- Praise band music
- Buffalo, NY
- Poor intonation
The staff of TBWCTW hopes that you all had a restful and enjoyable Christmas holiday.
Processional: Up on the housetop (New Paris)
Canticle: The twelve days of Christmas (plainsong: Mode VIII:1)
Gradual: Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer (Nasus Lucidus)
Sequence/Offertory: White Christmas (Crosby)
Communion: Baby, it's cold outside (Loesser)
Recessional: All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth (Duos dentes meos)
Et qui rit des curés d'Oc?1Despite the antiquated French idiom in which the manuscript is written, many English speakers find that when these poems are read aloud, they sound strangely familiar.
De Meuse raines,2 houp! de cloques.3
De quelles loques ce turque coin.4
Et ne d'ânes ni rennes,
Écuries des curés d'Oc.5
1 Oc (or Languedoc), ancient region of France, with its capital at Toulouse. Its monks and curates were, it seems, a singularly humble and holy group. This little poem is a graceful tribute to their virtues.
2Meuse, or Maas, River, 560 miles long, traversing France, Belgium, and the Netherlands; Raines, old French word for frogs (from the L., ranae). Here is a beautiful example of Gothic imagery: He who laughs at the curés of Oc will have frogs leap at him from the Meuse river and
3 infect him with a scrofulous disease! This is particularly interesting when we consider the widespread superstition in America that frogs and toads cause warts.
4"Turkish corners" were introduced into Western Europe by returning Crusaders, among other luxuries and refinements of Oriental living. Our good monks made a concession to the fashion, but N.B. their Turkish corner was made of rags! This affectation of interior decorating had a widespread revival in the U.S.A. at the turn of the century. Ah, the Tsar's bazaars' bizarre beaux-arts.
5So strict were the monks that they didn't even indulge themselves in their arduous travels. No fancy mules nor reindeer in their stables. They just rode around on their plain French asses.
[Our] culture has continued to be one of unresolved and apparently unresolvable moral and other disagreements in which the evaluative and normative utterances of the contending parties present a problem of interpretation. For on the one hand they seem to presuppose a reference to some shared impresonal standard in virtue of which at most one of those contending parties can be in the right, and yet on the other the poverty of the arguments adduced in support of their assertions and the characteristically shrill, and assertive and expressive mode in which they are uttered suggest strongly that there is no such standard. My explanation was and is that the precepts that are thus uttered were once at home in, and intelligible in terms of, a context of practical beliefs and of supporting habits of thought, feeling, and action, a context that has since been lost, a context in which moral judgments were understood as governed by impersonal standards justified by a shared conception of the human good.Prologue to the third edition (2007), ix.
Get serious. Get realistic. Get ordinary. If we want the human career entire, however, we must accept that religio-mystico-eschatological humbug will never die out, middlebrow bromides notwithstanding.To me, this sounds suspiciously like the thirteenth of the Radical Orthodoxy Theses:
HiLoBrow celebrates the ordinary possibilities of the fantastic. Humbug, too, deserves its Hitchcock.
Radical Orthodoxy rejoices in the unavoidably and authentically arcane, mysterious, and fascinatingly difficult. It regards this preference as democratic, since in loving mystery, it wishes also to diffuse and disseminate it. We relish the task of sharing a delight in the hermetic with uninitiated others.What's going on here? I think it unlikely that Hilobrow is endorsing the explicitly antimodern Augustinianism of Radical Orthodox theology, but both statements reflect an animus against middlebrow culture. In Battles's article, we are confronted with a critical establishment that looks with disapproval upon anything "religio-mystico-eschatological," whatever that means. The critic even has the temerity to suggest a list of themes for the director's next movie ("ordinary acts of murder, fear, heroism, and death") which suggest nothing so much as a mediocre episode of Law and Order. In the Radical Orthodoxy manifesto, we are urged to reject a mode of discourse that attempts to reduce religious faith to the mundane and socially acceptable; in its place, they seek to develop a theology that accepts the full implications of the Christian mystery, and a liturgical praxis that embodies that mystery. Both writers have noticed the same trend: a middlebrow distaste for the complex, fantastic and mystical.
