armstrong or Hardin or Charlie Parker or Monk or any other jazz masters has become that much easier to navigate.

I hope I have made it somewhat clear that boundary defining gambits don't just exist in classical music, they exist in jazz and in every other style of music.  An academic approach can set down boundary markers for jazz, rock, blues, country, hip hop, pop, classical, aleatoric music, you name it. 

If we can figure out how to write sonatas and fugues on ragtime riffs then it should be a matter of dedication, effort and time before something comparable could be done with bass lines in an Aretha Franklin song or guitar riffs played by Don Helms. 

We can let scholars debate whether this or that theory adequately explains what was going on in the music of the past and that's what scholars can do.  I'm interested in playing with the possibilities that some of these theories about music from the past can open up in music-making in the present.  If we can't recover the lost Scott Joplin piano concerto we can, at least, attempt to compose ragtime sonatas that get in the general direction he might have been able to go in had he not died so young. 

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Mark and Grace Driscoll book Win Your War is out through Charisma House with some endorsements from Larry Osborne and Eric Metaxas among others

About twenty years ago when I first heard of Mars Hill Church and met Mike, Mark and Lief I did not imagine that things would go the way they have gone.

I also never imagined that one day I would see photos of an older Mark Driscoll and think that he looks, increasingly, like Pat Robertson.

Although Mark Driscoll gave an hours-long teaching session back in 2008 on spiritual warfare there's a book out, and the new book is on spiritual warfare.  Whether or not Mark Driscoll still believes that having womens' ministry in a church is "like juggling knives" is something I can decide to find out later.

Gerry Breshears has decided to endorse the new book, which you can see if you look at the preview options for the book at your local online retailer.

There's some promise that the new book will be full of insights drawn from personal experience.  What this promise reminds me of is that I had to listen to the 2008 marathon back when it was first released and it was one of a variety of reasons why I decided I could not and would not renew membership at Mars Hill Church.  In time, of course, I began to believe it was necessary to chronicle a lot of the things I observed that I believed the conventional and even alternative press were not adequately addressing but there's the whole blog for that.

The new book may feature a good deal of ideas and concepts that are not particularly new to Mark Driscoll.  There were ideas he shared among leaders that were not necessarily being broadcast for the congregation at large.  One of the more notable statements he made in the 2008 session was asserting that there was a demonic lie out there that the executive elders of Mars Hill didn't love the people of the church called Mars Hill.  The extent to which Mark Driscoll seemed to demonize dissent was a compelling reason to withhold renewing membership even without knowing what later came to light about the kangaroo court trials against Bent Meyer and Paul Petry respectively.  For those not already familiar with those words:

I think one of the great myths that has come about (it's a demonic lie) is that myself, the executive elders, the senior leaders we don't care about people. [emphasis added] I was the only one who did ANY counseling until we had 800 people. We still do tons of shepherding, counseling, spiritual warfare, conflict. But we try to do so in a way that is humble, that isn't "and here is who I served and here are the demons we cast out and here's the list of people that I've healed." That's demonic. The truth is I love the people as much--actually, more than anyone in this church. And the senior leaders, the campus pastors, the departmental leaders, the executive elders love the people in this church as much or more than anyone else in this church. [emphasis added] And one of my great concerns is not just, "Can you hold hands and help sheep?" but "can you also flip the staff over and defend against a wolf?"  You HAVE to have that discernment, that courage, and that ability to tell someone: "You are in sin. That is false doctrine.  You are not qualified to be a leader. If you do not repent you are not welcome here. And I will speak truthfully to those who want to follow you because my job is for the well-being of the sheep."

That Breshears is willing to endorse a Mark Driscoll book in the wake of the 2013 plagiarism controversy and the early 2014 ResultSource controversy seems ... unfortunate.  

