Tuesday, December 01, 2020
Saturday, November 21, 2020
On an Overgrown Path, The Music Salon, and recent blog posts on the scam of "big break" label deals for classical and an admission by Norman Lebrecht he chucks a lot of those solo recital releases ...
Okay, so I am technically trying to take a vacation from blogging to stockpile writing for future projects but I still read blogs and news online ... and between On an Overgrown Path and The Music Salon blogs some stuff has jumped out at me that cross references with other stuff I've been reading this last week. I'll start with pliable's post.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
considering a little vacation from blogging, some long-incubating writing projects probably work better by being offline for a while, some guesses at directions for 2021 if this "vacation" takes.
It's not that I run out of material, exactly. I still want to blog about the Wenzel Matiegka Op. 31 guitar sonatas; the Dusan Bogdanovic guitar sonatas; the Atanas Ourkouzounov guitar sonatas; the Ferdinand Rebay guitar sonatas; Nikita Koshkin's two big sonatas for guitar solo; the magnificent solo guitar sonatas of Angelo Gilardino; German Dzhaparidze's 24 preludes and fugues cycle for solo guitar ... but that's twenty-seven solo guitar sonatas and an entire cycle of preludes and fugues (I haven't ruled out Rekhin altogether but, alas, literally no one has seen to it to record that entire cycle whereas literally all the other works I've mentioned have been or are likely be recorded.
And then there's this ...
Justin Dean has shared more on the record about his Mars Hill years and there's stuff in the Bad Christian podcast that is of interest to anyone chronicling the history of the late Mars Hill. The picture of the late Mars Hill comes across more and more as a meticulously micromanaged to death top-down cultural system in which it turned out Justin Dean was basically, by his account, prevented from being able to do his actual job for a while. Having written many critical appraisals and citizen-journalistic chronicles about Mars Hill Dean's interview deserves some more detailed discussion, especially with respect to his past on-record interactions with Throckmorton and, as longtime readers know, I reviewed Dean's book PR Matters a few years back.
I do not take it as a given that anyone is lying or even exactly "spinning". The stuff that Dean has shared checked out with stuff Turner shared and while I have, ahem, obviously, had my differences with both of those men I have never once had any reason to doubt their statements ... which is more than I can say about another guy but even that guy probably really believes the stuff he says as best I can tell.
All that noted in the most cursory way, I was thinking back on the blogging that I have done this year. A twelve-part updated analysis of Koshkin's 24 Preludes and Fugues Volume 1 is about 29,000 words. Ragtime and Sonata Forms is 53.800 some words and while it took years to do all the reading and citation assembly and preliminary research the writing itself, minus two chapters, I basically blazed through and wrote in a single week. Covid-19 lockdown has a lot of bad things about it but the silver lining for me has been discovering how much I can really write when I set my mind to it.
The third really big long-form project was the nine-part "what did they say?" survey of former Mars Hill executive elders and while it took months to listen to about twelve to fourteen hours worth of podcasts and prodigious reference to transcripts (thank you Sutton Turner!) the 29,000 word nine-part series was something I wrote through in a single weekend. Fifty-six single-spaced pages in a weekend is a kind of creepy amount of writing even if fully half the material is citations. Between those three blogging projects I wrote 230 pages; while the later 2014 66-part juggernaut on Mark Driscoll's 2008 spiritual warfare teaching session transcription with analysis might be the single longest project I've tackled I don't know that for sure. A lot of those individual posts were fairly short. This year I wrote three projects that don't necessarily have a high number of posts but they're projects that have to be read as continuous long-form arguments.
Part of me wants to keep on keeping on and writing here at the blog about music and the significance of 2020 top-level leaders of the former Mars Hill sharing stuff; and I haven't even finished Maren Haynes Marchesini's PhD on the history of music at Mars Hill ... which I'm about halfway through and am finding fascinating ...
part of me feels like a bunch of stuff could wait a while .. .maybe not as far out as 2021 but wait a while.
There's also that giant reading list, and when just one of the books on that list is the unabridged The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (which I must confess I just might not finish) blogging could take up time that could be spent reading or writing offline.
Sometimes I get this inspiration to write and discover after I've written what I want to write I've cranked out 46 to 130 pages when I stop and look at what I did ... and sometimes I feel like hanging out with a buddy and watching Star Blazers 2199 or re-watching Venture Bros is okay, too. When another season of the adventures of Ladybug and Cat Noir makes it on to disc (I hope) I plan on watching that, too. That ... of course ... reminds me I haven't blogged about animated anything in a long time and French language animation could be its own topic (Long Way North, Persepolis, Miraculous, etc). Yes, I live on the West Coast of the U.S. and I even got to attend one of the only legal screenings of Mamoru Oshii's Angel's Egg but there's more to cartoons as an art form than the U.S. and Japan.
Ugh ... which reminds me ... I never did finish that extended series on Justice League Unlimited for Mockingbird. :( The Green Lantern chapter was something I was looking forward to writing because between John Stewart Green Lantern and Samurai Jack Phil LaMarr is up there in the pantheon of spectacular voice actors for me ... but life happens.
And blogging too much makes it harder to write music. I, er, blogged in years past about how I was writing 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar and that project is done and there's a second set of 24 preludes and fugues that I'm working on that will draw more from the examples of Anton Reicha, Rodion Shchedrin, Michelle Gorrell, Nikolai Kapustin (of course!) and, yes, Koshkin, too (because he's one of my favorite contemporary guitarist-composers), than the Bach/Hindemith/Shostakovich/Castelnuovo-Tedesco/Rekhin approach I took earlier.
