- C.S. Lewis, "On Reading Old Books"
Autumn always gets me thinking of early America. Maybe it seeps out from Thanksgiving, that thoroughly Pilgrim holiday. So I offer you this music which, though in theme is slightly off-season, in tone is perfectly placed. As Hawthorne said, "She poured out the liquid music of her voice to quench the thirst of his spirit."
Here's a recording of crickets, played in two tracks. One track is normal; the second is slowed. The beautiful result makes a good meditation on God's creative genius. (via Jeffrey Overstreet/Facebook)
Perhaps Alex North's musical score for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn't right for the movie, but that doesn't change the fact that North put everything he had into that score, working with the belief that it would be used. But Kubrick never intended to use it. He wanted the public domain music he selected himself for the temp track.
North's daughter-in-law, Abby North, writes, "As all composers know, directors fall in love with temp tracks. It is often next to impossible for even the most talented and skilled composer to replace the temp tracks with new music cues that elicit the same feelings initially felt with the temp tracks. Unfortunately for Alex, Stanley Kubrick loved the grandeur of Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and the "poetry of motion" of Johan Strauss's The Blue Danube in the context of 2001: A Space Odyssey."
For a bit of context, see this piece on Kubrick's use of European music in The Shining. "[A]lmost the entire score is made up of music by the best European composers of Kubrick’s time," writes Hope Lies, Béla Bartók's music in particular.
The final figures on our free offer of Hailstone Mountain yesterday show upwards of 1,000 downloads, which strikes me as pretty good. We’ve gotten a fair number of sales in the backwash today as well.
So in a mood of thanksgiving, I offer the video below, the best version I could find of a Christian song that (in my opinion) has never gotten the attention it deserves, Rest Within His Sanctuary.
You can also download the MP3 from Amazon here, which I did. This professional version, also, is not quite up to the original I remember from the radio some years back. I’m pretty sure it was recorded by the Lillenaas Singers (Haldor Lillenaas, by the way, was born in Bergen, Norway. Just thought you’d like to know that).
If you sometimes wonder what makes me smile, well, the answer is that few things do. But this song does. I endorse it even though I strongly suspect its purpose is to promote the schismatic Calvinist doctrine of Eternal Security.
Broad-minded, that’s what I am.
Under protest, it goes without saying, because I'm afraid of the power of the Irish Lobby, I offer the following clip of the redoubtable Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. It's a song I'm particularly fond of -- the kind that might not impress you on first acquaintance, but sticks in your mind after a couple repeats. I particularly like the line, "Castles are sacked in war, chieftains are scattered far -- truth is a fix-ed star...."
Now an Anthony Sacramone update: He sneaked back into his blog last week, tiptoeing with his shoes off, and did a post. Then he did another yesterday. So we've got that. He also links to the web page of the Intercollegiate Review, where he's got a very amusing cover story right now:
Empire builders and revolutionaries, reformers and moral scolds, civil libertarians and uncivil prohibitionists—all believe History is on their side. Beware anyone who imputes to History an inevitable, self-directed, Forward march, as if it were as fixed as a bar code, as predetermined as male-pattern baldness, as sovereign as any voluntaristic deity. Most risible are atheists, old or new, who act as if the expanding energies of a supposedly random and causeless Big Bang could even possess an ultimate purpose....
Long, long ago, when I used to sing solos in Christmas programs, my standard was "What Child is This?" I made a point of doing all three variant choruses. I'm happy to note that the divine Sissel does the same (no doubt she was a fan of mine).
A blessed Christmas to you and yours.
Related to Lars' American Spectator post on the sagas, here's a classic western song with a bit of backstory.
I have only known one person in my life who died in war, that I'm aware of. His name was Gordon Gunhus, he graduated from high school with me, and he died in Vietnam. We weren't particular friends, but I have every reason to believe that the life he laid down was a life of considerable promise. Blessed be the memory.
I don't have anything on my mind tonight, so I'll fall back on a YouTube video. This clip captures a definitive moment in the career of Sissel Kyrkjebø (the Greatest Singer in the World). It was 1986, and she was selected to sing an "interval" number during the Eurovision Song Contest, which is a big deal over there every year. She dressed in the traditional bunad (folk costume) of her home city, Bergen, and sang Bergen's official anthem, "Jeg Tok Min Nystemte Cithar i Hende" ("I Took My Newly Tuned Zither in Hand"). This was her first introduction to a wider European public, though she was already pretty famous in Norway. I think you'll understand why she was a hit.