Now I mentioned that Driscoll increasingly reminds me of Pat Robertson and I mean by that that as he ages and grays his hairline has reminded me of Robertson, and the ... kind of Sun Belt grin reminds me of Robertson.  I did not expect this but I grew up in one of those homes where The 700 Club was often watched and, well, I can't say that 1999 Mark Driscoll would receive well any kind of comparison between him and Pat Robertson but times and people change, they assuredly do.

Describing being visited by a disabled middle-school girl as though she were an angel is not something that Driscoll was apt to share from the pulpit.  He shared some stories about encounters with demonic or strange forces from his childhood in the 2008 teaching session.  Should you want to read about that for free you can read the extensive transcript of the 2008 spiritual warfare teachings and the audio is also available for free, if memory serves, at and links to the applicable content by way of a post tag and audio are available at a separate page at this blog.

I grew up Pentecostal (Assemblies of God, in the western Oregonian area which, I've long since learned, was the general area that also produced the Pentecostal textual scholar Gordon Fee) but have since gravitated to the Reformed tradition and am more or less Presbyterian.  I am not a cessationist as would normally be defined.  However, I did have significant disagreements with spiritual warfare as formulated in Pentecostal circles and the 1990s were, for those who recall them and were exposed to spiritual warfare instruction, a kind of peak in the publishing fad and also showing up on the heels of recovered memory counseling techniques.

I would not be surprised if Driscoll would still be open to using recovered memory counseling approaches.  Reactions to his semi-notorious "I see things" commentary from 2008 tend to focus on the visions and whether he really has them or not and although I've written about that at some length in the past my overarching concern is that in 2008 Driscoll espoused approaches to spiritual warfare and pastoral counseling involving techniques that have been pretty thoroughly discredited in the last thirty years where recovered memory counseling goes.  

For earlier writing, should you want to read it, that I've done on this range of topics.

Mark Driscoll, "I see things", cessationists, prophets, and recovered memories

Healing of memories and recovered memories as a form of deception and counseling abuse

2-5-2008 spiritual warfare Part 3 part 3 commentary 1, getting the "i see things" out of the way, leveraging recovered memories & the possible political significance of "i see things" in the wake of the 2007 firings.

It's in the context of Mark Driscoll's instruction to Mars Hill leadership in the wake of the 2007 firings that it's enlightening to read his claims to being able to "see things".  The things he claimed to see were things related to physical and sexual violence and infidelity, to go by the 2008 teaching, though Driscoll has claimed to have received prophetic dreams as well.  Driscoll has also said from the pulpit that he has prayed for God to kill someone on at least one occasion and claimed that God answered his prayer.  
So as far back as 2005 Driscoll had said from the pulpit he prayed one time that if a person would not repent God would kill the man and that God did so.  This claim was softened by the time it was alluded to in a Driscoll book.  
Spiritual Warfare
February 5, 2008
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Christus Victor (Part 3)

On occasion I see things. I see things. Like I was meeting with one person, and they didn't know this but they were abused when they were a child and I said, "When you were a child, you were abused. This person did this to you, physically touched you this way." They said, "How do you know?" I said, "I don't know, it's like I got a TV right here and I'm seeing it." They said, "No, that never happened." I said, "Go ask them. Go ask if they actually did what I think they did and I see that they did."  They went and asked this person, "When I was a little kid did you do this?" and the person said, "Yeah [slowly], but you were only like a year or two old. How do you remember that?" They said, "Well, Pastor Mark told me." I'm not a guru. I'm not a freak. I don't talk about this. If I did talk about it everybody'd want to meet with me and I'd end up like one of those guys on TV, but some of you have this visual ability to see things. [emphasis added]

There was one woman I dealt with, she never told her husband that she had committed adultery on him early in the relationship. I said:
"You know (she was sitting there with her husband), you know I think the root of all this is Satan has a foothold in your life because you never told your husband about that really tall blond guy that you met at the bar. And then you went back to the hotel, and you laid on your back, and you undressed yourself, and he climbed on top of you, and you had sex with him, and snuggled up with him for a while, and deep down in your heart (even though you had just met him) you desired him because (secretly) he is the fantasy body type."