I'm also close to done with a two-dozen cycle of compositional studies exploring what's possible using natural harmonics on solo guitar. I cheat in one study with an artificial harmonic but I'm getting close to 45 minutes worth of material where everything is composed using natural harmonics on the guitar--eighteen little character studies and a projected six sonata forms. You didn't misread that part, six sonata forms for solo guitar using only natural harmonics. I really am the sort of person whose idea of a fun weekend is writing tens of thousands of words about stuff I care about or working out how it's possible to compose a post-Mississippi John Hurt version of "All Creatures of Our God and King" with a ragged rhythm imitative /canonic call and response episode.
Doing that kind of thing is how I have fun during what looks to be a ramped up covid-19 lockdown phase in Washington this winter. I'm going to keep missing friends and family I won't be able to see ... but such is 2020.
While I want to write about Ephraim Radner's latest book and my friend Wendy Alsup's latest book I'm reaching a point where I realize that I've been blogging here at Wenatchee The Hatchet since 2006. I'm the kind of person who kind of "has" to write but I might not be doing so much of the writing here for a bit.
I kind of want to write some kind of book on sonata forms and fugue geared specifically for guitarists but since I'm not an academic in music theory I've got zero odds of being able to put such a book together and running it by a publisher as things currently stand. But that a book about fugue specifically for guitarists ought to be written is something I think needs to be done because the Koshkin cycle deserves a book-length analysis of the entire cycle which I will totally do (practically speaking) when the second volume gets recorded. The Dzhaparidze cycle isn't published but it should be! If there are any classical guitar publishers who read this blog I encourage you to go look up the recording of the cycle and consider publishing it. I'm eventually, I hope, going to write an analytic series on the Dzhaparidze cycle.
I don't think we guitarists need abstruse theoretical books on fugue drawing from keyboard literature or choral traditions (former choirboy though I am). What I think guitarists would benefit from is a compendium that analyzes the actually published preludes and fugues of contemporary guitarists. I'd even be willing to use, um, my own cycle since there's only a grand total of six cycles of preludes and fugues for solo guitar across the entire planet at the moment, so if I took the otherwise cheeky approach of discussing my own work alongside Koshkin's and Dzhaparidze's the resulting survey could be a book that covered literally half the large-scale contrapuntal solo guitar cycles that have been written in this century.
I know Dusan Bogdanovic has a great book on counterpoint out there and I've got it, but I have wondered whether guitarists might find it useful to have a book on fugue, specifically, geared to guitarists. I don't think we should feel too sheepish about having didactic fugues when so few fugues exist for the guitar. I can think of a candidate for a didactic fugue idea that could not just be a didactic fugue but which could demonstrated techniques for fugal composition and do so in a way that would lend itself to jazz guitarists.
To just come out and say this, I am sketching out a fugue in three voices in B minor based on The Lick. I know it's one of the biggest cliches in the history of jazz but it became one of the biggest cliches in the histor yof jazz because it is a great lick, particularly because the melodic contour lends itself so readily to modal mutation and if you've ever sat down and really looked at it ... the beauty of The Lick is that its dorian aspect means that you can go full Schoenberg and use it in prime, retrograde, inversion and retrograde inversion and the underlying dorian element of the implied harmony in The Lick means it works in literally every direction you play it. Another wonderful thing about it is that you don't have to assume The Lick starts on the root of the scale, it could start on other scale degrees and by now, however many people may be reading this post, you might be getting a clearer sense of why I am thinking of taking a vacation from blogging.
There will ... eventually ... be more detailed discussion of Win Your War itself and as part of the glut of spiritual warfare books that have been cranked out in American pop level Christian publishing for the last, oh, sixty years. One of the reasons I haven't reviewed the Driscoll book yet or discussed it is because I really am having fun reading dozens of book on the topic of exorcism, spiritual warfare, diabology, The Watchers traditions, and stuff like that but not just from a theological/seminary approach. I'm also planning to read political/sociological monographs like ...
I know Jessica Johnson, who wrote pretty much the only book about Mars Hill Church that, to date, I think you should read, knows about Passing Orders so those of us who have documented the late Mars Hill have a book that's coming up we want to read, at least two of us. A whole lot of spiritual warfare and revivalist talk has struck me over the last twenty years as more explicitly than implicitly Americanist and maybe even more implicitly than explicitly has what, on a completely different topic, Philip Ewell described as the "white racial frame" of music theory. It's way, way more explicitly a white racial frame on the topic of spiritual warfare in United States pop publishing, which is why I was very excited to read the Ghanaian theologian and pastor Esther Acolatse's work on the topic because back in my college days I had a number of African Christian friends and, to keep a sprawling post within some boundary of wrap-up, I have too many Christian friends across the world to think there's any business, literally or figuratively, in American Christians thinking of us as some Special Land. Babylon the Great or The Beast seems more apt to me ...
but anyway ... it may have taken the rise of heretics like Paula White for academics to start catching on that MAGA was a goal within a lot of American and charismatic and New Apostolic Reformation scenes for a generation or two before Trump ran on an official MAGA hat slogan. I've merely touched on this here and there and not necessarily here at this blog but I recall telling Jessica Johnson that Mark's whole approach to spiritual warfare seemed to not draw on the Puritan tradition of learning spiritual disciplines that let you do battle with your own vices, he had more of a demonize the groups you don't agree with. Now, sure, that does happen in religious traditions but a lot of spiritual warfare manuals at the pop level ... well ... for the handful of readers who come here maybe we can "all" read Passing Orders and compare notes later at some other time when I try to blog about it in 2021? Or not. I'm reading the book for sure.
