“The more I study the history of the Orthodox Church in this country, the more I am convinced that our work here is God's work; that God himself is helping us; that when it seems as though everything we do is ready to fail, …on the contrary, it not only does not die, but grows in new strength and brilliance.” [said just before leaving the United States for Russia]
Saint Tikhon, enlightener of America

«— Once More, Ladies and Gentlemen… mpt!
—» The Heisenslash Principle of Uncertainty

Back a Brother Up, Please

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

The recent fuss concerning the ossuary (i.e., the “bone-box”) of St. James the Brother of the Lord has led, predictably, to a discussion of his exact relationship to Our Lord and the Theotokos. Mark Shea takes the bull by the horns. This, boys and girls, is what we call the “smack down.” :-) It is well-written, and it explains why traditional Christians, like Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, are not bothered when they cannot prove something from scripture.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 3:36 pm

«— Graceful, Indeed
—» Back a Brother Up, Please

Once More, Ladies and Gentlemen… mpt!

mpt!">Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

More mpt adulation from your favorite mpt groupie. Is it possible to have a business model that incorporates free software and eschews proprietary software? Absolutely. There are many such models, and they are profitable, too. mpt explains.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 6:55 am

«— Testing…
—» Once More, Ladies and Gentlemen… mpt!

Graceful, Indeed

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

Second update: The blog linked below is Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist), a retired bishop from the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Japan. It is not the Bishop of Ottawa and Canada, his grace Bishop Seraphim (Torheim). I apologize for not being more clear with the first erratum.

Updated

His grace, Bishop Seraphim, has a blog. Vladyka’s liberality of thought, catholicity of scope, and orthodoxy of teaching leave me speechless. I have added him to my daily bookmarks (which are not so daily, I note), and my linkroll.

Erratum: Although I at first identified vladyka as the bishop of Ottawa and Canada, on further research, this is incorrect. He is a retired bishop of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Japan, currently residing in New York. My apologies for the error. However, I have confirmed that he is active in the OCA.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 10:16 pm

«— Amazing…
—» Graceful, Indeed

Testing…

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

Chris pinged me back, so now it’s time to test out his pingback.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 12:38 pm

«— Another Reason Pingback Was Borken
—» Testing…

Amazing…

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

Reading the forum boards over at Michael V.’s place actually yields some really useful stuff occasionally. Thanks to Michael, I have made all of my links search engine–friendly. And I didn’t have to mess with any sticky, slimy regex garbage. (That stuff can be hard to get out in the wash, let me tell you.)

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 12:47 am

«— Re: Chant vs. non-chant
—» Amazing…

Another Reason Pingback Was Borken

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

In xmlrpc.php, line 1011 should be an if then else statement using the ternary operator, like so:
$title = (!strlen($matchtitle[1])) ? $pagelinkedfrom : $matchtitle[1];
The ? is missing in the standard distro. Figured this out, then found it was a known issue. Will continue looking at the boards to find out what else I need to fix.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 11:58 pm

«— Odds and Ends
—» Another Reason Pingback Was Borken

Re: Chant vs. non-chant

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

This is what I love about blogging. Other people link to me, and then a great conversation happens. Huw (Raphael), aka arkouda, linked to my earlier article on chant. This spawned some comments by his readers which take issue with my statement that “…chant focuses on the text, and it puts the melody at the service of the text. Western music since Bach puts the emphasis on the music itself, to the extent that words are made to fit melodies.” One reader responds:

Consider “Every valley” from Messiah where the melody sung by the tenor mimics the peaks and valleys made low by the arrival of the Messiah. Or “We all like sheep have gone astray,” where the straying herd is represented by a melody that wanders around just like lost sheep? Or how about the Crucifixus Melody in Bach’s B Minor Mass , where the actual melody makes a sign of the cross in the music manuscript? Or in Handel’s Joshua, where the Sun comes to a complete stop in the sky while Israel battles: musically represented by the orchestra with the strings holding a single note…. In fact, Handel’s knowledge of scripture was so good, he dashed off a terse reply to the Bishop of London who had sent him texts for the coronation anthems for King George II.

This is an excellent response, and one for which I am not unprepared. Indeed, this style of composition, called text-painting by musicologists, is exactly what I’m talking about. Take “All we like sheep,” for example. It is, in fact, one of my favorite pieces in the whole beautiful Western tradition of music. The contrast of the light, flighty melody that mimics the wandering nature of sheep with the grave, dolorous setting of “…and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” almost brings me to tears every time I hear it. And it illustrates exactly what I am saying. The music, though it derives its meaning from the text, is still more important. Try saying “All we like sheep” as many times as it is repeated in that setting. People do not talk like that. It is beautiful music, but you could not say it like that.

The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music defines chant this way:

general term for liturgical music similar to plainsong, i.e., monophonic and in free rhythm. In particular, the term applies to the liturgical music of the Christian churches, which falls into two main divisions, Eastern chant and Western chant. to the former belong Armenian, Byzantine, Coptic and Syrian chant; to the latter Ambrosian, Gallican, Mozarabic, Gregorian, and Old Roman chant.

