Wednesday, June 29, 2011

joy spring

Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" has a natural uplift to it. It's a typical A-A-B-A form, but the second A is a half-step higher, and the B starts off a further half-step higher. It's like a little harmonic staircase that's endlessly fun to climb as you play the song and the form repeats over and over.

The band played it this last Sunday at church, for the offertory.

I'm remembering the other time I played that tune at church for an offertory: several people — naturally, I'll never know who they are — complained to the minister, who called me in for a meeting, relaying their displeasure. (And how many people went to him and expressed their pleasure at hearing this song?) He hadn't been there during that service, so I explained that the overall sound was a pleasant one, and that, after all, it was a bit of a departure from the kind of thing we'd been doing — all in the name of big-tent musical inclusiveness — and we probably wouldn't be doing offertories like that too often. It was just a bit of variety. Lots of people liked it.

After our conversation he concluded that it might have brought on some unpleasantness but it was all probably OK, and those people were just griping; he seemed especially relieved to hear that we weren't introducing a regular feature with it. Then he requisitioned the video of it so he could see and hear it all himself.


Then there was this Sunday, when not only the congregation expressed enthusiasm, but the minister(s) made it a point to say how great it was; the pastor had, in fact, made a bit of a deal before the service about how much our jazzy sound added to the texture of worship there. A few days earlier he'd gotten in touch with me to say "The Bishop's going to be there Sunday, so — "

Yeah, I've heard sentences like that before. They always end in caution and tamping-down and preemptive inoffensiveness. This time, though, the sentence ended in " — so don't hold back! We really want you guys to do what you do."


I'm proud of the worship band I'm a part of. We give an offering, joyfully and with our various personalities intact, and it creates something that can't be duplicated. It's always been, I believe, a pleasant scent to the True Audience, the Audience-of-One that we're really all playing for. It's nice though, that these days our offering is also honored by the people around us, and the people in charge.

Blessings abound.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

a (not very) new despotism

George Washington was always wary of tyranny. But, crucially, he looked out for it in exactly the places it was actually likely to show up in a democracy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

major, minor, perfect, imperfect

Recently, my dad asked me a music question: Why are 4ths and 5ths called perfect and the other intervals designated as only major 2nd, 3rd, etc?

If an accomplished musician wonders, so may you. So I'm sharing the answer.

Actually, primes and octaves are also called perfect. That gives us nine (arguably) different note relationships.

Coming at the problem from an angle, let's ask, What if there were two kinds of cars, male and female? But there aren't; there's just one. There are just cars, and they're not gendered. Dogs, on the other hand, are gendered: a dog has to be either male or female, and can't be both and can't be neither.

Some intervals are cars, and some are dogs. For mathematical reasons, primes and octaves and fourths and fifths don't come in two "genders," major and minor; they just don't. Only seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths are major or minor. So, in the European minds of several hundred years ago, seconds and thirds and sixths and sevenths, which have to be either major or minor, and can't be both and can't be neither, seemed more like the mutable moon and the mutable earth below it. Primes and octaves and fourths and fifths, which only exist in one state and can't be major or minor, seemed more like the immutable sun and the immutable stars beyond. So one set of intervals is called "imperfect," and the other "perfect."

All this is aside from chromatic modifications: any interval, perfect or imperfect, can be an "augmented" or "diminished" interval. If you fiddle around with them on a piano, you'll see that the definitions overlap, and are only there for ease of reading. (That's my opinion; others think they're there for theoretical purity, which leads to some horribly unreadable charts.)

But, no matter whether you agree that the metaphor of perfection and imperfection is a good one, there has to be some name that reflects the very real difference between the dogs and the cars, the gendered and the ungendered.

Monday, June 20, 2011

separate and equally brazen

I was just reading about the post-Reconstruction laws in the South. I'd known they had separate bathrooms for whites and blacks, separate sections of streetcars, separate water fountains; I hadn't quite known they had separate post office windows, though that doesn't seem too surprising. But I'm just reading that the separation extended to courtrooms, where they had separate Bibles to swear in whites and blacks.

Now that's cognitive dissonance.

Friday, June 17, 2011

due north

As I've pointed out before, The Blue Nile is a band that doesn't play by the usual rules of music promotion. It appears that they don't mind if you don't find out about a release of theirs, even if you're a rabid fan.

While the guest appearances on Quiet City's Public Face Private Face (a project by the longtime studio drummer for the Blue Nile) don't count as a proper Blue Nile release, certainly I was surprised to find out they were out there. I'm not sure how much involvement there is from the guys in the band, but the sinewy and unusual bass line sounds like it could be a Robert Bell creation, and those odd synth textures (veering between cheesy and magnificent) could very well be Paul Joseph Moore, especially since these songs date from before he left the group. Singer Paul Buchanan is of course in stunning form.

I sat back and put this on, and enjoyed that combination of familiarity and newness and excellence that one rarely gets. (The last time was probably the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.)

Dynamic, soaring, beautiful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the response

Every follower of Christ will be, and has been, praying for this country privately, behind closed doors, as the Savior commanded in no uncertain terms. Those who pray otherwise may make whatever claim they want about their faith, but, at least on this important issue, they are no followers of Christ.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

venn diagram, please

I was just reading an article by Steve Coll that described a place

populated by muckraking journalists, comic novelists, cheesy reality-TV producers, real-estate hustlers, world-class squash players, and the like.

"And the like?"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

taking a stand

Today, Greta rose, nearly unaided, and stood, completely unaided, for at least a second or two before sitting down with a plop. That's a first, in a season of firsts. She was on the way to getting a piece of banana, a fruit she was so excited about at the time that she bellowed and yelled with pleasure and anticipation.

Thrilled that she stood alone, I tried to get her to stand again. I put the banana down on the chair and used both hands to pull her up again, helping her feet to a more advantageous position so maybe she could stand longer. Nope: she crawled over and started going for the banana.

That's exactly it, my daughter: the thing is the thing. The goal is the goal, not whatever someone else makes of your effort toward it. What mattered to her wasn't that she stood; what mattered to her was the banana. May it always be that way.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

the wounded healer

Here's a song that the Jazz Protagonists released before it was actually written. On our Live at Luna CD, we included a powerful performance of a piece, improvised on the spot, that had a haunting feel and cool groove and interesting structure. I fiddled around with the melody, coming up with a descending line, but that was about it.

The other week, I sat down and addressed the piece once and for all. I came up with what I think is a memorable C-minor melody that fits the song just right. We played it for an appreciative audience a few days later. Meanwhile, here's the rough demo I threw down. See what you think.

The Wounded Healer