There's a big pile of writing about music I want to do and it's starting to seem like it makes more sense to take some down time to do some of that writing. I've shifted the blog away from Mars Hill stuff over the years and the plan is to keep tackling music, music analysis and associated topics but I really didn't expect the executive elders and Justin Dean to all go on record this year ... it was almost like five years after the corporate dissolution of the company was the threshold of some non-disclosure agreement or something, I don't know, Turner or Dean could maybe field whether or not there were actual non-disclosure agreements. Either way I am actually grateful guys like Sutton Turner, Dave Bruskas and Justin Dean are sharing stuff on the record. Maybe they're slowly coming to terms with things that someone like me struggled with 11 to 12 years ago when I decided I couldn't be part of that organization any longer.
So after all this I might take a break and it might not even last that long. Little breaks followed by explosions of writing have been known to happen here but I get to find out. Either way, I hope that readers have a safe an pleasant holiday season as much as possible. I've got pages with tags and posts and while that Matiegka Op. 31 No. 3 analysis is on my to-do list I might take the short vacation to go through the other three sonatas so as to have a complete series.
Sonata Forms for Guitarists; Contemporary Prelude and Fugue Cycles for Guitar; and A Primer on Fugue for Guitarists seem like books that really need to be written.
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
45's spiritual advisor Paula White declares "victory" for him, Julia Duin asks who's covering this at GetReligion and asks whether Pentecostals are behind Trump's refusal to concede
Ex-Pentecostal though I am for many reasons I'm finding this is a weirdly apt period in which to be reading on the topics of spiritual warfare, diabology, exorcism and their connections to American cultural activity. It's something that indirectly cropped up in reading Anthony Heilbut's books on Gospel music where in The Fan Who Knew Too Much he pointed out that more traditional evangelicals have not been as prominent in the Trump administration as Word Faith and prosperity teachers such as Paula White. I.e. while an increasingly religiously illiterate mainstream press has tended to fixate on the evangelicals who were regarded as having put Trump in office Heilbut has tracked Pentecostal music for enough decades to know the differences between white conservative evangelicals of the Graham variety and the more Pentecostal/charismatic types like T. D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar or Paula White. The prosperity teachers are still regarded as heretics by more traditionalist evangelicals (and for that matter old school Pentecostals across white and black Pentecostal church movements if memory serves).
Sunday, November 08, 2020
links for the weekend: old stuff from The Bellows on a double horseshoe theory of class conflict and academic guild behaviors; John Gray on American solipsism; Wilsonian handwringing; and a withdrawal from ECFA
Living in such curious times as we do some writing projects take more time and focus than I have had lately. This being early November 2020 with me living in the United States I trust I don't have to explain too much as to why. Musical analysis and music blogging has been temporarily on hold, as has blogging about things connected to the history of a former 501(c)3, although I want to mention that on that orbit of topics Justin Dean had a fascinating (for me) conversation on the Bad Christian podcast I want to eventually blog about. But for this weekend, links for the weekend will suffice.
As an attempt to explicate class warfare Lind's proposal seems to have some merit. I'm reading deBoer's The Cult of Smart and also Lind's The New Class War lately. Reading Lind reminded me of a willfully ridiculous set of jokes in Whit Stillman's Metropolitan about the difference between a titled aristocrat and an untitled aristocrat with a member of the latter saying the former are "the scum of the earth". Lind proposes that the underclass is basically not relevant to an examination of the political battles within the overclass and that the competing interests and allegiances of the professional bourgeois and the small business bourgeois can help us get a clearer sense of what neoliberalism in its progressive and reactionary forms has been up to in this millenium. As Lind puts it:
At the risk of being overly schematic I would suggest that the “center,” “left” and “right” of America’s top-thirty-percent politics can be mapped imperfectly onto the managerial elite, the professional bourgeoisie and the small business bourgeoisie. In particular, both DSA progressivism and Tea Party conservatism can be understood as different strategies for enlisting the power of government to stave off the proletarianization of the constituents of the two bourgeoisies
The goal of so-called progressivism in 2020s America is to expand employment opportunities for college-educated, center-left professionals, while adding new wings to the welfare state that are tailored to their personal needs. The slogan “Defund the police” is interpreted by the bourgeois professional left to mean transferring tax revenues from police officers, who are mostly unionized but not college-educated, to social service and nonprofit professionals, who are mostly college-educated but not unionized. The enactment of proposals for free college education and college debt forgiveness would disproportionately benefit the professional bourgeoisie, not the working-class majority whose education ends with high school. Likewise, public funding for universal day-care allows both parties in a two-earner professional couple to maximize their individual incomes and individual career achievements by outsourcing the care of their children to a mostly-female, less well-paid workforce at taxpayer expense.
The upper horseshoe schema explains American political factions in terms of different combinations of its elements. When the professional bourgeoisie allies itself with the Managerial Elite, you get Clinton-Obama-Biden left-neoliberalism. When the small business bourgeoisie allies itself with the Managerial Elite, you get George W. Bush-Paul Ryan-Nikki Haley right-neoliberalism.
Sunday, November 01, 2020
links for the weekend: an LARB take on Kate Bowler on evangelical women celebrities/histories of women prophets in ANE; reviews of White Too Long; the Mbird series on ATLA gets to Zuko
In The Preacher’s Wife, Kate Bowler introduces readers to a group of powerful evangelical women leaders. Through this cohort, the book describes the rise of a new type of feminine power, one readily on display in the wives of some of America’s most prominent megachurch pastors—Victoria Osteen, for instance, who is married to prosperity preacher Joel Osteen. The power wielded by these high-profile women is impressive. But, Bowler argues, the authority that “celebrity” women leaders garner is “precarious” because this kind of influence requires that women constantly embody feminine ideals, and leaves them vulnerable to the whims of the market and dependent on the stability of a husband’s pastorate.