I said:
"You remember that place, it was that cheap hotel with that certain colored bedspread. You did it--you had sex with the light on because you weren't ashamed and you wanted him to see you and you wanted to see him."

She's just looking at me, like ...

I said, "You know, it was about ten years ago." I see everything.
She looks at her husband.  He says, "Is that true?" She says, "Yeah. He was 6'2", blonde hair, blue eyes. Yeah."

Some of you, when you're counseling, you will see things. You will literally get the discernment to see things. I can't even explain it. It doesn't happen all the time.

Sometimes your counselee, they will see things. I found this with people, I'm, okay,-like, "I'm gonna ask the demon questions, you tell me what they say."  They don't say anything. I say, "What do you hear?" and they say, "Nothing, but I'm seeing stuff." "What, oh, oh. What's that?"
"I'm seeing, you know, when I was little, my grandpa molested me. I didn't know that."
I said, "Well, let's not assume it's true. Go ask your grandpa." Grandpa says, "Yeah [slowly], when you were little I molested you." Grandpa was assuming they'd be too young to remember so he'd only molest grandkids up until a certain age. But they saw it. Supernatural. It's a whole other realm. It's like the Matrix. You can take the blue pill. You can take the red pill.  You can go into this whole other world and that's the way it works.

So I say tell me everything you hear, tell me everything you see and sometimes I see things, too. I see things, too.  I've seen women raped.

I've seen children molested. I've seen people abused. I've seen people beaten. I've seen horrible things done. Horrible things done.

I've seen children dedicated in occult groups, and demons come upon them as an infant by invitation and I wasn't present for any of it but I've seen it, visibly.

Upon occasion when I get up to preach I see, just like a [makes "whif" sound] screen in front of me, I'll see somebody get raped or abused and I'll track `em down and say, "Look, I had this vision, let me tell you about it." All true.  One I had, I was sitting in my office at the old Earl building.  This gal walks by, nice gal, member of the church. This was when the church was small.  And there just like a TV was there and I saw the night before her husband threw her up against the wall, had her by the throat, was physically violent with her and she said, "That's it. I'm telling the pastor." And he said, "If you do, I'll kill you." He was a very physically abusive man. She was walking by and I just saw it. Just like a TV.
  [emphasis added] I said, "Hey! come here for a sec. ... Last night did your husband throw you against the wall and have you by the throat, physically assault you and tell you if you told anyone he would kill you?" She just starts bawling. She says, "How did you know?" I said, "Jesus told me." I call the guy on the phone, "Hey, I need you to come to the office." Didn't give him any clue. [He] comes in. I said, "What did you do to your wife last night?  Why'd you this? Why'd you throw her against the wall?" And he gets very angry, they're sitting on the couch, he says, "Why did you tell him?"  I said, "She didn't, Jesus did." Jesus did.

There are people who are hyper-spiritual total freaks. They make stuff up.  They hear from demons. They pretend to have insight and discernment and there are some people who have real gift of discernment, and I'm not saying I'm 100% always right with it, but some of you are gonna have gift of discernment and you need to, you need to grow to learn in the use of that gift. Sometimes people will hear things. Sometimes people will see things.

And for all that in 2008 ... Result Source happened.  Driscoll and company thought it was basically just fine to rig the New York Times bestseller list so that Real Marriage could become a bestseller.  For that matter, Mark Driscoll still had a plagiarism controversy sparked by a fateful interview with Janet Mefferd.  Driscoll's visions, as he's described them, tended to revolve around sexual infidelity and abuse and not things like copyright infringement or wire fraud or dubious fundraising ethics.  That those visions were part and parcel of a larger counseling approach that involved recovered memories can be easily forgotten in light of the blunt claims themselves.  

