Saturday, November 09, 2019

Sam Goldner describes the 2010s as the decade in which "genre collapsed"; Chris Delaurenti on the 20th century as the Age of Song; and Pliable at On an Overgrown Path points out that modern listeners have attention spans altered by contemporary patterns

Musicians have been mixing and matching styles since the dawn of pop, whether it was reggae’s fusion of R&B and calypso, psychedelic rock’s fascination with Indian ragas, British post-punk bands combining dub with disco, or mainstream pop taking influence from classic house music. But until now, audiences still typically fell into more easily categorizable demographics. There’s a longstanding history of rockists refusing to accept rap as legitimate music (or disco for that matter), in the same way that country music has historically existed on its own island that few outsiders would dare touch. While some of these lines have been more tied to race and class than people would like to admit (with labels, magazines, and radio stations targeting specific demographics), these segmented audiences have also been propped up by the simple fact that up until recently, listeners’ access to styles that might fall outside their normal wheelhouse was much more limited.
The dawn of pop isn't the dawn of music, obviously, but there could be a case that in the last ten years it has been possible to listen to styles of popular music and hear past the differences in timbre and production values to hear that the song has become the prevailing form of musical expression in commercial and artistic terms over the last century.  Chris Delaurenti mentioned something to that effect while he was writing at The Stranger way back in February 2003:
Centuries hence, when an ambitious music scholar needs a chapter heading for the 20th century, "Age of Song" will be the rubric of choice. Sure, you can tally an impressive list of our era's great symphonies, concertos, oratorios, string quartets, and so on, but those hundred or so pieces are vastly outnumbered by legions of great songs that will stand the test of time. Decade after decade, from parlor-room ditties to the blues, through jazz, swing, and every permutation of rock, great songs abound.

This is no surprise: Songs are usually easier to learn than a 20-minute piano concerto, and more likely to be performed live as well as disseminated on radio and records. Unlike a new symphony, which gets played once and disappears, songwriters stand a slight chance of making money from their art.
Songs are also a convenient springboard for improvisation. In the 1950s, great jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald sang what is now called the Great American Songbook--tunes by George and Ira Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and a dozen or so other songwriters who flowered in the first half of the 20th century.

If the music education programs have focused on articulating a conception of large-scale musical form indebted to or defined by autonomous instrumental developmental processes (i.e. large-scale forms) songs are not going to pass muster on the basis of those forms of analysis.  To invoke the kind of argument Roger Scruton has made, pop songs have no "argument" but by "argument" what is meant is generally the absence of a set of delineating and developmental procedures that transform the core gestures of a melody or its accompaniment patterns into a sonata movement.  When conservatives invoke the lack of "argument" they hear in the music of popular song they are invoking a case made by the likes of Roger Scruton that was made earlier by Theodore Adorno against popular song as having any share in musical art or serious music.

I grew up playing guitar and learning songs and singing in choirs in high school and college. The problem I have with the above range of arguments and assertions is that I think you can build a compelling case that the best songs do have an "argument".  Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" begins with a verse and chorus that are anchored in circle of fifth progressions and the bridge becomes a chain of chromatic mediants floating above a descending octatonic bass line.  There is an argument, a development of harmonic and melodic language around thirds in melodic and root movement activity within the circle-of-fifths blues section of the song and its static, pulsing tonic implied in the vamp of the verse that is finally allowed to erupt into the sublime wordless bridge. 

The "argument" is a juxtaposition of the blues of the circle-of-fifths passages with the mediant chains, the melodic and harmonic gestures are, so to speak, trapped within the harmony and tonal gravity of blues as a musical symbol of being trapped in the City, the City as a place of curse and imprisonment (hey, I've read a bit of Jacques Ellul on this topic) not just for black people but for people generally, though the song is about what black people get subjected to in the City.  That glorious bridge is where we get to hear, through the symbolism of the harmonic and melodic transformations of pentatonic patterns, what it might sound like to break free of the gravity of the blues into a realm where we are not living just enough for the city.  I heard the song when I was a teenager and it blew me away and here I am in middle-age and it still blows me away. I wrote a lot about it a few years back.  I have no problem putting "Living for the City" at the same level of artistic achievement as all of the Haydn string quartets, which I also love.  

But what Haydn accomplished in his string quartets probably needs to be "translated", translated from the idioms within which he worked into the idioms that are more accessible to the approaches of our time.  Haydn played in street bands and, as Charles Rosen put it decades ago, refined an art that was both thoroughly popular in its appeal and learned in technique, a fusion of the virtues of street song and the highest level of learned musicianship.  

What sometimes seems to have happened in the last century as what Adorno called the "culture industry" consolidated its business practices is that, as cranky commentary has put it, all of these pop songs all sound the same.  It may be that in the last ten years it has become easier for wide-listening people to hear how much songs have in common beyond the surface details of acoustic vs electric, digital vs analog, straight tone vs signal processing, and so on.  

The strength of such a moment is that we don't have to be beholden to those aspects of genre which are defined by "ontologically thick" matters such as claiming that if you have a Fender Telecaster you should only be playing country songs on it or that a banjo is only for country music and not contemporary chamber music a la Mark Sylvester.  Hmm, chamber banjo concerto?  I'm going to have to give that a listen.

The weakness of such a moment may be that the more widely we listen and the more readily we hear past the specific sounds to the forms, the distinction between what Theodore Gracyk has called "ontologically thick" and "ontologically thin" ways of listening to music or conceiving it, the more we can have Adorno's problem with popular music and light classical music, we hear the schematic, the trope beneath the surface, the cliche beneath the details.  That may be a sign that the music is bad, true, but it may also be a sign of over-consumption in listening habits, too.  

