Saturday, May 01, 2021

Prince (with Miles Davis) "Can I Play With U?" (2020 Remaster)

A song from Prince and Miles Davis is worth linking to all by itself this weekend.  Heard this track recent and a bit about its background.  It gets a bit weird in some spots for a pop song but gloriously weird, like Prince snuck Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, George Russell and (of course) Davis into the song aiming to sound out across a dance floor.

Friday, April 30, 2021

some general thoughts and observations about Igor Rekhin's 24 Preludes and Fugues for solo guitar--I'm afraid I have to say I respect it more than I enjoy it

So I've had Bands 1 and 2 of this cycle for years and for years I couldn't find any recordings of a performance of the entire cycle.  I recall Matanya Ophee wrote that Rekhin approached him about publishing the cycle and Ophee passed.  The cycle  was eventually published.  

I've now had time to listen to the entire cycle, which you can hear over here.

Now for some thoughts ...

Warren Throckmorton on the elderless church of Mark Driscoll in AZ parts 2 and 3 (also 4), revisiting how neither a board of directors nor a board of advisors & accountability seemed to have restrained consolidation of powers in the Mars Hill years

Warren Throckmorton now has a multi-part series on how Mark Driscoll's newest church, The Trinity Church, has no elders and a board that seems to simply exist.

That there is a board of directors that includes men who don't attend the church may remind long-time readers who know the history of Mars Hill of the Board of Advisors and Accountability that had a Board of Overseers. 

Throckmorton has noted that Mark Driscoll Ministries is doing business as Real Faith.

The board members on Mark Driscoll Ministries are 

For the last of these names that's a name that has, in fact, shown up a handful of times here at this blog.
Throckmorton linked to some audio that Driscoll preached at McPherson's church that went away after a while but a transcript is at the following link:

There was also a listing for Josh McPherson as a Mars Hill pastor for a while, back around September 2014.

Now for Throckmorton's part three "Where's the Board?"

Alan Jacobs on the Substackification of the net, folks that are on Substack and some thoughts on how the platform differs but the vetting process hasn't (and probably shouldn't) with a side-riff on watchdog blogs

Re: the Substackfication-of-journalism stuff I’ve been writing about lately, this interview with Ted Gioia is fascinating. 

And I now see that the always-smart Megan McArdle has weighed in. One small dissent, though: She writes, “There are some reasons to think that Substack might survive a march of the incumbents” — and by “incumbents” she means (a) the major social-media platforms and (b) the major newspapers and magazines, because both (a) and (b) are getting into the newsletter game. But I’d argue that in relation to paid newsletters, Substack is the chief incumbent. The genre has been around long enough for me to say that, I think. 

Well, yes, Ted Gioia, Freddie deBoer and now John McWhorter all have Substack platforms. Even though I think Gioia is embarrassingly wrong about a variety of things I look forward to reading his Substack posts.  As Bryan Townsend and I discussed over at The Music Salon, Gioia could be, where we disagree with him, someone who could be considered, in Townsend's phrasing "a good faith opponent".

I'm not a Marxist but I read deBoer regularly with interest because, as he has put it, finding actual solutions is more important than feeling we're right about stuff and to the extent that finding musical convergences between "classical" and American vernacular styles has been a adult-lifelong quest of mine I hope readers of this blog can appreciate what I appreciate about these authors.  I have McWhorter to thank for learning about Edward Berlin's thought-provoking and informative work on ragtime in general and Scott Joplin in particular.  I think McWhorter has under-estimated the potential of ragtime for long-work and large-scale development, obviously, but if we both appreciate ragtime as a musical art form then that's the thing I consider more salient.  Though not a formal academic myself what I hope scholarship, whatever form it takes, can help us arrive at musical convergences of the sort Ted Gioia suggests we look for.  I am convinced we will better be able to find those convergences by altogether rejecting what I regard as Gioia's conspiracy-theory approach to music history, but on the seeking convergences across styles part, at least, we agree!