But something else was not clear in 2008 to those who were still at Mars Hill, which is that the combination of Driscoll having a history of claiming to "see things" and "reading their mail", combined with a claim to be able to pray that people in unrepentant sin could be killed by God, cumulatively suggest a context within which Mars Hill leadership was being told by Driscoll in roundabout terms that he could decide that dissent was satanic as a matter of principle and that if that satanic dissent wasn't repented of there was a tacit option of praying dissenters could be divinely dealt with.  Overall, the sum of Mark Driscoll's 2008 instruction in the wake of 2007 governance changes and trials suggests a pattern in which dissent was literally as well as figuratively regarded as demonic and satanic. Now that Grace Driscoll is listed on staff handling womens ministry it is probably no longer the case that Mark Driscoll thinks that having a womens ministry at all "it's like juggling knives" or that it's the cesspool where all the gossips and busybodies are ... although given how integral personal anecdote is to Mark Driscoll's instructional approach someone could legitimately ask whether gossip is actually inextricably woven into his way of discussing any biblical text.  If one were to take away Mark Driscoll's talk about real estate acquisitions and leadership additions from a sermom circa 2006 you might find a sermon goes from about 71 minutes to 27 minutes when all the Mars Hill Church specific stuff is edited out.

There are, in other words, some compelling reasons the likes of Gerry Breshears and Eric Metaxas should have thought better of endorsing a new Driscoll book on spiritual warfare.  

Whether Mark Driscoll's views are different now than they were in 2008 is something that, maybe, could be tackled at some other time.  For the time being it's not something I'm tackling.  I find it interesting that post-plagiarism scandal surrounding A Call to Resurgence and Driscoll's other earlier books, Mark Driscoll has shifted away from manifestos for church planters and pastors in favor of variations on the self-help manual.  His endorsers are also more observably from charismatic or new apostolic circles, which makes the stragglers still willing to endorse him from the Mars Hill era stand out.  There's no James MacDonald endorsement this time around like there was for Spirit-Filled Jesus, for instance.

There is a lot here that you can read if you want to go through a chronicle of stuff Mark Driscoll has said and done from the Mars Hill Church era.  He's repositioned himself on a few issues such as the TULIP but since he self-identified in terms that church historians and theologians call Amyraldianism it's not actually clear he's changed the substance of what he espouses as much as he's modified the branding to fit a new target audience.  Just because Grace Driscoll is in charge of womens ministry at The Trinity Church does not necessarily tell us that Mark Driscoll is in favor of ordaining women ... although maybe he is and just hasn't clarified that yet.

If he has ... that could be a tell that his doctrinal positions can be significantly influenced by whoever is bankrolling his project rather than on the basis of his own study and consideration of texts ... 

POSTSCRIPT  10-4-2019

Warren Throckmorton linked to a video in which Mark Driscoll described what we're seemingly supposed to take to be an angelic visitation by way of a middle-school aged girl with some physical disability in a statement shared at a Gateway Conference.

Now in the clip Driscoll doesn't mention what kind of disability the girl had.  It might be a quirk of the able-bodied or at least the able-bodied of the Mark Driscoll variety speaking at a conference event that the nature of the disability isn't important enough to mention.  It must have been a visible disability of some kind but that could be as simple as needing to wear glasses but that, colloquially, does not tend to be what people reflexively think of as "physical disability", is it?

In any case, the girl is implicitly, it seems, an angel, because Driscoll described how he read a scrap of paper with a Bible verse on it and when he looked up to thank her she was gone.  Whatever the disability was didn't not preclude the girl from ghosting on Mark Driscoll like he was Jim Gordon and the girl was Batman. 

Although depending on how long he took to read the Bible verse there would have been plenty of time for a kid to walk away.  Slow reader, perhaps. 