Have a good weekend.
Thanks to Andrew Peterson for his great music.
Happy St. Patrick's Day. I may spend the day in the kitchen, making Irish soda bread and tomorrow's lunch, but you go have fun or something.
We are wonderfully blessed to have a Northern Irish couple writing music for modern church. Songs like "In Christ Alone" and "The Power of the Cross" are contemporary songs worthy of the hymnal for their lyrical richness and musical flow. See the rest of Keith and Kristyn Getty's music on their site. I see they are holding a St. Patrick's Day sale on their website, 17% discount.
Terry Teachout writes about a composer whom Dana Gioia says: "one of the few living composers whom I would call great."
Says Mr. Lauridsen: "There are too many things out there that are away from goodness. We need to focus on those things that ennoble us, that enrich us." The musical language in which he embodies this simple belief is conservative in the best and most creative sense of the word. His sacred music is unabashedly, even fearlessly tonal, and his chiming harmonies serve as underpinning for gently swaying melodic lines that leave no doubt of his love for medieval plainchant. Nothing about his music is "experimental": It is direct, heartfelt and as sweetly austere as the luminous sound of church bells at night.
Sissel and the MTC again. A short version, but they haven't PC'd the lyrics.
Merry Christmas to you all.
Stephen Paulus' "Pilgrims' Hymn" from his 1997 opera, The Three Hermits.
This morning, while driving to work, Malvina Reynold's song "Little Boxes" popped into my mind.
And I pondered it it. All that snide condescension toward people who live unexciting lives, and are able to own houses, however small.
Malvina Reynolds, of course, was a socialist, so she dreamed of something better for the masses. And it occurred to me to wonder, "What kind of life would she wish for ordinary people?"
I have to assume the glorious Soviet Union must have been her model. Delightful accommodations like those pictured above, where the happy workers shared a fulfilling communal existence.
And so I wrote my own version of the song, which you may read below the fold: Read the rest of this entry . . .
That's what being a Christian musician is about.
The great musician Fernando Ortega gives a bit of advice to hymn writers: happy church songs don't stick to your ribs. Work on that next hymn in the light of some specific imagery or drama from the Scriptures. Ortega notes: "It’s easy to write a chorus that says:
God, you are a Holy GodI just made that up in two minutes and there’s nothing wrong with it. It might fit easily and competitively among the hundreds of worship songs that are available to choose from. But compare those lines to the third stanza from the above hymn:
I need your grace to see me through
I need your mercy to make me new
Let me live each day for you.
Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing."
Today, dear readers, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, which I'm sure you have been celebrating since midnight. Because ruthless pirates are truly misunderstood dreamers who have poorly chosen ways to work out their pain over dashed hopes, I post the following beautiful Norwegian song by a little known but incredibly gorgeous singer (do we know who this is?) as a way of soothing the savage pirate in us all.
"These are songs about growing up on a tough planet," said Springsteen, telling reporters that when the idea of humans and aliens working side by side in an extraterrestrial labor colony first occurred to him, he immediately knew he "had to tell their story." "The Martians aren't trying to run away from their lives or make excuses. They're proud of what they do and where they're from, even if the high-impact ion-compression carbonate mining industry isn't what it used to be," the Onion New Network reports.
Hits you deep. Hmm.
It feels like spring. It looks like spring.
Which makes me confident we've got at least one more big snowstorm coming.
I'll let you know.
One more Irish song, you say? Well, if you insist.
This isn't the greatest video, and it's got a big slug of dead air at the end, but I couldn't find one I really liked. Beautiful song. There's a romantic back story, complete with class differences, Protestant-Catholic enmity, and parental opposition...
One night beneath the pale, silvery moon William asked Mary to marry him. However, William's family disapproved of him seeing Mary, the broguemaker's daughter who lived in a small peasant house in the middle of town. Whilst Mary loved William, she knew that their union could never be, as it would force him to turn his back on his family and he would begin to regret the day he'd ever met her. She declined his offer of marriage.
...but it seems to me just about three inches too romantic to be true. Wikipedia attributes the words to C. (or E.) Mordaunt Spencer and the music to Charles William Glover.
Anyway, it's an Irish love song, and (as Phil could have told us) it's sad as all the world's tears.
Have a good weekend.