But there's another aspect of a possible downside to the song being so powerfully present in contemporary auditory imagination, which is something that comes up at An Overgrown Path
As the song has developed in cultural terms and as it has helped shape how people listen, classical music has not exactly been taught or written with an ear or a mind toward accounting for that century long shift.

For years classical music has been engaged in an obsessive search for a new audience. Yet it has singularly failed to recognise that new means fundamentally different. The most glaring example of this failure in cognition is the long-running saga of the acoustically perfect concert hall. As explained above, research shows that among the general music audience - very sadly - 'no one minds' about sound quality, and that accessibility is what really matters. Yet the the classical music establishment continues to devote huge sums to building inaccessible - public transport problems, urban crime etc - city centre concert halls with impeccable acoustics, instead of spending a fraction of the cost on taking classical masterpieces out into the provinces and into acoustically-challenged venues.

Classical's new audience must be drawn from the wider general music audience. Among the craved-for young demographic dance music is the genre of choice. Widespread exposure to EDM (electronic dance music) - it is a $7 billion global market - has dramatically rewired the sonic expectations of this market segment. Sound levels are higherlow frequencies dominate, and synchronised visuals are integral to the performance. But the classical industry still assumes that the neural circuits of its new audience were hardwired in 18th century Vienna. New technologies are still considered heretical in the concert hall, despite the invention of the ondes Martenot in 1928 and its adoption by Messiaen and others, and of the use of a synthesizer as an orchestral instrument in one of the unrecognised masterworks of the 20th century, Valentin Silvestrov's Requiem for Larissa.

It is one of many classical conundrums that electronic compositions are marginalised, while the huge new audience waiting on its doorstep listens to nothing but electronic music. Classical music's duplicitous attitude towards electronic music is shown by coverage of the award of the Giga Hertz Grand Prize to √Čliane Radigue. Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc has been adopted by the classical music community as its 'go to' online resource. When covering the award Lebrecht piously lamented that it may represent "an epitaph for mid-20th century experimentalism". Yet a search of Slipped Disc reveals that √Čliane Radigue had never previously been mentioned on the website. Presumably mid-20th century experimentalism died because it is not good click bait.

But some brave souls have tried to bridge the culture gap. Dutch composer Jurriaan Andriessen (1925-1996), who was brother of the better-known Louis Andriessen, studied in Paris with Olivier Messiaen and in the USA with Serge Koussevitsky and Aaron Copland. Although best know for his compositions for conventional orchestral forces - he composed for state ceremonies including the coronation of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and wrote the score for the Oscar winning film “The Assault” (1986) - Jurriaan Andriessen recorded three synthesizer albums in the late 1970s and the artwork for these provides the illustrations for my post.

My personal route to classical enlightenment was via 1960s/70s prog rock, and it puzzles me why today classical music does not make more effort to reach out to the progressive non-classical audience. This, of course, does not mean dumbing down the classical masterworks, so no Beethoven Nine with added synthesizer. However a recent post discussed the difficulty of finding music to preface that symphony. So how about Beethoven's Ninth prefaced in the first half with Steve Roach's essay in electronica Truth & Beauty? Or Pictures at an Exhibition paired with Brian Eno's 77 Million Paintings, and Mahler's Sixth Symphony following J. Peter Schwalm's The Beauty of Disaster?

I, too, got into prog rock and one of the things I noticed about prog rock was that for all I found to admire about the music it is ghastly to a lot of people steeped in more popular and mainstream song.  

All the way back in 2006 I published "Calm blue oceans and thunderstorms".  The essay, I think, I really wrote somewhere as far back as 2001 or 2002.  The gist of the essay was like an observation Haydn made about some of his contemporaries, that there were composers who wrote music that had plenty of good hooks, indeed a surfeit of ideas that were drowned from being memorable by a surfeit of organizing techniques.  Prog rock could be likened to those symphonies in Haydn's time that had more hooks than was good for them being remembered not just in our century but in Haydn's own lifetime.  That keeps on happening.  I'm reminded of nights where I'd head home from a symphony concert and would realize that even on the bus ride home I couldn't even remember the themes of the new piece that had been premiered.  The only world premiere I heard played in Seattle in the last twenty years at the symphony that I remembered clearly after I had heard it once was the Samuel Jones Tuba Concerto.  I haven't been able to make to the symphony so much and my priorities are more with guitar music but I trust my point has been made, there have always been musical works that are enjoyable enough while you're listening to them that don't stick with you.

When I hear songs on the radio I would say much of the time the hooks are played to death and over-exposed without being transformed in some way.

There are all kinds of things that can be done about that.

To piggyback off of Pliable's riff, how about a William Grant Still symphony and a Stevie Wonder song?  Let's drop Mahler altogether, no offense meant to Mahler fans, although the Sixth is alright.  I might go for Hindemith's Mathis der Maler (symphonic suite, which I love) with Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige.

But, really, it wouldn't be that difficult to take Monk themes and instead of doing some jazz medley someone could compose a sonata movement using those themes.  Not to run amok of copyright, obviously, but the argument I've been making very slowly, at a glacial pace, at this blog in the last few years is that in terms of techniques of large-scale gestural transformation anyone should be able to take a classic jazz standard by Monk or Ellington or Coltrane and create a sonata from that.  Do some kind of Charles ives style cumulative form fugue based on something derived from a Monk theme and then have it culminate in a presentation of the Monk theme but only after you did something like taking the inversion of "Let's Cool One" and making a fugue of that, for instance.  

