Saturday, March 06, 2021
Fredrik deBoer has a new Substack blog and did an experiment on readership and analytics, the application of which is germane to his observations on the insularity of the contemporary institutional press (i.e. NY, et al)
Although it is possible to read deBoer's trio of posts as an experiment in online rage and reactions that might be too fly-over an appraisal of what deBoer was doing at his new Substack blog. As deBoer put
it at his new Substack blog, what he did was an experiment from the subscription/analytics side of what kinds of posts get what level of attention and subscription activity. The "Nitro" post got more
readership and reactions than the "non-nitro" version of the same core observation about a journalist's assessment of Substack as something harmful to more traditional journalism.
Alan Jacobs on the not-quite-censorship Amazon can accomplish in an age of technocracy; thinking back to how neo-cons had no qualms about deplatforming people who objected to Gulf War 2 15 years ago
Wednesday, March 03, 2021
Douglas Shadle has a new book coming out Dvorak's New World Symphony and its legacy in American music and musicology
Tuesday, March 02, 2021
John Ahern at Theopolis Institute on how Calvin's view of music was more positive than you might have heard, and less ambivalent than Augustine's
On the one hand, Calvin agrees with Augustine that music is subservient to the ends of the text. This is plain from his comment that music is a “help” to the wandering mind. Music is, in Lutheran terminology, a sermon on, an exegesis of, the text. Calvin may have a positive view of music, but he would be no fan of the ideology Beethoven, Hanslick, Nietzsche (or, dare I say, Roger Scruton) applied to church music. Even Calvin’s positive principle of music is, I believe, totally incompatible with “absolute, autonomous art music” in an ecclesiastical setting. (In the same vein, Calvin would, I wager, have little patience for the organist who insisted that their flowery introductions were “their own act of worship” and so ought to override the pragmatic concerns of congregational worship. Just so we’re clear.)
On the other hand, though, Calvin clearly paints music as some sort of alarm clock on our noetic failings. So Calvinist music should be anything but dull. And, indeed, as originally composed and performed, it wasanything but dull—it wasn’t for nothing that Calvinist psalm settings were called “Genevan jigs.” I think Calvin’s positive view of music can be used to endorse some kind of Christian musical maximalism: yes, music is subservient to the text, but that does not mean that it is meant to be backgrounded. It is subordinate in a hierarchy of ends, but not necessarily in a hierarchy of means and certainly not of perception. Music might well need to shout at us to get us to hear. Like Flannery O’Connor’s vision of the good Catholic writer, the good Calvinist musician must “make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”
So, if we agree with Calvin’s principle, we should be more comfortable with Josquin’s chaotic polyphony than Palestrina’s tidy counterpoint (certainly Luther was). Perhaps we should be happier with Olivier Messiaen’s dissonant, screaming organ sketches than Widor’s frilly Victorian organ symphonies. Possibly even happier with a hard rock rendition of Psalm 2 or a Lecrae track than the soothing sounds of Chris Tomlin’s mic held ever-so-close to the mouth. I would judge that our approach to the text is better served in the former of each of these pairs. The overly familiar text is made strange and unfamiliar. And that is just what we need, lest we draw near to God with our lips but not our hearts. I don’t merely mean to defend an ugly aesthetic, but perhaps to place music less in the category of “aesthetic” altogether, and in a category more consonant with ancient thought, that of “rhetoric”. Music should speak intelligibly and prophetically in order to be edifying, just as Paul says in I Corinthians 14....