Having recently finished reading Prophets Male and Female: Gender and Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Ancient Near East, I wonder how conversant contemporary American authors are with the history of women in prophetic capacities in the Ancient Near East who aren't, you know, specialist in that field. That women were permitted to be prophets in Greece, Assyria, Israel and early Christianity is well-known. Esther Hamori has a whole monograph devoted to divination and women in biblical literature that's worth reading, contributed to Prophets Male and Female and co-edited a volume on dream divination in the Bible and the Ancient Near East I'm hoping to start soon. All of the above is to suggest that the proposal that there is a new type of feminine power ... how new is it? What makes it new? I can get to the Bowler book eventually, maybe, after I'm done reading thirty some books on diabology, exorcism, the Watcher traditions and with a few add-ons about prophecy and divination in biblical literature but I grew up a Pentecostal youth in church settings in which women getting words of knowledge or prophetic insights was considered in the normal range of options. A new type of feminine power in an evangelical denominational context where pneumatology defaults to cessationism now perhaps that really is new--it wouldn't be new in the Adventist tradition (Ellen White) or charismatic settings (Kuhlman, obviously) but in Baptist contexts, sure, that might be new.
One of the things I suspect has made low church Protestants in the contemporary West on edge about women as preachers could go as far back as Bullinger and the Magisterial Reformers pivoting to redefine prophecy as having cease since the prophet age and being present only in a vestigial form in public preaching. There are, I think, a couple of significant problems with that approach. One is simply that the task of instructing the people was a priestly instruction and however adamant anti-Catholic polemics got in the Reformation era retroactively transforming preaching into a prophetic act rather than a priestly act doomed complentarianism in low-church Protestant settings to ceding the entire preaching office to an egalitarian position even if there were not also the Lutheran formulation of the priesthood of all believers. Well, then, if the priesthood of believers applies why not ordain women? If prophecy is preaching and the daughters of Philip the evangelist prophesied then why not?
Saturday, October 31, 2020
Exodus 22:28, Ecclesiastes 10:20, and an American civic religious tradition of vituperation--thoughts on cycles of conflicts between scribes and prophets in an age of surveillance capitalism
Fredrik deBoer's "only the club remains" about media professionals reminds me of Ellul's observation in The Empire of Non-Sense that attending the right parties where you meet arts critics was more important than the art you made
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Chris White at Slate says its time to "fullname" all classical composers, but in an era of mononymic pop stars haven't we had the same "problem" in pop music for the history of pop music?
There will be a time when we’ll go to concerts again. We will buy our tickets, shuffle shoulder to shoulder down the aisle, and find our seats. The lights will dim, and the conductor will walk onto the stage to introduce the program. They might talk about Beethoven, Schumann, and Bartók. And they might talk about Alma Mahler, Florence Price, Henry Burleigh, and Caroline Shaw. Many of us, used to the conventions of classical performance, will hardly notice the difference: “traditional” white male composers being introduced with only surnames, full names for everyone else, especially women and composers of color ...
Going forward, we need to “fullname” all composers when we write, talk, and teach about music. If mononyms linguistically place composers in a canonical pantheon, fullnaming never places them there to begin with. When we say, “Tonight, you’ll be hearing symphonies by Johannes Brahms and Edmond Dédé,” we’re linguistically treating both composers as being equally worthy of attention. And while fullnaming might seem like a small act in the face of centuries of harm and injustice, by adopting a stance of referential egalitarianism, fullnaming at least does no more harm. ...
In an era in which pop stars can be identified as Beyonce and Taylor, or we can muse upon the catalogs of Madonna and Prince and Cher and Sade, fullnaming classical composers across the board might sound more cogent to a Slate contributor and editorial than it might sound to other people. If I asked you to think of a jazz musician whose first name is "Miles" and whose last name is not Davis could you think of anyone? Anyone at all? I mean, I can't. No ... wait ... sorry I can. Miles Okazaki. There. Your turn. If I say "Django" can you supply the last name? If you can, well, let's take as given that jazz has a pantheon of musical luminaries where the first name is all you need and the last name is implicit. Thelonious, Ornette, Alice, Oscar, Art, McCoy ... if you recognized those musicians on the basis of those first names alone then that, friends, is the same thing that goes on with last names in classical music.
I mean, think of who has died from the quartet of John, Paul, George and Ringo? Did I have to name them by last name for you to get the reference? Thus with Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and Brahms. The mononymics for the saints of a musical style may have first rather than last names but pop music has had mononymic call-signs for pioneering musicians since, oh, Satchmo, maybe? Nobody is going to start referring to the compositional techniques of "Nelson" when "Prince" is already the norm. If Ciconne writes a chaconne would we call it Ciconne's Chaconne or would Madonna suffice?
Who was the King of Rock? How many people will say "Presley"? How many would say "Elvis?" Who is "The Boss"? Bruce? Bruce, who?
One of the jokes in The Big Lebowski that leans heavily on our ability to predict with minimal information is that moment when the Dude puts in a casette with "Bob" on the tape and the joke is probably not a single person watching the film had to think all that hard about which "Bob" mix tape was about to get played. If the genre were reggae instead of rock "Bob" would automatically refer to someone else and as I've been arguing through constant implicated reference, there's a good chance if you're an American who has spent decades listening to all sorts of music none of the lists of first-names-only I've been deploying is likely to be unfamiliar to you.