Back in college someone I knew proposed that a sonata could be like a verse and a chorus and a verse and a chorus and a bridge and so on.  Sort of ... at a macrostructural level, in terms of proportions, I agree ... but the problem is that the Scrutons of the world will point out there is a lack of "argument".  The verse is rarely in a key contrasting with the chorus and the formal resolutions that occur in a recapitulation don't happen in a verse-chorus after the bridge.  But ... if we rethink that, if we propose that a sonata could be made by having a verse-chorus as theme 1 and a bridge as theme 2 then that could lend itself to being worked out in terms of a sonata form pretty readily. In 2013 I was mulling over the idea that what is important in a sonata form is not so much that theme 1 and theme 2 are actually different in terms of core melodic content as they are given thematic differentiation.  This could be something as simple as changing the accompaniment patterns or harmonic support or the mode of a theme, or all of those, without changing the actual melodic contour itself.  

The more I have thought about these things over the course of twenty years the more I think that there is an even clearer way to bridge the gap between sonata forms and popular songs than trying to shoehorn pop song structures into the schematics of sonata.  That hasn't yielded much but ... let's say we decided to rework ragtime pieces into sonata forms.  That's easy to imagine.  How easy?  Let me show you.  This is something old at the blog you can see after the break. ...

Friday, November 08, 2019

Psalm 51 as rewritten by the PR team of an early 21st century megachurch pastor who may have been found disqualified, for a season

Have mercy on my celebrity, O God
according to the anointing people say I have,
according to the incredible gifting of my media presence
let everyone forget things that I said on the record
and still more everything that got leaked to the press!

For unfortunate decisions were made
and harmful words were spoken
despite the ever present words of wise counsel
and contracts with non-disclosure and non-compete clauses!
Against my own celebrity have I faltered
and said and done things that can't be swept into some memory hole.
Surely this was a weakness that has been a long time coming to light,
but which I hoped would not get me declared disqualified.
I had hoped for purity of branding
and shortness of public memory.

Clean up my reputation and it will look clean.
Wash it and it will look whiter than snow.
Let me retain ownership of my intellectual property
and move on to the next business opportunity.
Let the podcasts that may have made me sound bad be forgotten
and let everyone forget all of my sins!

Create for me a pure brand, PR
and create a new image for me.
Cast me not away from the public sphere
take not away from me celebrity!
Restore to me the power of my brand
and give me a new and bigger audience.

Then I will tell people I have repented
so that people may believe that I have.
Deliver me from a bad conscious, God, if I ever had it
and I will say that it has been all grace.
Give me a platform and I will surely use it
to tell people about you if you will still let me!

You do not delight in nobodies
but desire a powerfully gifted public speaker
who knows how to proof-text
(without necessarily knowing Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic or those other languages).
People want dynamic and talented and preferably also telegenic communicators
and, somehow, I nailed all three!

May my brand always prosper
and may it go on for generations.
Then I can rest secure knowing that my legacy is ... secure
for me ... and to whomever I choose to pass it on to.


James MacDonald issues statement regarding statement of disqualification issued by HBC regarding him and ministry

[adding excerpt from HBC statement for background 11-9-2019]
On February 12, 2019, James MacDonald’s employment was terminated by our Elder board as our Senior Pastor for not being “above reproach” and for having a “sinful pattern of inappropriate language, anger, and domineering behavior.” Since then, there was a full transition to the new Elder board. The Walk in the Word donor list was also informed about the termination of James’ employment and that Harvest was closing the Walk in the Word website and no longer accepting donations.

You may be wondering why we are coming to you now, months after James’ dismissal.  As we spent time with the congregation and visited all of our campuses, it became clear that there was confusion over the previous statements about our former Senior Pastor.  We are here today to provide clarity to our church family and also to those who listened to and supported Walk in the Word, a ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel.  We understand the seriousness of these spiritual matters and desire to be wise and discerning as we seek the Lord to guide us through the Scriptures.

1 Timothy 5:19-20 says, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”

In accordance with this passage, over the past several months we have been investigating the charges against our former Senior Pastor. 1 Timothy 5 is the guiding passage for this circumstance because James was an Elder of Harvest Bible Chapel. We have interviewed and documented first-hand evidence of these accusations seeking to validate or refute them. In this investigation, you can be assured of these three things: (1) We have only considered accusations that included two or three witnesses. In fact, all that is covered in this letter includes many more witnesses than the biblical requisite of two or three. (2) We have only considered evidence from first-hand witnesses. (3) We have listened to these witnesses in groups of two interviewers in order to protect us from an individual opinion swaying the outcome.

These accusations address James’ qualifications to be an Elder or Pastor in the church. The results of this investigation have led us to conclude that James had a substantial pattern of sinful behavior in the following areas:
  1. Above Reproach (Titus 1:6) – To be above reproach is to have a reputation of being blameless and honorable. The accusations against James are of great quantity and continue to be brought forward. His character should have been such that this magnitude of accusations would not have been believable. But sadly, James’ reputation does not defend his character. Instead, his reputation affirms many of the accusations against him as plausible.
  2. Respectable (1 Tim. 3:2) – The antithesis of being respectable is to be disruptive. We found that James had a pattern of being disruptive in public and private settings at the expense of other people’s well-being.
  3. Upright (Titus 1:8) – We found that James failed to meet the standard of dealing with others fairly and honorably. At times, he misrepresented gifts paid for by the church as gifts from him personally.
  4. Not Arrogant or Violent (Titus 1:7) – James’ behavior and language indicated that he thought of himself more highly than he should as evidenced by his pattern of insulting, belittling, and verbally bullying others.
  5. Not Quick-Tempered or Quarrelsome (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:3) –We found James had a pattern of quickly becoming angry, manifesting itself in unmerited force and frequency. James’ behavior was that of a combative person who insisted on his own ways and failed to cultivate peace.
  6. Not Domineering (1 Peter 5:3) –We found that James had a pattern of improperly exercising positional and spiritual authority over others to his own advantage.
  7. Not Greedy for Gain or A Lover of Money (Titus 1:7;1 Tim. 3:3) –We found that James made repeated efforts to profit himself beyond what was honorable. There was a pattern of extravagant spending utilizing church resources resulting in personal benefit.
  8. Disciplined (Titus 1:8) – James failed to keep his emotions under control. The failure is not in the dynamic range of his personality, but in the lack of self-discipline, which an Elder should display in a bridled tongue and sound speech.
  9. Self-Controlled and Sober-Minded (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:2) –We found that James had a pattern of acting on sudden impulses with insufficient deference to wise but differing views. In some of the most crucial moments where James needed to be calm and cautiously wise, he was hasty and reckless.
Because of these findings, James was biblically disqualified from the position of Elder, meaning he did not meet the spiritual standards to which a Harvest Bible Chapel Elder is held. The Bible does not teach that disqualification from ministry is permanent; however, with the scope of the damage caused by his behavior, James will not be able to serve again as an Elder or Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel.