In favor of Jacobs' riffs on Substackification, Gioia has pointed out that the institutions of media are more likely to stymie creativity and innovation, more or less.  On the other hand, in a nod to a more Socratic Gadfly dour take on alternative forms of media, the problem is that all the authors I've mentioned have all had their credentials vetted and demonstrated in traditional media and academic contexts.  I.e. the vetting process for why these people are saying anything whose expertise we should care about to begin with has not really changed and that far it's the old conundrum of qualification to be a source for the record in journalistic terms.  The problem has been acutely notable in the realm of the Christian blogosphere by way of watchdog blogs or "online discernment ministries" and the very live questions as to why any of these are run by people who, as clergy can be swift to ask, the least bit qualified to be doing blogging.  The paradox, ahem, of clergy blogging and wondering why other people are qualified has its own set of questions.  To put it crudely, I don't wonder how or why Jim West knows what he's talking about at his blog  compared to the rebranded Mark Driscoll at Real Faith.

I'm a bit behind on stuff I've meant to blog about so for this post this much will have to do. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Warren Throckmorton has an update on the elderless The Trinity Church that Mark Driscoll is President and CEO of; revisiting the post-MHC resignation role of some board members of TTC and Driscoll on governance as "throne down not pew up"

Warren Throckmorton has noted that The Trinity Church seems to be an elderless church.  There are pastors but they aren't listed as elders.  If Throckmorton's account tells us anything it's that former members of The Trinity Church have indicated that the church does not have elders.  
During the past couple of weeks, several former members of The Trinity Church in Scottsdale have contacted me to talk about about aspects of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. They contacted me due to my coverage of Mars Hill from late 2013 until 2015. They tell stories remarkably similar to those I heard from former Mars Hill members during that span of time. There is one major difference. In the current church, there are no elders who are putting on any brakes. There are no elders to whom appeals can be made. Several former members and staffers have told me that The Trinity Church does not have elders. 
Some things do sound the same. Non-disclosure agreements are again being used. Money is again conditioned on silence. People are describing abrupt decisions about membership without due process. Friends and family who are considered disloyal to the church are being shunned. At some point, these stories may be told. For now, according to former members and staff,  the pastors who are there in addition to Driscoll are not elders in the decision making sense of the office. If elders hold you accountable in one place, eliminate them in the next place.
If that means "friends and family of Mark Driscoll" who are considered disloyal to Mark Driscoll then that may be the case but is also, at the moment, impossible to verify. At some point those stories may be told but to go by the history of Mars Hill Church the likelihood is low.  Few people I can think of off the top of my head have ever opted to go on record about unpleasant experiences they had at Mars Hill.  They don't have to, of course.  Nobody should feel compelled or coerced into going on the record about unpleasant experiences.  So perhaps stories may be shared but let's not presume upon that.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Links for the weekend: Terry Mattingly on vaccination hesitation in the American South across racial lines and declining church membership in U.S.; Eastern Orthodox DO affirm penal substitutionary atonement for the U.S. folks who would say otherwise, apparently; and Crawford Gribben's book on PNW survivalism and Christian reconstructionism is out

Terry Mattingly highlights a moment where The New York Times could heed the snarky advice of “you should really read your own newspaper.” Why? Because while some coverage mentions that hesitancy about vaccination in the South comes from white evangelicals other coverage shows that there is hesitancy among African Americans to get Covid-19 vaccines throughout the South.  There are elements of politics, perhaps, but the vaccines were developed during the Trump administration, so Mattingly suggests that other factors to consider are rifts between clergy and laity; and to not forget that African Americans remember the Tuskegee syphilis malfeasance and that these are factors to consider regarding vaccine hesitancy in the American South.  Religion may be a variable but it is not a foregone conclusion it is “the” variable for vaccine hesitancy among white evangelicals and African Americans in the South.

Also by Terry Mattingly, a piece looking at thoughts from Thomas Kidd and Russell Moore on how U.S. church membership has fallen to all-time lows.

Kidd highlights a trend in American religious life where lack of formal church membership is not prima facie evidence of being secular or secularist. In other words eve among the “none” or “done” categories of people who won’t attend churches this is not necessarily a sign of being irreligious.  Not being an evangelical Christian with a church membership contract doesn’t mean a person couldn’t be one in doctrinal terms, or a deist or a pantheist or have some form of belief in the divine. 