It is interesting to note a few things here:

  • the academic definition of chant restricts it exclusively to monophonic music. In my experience, however, very little chant that is actually used in a liturgical setting is actually so. Much of it is homophonic, and some of it is polyphonic. This is why, for practical reasons, I tend to include Palestrina, Tallis and others of the Renaissance period in my definition of chant.
  • The melodic embellishments which characterize much serious sacred music since the Baroque and Classical periods are foreign to chant. The most that chant will do is embellish a single word, such as “save” or “mercy.”
  • choral chant grew out of solo monophony. The people would respond with a refrain (an “antiphon” in the West, a “troparion” or “sticheron” in the East) which mimicked the chanter’s melody.

But, I do want to be very clear on something. When I speak of music being more important than the text, text-painting is very definitely included. When I speak of the text being made to fit the melody, most serious sacred music is obviously excluded. In this case I am talking about the hymn. In a Western hymn, the meter of the music determines the meter of the words, and the words are specifically written to fit the meter.

Plus, it is certainly not true that the distinction between chant and non-chant is one of East versus West. Not at all. The Roman tradition continued to use various forms of chant, primarily Gregorian chant, for centuries. It was not until the Second Vatican Council that the interest in chant declined severely. The Anglican churches also had a vibrant tradition of chant. In the last half of the Twentieth century, there was a revival of interest in chant which went hand in hand with the Liturgical Movement. The most notable in this revival of chant was the work of the Taize community.

Eventually, American Orthodoxy will do what the Russian Church did at the dawn of Russian Orthodoxy. It will give birth to a distinctively American form of chant. This will happen organically, though. It will not be manufactured by people who do not like or understand the other, established chant systems. And it will be chant, not Wesleyan hymn-sings.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 10:01 pm

«— The Imperial Provinces of America
—» Re: Chant vs. non-chant

Odds and Ends

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
  • My hard-line was turned back on Thursday, 17 October. I now have an escape from the Matrix if necessary. Actually, I have no idea how long it was going to be before they really disconnected me — I still had DSL and a dial-tone.
  • As a consequence of having much less money, I removed all the bells and whistles from my phone service — like call forwarding, call waiting, and voice mail. Therefore, I had to dig out my old-school answering machine with microcassette. I felt like I was in the dark ages again. Luckily, they still make microcassettes, because the one that was left in the machine for lo these many years was way crudded up.
  • In Fr. D.’s absence, the choir has been working our bums off learning new music. Many thanks to C. for the CDs of the combined choirs of St. Herman, St. Tikhon and St. Vladimir Seminaries in celebration of the Bicentennial of Orthodoxy in America. I want to take a moment to thank my choir for all of their hard work this week. We have done a lot of work the past few days. You all rock! Fr. D. will be blown away when he returns.
Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 8:10 pm

«— Chant as You Can, Not as You Can’t
—» Odds and Ends

The Imperial Provinces of America

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

John Barlow: “The American Republic is dead. Hail the American Empire.” The entirety of this article is late–Twentieth century left-wing hand-wringing, which is supposed to be substitutable for a moral conscience. Like the difference between aspartame and sucrose, however, the substitution rarely ever works.

He quotes Abraham Lincoln, who rightly notes the reasons that the executive does not have the power to wage war. This is ironic, because Lincoln’s reign is the era when America became an empire. Are you just now noticing this? When was the last time your State complained about the violation of its sovereignty by the Federal government? Hasn’t happened recently? Well. It’s not much of a State then, is it? More like… a province. Son, you’ve been living in an Empire of Provinces since the day you were born. Welcome to the resistance.

But, most importantly, the approval of force in Iraq is not a blanket cheque transferring the war powers to the executive branch. That’s a red herring, and it just is not true.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 2:46 pm

«— “I’m Not a Very Smart Man…”
—» The Imperial Provinces of America

Chant as You Can, Not as You Can’t

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

Longinus the Martyr, who stood at the foot of the Cross

Dear X.,

I am happy to try to answer your questions. Remember that I am only a sinner. What is true is not my fault, and what is misleading or hurtful I hope to repent of.

There is, as you note, a difference between what we are learning and what we used to sing. Part of the difference is between chant and western music of the Baroque period and later. Put as simply as possible, chant focuses on the text, and it puts the melody at the service of the text. Western music since Bach puts the emphasis on the music itself, to the extent that words are made to fit melodies.

Part of the problem with some of our former settings (not all, by any means — I’m thinking right now of the settings for “Heavenly King” and “It Is Truly Right”) is that they were too melodic. Chant is much more like speaking musically than it is like singing a melody — although clearly melodic singing is still involved. The lack of meter is also important but not always a determining factor.