We believe James could be restored to ministry someday, but in order for that day to come, the fruits of repentance must be evident. Based on Harvest Bible Chapel’s interpretation of the scripture, we have not yet seen evidence of this. There is much potential for God to be glorified through him in the coming years, and our hope is to witness that someday.
[originally published post starts here]
My Repentance
I was, am, and will remain very sorry for the careless and hurtful words that were illegally recorded and publicized. I immediately sent written apologies where appropriate, grieving what it revealed about the state of my heart at the time, as well as the hurt caused to those who trusted us to be a more consistent example of Christlikeness. I have no excuse and am truly sorry.

As part of this, I have come to see my sin of handling pressure in a way that got things done, but neglected the priority of love and the presiding humility of serving others first. Letters have been sent to those the Holy Spirit has brought to mind, owning what is true without reference to what is false. We are looking to the Lord to keep my focus here as long as it takes in hopes of reconciliation with every willing heart.
Decisions by the current Elder/staff, along with inaccurate announcements and recent public condemnation, signaled clearly the timing to communicate our message directly. With sadness we accept that no face-to-face confession or truth-advancing interaction will be forthcoming.

That first quoted paragraph is striking.  "I was, am, and will remain very sorry for the careless and hurtful words that were illegally recorded and publicized." is constructed in such a way that it's possible to misread it as MacDonald being sorry that the things he said were recorded and publicized and that illegally.  Was the alleged illegality of the recording and subsequent publication what he is sorry for?  Or is it the substance of what he said, the recording and publication of which highlighted that he said what he is now sorry for.  Had the publicized words been officially on the record would he be sorry for them?  This reads like a James MacDonald moment of being sorry that careless and hurtful words were illegally recorded and publicized more than that he ever said the words.

I saw variations of this kind of thing inside of Mars Hill, something along the lines of "I'm sorry that the words I said upset and offended you."  The parallel is inexact, as parallels go, but the opening paragraph would read as a more direct confession if someone was sorry that he said the words, full stop, and didn't immediately proceed to express regret that his words were recorded (allegedly illegally) and publicized.

The second quoted paragraph has a pronoun shift from "I" to "we" that is apparently a reference of some kind to James MacDonald that transforms into the "we" of James and Kathy MacDonald but without necessarily being clear as to why she needed to or felt obliged to be involved in sending letters.  Actually, "Letters have been sent to those the Holy Spirit has brought to mind ... " doesn't even specific which of the two, if either of them, sent letters.  Since no one's mind is mentioned in particular and the paragraph shifts form "I" to "we" the alluded to sentence floats in a kind of limbo in which there is no subject--surely that collection of words is an exemplar of the passive voice

The third quoted paragraph states that decisions by the current elder/staff ... signaled clearly the etiming to communicate a message directly.  "Our" not "my".  Does a man like James MacDonald have to write a "My Repentance" as a document that consistently drags his wife into the repentance?  One flesh, I suppose, but in the neo-Calvinist Acts 29 Gospel Coalition style orbit that Mark Driscoll used to be part of there was this axiom I heard that "headship means it's your responsibility even if it's not your fault" but that applied to the dudes, not their wives.

MacDonald has a "My Repentance" but it read as if he's dragging his wife into stuff that he seems singularly to have said and done.    It also reads as if the public statement from HBC leadership that they regard him as currently disqualified from being in ministry is a public statement that inspired a reaction.  If those letters got sent surely someone could have verified that they received letters.

Had the penitential psalms been written in comparably thorough-going passive voice expressions of sentiments bereft of subject how many of us would have memorized Psalm 51?


Something that could be easy to forget (or not known in 2019) is that when Sutton Turner wrote about his role in Mars Hill Church using Result Source to rig a #1 spot for Real Marriage on the New York Times bestseller list he mentioned that when the thing became known in the news there was a split in the MHC BOAA over whether to scapegoat him alone for the project being taken up.
Posted by Sutton Turner on April 24, 2015
When the criticism of Mars Hill Global began in the Spring of 2014, I wanted to communicate about what happened with Global, its history, the financials, and my mistakes. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to discuss these things just as I was not permitted to discuss the ResultSource situation in the detail that I felt it deserved. There was actually a division on the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) as some men wanted to put all the blame for both Global and ResultSource on me, but I am thankful for men who did not allow that. [emphasis added]

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

After the first blogs were published, many people asked me, “Are you stabbing Pastor Mark, Pastor Dave, Mars Hill and … in the back?”