Ben Johnston: Suite for Microtonal Piano (with read-along score)

The "Blues" movement has a fun 13/15 groove in it.

The Etude has some motoric dissonant elements but unlike stuff from the New Complexity scene, Johnston's Etude has a groove.  I'm thinking that Johnston's more or less life-long love of Duke Ellington might have had something to do with that.

I like the whole thing or I wouldn't have posted it but for folks who have never heard of Ben Johnston and may have gotten the idea from some quarters of the internet that microtonal music or works in forms of just intonation don't have any "tunes" I think Johnston provides a counterexample.  I enjoy his work, complex as it gets in various places, more than the so-called New Complexity school.  I'll take Ben Johnston over Brian Ferneyhough, who is lionized by some but whose work for guitar duet used a bunch of extended techniques and more or less all of those were pioneered by African American and Native Hawaiian guitarists somewhere between 1890 and 1910 but, ah, folks in the new-music "zero hour" scene managed to take all those techniques and not have one single tune or groove in all of it.  If you're into "no time (at all", alright.

Ben Johnston: String Quartet No. 4 with read-along score

Ben Johnston's most famous string quartet is easily No. 4, his variations on "Amazing Grace". Someone posted a video of a recording with a read-along score.

At 5:59 your eyes won't deceive you, the time signature really is 9/64. I'm fond of Variation 7.  What I like about Johnston's music is there where in one realm he pushes along within avant garde ideas (a different tuning system for every variation on "Amazing Grace", if memory serves), he has a countervailing impulse that balances out the avant garde with something accessible, which in this case is, obviously, doing microtonal extended just intonation variations on one of the most famous hymns in the history of the United States. 

Ben Johnston: String Quartet No. 10 w read-along score

Somebody went to the trouble of posting a video with a recording of Ben Johnston's tenth string quartet and a read-along score.

Norman Lebrecht reviews a CD of violin/piano sonatas by Copland, Poulenc and Prokofiev who, he says, wrote works in 1942 that were escapism related to the war

In the year 1942, while millions were being slaughtered on battlefields and in German extermination camps, three composers in different countries wrote sonatas for violin and piano. Nothing connects these works to contemporary events or to each other. They are acts of escapism by expert musicians who chose not to engage with the worst time in human history.

[reviews violin sonatas composed by Copland, Poulenc and Prokofiev] 

We expect oracles from composers in ominous times. Here are three composers who preferred to bury their heads in scores. It is the interpreters, Benjamin Baker and Daniel Lebhardt, who bring out the terrors and anxieties that rumble beneath these works. Both are brilliant artists of independent mind and prodigious technique, one a New Zealander, the other Hungarian. Their Edinburgh recital was recorded last summer in the thick of the COVID pandemic. Different time, different crisis. This is a wonderfully timely album.

So musical acts of escapism are great if you're Aaron Copland, Francis Poulenc or Sergei Prokofiev?  I'm not really a Copland fan.  His whole Americana thing always sounded contrived to me.  Poulenc, on the other hand, I love his penitential motet settings and his Mass is one of the better 20th century masses I've heard.  I also enjoy Prokofiev (Piano Sonata No. 5, for instance)  

But escapism?  Maybe Lebrecht holds to some idea that artistic output is supposed to be both a reflection of the times and the psychological journey of the composers but not everyone has thought or composed in such a way.  One of my music teachers said that if Beethoven was in a bad mood you saw it in his scores whereas if Haydn or Mozart were ever in a bad mood you could not glean that from studying their scores.  

John Dowland was always sad and said so.  He was probably one of the goth/emo dudes of Renaissance music and also, of course, a legendarily skilled lutenist and songwriter.  But ... Lebrecht's surmise that "we expect oracles from composers in ominous times" sounds like something, 

If we need escapism now and then could that be why Godzilla vs Kong is doing okay at the box office? What kind of escapism does Lebrecht really have in mind?  Probably not Godzilla vs Kong the movie and most definitely not the send-up via trailer that is "Godzilla vs Cat (Owlkitty Parody)"

If Lebrecht likes the music already then the escapism he hears in it is "just what we need".