There might come a time when Price's symphonies are well-known enough that we can just refer to them as the Price symphonies. I think we can basically do that now, because if we're talking about symphonists who many Prices are we going to end up talking about. David Price? Robert Price? The trouble with a case for fullnaming to offset some unfairly designated pantheon in classical music isn't that there's an annoyingly ubiquitous pantheon in classical music because obviously there is, just as there is an annoyingly ubiquitous pantheon in rock, pop, jazz, and every other commercially recorded style of music. If I talk about country and just name-drop Hank, Johnny, Merle, Patsy, Dolly, Lucinda and June and you know right off the bat which two of three guys I'm not referring to (i.e. not Jr and not III), well, that proves my point, too.
Now I know that if someone says "Joplin" and a rock fan overhears it they will think "Janis" and a ragtime fan will think "Scott" but within genres a surname can often get the job done. I know that orchestras can decide to present music by Edward Ellington but, come on, let's not be too hasty to regard Duke's music as emblematic of some kind of unfair system of musical/creative royalty in which the super-stars of an art form can be known by single names, whether in jazz or in classical music or, as I've been demonstrating, pop.
Fullnaming won't get nearly as much done for William Grant Still's music as a top notch recording of Trouble Island will ... that is if American opera companies actually survive the covid-19 era, which it seems not everyone is sure is going to happen.
It's not that we can't play this game of fullnaming within classical music, it's that the argument for it is advanced in flamboyantly bad faith in relationship to just about every style of popular music from the last 150 years against which classical music could be compared. I'm not going to stop thinking of Scott Joplin as the King of Ragtime because of some qualms about monarchy. I don't see anything inherently wrong with Michael Jackson being thought of as the King of Pop. The honorifics of shorthand exist across musical styles. The Fab Four can still be the Fab Four even if I find them annoyingly over-rated.
So there's that. If the era of the symphony, for whatever reason, doesn't make it through the era of covid-19 lockdowns what we colloquially think of as classical music (or what Kyle Gann has at times called post-classic music) will still probably get made. In an age in which more people know the music of Prince than of Persechetti (and that will probably always be the case moving forward) let's at least not fool ourselves into thinking that demanding a change in mononymic customs in a single genre of music is going to change that genre of music. We might be on the cusp of having to reconceive the nature of what kind of music even gets played. My hunch, as I've been writing for years, is that the age of the symphony has probably passed but the age of the song is strong at the popular level and there's still plenty of possibilities with chamber music. Now if someone is able to go record Price's string music I'd be happy to get the recording.
Let's add something else to consider, mononymic reference in classical music is not invariably a reference to an elevated god of the art. Literally nobody in the history of classical music writing is going to say Diabelli of the Diabelli variations wasn't an opportunistic hack who had a spotty record as a composer compared to others. Mozart ripped on Clementi's compositions and these are two composers from the time of the Big Three who are known because somebody famously slammed their music in comparison to other classical composers who are also known by mononyms. Pretending mononymic shorthand only signals elevation and veneration in classical music is a lazy bad faith assertion across the board to anyone who has read extensively on the history of the styles and forms.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
links for the weekend: Jim West on the irony of Charisma peddling spells to break spells; NYRB pieces on Boulez and Wagner; Mbird has its ATLA series
First, Jim West noted the irony of a Charisma-published article that sells spells that break spells. Selling spells that break spells is one of a number of reasons I'm ex-Pentecostal and ex-charismatic and while the topic of how paradoxically anti-witchcraft teaching in that wing of ... we'll call it Christianity anyway, resembles witchcraft is a topic I want to take up at some other time, links for the weekend isn't where I plan to do that in any detail!
Saturday, October 24, 2020
Ethan Hein blogged on Miles Davis' "So What", my thoughts on the elegance of symmetrical scale and the Neapolitan substitution that keeps "So What" from being generic art rock i-IV groove
Ethan Hein does an excellent job breaking down what makes "So What" work phrase by phrase and lays out its AABA form. For those with more of a classical music theory background what should jump out about that form is that it can be thought of as a kind of rounded binary form. I don't want to digress into how familiar Davis was with both jazz and classical music because I want to jump straight into why this assymetric form is so crucial to making "So What" a magnificent composition.
The AABA form has two different aspects that make this simple composition pregnant with possibilities. The first is that the composition can feel like a kind of cut-short 12-bar blues by way of hypermeter; every two bars of 4/4 can be thought of as halves in the call and response phrases. There are multiple levels of 4-to-the-bar going on. Davis doesn't do the conventional V-I finishing pattern that would come if this were a conventional blues and lets the AABA continue whereas a more blues-traditional form would have had an AABAB'A pattern that gave us the three-phrase-at-the-macro-level pattern that's common in archetypal 12-bar. He was playing with a norm in phrasing and phrase-length that, if you don't have that in mind about how a blues "should" sound, won't make sense to you. Or as Hepokoski and Darcy put it in Elements of Sonata Theory there can be norms of form or gesture or listening that are in the background that can guide our understanding of the conventions or "deformations" of a musical work that are nowhere in the foreground of the musical work we're analyzing. Now I'll get to the second thing that stands out for me about this work.
"So What", within its AABA has an asymmetric phrase structure that is amplified by a harmonic substitution that counteracts what would be a pedestrian symmetry within the mode if no substitution were made. I'm talking about the formal assymetry of the D dorian to E flat dorian. That E flat dorian section is paradoxical because, of course, the dorian mode is symmetrical and if you invert it the mode is has the same intervals going down as going up, unlike, say, an inversion of the intervals of the phrygian mode that will give you the lydian mode. The risk of using dorian is that because it's a symmetrical scale if you did do a traditional i-iv blues change there would be no momentum at all, which is why Davis' decision to do a neapolitan substitution that pivots dorian from D to E flat is such a brilliant compositional move. There's still a "IV" function and it's still in exactly the place it ought to be if we were hearing a 12-bar blues but it is an abrupt Neapolitan substitution that keeps the dorian scale above the new-found harmony.