Since leaving Mars Hill in September, I have been in frequent contact with Pastor Dave Bruskas, Matt Rogers, and other pastors with whom I directly served, board members with whom I served, and many other top leaders with whom I have served shoulder-to-shoulder while at Mars Hill. Many of these men remained at Mars Hill after my resignation and some still faithfully remain at Mars Hill selling assets and closing the organization. Our ongoing contact has been as friends, not in any managerial or oversight context with regards to Mars Hill—I’m thankful that Jesus has allowed our friendships to extend leaps and bounds beyond that. We are family in Christ.

Turner didn't say who among the BOAA wanted to put all of the blame for both Mars Hill Global and ResultSource on Sutton Turner but this is a case in which MacDonald having been on the BOAA at the times means that, though we can't be certain he was on one side or the other we can't be certain he wasn't.

If MacDonald and associates would clarify that Turner's account of a split in the MHC BOAA is accurate or not that could in itself be clarifying.  There are a lot of things about the late stages of Mars Hill that have remained a bit opaque.  People sometimes raise questions as to what happened to all the real estate, who got the intellectual property, things like that.  The aftermath of the late Mars Hill Church has left enough of an effect in the Puget Sound area I sometimes still, five years later, come across people from that scene who have questions and questions that I consider pretty fair questions to ask and get answers to.  MacDonald was on the BOAA at the time ResultSource became news and whether he was for or against Turner being designated the sole scapegoat for Mars Hill Global and ResultSource, if it's possible to know that, could be relevant to MacDonald's recent public statement that he's got some flaws but he is, implicitly, someone who should still be in ministry.

If Sutton Turner, who was an executive elder and on the BOAA, was able to say things for the record in 2015 then couldn't other MHC BOAA members say something, too?  If not, why not?

Thursday, November 07, 2019

as Mark Driscoll's (and Grace's) new book Win Your War is out, there are apparently two Amazon pages with Win Your War as a stand-alone book

Perhaps it's symbolic of Mark Driscoll consolidating book sales to a new target audience but the Driscoll whose Amazon page features a lot of familiar titles

doesn't (yet) include Win Your War, which shows up for a "Mark Driscoll" not necessarily connected to the Mark Driscoll who published books prior to this year.

He's rewriting the Doctrine book so perhaps that will also show up with the new page and the new look.

We're sitting on Win Your War until probably 2020 because, honestly, there are far more fun things to read about and listen to at this point.  However, in passing and in brief it's interesting to consider the "tribal chiefs" passages of A Call to Resurgence in light of Driscoll's post-Mars Hill resignation changing of teams.  He may want people to believe that Time dubbed him a "thought leader" of the young, restless Reformed but it was in A Call to Resurgence where Driscoll himself identified himself as in the Reformed tribe with a continuationist position on pneumatology and being connected to the complementarian/Reformed/continuationist Acts 29 Network.  For Driscoll to imply that some kind of liberal media outlet described him as a thought leader in the young, restless Reformed movement as if that was what "they" said about him and not what he said about himself seems dodgy. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

John W Troutman's "Steelin’ the Slide: Hawai‘i and the Birth of the Blues Guitar" tracing the evolution of slide guitar from Hawaiian native players through to their tours in the South where they influenced early blues musicians

John W Troutman makes a case that, popular though the account is that slide guitar in the Delta blues tradition has ties back to African monochord zithers or didley bow instruments has been, it's more plausible to argue that a difussion of the Hawaiian Native traditions of guitar music saturated the American South more rapidly and widely than previously imagined.

One of the things I've been mulling over as I've tackled mastering bottleneck technique and have been reading about the history of Native American music is noticing that there are descriptions of microtonal differences in pitch; conspicuous use of glissandi connecting notes, indefinite pitches, rhythmic flexibility and that these are all aspects of Native American song that, were one to set out to replicate those effects on an instrument, "could" be duplicated on European string instruments but could far more easily be replicated on an open chord tuned guitar which ...

in case you hadn't already guessed it, is pretty much how the Hawaiian pedal-steel tradition evolved, to keep things short for a mid-week blog post. 

The more I read the more I'm persuaded that we have Joseph Kekuku specifically to thank for the innovation of slide guitar in the bottleneck and pedal steel traditions.  It also does not just so happen that the history of the pedal steel tradition of guitar playing is a specialty of Troutman's.

It could be easy to go through life and not realize that Kekuku was about 23 years old when Johannes Brahms died.  Kekuku's method of guitar playing took seven years to master but by the dawn of the 20th century was situated to become immensely popular in the United States and elsewhere.  This style of guitar playing was presented in California performances as far back as 1906. 

Troutman proposes that while there is no evidence from interviews with early blues musicians to the effect that they drew upon didley boy traditions of playing there is evidence they regarded bottleneck playing as a style drawn from Hawaiian playing customs, bottleneck style guitar playing being introduced into recordings in the 1920s.  Of interest is Troutman's reference to recollections by Son House that his father's generation played guitar in standard tuning and not in the open chord tunings necessary for slide playing.  Troutman highlights that even when pressed by an interviewer to describe slide guitar as deriving from some more ancient tradition Son House described it as a modern and popular style and a specifically Hawaiian style of playing guitar he'd picked up. 

Troutman's thesis, that black musicians in the South picked up slide guitar techniques and sounds from Hawaiian musicians touring the South, reminds me of a case that has been made by Dale Cockrell that miscegnation, musical and cultural, was significantly more common in the lowest strata than in the middle and upper classes.  To put it bluntly, poor people at the bottom rungs of society were more likely to be able to and also have no choice but to interact with each other on a regular basis in ways that the better-heeled could avoid.  The sharp edge of Cockrell's point is that whites, blacks and other people of color groups were interacting in the underground scene for generations but were not considered respectable or orderly enough to make it into the public record except by way of court cases.  This is the short version of a case he's made in Demons of Disorder and Everybody's Doin' It.  Myths and histories regarding blues may have had it that slide guitar either evolved separately from Hawaiian guitar traditions by way of some lineage to central and west African music but, as Troutman argues in his work, there's no evidence that this was the case and, contrary that, there are interviews from early, formative blues players in which they shared that they took up what they called a Hawaiian style of playing guitar. 