To be clear - I am not saying high culture is better than mass culture. What I am saying is that people on the high culture side of things feel a very great tendency to say out loud, and often, that they think mass culture is just as good as high culture. . . What they are really doing is making it clear that the middlebrows are still the arbiters of taste, even though most people's complete indifference to classical music, and the classical music community's intense, nearly overwhelming desire to proselytize, to convert, the lowbrows over to the fold suggests the complete opposite.It seems to me that this is exactly right. There is no demand from the many, many fans of Céline Dion, for example, that we acknowledge her music as having the same aesthetic and formal merits as the Saint Matthew Passion; indeed, anyone who starts thinking along these lines at a Céline Dion concert is probably missing the point. There is likewise no demand from cranky, dyspeptic organist-bloggers that Céline Dion fans should be forced, perhaps at gunpoint, to attend performances of the Saint Matthew Passion - they would probably be unhappy, confused, and disruptive. (Would you rather sit next to a Dion fan at a symphony concert - or me at a Céline Dion concert - or someone who actually wants to be there? Think hard.) The demand for a spurious "reintegration" of classical and popular music comes exclusively from a middlebrow intellectual elite, who accuse the highbrows of snobbery and condescension while simultaneously condescending to the lowbrows by their patronizing attempts to "convert" them to classical music, or Shakespeare, or multigrain bread, or whatever.
A common-place critic has something to say upon every occasion, and he always tells you either what is not true, or what you knew before, or what is not worth knowing. He is a person who thinks by proxy, and talks by rote. He differs with you, not because he thinks you are in the wrong, but because he thinks somebody else will think so. Nay, it would be well if he stopped here; but he will undertake to misrepresent you by anticipation, lest others should misunderstand you, and will set you right, not only in opinions which you have, but in those which you may be supposed to have. . . He thinks it difficult to prove the existence of any such thing as original genius, or to fix a general standard of taste. He does not think it possible to define what wit is. In religion his opinions are liberal. He considers all enthusiasm as a degree of madness, particularly to be guarded against by young minds; and believes that truth lies in the middle, between the extremes of right and wrong.The central characteristic of the middlebrow is a sort of intellectual parasitism; because the very concept of "middle" is epistemically secondary, he depends upon the concepts of high and low culture to orient himself. As the public prestige of high art continues to dwindle, and public figures avoid showing any support for Western culture for fear of being represented as snobs and racists, the middlebrow is obliged to invent more and more ludicrous highbrow straw men against whom to inveigh. He urges artists to strive towards an integration of high-art and low-art elements in their work, in the name of artistic "diversity" - which, in this case, means that all styles should become exactly the same. The only downside to the career of a middlebrow is that he would be immediately put out of a job if his dreams of cultural integration ever came true - which shows how carefully he's chosen his target, for they never will.
Rhineland, lovely Rhineland, Super-fine land,For the english horn melody in the slow movement of Dvorak's "New World" Symphony:
Full of beauty, song and story,
Land of legend, land of glory!
English horn, all forlorn,and for the contrasting second theme (approximately 4:50 in the video):
pipe your plaintive lay,
Dreaming slow, soft and low,
What does Dvorak say?
Nothing loud, nothing proud,
naught of pomp and pow'r,
Simple song, not too long,
shy as hidden flow'r.
Once again, sad refrain,
here it rise and fall,
Tender, true, ever new,
human heart-throbs' call.
Whither away?And, finally, Spaeth's arguable masterpiece, to be sung to the opening of Mozart's 40th:
Seeming to say,
"Let the music play,
Let's call it a day."
With a laugh and a smile like a sunbeam,Now, whatever one might say about the quality of this verse, Spaeth's book has one great strength - the author's ability to communicate the essence of a symphonic narrative to a broad audience without vulgar programmaticism. Spaeth is not embarrassed to give his readers a concrete image to associate with each musical theme, but he usually derives these images from musical characteristics that are already obvious (the peasant dances in Haydn symphonies, or the gypsy fiddling in Brahms's Second). In the absence of explicit references of this sort, Spaeth never makes up fanciful stories about leprechauns and herds of wildebeest; instead, he generally gives us a skeletal narrative about a "hero" and his struggles, with their eventual resolution. This sort of thing is precisely what an untrained listener wants when he tries to follow an hour-long symphonic narrative: he doesn't need a fanciful story to distract him, but he should be told to listen for the varying characters of the different musical themes, to try to perceive an agonistic or complementary relationship between them, and to be aware of an eventual resolution to the conflict, when it arrives. Spaeth's book may be too dated to return to general circulation, and his lyrics may deserve oblivion, but his basic approach to music education is by no means unsalveagable.
And a face that is glad, with a fun-beam,
We can start on our way very gaily,
Singing tunes from a symphony daily.
And if Mozart could but hear us,
He would wave his hat and cheer us
Coming down the scale,
all hale and strong in song.