Throckmorton and video-poster might have misread the encounter, though.  Perhaps Driscoll meant to convey that it was a "touched by an angel" moment or, just as plausible in a charismatic context, perhaps the implication left for an audience to fill in was that the girl was sent by God as a messenger but not as some more literally angelic angel to give Driscoll a message.  Omissions may be more strategic than explanations.  When Driscoll has talked in the past about how his family had to move three times for safety reasons he omitted how long or short the time span was within which he moved his family during his Seattle years.  Three times during " a difficult season" is scarier sounding to a conference audience if they are allowed to imagine the three moves occurred within a few months from one house to one house than if the moves took place over the course of nearly twenty years.  Moving into three homes sounds more troubled and traveled if it is left to an audience to assume the three homes were singular and consecutive than if a family moved into three homes progressively that they at some point alternately occupied on a seasonal basis.  There were sources who said the Driscolls had a place on Lake Chelan and a home in the Puget Sound area and a source mentioned some kind of place the Driscolls reportedly stayed at in the SoCal area.  Whether that's the case or not is a bit less material than an observation about how Mark Driscoll's stories can be vague enough to allow audiences to fill in a lot of blanks that, were a journalist to ask some probing questions, might not get addressed.

If someone were to even claim that Mark Driscoll claimed to be visited by an angel Driscoll could, right now, say something about how he never, in fact, said, it was an angelic visitor.  It was a girl with a physical disability which, we note again, he didn't specify. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Heinrich Schutz, Matthaus Passion playlist

J.S. Bach's Matthew Passion is so famous it would be easy to go through life never knowing that Heinrich Schutz composed a Matthew Passion earlier.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Guitar Sonatas by Gilbert Biberian, Cristano Porqueddu's online playlist of the composer's four solo guitar sonatas

A few years back a musical friend gave me a gift, Cristiano Porqueddu's five disc set Novecento Guitar Sonatas. You can get it from Brilliant Classics and the set includes contemporary sonatas for solo guitar. The Biberian sonatas are fun, although of a more slightly modernist bent than might appeal to those whose idea of classical guitar derives from the Spanish traditions. There's a playlist of the sonatas you can listen to over here.

In terms of in depth writing I've been incubating material for the Gilardino sonatas; the Brouwer sonatas;  the Ourkouzounov sonatas; the Koshkin sonatas; and the Matiegka sonatas ... so ... that's a lot right there to write about so I've tabled the idea of writing about the Biberian cycle ... also because I only have the score for his third sonata and none of the others, whereas I have the scores for all the aforementioned composers either on hand or (in the solitary exception of Brouwer) on the way. 

Biberian has a prelude and fugue that, alas, I'm not sure has been recorded that I hope someone will tackle at some point. 

One of the things I'm noticing about contemporary guitar sonatas is how often many of the sonatas explicitly avoid anything as "traditional" as sonata forms.  Many, perhaps many more guitar sonatas actually do have sonata forms.  Every Ponce sonata for guitar has a sonata form right at the front, for instance.  The Jose sonata, which is gorgeous, has a sonata movement as an opener.  The glorious Castelnuovo-Tedesco sonatina has a sonata movement at the start, too.  Biberian doesn't necessarily do sonata movements, not in the usual way, more like sneakily getting to all the structural elements that would be in a sonata but distributing them across a much larger multi-movement work, even in a case where the multi-movement work is played attaca throughout (Biberian's Sonata No. 3). 

I am inclined to say that the sonata form isn't "used up", or "obsolete" or anything of the kind.  Some of my music instructors in college warned me that there are, somehow, a lot of academic musicians who do think that sonata is passe ... which might be just another reason to be grateful I didn't end up in academic musicology.  Since one of my long-term projects here at the blog has been making a long-form, and eventually a really long-form case that ragtime and sonata forms are perfectly suitable for each other, I'm glad I didn't end up in any kind of academic context where music theorists would tell me such a fusion can't be done.  If I were to find some kind of fault with academic musicology it would not be the level of detail they can bring to bear in score analysis or even the analytic tools and concepts they come up with, I'd say it's more, taking a page from the guitarist composer Leo Brouwer, that music academics in the last century or so have been somewhat hostile to the notion of fusion across styles--Brouwer once said that theorists tend to dislike fusion because they want musical styles that are easy to categorize and musical approaches that try to blur the boundaries between established styles annoy academics.  So ... turf war issues is how that comes across to me.