All of that gets to a point I've circled around at this blog for a few years, that American cultural histories an be so literally and figuratively black and white on things like popular music and concert music that substantial contributions from other groups can get sidelined.  I've only learned about Troutman's work this week but as a guitarist who appreciates the challenges of slide guitar and has been interested in reading about how that tradition of playing developed I'm planning to read more of Troutman's work.

As it applies to classical guitar music, which is something I've written a fair amount about over the years, the antiquity of bottleneck technique going back possibly as far as the late nineteenth century, suggests to me that classical guitarists who take the prospect of complete mastery of the instrument seriously, should learn to play some bottleneck pieces.  And the part of me that's got a half Northwest Native and half white lineage thoroughly steeped in the West Coast, it's encouraging to see a scholar highlight some musical history in which "everything" in American music doesn't necessarily always tie back to the South, the New England area or the usual places in American popular musical history.  We couldn't have the music we have today in the United States without the significant contribution of Hawaiian natives playing the six string. 

Monday, November 04, 2019

Julie Roys: Elders at Harvest Formally Disqualify James MacDonald From Ministry (i.e. former MHC BoAA member James MacDonald)

James MacDonald has been declared formally disqualified from serving in pastoral ministry on the basis of findings with regard to his conduct and character. 

We've looked at Roys' coverage of James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel in the past.

Here in 2019 it can seem that a few of the people who endorsed Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage back in 2012 landed themselves in some controversy.

MacDonald is the highest profile recent example but Bob Coy, Perry Noble, Les & Leslie Parrott and Darrin Patrick all had varying levels of controversy.  What makes the MacDonald situation unique is simply that the HBC board has issued a public statement declaring that he is currently not considered by them to be qualified to work in continuing ministry.

This blog having more of a history of dealing with things Mars Hill this isn't the venue for advocates for JM or HBC to comment and expect that to make it out of moderation. 

That MacDonald was with Mark Driscoll when he decided to crash The Strange Fire conference has been easily established.

That other party-crashers with Driscoll included Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner along with James MacDonald seemed, to me, to establish that Paul Tripp was correct when he assessed that the BoAA was incapable of doing what it was expected to do, keep Mark Driscoll accountable.  In light of subsequent discoveries and coverage about MacDonald's conduct, termination, and the recent announcement from HBC that he is not regarded as qualified to be in ministry right now, this is something that should be kept in mind in light of Mark Driscoll's repudiation of the Calvinist TULIP and his claim that the young, restless Reformed guys are little boys with father wounds who prefer big brother figures and don't want to be accountable to father figures.  In light of James MacDonald's conduct and role on the MHC BoAA it might be fair to ask whether Mark Driscoll has avoided even "older brother" figures for accountability.  As noted earlier, Darren Patrick was born a month after Mark Driscoll, he of whom Driscoll once said "He's my pastor, you know?"  As for Jamie Munson, the at one time legal president of Mars Hill from 2007 to 2011, Driscoll was formally subordinate to Munson as president but the nickname "Mini-Mark" was not without cause.  Munson could be regarded as another case in which Mark Driscoll had men on a board to which he was said to be accountable that featured people who were arguably "little brother" figures rather than "older brother" figures. 

There was a kind of father figure pastor in the early Driscoll public career, David Nicholas.

How do you do this over such long distance?

Driscoll: We talk all the time. David is my pastor.[emphasis added] He prays for me. He invests in me. He doesn't tell me what to do, but when he sees things in my character or theology that need to be challenged, he speaks to that very directly. I desperately need that. I tend to be stubborn and aggressive. I need someone strong speaking into my life, saying, "Think about this." But it has to be predicated on friendship and love.

But what happened to that relationship is anybody's guess.  The possibility that what Mark Driscoll has called accountability might be a formality or involve a set of relationships in which the people to whom he says he's accountable are people that under a variety of circumstances would be, in his historic pattern of teaching, people who would have to submit to him is something that's been discussed here in the past.  For sake of review.

MacDonald, of course, resigned from the MHC BoAA about the same time Paul Tripp, though providing a drastically different rationale for resignation.  Where Tripp declared the MHC BoAA was incapable of accomplishing its purpose, MacDonald said he was so confident in Pastor Mark's goodwill he saw no reason to continue being on the MHC BoAA. 


Dr. Paul Tripp joined our Board of Advisors and Accountability in November 2013 and has been an immense help to our leaders over the past year. Dr. Tripp has extensive experience in discipleship and biblical counseling. Earlier this month, we made the decision together to open the opportunity for him to work with greater focus on issues directly related to his expertise, namely the continued development of our community and redemption ministries. Because simultaneously being a board member and a consultant does not allow for the required definition of independence, Dr. Tripp graciously submitted his resignation from the BOAA in early June so that he can more extensively serve our church as a consultant. We are excited to continue this work with him, and are thankful for his continued support of Mars Hill Church.
Similarly, Pastor James MacDonald informed the board at the July meeting of his decision to transition from his current role on the board pending his replacement. Pastor James has been a great help in forming the current board’s direction, and we are very grateful for his time and wisdom over the last several years. He said about this transition, “I have great love and affection for Mars Hill Church and I want to make clear this change is not because I am unhappy with Mark’s response to board accountability. On the contrary, I have found him to be exemplary in his current readiness to live under the BOAA oversight. I am not resigning because I doubt Mark’s sincerity in any way. I believe in Mark Driscoll and his heart to leverage difficult lessons [emphases added] in service to Christ and his church in the years ahead. I am excited to continue to support that trajectory as Mark’s friend, as I focus my efforts on Harvest Bible Fellowship.” [emphases added]
Considering these transitions, Pastor Mark shared, “I am thankful for the service of both Paul and James, two men I admire and respect. Their service on our board has been a blessing to me and Mars Hill Church in countless ways. The amount of hours they have given as volunteers is extraordinary, especially in light of their other ministry demands.” Candidates are currently being interviewed to replace these open board positions. They will be submitted before the Full Council of Elders for their approval as soon as possible.