But when intemperance and disease multiply in a State, halls of justice and medicine are always being opened; and the arts of the doctor and lawyer give themselves airs, finding how keen is the interest which not only the slaves but the freemen of the city take about them.Plato, Republic III: 405-410, s. v. "The vanity of doctors and lawyers".
And yet what greater proof can there be of a bad and disgraceful state of education than this, that not only artisans and the meaner sort of people need the skill of first-rate physicians and judges, but also those who would profess to have had a liberal education? Is it not disgraceful, and a great sign of want of good-breeding, that a man should have to go abroad for his law and physic because he has none of his own at home, and must therefore surrender himself into the hands of other men whom he makes lords and judges over him?
Of all things, he said, the most disgraceful.
Would you say 'most,' I replied, when you consider that there is a further stage of the evil in which a man is not only a life-long litigant, passing all his days in the courts, either as plaintiff or defendant, but is actually led by his bad taste to pride himself on his litigiousness; he imagines that he is a master in dishonesty; able to take every crooked turn, and wriggle into and out of every hole, bending like a withy and getting out of the way of justice: and all for what? --in order to gain small points not worth mentioning, he not knowing that so to order his life as to be able to do without a napping judge is a far higher and nobler sort of thing. Is not that still more disgraceful?
Yes, he said, that is still more disgraceful.
Well, I said, and to require the help of medicine, not when a wound has to be cured, or on occasion of an epidemic, but just because, by indolence and a habit of life such as we have been describing, men fill themselves with waters and winds, as if their bodies were a marsh, compelling the ingenious sons of Asclepius to find more names for diseases, such as flatulence and catarrh; is not this, too, a disgrace?
Yes, he said, they do certainly give very strange and newfangled names to diseases.
[. . .]
[But] our youth, having been educated only in that simple music which, as we said, inspires temperance, will be reluctant to go to law.
And the musician, who, keeping to the same track, is content to practise the simple gymnastic, will have nothing to do with medicine unless in some extreme case.
We all perhaps recall the medieval story of the juggler who could not speak or pray or craft well, but who silently before the altar performed his juggling act. He was more pleasing than the rest to God.James V. Schall, Another Sort of Learning, 220.
It may not be the right thing to say in polite company, but sitting through a lot of new music feels like sonic self-flagellation. If, as the late philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, pleasure is the absence of pain, silence might be bliss. That concern could come to a head during the 5 1/2 hours of Olivier Messiaen's only opera, a series of vignettes depicting St. Francis's hourney toward light and grace. The music is atonal. Jean Kalman's set is stark, laden with rough-hewn symbolism.Had I read this when it originally came out, I would have been sorely tempted to report an error in this article to the editors. Saint Francois, of course, is not atonal. This is simply factually wrong; Messiaen's score, like almost all of his music, is organized using an extended tonal language which encompasses many dissonant chords but which always resolves to a tonal center. If Mr. Terauds really believes that Messiaen's music is atonal, he has quite a bit of homework to do; it would be as though the Star's pop music critic thought that John Denver was a death metal artist. Of course, I don't think Terauds is quite that foolish; rather, I think he's using the word "atonal" carelessly, as a sort of mental shorthand for any music that sometimes doesn't sound nice. But, people, if any music that contains dissonance is atonal, then all music since the abandonment of parallel organum is atonal. Words have meanings.
"We can know things only as they are related to us/under our forms of perception and understanding/in so far as they fall under our perceptual schemes, etc.":which is roughly analogous to the following:
"We cannot know things as they are in themselves."
"We can see objects only as they appear to us with our eyes":In other words, much of contemporary philosophy, including the debased form of philosophical language we use in everyday conversation, is based on the presupposition that having any particular means of perceiving the world utterly prevents us from perceiving it. I don't know who first conceived this little argument, or why no-one picked up on the problem with it, but you have him to thank every time you hear someone say "Well, that's only your opinion" about a matter that should be subject to external verification.
"We cannot see objects as they really are."
[T]here are two habits of thought which are deeply ingrained in Western culture as a whole and which largely determine the way we think about music . . . [One is] the tendency to think of language and other forms of cultural representation, including music, as if they depicted an external reality.Nicholas Cook, Music: A Very Short Introduction, 50.
If only we could be more like Singapore. If only our education system could be as efficient as Singapore’s. You say that Singapore might not be the best model to aspire to, that in certain respects it more closely resembles Winston Smith’s world than Thomas Jefferson’s? What does that have to do with education?Ouch.