I hope to get to all of the cycles of solo guitar sonatas I've alluded to earlier in the post but all of that will take time.  The Gilardino sonatas are amazing and because they are amazing I think it is most realistic of me to save that blogging for 2020.

Meanwhile, the Biberian sonatas are fun, although in a modernist way ... and if I don't write about them at much length I can at least call some attention to them. 

Porqueddu has a comment worth quoting for the glum humor in it, "Youtube compression SUCKS".  Yeah ...

So here's the Biberian via playlist.  I know I take extravagant amounts of time to put material together but I do hope that despite that, when I finally blog about the guitar sonatas I've referenced guitarists will find what I write worth reading.  If not, well, hey, this is a blog so people can just not read it. 

a few brief notes on current reading, with a note about how it turns out Mahalia Jackson spent some time getting assistance from ... the avant garde composer William Russell? Starting into Mark Burford's book on Jackson from OUP

I recently finished The Devil's Music, Randall J. Stephens' book on how key early rock music pioneers hailed from Pentecostal backgrounds; how church leaders rejected rock but, eventually, came to embrace it; and how the pioneers of what has come to be known as Christian rock were also Pentecostals.  I've mentioned this book before and cross referenced it to Dale Cockrell's book on the music scene and sex industry of New York from 1840 to 1917 in Everybody's Doin' It that Joseph Horowitz recommended earlier this year.

The book I'm most excited about lately, by far, is Mark Burford's book through Oxford University Press, Mahalia Jackson and the Black Gospel Field.  This is the first book on Jackson to be published in twenty-five years and Burford teaches at Reed College so the Pierre Bordeau style analysis of Jackson's role in the Cold War post-war context is kind of a foregone conclusion but since I spent the last few years on an Adorno binge post-Marxist arts analysis is something I've gotten used to.  I've been skimming around the book since I recently got it and am intrigued that there's a chapter, an entire chapter, dedicated to Mahalia Jackson's interactions with William Russell, Russell William Wagner, who was an avant garde composer in the circle of John Cage and Henry Cowell!  THAT I did know about before! 

When I've blogged in the last few years about how I am concerned that some kind of synergistic interaction between "high" and "low" happen in the arts and that "classical" and "popular" should have room to interact it doesn't always have to be musical in performance or compositional terms, so I'm interested to read more in this alluded to chapter.  That the Queen of Gospel spent some time working with or getting helped by the kind of avant garde composer I might have read about at Kyle Gann's blog intrigues me.  Burford quotes John Cage as having said he didn't like jazz or popular music but that William Russell was the exception that proved the rule, that Russell made music influenced by jazz and popular music he thought worked.  Burford doesn't dig into whether or not Cage knew of Russell's time working with Mahalia Jackson that I know of but I'm just starting into the book.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

some links for the weekend a few strays from the last few weeks

There's some vibrant discussion of how the high art traditions of yore were possible because of colonialism and imperialism.  Yes, and we could assume for the sake of any historical record that anything and everything highbrow is in some sense bankrolled by imperialism and maybe also colonialism.  Which means ... that contemporary highbrow arts are not different, which is more or less a theme explored in The New Republic lately by an author mulling over where the money for art museums comes from.
P.A.I.N. effectively turned the Sacklers into pariahs whose money is now too filthy to art-wash: Sackler pecunia olet. (The New York Post reported disgraced Sacklers fleeing Manhattan to seek refuge in Palm Beach. The humanity!) The Sacklers are odious but so are all the one percenters who fund the elite art world when you look into the sources of their excessive wealth. Donald Trump has galvanized current antagonisms, yet he inherited a system that was already dramatically skewed in favor of the rich. The financial crisis afforded Barack Obama an opportunity to discipline the institutions that created it, but instead, he chose to enable them. The bailouts showered the crooks with money and gutted the middle class. There were some ten million foreclosures, while not a single Wall Street CEO was prosecuted. People of color were hardest hit. It’s a particularly cruel irony that the nation’s first black president oversaw the extinction of the black and Latino middle class, not to mention the further immiseration of the poor. To manage public frustration that no one was held accountable for this unconscionable transfer of wealth, the bipartisan elite welcomed identity politics as a way to deflect attention from economic justice issues, even fanning, at times, a false tension between the two.

