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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Words on Wednesday: Wendell Berry


Excerpt from "Sabbaths 2005" by Wendell Berry

XII.

If we have become a people incapable
of thought, then the brute-thought
of mere power and mere greed
will think for us.
If we have become incapable
of denying ourselves anything,
then all that we have
will be taken from us.
If we have no compassion,
we will suffer alone, we will suffer
alone the destruction of ourselves.
These are merely the laws of this world
as known to Shakespeare:
When we cease from human thought,
a low and effective cunning
stirs in the most inhuman minds.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Music On Monday: Where Charity and Love Are, God Is There




Yesterday, our associate pastor preached a strong sermon on the passage from Matthew 5:38-48 where we are told to turn the other cheek, hand over a coat as well as a shirt, travel two miles with someone who would compel one, and love our enemies. It made me think of the ancient hymn text Ubi Caritas. Some think that this text predates the formalization of the Mass and is from the early Christian church. It can be sung any time, but one of its traditional uses is at the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday. This is a beautiful setting by contemporary Norwegian-American composer Ola Gjeilo.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Music On Monday: Fishy Laundry

Last week's Music On Monday selection featured a rather chaotic-sounding piece by Eliot Carter, and my week immediately fell into chaos. I was rear-ended in a car accident the same day and had unrelated minor surgery at the end of the week. My car is probably totaled, but all of the humans involved were okay. Still, I'd prefer not to have another week like that, so today's selection is one of the most tonal, upbeat pieces of classical music I could think of just in case my music selection has some bearing on the week's events!

A few years ago, my husband and I finally upgraded our slowly dying washer and dryer to new, front-loading Samsung models. Little did we know that the folks at Samsung are fans of Schubert. His piano quintet in A (nicknamed "The Trout") contains a happy tune that is meant to suggest a trout swimming in a stream. It's arguably the most famous piece of classical chamber music.

I've enjoyed discovering videos of other proud Samsung owners dancing to and playing along with their appliances. Here are three funny videos followed by a serious performance of The Trout.





Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Words on Wednesday: Quotes That Speak To Me This Week



“Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.”
― Anne Bradstreet

“Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Self-love is often rather arrogant than blind; it does not hide our faults from ourselves, but persuades us that they escape the notice of others.
----Samuel Johnson

It is a sign that your reputation is small and sinking if your own tongue must praise you. 
-----Matthew Hale

“People who have so much of their personality invested in the Internet can’t really survive as whole individuals without it.”
― Mark A. Rayner, The Fridgularity


Monday, February 6, 2017

Music On Monday: Elliott Carter And The Hazards of Democracy

Photo by Justin Ormant

Music on Monday is a weekly series featuring music that connects with the current events of my life in some way and that might be interesting to those who would like to learn more about classical music. 

Today, we're going to venture into the realm of the musical avant-garde. Don't be afraid!

Elliott Carter was an American composer who died only a few years ago, and of all of the modernist, non-tonal music that came about in the 20th century, his is the stuff I like best. Yes, I actually listen to it. It's an acquired taste, but the more you learn about it, the more you get it. You just have to change your expectations. This is not soothing music.


For today's Music On Monday selection, I chose Carter's composition A Symphony For Three Orchestras. In a great article published by Matthew Guerrieri in the Boston Globe shortly after Carter's death, Guerrieri connects Carter's vision of America with his music, and that view is strongly reflected in the political chaos of the moment.


Carter's musical output can be seen as always straddling the line between "faction and unity." Guerrieri quotes James Madison: “The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice.” The dangerous vice he refers to is "the violence of faction." Consider the riots and protests we've seen so far in only two weeks of President Trump's administration. We are alarmed for the character and fate of our government. Carter made that concern musically his own: As Guerrieri says, "faction and unity would become the latitude and longitude of his musical map."

If you listen to Carter with this in mind, you can hear the very individual character of each instrument going its own way, even when many instruments are caught up in a sweep that heads in a similar direction. Each instrument is it's own, yet it also works in concert with the others.

As we watch the federal court rulings fly in response to President Trump's travel ban, we are watching our three branches of government in action, exercising the checks and balances designed by our country's founders. The piece I'm showcasing today, A Symphony for Three Orchestras, was composed in honor of the American Bicentennial in 1976. It divides the musical forces into three separate, contentious groups. Coincidence? Maybe not.

How to listen to this? First of all, don't bring romantic expectations to the table. This is not music to soothe or to suggest beautiful, pastoral scenes. It's intellectual and visceral. Don't expect melodic or rhythmic patterns that will stick with you (although you might discover a few if you listen very closely). Keep your mind open and let the music tell you what it will. Listen for jagged vs. smooth, coordinated vs. uncoordinated, bright vs. dark, hurried vs. not hurried. Can you hear the individual trajectories of the individual instruments? Can you hear the three separate groups? This is music as ideology, not music as emotion. It may spark emotion in you, and that's a valid experience, but if it's a completely intellectual experience, that's okay, too. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Words on Wednesday from the BCP



From the Book of Common Prayer:

For Our Country

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.