Now dorian in jazz and rock has long since become commonplace. If I were to pick a favorite long-form dorian-based piece it would be Frank Zappa's "Nine Types of Industrial Pollution" at the start of Uncle Meat and "King Kong" at its end. Those are cool as they go but when you hear them you hear that there's a i-IV floating-in-space vibe. Through the 1960s and 1970s the dorian i-IV progression became a thorough-going psychedelic/art rock cliche, perhaps nowhere more prominently used than at the starting song of Pinkfloyd's Dark Side of the Moon, "Breathe" I wrote about the use of the dorian mode and the i-IV progression within it as a way to understand the concept album all the way back in 2007. Now I'm not meaning to suggest the mode was really what they were consciously thinking through, I think music theory in general is too post hoc to be used to say something like that. Plus I kinda figured everyone in the band was high as a kite and that there was more of a literary and "hey, this vamp sounds cool" vibe going.
Well, before psychedelic rock and prog rock beat the i-IV groovy dorian i-IV thing into the ground Miles Davis didn't want to have a work that has become a touchstone in modal jazz be "that" modal. He introduced an elegantly simple and brilliant substitute for what would have been the i-IV in a stereotypical dorian progression with a flat II (i.e. Neapolitan) substitution.
Get Religion discusses Catholic and Latino voting blocs this week, reminding me that Driscoll mentioned the Latino Catholic-to-Protestant pivot in A Call to Resurgence
Terry Mattingly had a piece this week that got me reminiscing about a book from 2013. Mattingly has written about how Catholic voters may be more critical to 2020 than mainstream press coverage tends to consider.
Mattingly recently wrote about how Latino voters are a topic of recent NYT coverage describing them as “politically homeless”:
Sunday, October 18, 2020
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 2 Driscoll to Nieuwhof in 2020, “ … I’m not going to say I’m Jesus and I’ve never done anything wrong … .”, a review of post MHC books in which Driscoll compared himself to Jesus, and Jesus to himself.
There’s something else about Mark Driscoll’s conversation with Carey Nieuwhof that needs mentioning. Driscoll told Nieuwhof, as quoted above, “ … I’m not going to say I’m Jesus and I’ve never done anything wrong you know.” that’s a hasty transcript on the punctuation side.
The thing is, having read Mark Driscoll’s two big post-Mars Hill Church book releases through Charisma House I was struck by the ways in which Mark Driscoll compared himself to Jesus or compared Jesus to himself.
Now let’s take a visit back to Spirit-Filled Jesus and see whether or not Mark Driscoll hasn’t had moments where he did write as though he knew how it felt to be Jesus carrying His cross to the place of the skull. Fair Use precedents being what they’ve been, I think it’s necessary to ask whether or not Mark Driscoll can consistently say “ … I'm not going to say I'm Jesus and I've never done anything wrong … .”
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 1 Mark Driscoll’s interview with Carey Nieuwhof, sharing how Mars Hill had an internal conflict over transgenderism and same sex marriage, a counter-claim to every account of Mars Hill decline presented in the last five years
2020 turned out to be an unusual year in post-Mars Hill Church chronicling, because Mark Driscoll broached the topic of the late Mars Hill in an interview with Carey Nieuwhof promoting the new Driscoll book Win Your War, but more crucially because former executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas went on the record sharing their roles in the late Mars Hill. If it may be asked by jaded readers why anyone should take any of these accounts at face value, nobody said we had to, but the confluence of testimonies do take on a coherent if unsettling shape.
Warren Throckmorton has spotted that Mark Driscoll plans to interview Senator Martha McSally.
To the extent that Mark Driscoll feels confident enough to wade into interviewing a political figure it seems to that extent it is necessary to discuss how the political narratives of what happened in the late Mars Hill have taken shape as presented by the three former executive elders of the former Mars Hill Church.
So we get to Part One
So we get to Part One
Mark Driscoll’s interview with Carey Nieuwhof, sharing how Mars Hill had an internal conflict over transgenderism and same sex marriage, a counter-claim to every account of Mars Hill decline presented in the last five years
Back in March 2020, Carey Nieuwhof had Mark Driscoll as a guest to discuss the new Mark and Grace Driscoll book Win Your War and talk about, among other things, the last days of Mars Hill Church.
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 3 Spirit-Filled Jesus and Mark Driscoll’s observations on what can happen to a leader, some other leader, “you” and not “me”
Near the end of his first book post-Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll shared an extensive description of something he’d seen in his twenty years of ministry, a process of disillusionment that often happens, especially in the life of a leader. Which leader?
Well, you’re going to have to guess who it is since Driscoll prefers to use the word “you” rather than “I” for the following passage, a passage that’s a few pages long and which I feel obliged to share (with all Fair Use precedents and considerations in mind because I’ve been surprised at how seemingly no earlier reviews or journalistic discussions of Spirit-Filled Jesus have discussed this passage at all). There’s a not at all subtle pivot from “I” to “you” in this passage:
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 4 Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas go on record about the last year of Mars Hill with Ryan Williams and then Warren Throckmorton, describing their role in crashing The Strange Fire conference and what the plagiarism scandal was like on the inside.
2020 has turned out to be the year that the other two former executive elders of the late Mars Hill Church decided to start speaking on the record. From March 27, 2020 through to May 29, 2020 former Mars Hill pastor Ryan Williams had podcast conversations with former executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas in the Older Pastor/Younger Pastor” series. The topics of conversation were lessons from Mars Hill Church, very often about lessons of what not to do. These interviews spanned many hours and would be difficult to summarize succinctly. The links are as follows:
I’ve discussed things that stood out for me from those discussions at the following links:
One of the things Mark Driscoll told Larry Osborne was that he met with about thirty former elders of Mars Hill and it was almost like they had a common script.