Both arts organizations and the art market have long been abject courtiers to corporate and private bucks. But this shtick didn’t become really awkward for museums until the social-justice set racialized the issues. Protests against Kanders and Fink stress how their enterprises prey upon minorities, a powerful embarrassment for wannabe woke art institutions. Demands for diversity mean a great deal to these organizations, which pride themselves on their enlightened cultural politics and commitment to equality. Populist outrage over financial predation has had more trouble hitting the mark. Or to put things a tad more plainly: Diversity demands have traditionally fueled the most embarrassing PR debacles in the art world—and they are also quite easy to accommodate without disrupting the economic status quo.

Following the money is important and tricky. The rot of predatory capitalism must be solved first and foremost by economic justice. That museums must diversify collections and staff is self-evident, yet to focus only on diversifying them—without dismantling structures of funding and reward, in efforts financed by predatory capitalists who continue to profit from exploitation—allows business to go on as usual, now with woke optics. What if elite identitarian groupthink has it backward? Racial discourse has been used to justify exploitation for centuries. Yet attempts to avoid racism have a treacherous way of instantiating racist frameworks and ways of thinking. Why is the notion of working toward racial equality so often presented as an “alternative to an egalitarian program of redistribution,” as Adolph Reed Jr. puts it, rather than part of the same project? Perhaps because separating these concerns helps the overlords keep the status quo essentially in place.

In the art world, curating by identity has been embraced as a gesture to rectify historic injustices. The importance of including historically overlooked groups can’t be overstated, but for artists, the emphasis on identity has a downside. People now focus on demographic attributes—and market value—more avidly than the work itself. Rooted in history and a web of social relations—including the central fact of how the business of art is funded—art is also a realm of invention, transformation, play, magisterial thing-ness. Identity, the current lingua franca of art marketing, is integral to some artists’ practice, but it is not the main driver of the work of many others. Elena Crippa, curator of the recent Frank Bowling exhibition at the Tate, said that the Guyana-born British artist “rejected being categorized or pinned down as being either a black artist belonging to the Windrush generation or anything else.” Bowling wanted the show to focus purely on the formal aspects of his work rather than his life story and his race. “I don’t know what black and Asian art is,” he commented. “I know what art is art.”

Bowling’s wish for his work to be taken on its own terms—not reduced to tribal affiliation—used to be shared by many artists. Today, artists are professionalized to package their identity as part of their brand—whether they do it themselves, or it is done to them, sometimes to the artist’s dismay. The push to see art through the prism of identity says more about our current political climate—and institutional pressures—than it reveals about art, and many artists.

Louis Menand on meritocracy

Alan Jacobs has a piece at The Atlantic on the loss of functional definition for "evangelical" in doctrinal terms in favor of a more strictly political/ethnic shorthand.

By way of Mbird there's a review of Tom Holland's book Dominion by John Gray.  In short, Gray describes Holland's case being that the West developed its egalitarian ethical norms from the Abrahamic religions, particularly Christianity and Judaism (though Gray says Holland does far less on Judaism influencing Western social and political theory and that's something I've been mulling over for a few years because my own conviction has been there's a propensity in Western scholarship to downplay the influence of Jewish intellectual life on the evolution of the West for ... maybe the history of the West, really).

Gray has argued in his own book Seven Types of Atheism that the secular progressive is indebted to Christian egalitarianism but too often lacks the historical reading to realize it.  So it's not a shock that Gray commends Holland's book for going into detail as to how brutal and indifferent to the weak and marginal ancient Greek and Roman societies were.