St. Patrick's Day draws to a close, but I shall honor the saint one last time with the highest compliment I can pay—that is, an Irish melody sung by the world's greatest Norwegian singer, Sissel Kyrkjebø. The song, of course, is You Raise Me Up, but the melody is Danny Boy. Or Londonderry Air, if you prefer. Or Derry Air, if you're a strong Fenian.
To Norwegians, it's the day following St. Patrick's Day that's the important one. We call that, Angrep Irland Fordi Alle de Irsk Er For Bakrust Å Motstådagen (Raid Ireland Because All the Irish Are Too Hung Over To Resist Day).
A Facebook friend posted an Irish blessing today, and it seemed oddly familiar to me. Then I remembered. I wrote it. I made it up one St. Patrick's Day years agone, on Baen Books' discussion board, when I used to hang out there. It goes like this:
“May you ever have bread on your table, and more bacon than bread, and more beer than bacon. And may you have need of none of it, having eaten and drunk your fill at your enemies' wakes.”
Father Aillil is always at my elbow.
Mark Steyn delivers a bouquet to that much-maligned musical genre, the American Irish song, here.
“I am trying,” Chauncey Olcott once said, “to help the world along with the genius of Ireland. That little island has much to teach, and if people will but listen, they cannot fail to be impressed and improved. The fortunes of war, the mischances of statesmanship, and the awful curse of poverty have combined to keep the world in ignorance of everything Irish, excepting its suffering, hopes, songs and dauntless courage. Yet these are a very small part of the Irish character as an entity. At an early period they realized the vital importance of exercise, sunlight, fresh air, and water as the conditions precedent of all health and happiness. They cultivated the horse and dog; they excelled in the chase; they were proficient in falconry, and they had many Izaak Waltons before that immortal angler was born... For grace and vigor nothing could be better than the old-fashioned game of handball, while in putting the stone and throwing the hammer the Irish still hold the championship. In music and song their genius is well known; nevertheless, it is greater than the public is aware. From the earliest years, the singer has been the honored member of the community, and in ancient days ranked with the great nobles in the courts of the Milesian kings.”
And finally, in a note appropriate for the day's Catholic associations, Vox Day opens a window and throws some light on real world comparisons between child abuse by Catholic priests and child abuse by government caretakers.
This doesn't excuse what the pedophile priests did nor does it excuse the diabolical decision of the Vatican to permit homosexuals to join the priesthood in the first place. They eminently deserve whatever punishment they receive, in both this world and the next. But it puts the scale of their evil deeds into the proper statistical perspective. And while one could argue that physical beatings and psychological abuse are not as bad as sexual abuse and should be omitted from the comparison, one also has to keep in mind that none of the crimes committed by the priests rose to the lethal level either.
Tip: Chad at Fraters Libertas.
Here's one Patrick may have enjoyed more than the previous song.
Christ's is the Seed
Christ's is the Harvest
Into God's barn
May we be brought.
While in choir practice last night, it occurred to me (and I think others have said it before) that Patrick would want us to remember a day in his honor by honoring the Lord God who drove the darkness out of Ireland. So here's an Irish hymn: 'Mo Ghrá'sa, Mo Dhia' (My Love, My God)
Prithee, I beg your attention a moment. I did not slur all Irish folk music as being pulled from the sad sack. I believe I said that only of Irish love songs. Give a listen to this drinking song, which for the record is not a love song:
Faith, and since it's an Irish mood we're in, here's my personal favourite Irish musical group, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, doing "The Whistling Gypsy Rover," a song which puts the lie entire to the vile slanders of Phil (and Ian in Comments) that all Irish (or all folk, if you prefer) songs are about misery and loss.
Granted, 99% of folk songs are about misery and loss. Because, to be sure, when a fellow's happy he generally has better things to do than write songs, while when he's feeling low writing songs is about all he does feel up to.
It's St. Patrick's Day this week. This version is not the version I'm most familiar with. Apparently, the small Irish band which came to town some years ago and encouraged me to buy their CD sang an ancient version of this very old song. The gist is the same. A young man last sees his bride-to-be walking through the fair. Sometime afterwards, she dies, and in the last verse, her ghost visits him at night to say her final words to him again.
That's the way Irish love songs go. One lover dies; another one is rejected; or another couple is opposed by their family or society or circumstances from living happily ever after. Moral: Don't love an Irish person.