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 5 Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas talk with Warren Throckmorton about ResultSource
The revelation that Mars Hill Church used Result Source to get Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage a No. 1 spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list came on the heels of the plagiarism controversy that erupted when Janet Mefferd accused Mark Driscoll of plagiarism in late November 2013. I’ve published a timeline of the formidably numerous public relations snafus and scandals Mars Hill managed to be embroiled in or sought out by the time Warren Cole Smith reported that Mars Hill used ResultSource.
It may be important to note, for those unfamiliar with the history of Mars Hill, that the Result Source contract signing happened after a significant leadership transition, namely Jamie Munson deciding to step down from executive leadership at Mars Hill at the start of September 2011. There was never any really clear reason as to why he would make such a decision.
Sutton Turner described the process of ResultSource being signed in the past and the key claims are not exactly new but it was still interesting to hear and read what he had to say to Warren Throckmorton.
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 6 Warren Throckmorton, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas discuss the Dave Kraft allegations and how the BoAA chose to handle charges
One of the first things Throckmorton discussed with Turner and Bruskas in his lengthy interview was the formal charges that had been made by Dave Kraft and how the Mars Hill leadership handled those.
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 7 The path to the `14 investigation, domineering behavior and the resignations of Paul Tripp and James MacDonald
On the admittedly long way to the charges and the 2014 investigation, we have to pass through Throckmorton asking Bruskas and Turner if they ever personally witnessed Mark Driscoll behaving in ways they regarded as domineering.
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 8 Mars Hill ejection from Acts 29: Bruskas on Matt Chandler talking to Driscoll and Driscoll seeming he didn’t get what was coming
Bruskas shared with Throckmorton that Mars Hill’s ejection from Acts 29 was a catastrophe that led to a mass exodus of campus pastors. Now I had documented a steady trickle of resignations that had been going on from roughly 2011 through 2013 but Bruskas has a point saying that 2014 saw a catastrophic wave of resignations. Mark Driscoll had, by most on record accounts, successfully insulated himself from being the subject of criticism because he was able to “discipline” through informal processes. I mention this because years ago a friend asked me if I thought something could happen to pierce through the shield Mars Hill seemed to have and that Mark seemed to have regarding criticism. My proposal was Mark Driscoll seemed to insulate himself from facing the consequences of his words and actions by using waves of proxies and that at some point that defense that seemed impregnable was going to become a fatal weakness if he pissed those people off. My hunch seems to have been right. Call it a providential guess, though, because a whole lot of things that happened in 2014 were startling, and the Acts 29 ejection of Mars Hill Church was a surprise.
2020 interviews on the late Mars Hill: Part 9 The formal investigation, a conflict between MH boards, and Mark Driscoll’s Richard Nixon moment
Since the closure of Mars Hill Sutton Turner has written about how there was a rift in the Mars Hill Board over whether or not to scapegoat him over ResultSource and Mars Hill Global, and I’ve written about this topic in the past, but it’s also worth quoting Turner directly:
Posted by Sutton Turner on April 24, 2015
...When the criticism of Mars Hill Global began in the Spring of 2014, I wanted to communicate about what happened with Global, its history, the financials, and my mistakes. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to discuss these things just as I was not permitted to discuss the ResultSource situation in the detail that I felt it deserved. There was actually a division on the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) as some men wanted to put all the blame for both Global and ResultSource on me, but I am thankful for men who did not allow that. [emphasis added]
Eight difficult, grievous months have passed since I resigned; four sad, yet hopeful months have passed since Mars Hill held its last service. I began to work on each of these topics through blog posts several months ago with the wisdom, counsel, prayer, and blessing of many friends who are former elders and staff members at Mars Hill.
So Turner’s past account of an intra-board rift on the Board of Advisors and Accountability helps us keep in mind that in 2014 it was possible for there to be a rift within the Mars Hill boards between the Board of Overseers (who would review formal charges and call for investigations) and the Board of Elders (those assigned to actually do the investigating). The history of governance in Mars Hill is probably not more complex than that of any other church but it is still extensive.
Because it will be hard to follow what Throckmorton discusses with Turner and Bruskas without having some background on the boards, let’s do a quick review of who was on which board in late 2014.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
so I WAS going to write about another guitar sonata from Matiegka but short incubation process (maybe)
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
As long-time readers of this blog will know, I've written about counterpoint, music for guitar, and counterpoint and guitar over the years. I've also started reading The Music Salon blog in the last couple of years and so, of course, I'm going to link to this guest piece.
Now I do have Dusan Bogdanovic's Counterpoint for Guitar and will, eventually, I hope, write about it. I've been meaning to blog about his guitar sonata cycle for years now but life is what it is, full of unexpected events and delays and sidetracks, so that hasn't happened yet. But, while I incubate any number of blogging projects connected to music (like, say, an analysis of Matiegka's Op. 31, Sonata No. 3) I sometimes link to other stuff I read that I want to share.
Monday, October 12, 2020
against both Columbus Day and Indigenous People Day, the statue toppling in Portland of Lincoln and Roosevelt can be a reminder that no American heroes will be heroes to all Americans
Complaining that Columbus was a bad man is more than merely a fad because the vices and hubris of Columbus and the Spanish royal family would be hard to argue against in the twenty-first century ... but I don't see that alternately proclaiming an Indigenous Peoples' Day has any value since it is, of necessity, parasitically dependent on the pre-existing federal holiday. That Columbus Day is paradoxically a victim of its own success probably doesn't matter to people who have settled in their hearts that Columbus' legacy in the Americas is only bad and yet, well, here we are. If you live in the United States right now and you're not 100% Native American able to chart your ancestry down to an unbroken line of never-married-non-Native-peoples-even-once-in-five-centuries then you exist in the United States because, at some point, people who are now identified as "white people" show up.