Justin Trudeau ... was in the news ... for something that I would think any self-respecting progressive or liberal should never have to be in the news for in the last thirty odd years.

The idea that someone in the 1990s on the North American continent somehow wouldn't or couldn't recognize that blackface, brownface, redface, yellowface, basically ANY kind of "face" play has a racist legacy seems impossible to take seriously.  If in the interests of realpolitik progressives want to forgive Trudeau so he can keep doing whatever it is he's doing they're able to do that ... but down here in the United States ... given the concerns raised about what 45 has done and said ... such a realpolitik stance of forgiving Trudeau would be just that, reapolitik.  That's apparently how politics work, if something is bad public relations that can be finessed.  Trudeau has had other things come up.

Not that the current administration down here in the States hasn't had plenty going on.

And yet ... as the film The Post managed to demonstrate, there's a mythology promulgated in entertainment industries that the press took on and took down the Nixon administration.  It seems far more accurate to say the press was able to chronicle the process of Nixon being taken down by intra-administrative battles within the executive branch and that Hollywood developed a mythology in which the power of the press to take on Nixon was consolidated into popular cultural imagination.  The older I get the more I get this nagging and depressing sense that the "lesson learned" by the political parties from Watergate was to never let that kind of intra-administrative and bipartisan investigation into malfeasance on the part of the executive branch ever happen again.  Clinton was impeached but as we got to see of that show it seemed partisan to the point of show trial and Clinton came out the other side.  It was also a period during which Clinton's advocates argued that whatever his flaws as a human being and a husband those should not be considered against him as a political figure and the policies he stood for were compelling enough that even if he was a bad man back him anyway.

Which, here in 2019 does not seem so incidental to people who have chosen to support Trump for promises about appointing conservative justices.  If the GOP wing decided that they would back their own variation of Bill Clinton and, character questions be damned, he's implementing policies we like, then that could be construed as hypocrisy but at another, more troubling level, it could be considered a "lessons learned".

The passing of Ric Ocasek reminded me that his style of music was regarded by many a rock critic as not really rock, or not rock enough.  There was an obit at The New Yorker that highlighted The Cars song "Let the Good Times Roll" pointing out that Ocasek's weirdly detached vocal delivery suggested this was someone who would watch you have a good time rather than let the good times roll himself.

As a singer and a presence, Ocasek both channelled powerful emotion and seemed to float above it, as mysteriously as the ever-present sunglasses that obscured the look in his eyes. The Cars released their self-titled d├ębut in 1978; it was an instant classic. (I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to FM radio in my home town without hearing one of its songs in a rock block.) The album’s first track, “Good Times Roll,” is a strangely dispassionate call to revelry: mid-tempo, instructing, cool, hovering aloof above the notion of good times. It begins with spare, locomotive guitar. Ocasek commands us to let the good times roll, knock us around, make us a clown, leave us up in the air—but it doesn’t sound as if he’s going to do these things. Whereas the beloved 1956 Shirley and Lee song “Let the Good Times Roll” feels like a party—an instant get-on-the-dance-floor—the Cars are doing something stranger. Rock and roll is all about good times, but the Cars aren’t going to just lob them at us: instead, Ocasek invokes them for us to engage in, then leans back to watch what we do, like some kind of good-times fetishist.

What there was to fall short of "rock" in The Cars can be read on the page with any reference to "synth".  There are a variety of rules in rock criticism that rock, whatever it is, is guitar-driven and that the more prominently the keyboard, especially a synthesizer, features in a song the less it truly rocks.  There might be exceptions that prove the rule, like "Jump" by Van Halen.  Another not quite written rule is the bigger the hair the less the rock if a keyboard riff is involved.  "The Final Countdown" by Europe comes to mind ... often ... because I hear the song on a nearly daily basis at the day job thanks to Jack FM.