A couple of months later Driscoll resigned to the stated surprise of the BoAA, a matter that former BoAA member Larry Osborne could potentially address now if willing to field questions on the topic of Mark Driscoll's resignation.

That MacDonald has been found unfit to currently serve in ministry probably should be kept in mind in assessing the nature of Mark Driscoll's resignation in late 2014.  MacDonald, after all, was not necessarily involved in the investigation that Driscoll said was made and if he wasn't then on what basis could MacDonald be confident that Driscoll would or could not be found unfit to continue in pastoral ministry without some kind of restoration plan? 

Joseph Horowitz responds to Anne Midgette's assessment of a Lakota Music Project performance

I tend to not read WaPo a ton but I sometimes read Horowitz' blog, so I saw this.

in response to this.

Midgette thought it was unfortunate so much of the concert was music by white guys depicting Native Americans via music rather than music by Native Americans.  Specifically, Arthur Farwell came up, a composer whose work Horowitz has been discussing at his blog this year alongside Harry Burleigh and questions as to the extent to which Porgy in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess can be considered a stereotype.

The general theme I'm reading in his blogging and writing for magazines is that Horowitz is reassessing and urging us to reappraise composers who have been either neglected or regarded as in some way lightweight by serious music writers writing about serious music. 

Farwell, a white man who adapted and drew inspiration from Native American music and who was one of the key figures in a mainly forgotten Indianist movement, is probably a hard sell in the early twenty-first century because his work can be and has been regarded as cultural appropriation.  A comparable range of criticisms don't seem to have been leveled at Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Hiawatha cantatas even though the British-African composer's choral works could be construed as a double whammy of cultural appropriation for the sake of orientalism in an arch-European style and for drawing upon the poem of Longfellow, which is about an American Indian who is a fabrication for poetic effects.  Now to actually dismiss Coleridge-Taylor's cantata cycle on such grounds seems like too blunt and lazy an ideological move to me and I've got Native American ancestry by way of my dad.  The thing is, Arthur Farwell is in some ways easier to level these kinds of criticisms against because he was a white guy, so it may simply be easier to blame the white guy for cultural appropriation than the black guy for cultural appropriation because the Longfellow poem is pure fantasy whereas Farwell adapted Native American songs into his works.  That might be a bit ironic but so it seems to be.

Yet the thing that Midgette doesn't mention that I think is worth mentioning is that before we get too set on insisting what is and isn't Native American, Native musicians and composers have pointed out that there isn't really a generic "Indian" sound.  For that matter, the first published musical work using Western notation by a Native American we have on record is Indian Melodies by Thomas Commuck, a shape-note hymnal with songs suitable for use in the Methodist Episcopal church, of which Commuck was a member.  If you were to hear one of the hymns from Commuck's shape-note hymnal you might think you were listening to something that didn't sound like American Indian/Native American music at all.  Several of Commuck's melodies, which he described as either original compositions or melodies drawn from tribal practices, can sound like they would fit snugly into the inner movements of a Haydn string quartet.  I'm thinking of the melodies "Quapaw" and "Pequot" in particular.  "Menominie" is a melody that sounds like it would be part of a variation movement in a Haydn-era string quartet. 

A good number of the tribe we know of now as the Nez Perce converted to Christianity through the missionary efforts of some Presbyterians.  A good number of Alaskan Native people are Eastern Orthodox.  If people harbor ideas that Native Americans should subscribe to some kind of not-Christianity religious beliefs would the Christian hymns of Commuck have to be set aside?  Not really, not right now, because only specialists in Native American music would even know who Thomas Commuck is. 

I've been listening to some of Arthur Farwell's music and it's not bad.  It might not be "brilliant" and maybe it's a bit on the shlocky side for post-Stravinsky tastes but the Polytonal Studies are intriguing to me.  Farwell did more than write music as part of an Indianist movement and perhaps advocacy on behalf of his music may be hamstrung here in 2019 if his work is defined strictly through his association with the Indianist movement.

Horowitz overplays things a bit with the title "America's Forbidden Composer".  Farwell's not forbidden but I get the point being made that people on Twitter could declare Farwell's work should never be played because a white guy presuming to depict Native American people and life shouldn't be given a platform, which gets me back to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Hiawatha cantata cycle.  Are we then supposed to ban the performances of a British-African composer's most famous works because he used a Longfellow poem about an imaginary American Indian? 

Horowitz mentioned, "The only present-day Native-American Farwell authority of whom I am aware is the pianist Lisa Cheryl Thomas, who admires and performs him."  It's Thomas' recordings I've been listening to and, so far, I'm enjoying the recordings.  

One of the troubles with a review like Midgette's, and I'm going to just put my cards on the table as someone whose dad was Native American and whose mother is white, in popular level journalism and music writing it can be perilously easy to forget that some Native American tribes have had extensive histories of inter-tribal and inter-racial marriage.  Alexandra Harmon has written in Indians in the Making of how many of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest favored such marriages as part of diplomatic and political life.  David Treuer and others have written about how Native Americans who didn't accept or comply with policies involving land, relocation and reservation creation ended up not being regarded as really Indians by the federal government even if they could establish tribal lineage.  For that matter, Treuer wrote in The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee how contemporary tribes in some cases disenroll members with blood quantum bona fides as part of land consolidation activities.  

