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 

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.