The organ console returned to the
Faith UMC sanctuary last week and on Sunday (9/14) we
will have our grand re-acquaintance with this
magnificent instrument. What will we hear first? More
Bach, naturally! That piece can be found
here. But our
feature selection this week is instead the last piece I
played on the final Sunday in June, just before the
organ went on a 10-week sabbatical. It ends with a
wonderful low loud pedal note.
Our old organ console, looking
anxious before it went under the knife in July.
New on the Blog
While I'm on late summer semi-vacation from
parts of this blog, here is the Friday series on
the organ repairs at Faith UMC, including an
introduction to this fascinating instrument and
its history, and backstage tours of the pipe
room and a shop where pipe organs are built.
Depending on who you talk to, the 40 foot sculpture in front of Baltimore's
Penn Station is either a work of art or an expensive abomination. The work is
called "Male/female," and it's both, which probably already tells you why it is
very disturbing to many people. The work's size and location put it in
company with some other very large civic works of "art" which have caused
similar outcries in other major metropolitan areas.
I grew up in the Cleveland area, and one of the relics of my childhood was a
piece of art called "free stamp." It is, in essence, a very large rubber stamp,
turned on its side, with the word "free" on the bottom. If the Statue of
Liberty, say, were trying to get that book of hers renewed at the local library,
and Godzilla's much larger great aunt was the librarian, she might use that bit
of art to stamp the back jacket of the book with the word "free." Surprisingly,
most Clevelanders could find no use for the thing. And so when it was first
installed in front of a very public building downtown a great howl of protest
came in from all sides--or at least from the ones who do not regularly visit art
museums, and were not happy at all when part of the museum came to them.
This is most people, in fact. Since the free stamp was basically a really
gigantic representation of a common item, there was a great deal of head
scratching over how such a trivial piece of hardware could be rendered so much
larger than life and plopped in front of a public building in the middle of
downtown. If I remember correctly, the artist who wore out his fertile brain
coming up with the design had also been responsible for, oh, a gigantic stapler
in Chicago or a huge paperclip in Toronto. Don't quote me on it, but it was
something to that effect. His medium, if you will, was taking common household
objects, supersizing them, and leaving them in very public places. This type of
thing has been quite trendy in the art world over the last half-century, and a
lot of people will tell you that these so-called artists have quite simply lost
The term music theory may not be something you want to drop
into casual conversation at your next party. For some musically inclined
persons, it has all the charm of a cuss word and none of the vitality. It means
a bunch of difficult and arcane rules that don't seem to have any relevance to
actually playing music, not to mention creating your own. For many, it is just a
bunch of complicated procedures that they can't seem to understand, and this
only leads to frustration. It is thought by composers to be the chief stifler of inspiration. Composers often like to use it as a punching bag. And
they may have a point. Notwithstanding personality issues--and, believe me, many
of my own theory professors did not seem like the most interesting people in the
world (at least until I got to grad school)--the things that we theory types
teach (for I have also been an instructor of bored college students like myself
and I have vowed not to be as dull as my own mentors) seem mostly concerned with
music of past centuries, and to dwell forever in trifling details. Surely the
composers themselves didn't think of their music this way--as an homage to the
inviolable past, and as an exercise in trying not to do what you weren't allowed
to do? Many have suggested, in fact, that the inspiration of the
gifted creator came first and brought in its wake a host
of critics and persons determined to justify and explain the music once it was
safely non-controversial, and arguably no longer relevant to the mental and
emotional climate in which it is performed--when it became a museum piece rather
than an artistic response to the here and now. These persons, the line goes, are
just draining all the joy out of music. I don't intend to defend people who
actually do this, or who substitute analysis for actual music making--merely to
suggest that trying to picture theory as a bunch of useless rules and musical
creation as an act of complete freedom whereby no knowledge or mastery of
anything is necessary--this too is asking for trouble.
I don't believe that the majority of good composers have
little or no grasp of some kind of theory, simply that it may not resemble the
kind we teach in school.
from the department of "Godmusic" --
under "other blogs"
Cable news has been telling us this week that "the world is burning." I
guess it's time for us all to go up on our rooftops and wait
for the end. Just like the last time:
If the History Channel has been getting it right these last
few years, this will be my last article. It has been a pleasure writing for you.
Now we go up on our rooftops and wait for the world to end.
According to the Mayans, says the
television, December 21st
of this year is the end of the third epic cycle of the calendar, and will usher
in the end of the world. Nice knowing you.
Maybe it isn’t nice to sound skeptical about these things,
but this has got to be about the 8 billionth time just in my lifetime that
somebody somewhere said the world was going to end, so if it does, I have to
say, I’ll be a little bit surprised. To apocolyptics, however, this is just part
of the formula. Just you wait and see, they’ll tell us:
While I’ve been on sabbatical (from
this section of the website) a number of momentous things have been happening.
One was a Supreme Court decision that allowed corporate money to flow unhindered
into political campaigns, because “corporations are people.” More recently, that
slogan has been picked up by a Republican
presidential candidate and used as an example of how things ought to be in
the land of the free.
Arguing against the logic or wisdom of this ruling is
unrewarding; it often earns labels like Radical Socialist and/or
Free-Enterprise Hater and other fun names; although sometimes the ridicule is
limited to “you just hate anybody who makes a profit.” I protest at the outset
that I have nothing against corporations. Some of my best friends are
In fact, I was talking to one of them the other day. I called
to ask him about some of the issues of the day, the way you would naturally jaw
with a buddy over lunch. (read
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