In other words, a white music journalist wishing that there was more non-white music in a concert dealing with Native American themes is not hugely surprising but the actual history of Native American clans, tribes and nations is not really something that can be distilled down to a generic set of identifiers.  There are more Calvinist Native American descended people out there than you might expect, for instance, from depictions in the arts and entertainment industries.  

Now I've been making this point over and over again at this blog but Americans in music and musicology in the concert music traditions have been bristling, and frankly with cause, at what they feel can be a hegemonic influence of the German musical legacy.  This was something that Arthur Farwell was pretty plainspoken about, which Sudip Bose discussed recently in an article at The American Scholar:

...Through this fledgling enterprise, Farwell published his first major work in 1901: the American Indian Melodies, 10 piano pieces drawn almost completely from source material in Fletcher’s book. Over the years, Farwell would reimagine the pieces in different guises, scoring three for baritone and piano in 1908. One of these, The Old Man’s Love Song, which evokes both the sunrise and the soft autumnal glow of a tribal elder’s final years, he set again in 1937, this time for eight-part mixed chorus. In the hauntingly beautiful version for baritone and piano, the singer declaims his lines boldly, as if in defiance of the passage of time, yet he also delivers more pensive phrases, which sound like nostalgic sighs, or rays of dying sunlight. Conjuring up sensations of wistfulness and loss, The Old Man’s Love Song is steeped in a languid atmosphere enhanced by the chromatic harmonic writing in the piano part, which is reminiscent at times of Wagner. I find this stylistic tension to be telling, given Farwell’s feelings about the pervasiveness of Germanic influences on American composers at the time. Since “our national musical education, both public and private, is almost wholly German,” he wrote,
we inevitably, and yet unwittingly, see everything through German glasses. … Therefore the first correction we must bring to our musical vision is to cease to see everything through German spectacles, however wonderful, however sublime those spectacles may be in themselves!
On the evidence of his early work, Farwell may have wished to cast off his German models, but he could not yet forget the alluring harmonies of Parsifal and Tristan. 
Bose concludes with the following:
It’s a tricky thing—trying to come to terms with Farwell in our time. His perceived flaws provide detractors with enough justification to reject him out of hand. To them, it doesn’t matter what his music sounds like, or what part it played in the evolution of classical music in the United States. To them, Farwell is simply a white man who made a living at the expense of marginalized peoples. This, I believe, not only misrepresents the composer and his intentions, but it also uses the politics of our current moment to form loose judgments about a very distant time. We could easily continue an argument that raged in various forms for much of the 20th century, about the universality of art and its power to transcend politics. But I would also like to assert that Farwell, despite his keenest ethnographic instincts, was not an ethnographer. His principal aim was not to document Native music, and certainly not to compose it. Rather, he was writing classical music—an anti-modernist classical music, rooted in diatonic harmony and sonata form, that he felt best represented America.
Listen to The Old Man’s Love Song, or Inketunga’s Thunder Song, or any number of Farwell’s piano pieces. Seek out his post-Indianist pieces, too, the late Piano Quintet, for example, and especially The Gods of the Mountain. Reject this music, if you wish, for aesthetic reasons. But to cancel him on extra-musical grounds is, at best, to willfully ignore a pertinent chapter in American musical history and, at worst, to give in to the basest kind of anti-democratic impulse. Whether or not Farwell had the right to use the melodies that made up a portion of his work is a valid question, but it by no means should be the only one. 
Although the core criticism could be taken as being that not enough Native Americans were participating in the concert Horowitz was part of, his response seems to be dealing with the question of Farwell's reception history.  That makes sense in terms of what I've seen him writing about with respect to Burleigh and Gershwin, for instance, but Midgette's comments about the plethora of white people talking about Native American anything may have been a matter of what people call the "optics" of the situation.

But then ... since I'm being a bit of a gentle gadfly here, had it not been for Ida Halpern recording the traditional songs of the Nootka, for instance, those songs would have been lost completely.  At some point, particularly in any academic context, the reality that preserving Native American cultural practices has at various times involved white people is hard to escape.  

Now someone might decide that Farwell's music is too vaguely impressionist to differ from a Debussy or that Farwell is going to remain a marginal musical figure, just as someone might decide that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, as immensely talented as he was, was too indebted to a basically late Victorian choral style modeled on Charles Stanford to seem "real" to American audiences either in terms of sounding like what we're told black music is supposed to sound like by American music journalists and academics or by those who would argue that non-Native people should not be making multi-hour cantata cycles on an imaginary Indian in a poem invented by Henry Longfellow.  But as Rose has pointed out, to do so is to judge artists and writers of the past on the basis of criteria for purity in use in our own age.  The question that I have not seen brought up yet is the matter of cultural appropriation between Arthur Farwell's use of melodies and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's use of Longfellow.   The latter composer was hardly the only, let alone first, person to draw on Longfellow's imagined Hiawatha for musical inspiration.  

If Horowitz wanted to play hardball he could point out that the kinds of arguments made against giving Arthur Farwell any kind of hearing on the basis of cultural appropriation or the presentation of a false sense of Native American life could be even more trenchantly leveled at the African British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor for writing three cantatas on Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha.  Horowitz could even ask whether or not the white American composer has been held to a more stringent standard than the black British composer has been in attempts to revive and reassess their respective bodies of musical work.   Of course there are a lot of reasons to not want to play hardball but I'm mentioning all of this because if people are behaving on Twitter as I suspect they might be, the complexities of a Farwell or a Coleridge-Taylor in writing music inspired by the songs of American Indians real and imagined are probably not best served or studied on Twitter to begin with.