Even a dessicated, values-free version of the humanities has the potential to be dangerous, though, because it is impossible to say where the individual mind might wander off to while reading, what unsettling associations might suggest themselves, what unscripted, unapproved questions might float to the surface. It’s been said before: in the margins of the page, over the course of time, for the simple reason that we shape every book we read and are slightly shaped by it in turn, we become who we are. Which is to say individuals just distinct enough from one another in our orientation toward “the truth” or “the good” to be difficult to control.Well, I suppose. This sort of rhetoric is simultaneously extremely true and rather tiresome, and depending on what mood I'm in, my reaction will vary from enthusiastic approval to eye-rolling irritation. On the one hand, this writing captures an experience that any sympathetic reader will recognize: the free-floating stream of ideas that follows when we imaginatively engage with a worthwhile piece of art, or literature, or philosophy. On the other, I resent the idea that the value of the humanities lies in their supposedly subversive political implications: is that why we return to the B Minor Mass, or Turangalila, or the Four Quartets? To value art primarily, or even particularly, as a pleasant way of inciting political dissent smacks of the most vulgar Marxism. Surely we return to our favourite works of art because we once discovered them to be beautiful, and because recognizing and apprehending that beauty makes us feel more intensely what it means to be human.
This “deep” civic function of the humanities, not easily reducible to the politics of left or right but politically combustible nonetheless, is something understood very well by totalitarian societies, which tend to keep close tabs on them, and to circumscribe them in direct proportion to how stringently the population is controlled. This should neither surprise nor comfort us. Why would a repressive regime support a force superbly designed to resist it? Rein in the humanities effectively enough—whether through active repression, fiscal starvation, or linguistic marginalization—and you create a space, an opportunity. Dogma adores a vacuum.
All civilisation, as well as all religion, ultimately rests on the truth that we do not "need" beautiful things to be good. Beautiful things belong precisely to that category of reality which is, as the Greeks first taught, beyond necessity. They are precisely "unnecessary". This is their glory.James V. Schall, S.J., The Praise of 'Sons of Bitches', 24.
Thus man is, in fact, that being in the universe who can build unnecessary things and make them beautiful. And conversely, the ultimate sign of barbarism is to burn down something that is truly lovely - and to burn it down in the name of man himself, as if this act would somehow ennoble him further. Indeed, even more, the final mark of incivility is never to build a beautiful thing in the first place. This is why in the end, all barbarism, even all heresy, comes to attack beauty in the name of bread. In other words, the most radical contempt for the poor is to proclaim that they need bread more than beauty, that they literally do, in fact, live by bread alone.
The authentic performance is a kind of tacit reprimand of the audience. Listeners to Beethoven's Ninth, thinned with white spirit by Roger Norrington and painted in fast brush-strokes on the air, are meant to be shocked. They are meant to understand the vulgarity of their taste, in wanting the full-throated brass of a modern orchestra, and the silken saturation of ten- or twenty-fold strings.I consult the publication date: 1996. Nope, no excuse. In 1996, the early-music movement had moved far beyond the sort of lifeless, pedantic (and frequently out-of-tune) performance style that Scruton criticizes. Nowadays, listeners are likely to be seduced by the sheer tonal beauty of early-music performances: the richness of a gamba consort, the perfect intonation and blend of a small ensemble singing Renaissance polyphony, or the gravitas of a Silbermann organ.
What should have died along with communism was the belief that modern societies can be run on a single principle, whether that of planning under the general will or that of free-market allocations. Our challenge is actually to combine in some non-self-stultifying fashion a number of ways of operating, which are jointly necessary to a free and prosperous society but which also tend to impede each other: market allocations, state planning, collective provision for need, the defence of individual rights, and effective democratic initiative and control. In the short run, maximum market "efficiency" may be restricted by each of the four modes; in the long run, even perhaps economic performance, but certainly justice and freedom, would suffer from their marginalization.
It is difficult, very difficult, when the music one makes and loves does not make others happy. But when you are in a position to recognize there are some people who will never be made happy by music and others for whom their musical happiness is predetermined by a categorical preference for this or dislike for that, isn't this an opportunity to recognize that these people are lost causes, and it's better to treasure and cultivate people who still have their ears open than to worry about, let alone make music for, lost causes?I am reminded of the last parish I served as organist, where I grew intimately familiar with two parishioners in particular, seated on opposite sides of the chancel: Mr. The-organ-is-far-too-loud and Mrs. The-organ-is-far-too-quiet. The one was convinced that I was a megalomaniac set upon drowning out the congregation's singing with blaring reeds; the other was convinced that the only thing preventing the congregation's singing from getting off the ground was my reluctance to "open up" the organ sufficiently. By the end of my tenure there, they had both given me up as a lost cause.