Not that they were necessarily that kind of white back then since the concept of whiteness has evolved and changed to the point where Italians and Irish got added into the mix which would not have been taken seriously in the days of, say, Abraham Lincoln or even Teddy Roosevelt, whose statues have been knocked down by protesters, apparently, in Portland as of last night. People from the Mediterranean didn't get viewed as white for quite some time. Not that anyone has any reason to care what I think but I suggest the day get retired, whatever it is called.
A "day of rage" is a useless gesture and, if anything, gives 45 even more ammunition to agitate his supporters into action. This is the kind of thing that John Halle seems to have referred to off and on as "gifts to the right" made by progressives or people who think of themselves as left. Tawna Sanchez and others could point out, besides the fact that tearing down statues and damaging property isn't the same as going through democratic processes, there's also another point, which is that now is not the best time to take a symbolic action that, we're talking about tearing down a Lincoln statue, could just as easily have been done by neo-Confederates who think Lincoln was a power-made bloodthirsty war criminal.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
links for the weekend, the Mbird series on ATLA continues; Get Religion on Ravi Zacharias, Rust Belt Catholics & the Nones in 2020; John Ahern on neo-Platonic and Pythagorean background to Pauline instruction on music
First off, a new installment in the Mbird series on Avatar: The Last Airbender went up this last week.
by way of Ethan Iverson, Steve Reich's Tehilim; Kyle Gann on the history of minimalism; some thoughts on a style that had any interaction with the pop of its era and the post-war Pax American context that made that possible
A week late but ... Steve Reich had a birthday recently ...
Ethan Iverson rightly points out that it would be hard to find someone more eloquent on the history of minimalism than Kyle Gann but I'm going to go so far as to point you to the chapter where Gann discusses the movement because, as I hope long-time readers know, I've referenced Gann's writings on a semi-regular basis here, at least when the blog is dealing with music.
Friday, October 09, 2020
Norman Lebrecht trolls Wagner fans by saying "remove Wagner and the rest of music continues ... " as though music history was all about composers and nobody else
Wagner brings out the worst in power-seekers. The German word for megalomania is Grossenwahn, or grand delusion. That’s what Wagner does, a reckless reordering of normality. He named his own house Wahnfried, which means peace after madness. He’s a menace.
Ross has an intriguing chapter on Wagner’s gay side. His patron, the homosexual and half-mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, was besotted in every way and Wagner only encouraged his arousal if their letters are anything to go by, forever trying to be all things to all men and women.
“Throughout his life,” writes Ross, “Wagner pursued an ideal of androgyny, a spiritual merger of the sexes.” Although a dominant male to his wives, he sought sexlessness in Parsifal, “androgyny elevated to the level of religion”, in which “the Saviour redeems the world by overcoming the duality of gender.”
His sexual ambiguity spoke powerfully to Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and Thomas Mann, whose novella Death in Venice is both an evocation and a validation of Wagnerian themes, “pederasty made acceptable for the cultural middle classes”, as the Berlin critic Alfred Kerr acridly put it.
My impression is that minorities, be they sexual or religious, are drawn to Wagner by a perception of permissiveness and transgression. His operas breach Biblical taboos of adultery and incest. He wants to destroy the world that prejudices those who differ from the norm. He speaks for those who have no voice, hurling their missiles in the face of a worshipful establishment, making the elites at grand opera houses humbly submissive to his art.
While Alex Ross enumerates his conquests among the creative classes, I am not sure he has fully grasped his appeal to our subversive unconscious. He is not alone in this reluctance. Freud, who knew the Wagner operas, was strangely muted in his analysis.
At the risk of undermining his own thesis, Ross quotes Nietzsche in advocating that no statement should ever be made about Wagner without the word “perhaps”. I am well past 600 pages before I see the flaw in his case. Ross states that Wagner is — perhaps — the most influential figure in the history of music. He isn’t. Remove Bach and there is no history. Take out Beethoven and everything grinds to a halt. Eliminate Verdi and there is no Italian opera. Without Stravinsky, no twentieth century.
Remove Wagner, however, and the rest of music continues regardless. Wagner is a one-off, an ego, a restless provocateur. To Wagnerites, he’s the fusion of all arts. To Wagner-sceptics like me, he’s a genetic anomaly, a genius without anxiety.
Norman Lebrecht's piece that is sort of about Alex Ross' book Wagnerism and more about Lebrecht's dislike of Wagner is ... fairly typical for a piece about Wagner.
Sunday, October 04, 2020
links for the weekend: an Mbird series started on Avatar: The Last Airbender; the pending end of Internet Monk; assorted music/musicology and gender-y stuff
Being the animation fan that I am, I've considered writing about The Last Airbender for years. For the US-made adventure animated series I'd say the three touchstones of the last thirty some years in American cartoons for me would be: Batman: the animated series (fold the rest of the DCAU in if you want); Samurai Jack, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Skip Legend of Korra, though. Legend of Korra is to The Last Airbender what Star Wars Episodes I-III are to the original trilogy. Pass it by in favor of Miraculous (aka Ladybug and Cat Noir) which is a blast if you watch it with the original French voice ensemble. I haven't seen Spider-man stories capture the old Lee/Ditko vibe of the original run as well as the French language superhero cartoon has. Still have to get to seeing season 3, though.