Tuesday, June 27, 2017

a rit and a flourish

At a church I used to lead music for, we always divided the Sequence hymn, that hymn in the part of the service where they're doing Bible readings. We sang two verses before the Gospel reading, then one or two after.

To keep people from absentmindedly continuing, I often ended the second verse with a slight ritard and slow arpeggio. It's like using your legs to slow down on a swing. Keyboardists have done it since the days of Mozart, Bach before him, Buxtehude before him.

Every once in a while, I thought, "With this simple gesture (rarely even notated), I connect myself to a centuries-long tradition."

Friday, June 23, 2017


Taking a shower in a friend's house, I looked at the world map shower curtain in reverse, and something struck me. I looked at Europe and Africa right next to each other, and the shapes and sizes of the countries in each. I had a thought, which a glance at North America, east and west of the Mississippi, confirmed.

The thought is this: the boundaries of Europe were drawn, with exceptions, on the ground. The boundaries of Africa were drawn on paper (in Europe). The boundaries of the eastern US states were drawn on the ground — that is, by living there; the ones of the western states were drawn on paper — that is, using maps rather than real living experiences.

Look at the difference through that lens: the sizes and shapes, on the scale of human communities on one hand and monumental on the other.