As for the New Skete settings (the “Great Litany,” for example), I have tried to keep some of them when it’s clear that they are using an established chant system (Kievan, for instance, or Znammenyj). However, they are publically condemned by church leaders for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which being that they are often not “conservative enough” in their theological positions. And yet, they are privately praised by many for other reasons. To be frank, they are a political hot-potato. With material that is adapted from standard chant systems, I feel I can say, “Look, this (the ‘Great Litany’) is Kievan. I have heard it done in St. Example parish.” Or, “This (‘Receive the Body of Christ’) is Moscow chant, and I know it’s very widely used.”

The problem is when it’s their own compostion (“Christ is Risen”, for example) and therefore says, “Chant of New Skete” in the upper-right corner. Then, I really have to lay it down, because I need to put some more political chips in savings before I can start throwing them away. (Fr. T. is especially critical of the Monks of New Skete.)

As to which is more beautiful, I will admit to a difference of opinion in some measure. Of course, I tend toward simplicity in aesthetics myself. (All that Byzantine stuff, no pun intended, drives me up a wall sometimes. Not that it’s always bad; just that it gets, well, Byzantine at times.) I would prefer singing a single chord all stretched-out (well-harmonized, mind you!) to a saccharine melody.

But, I am not of the opinion that beauty is completely subjective. In fact, I believe that beauty is objective, as it is indeed the glory of God shining through the created world. I think that for now, it may be useful not to think about what we are doing in terms of beautiful or not-beautiful. Part of what needs to happen for all of us is that we need to expand our concept of what is beautiful. You may want to think about what it is in these settings that the original culture (primarily Russia, but also Greek Byzantium to some extent) found beautiful. Another approach is to find some very good examples of chant (the Sacred Treasures CD is one, St. Vladimir Seminary bookstore has others) and base your thinking on that, instead of on the impoverished example I am providing for you. Still another approach, from a Western perspective, is to listen to Western chant (from Gregorian chant up through and including even Palestrina, Tallis, and other Renaissance composers) and seeing how that compares to Greek and Russian chant.

Part of the conundrum is that the culture of chant is something that one picks up by hearing it and doing it. We were getting there before, but we still had too much attachment to settings that simply do not count as chant.

It is also important at this juncture to point out that none of this is intended to be a condemnation of what we did before and certainly not of Western music as a whole. It seems to me that the kind of difference we’re talking about is very similar to the difference between traditional Orthodox iconography and Western devotional art. Just as using only Orthodox icons in worship does not necessarily negate or condemn paintings by Rouault, Rubens, Michelangelo, or Grünewald, so the use of Orthodox chant does not negate works by Bach, Mozart, Britten, Holst, Stravinsky, or Rutter. Or even the settings we used to sing here at Christ the Life-giver/St. Athanasius. Like the use of Orthodox icons, it is simply a choice that is made for the sake of appropriate common worship.

Does that help at all? I will be happy to answer more questions, and that is especially true if they are in response to my explanation here. I should also note this: I do have some leeway, but not much. I am under pressure from Fr. D. to teach “standard OCA” settings, as he himself is under pressure to do the same thing. I have tried my best to explain some of the reasoning behind the changes that are being made, but the real authority lies with him. And I am sure that he will also be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 4:43 pm

«— Of Creeds and Creativity…
—» Chant as You Can, Not as You Can’t

“I’m Not a Very Smart Man…”

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

Of course pingback is not going to work if you have $use_pingback=0; in your config file. Don’t tell your mom. She hates it when she finds out old flames are braindead.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 4:13 pm

«— Pingback?
—» “I’m Not a Very Smart Man…”

Of Creeds and Creativity…

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

Funny. I don’t remember memory lane being this dark. It is difficult for me to listen to those old Petra songs anymore, but especially “Creed.” Take a listen:

I believe he is the judge of all men, small and great
The resurrected souls of men receive from him their fate

Although ostensibly a fanciful reinterpretation of the Apostle’s Creed, some of its unorthodox interpolations really go beyond the pale. Perhaps Mr. Hartman did not realize that “resurrected souls” implies a disbelief in the resurrection of the body, but what it is communicated is certainly not in any orthodox Christian creed. Yet, I think that what bothers me most about “Creed” — and a similar song by Rich Mullins, by far the better songwriter and more orthodox thinker — is that they are reinterpretations.

The words of the orthodox creeds were decided upon by the universal fullness of the Church, gathered together in council. The Church fought over them down to the very letter. The aphorism about not changing one iota comes from the fight with the Arians over whether Christ was of similar essence [homoiousios/ηομοιουσιον] or of one essence [homoousios/ηομοουσιον] with the Father.) Men and women spilled their own blood by defending these very words. To think that they can or should be “reinterpreted” disregards that sacrifice.

I appreciate the motivation for writing these songs: These songwriters want to expose their listeners to the content of the creeds, Hartman the Apostle’s Creed and Mullins the Nicene Creed — the more important and authoritative of the two. Yet, as I listen to them, I find that I cannot sing along anymore. This is not my Creed.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 3:38 pm

«— Web Drone Will Work for Food
—» Of Creeds and Creativity…

Pingback?

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

I am not sure about this whole damned pingback thing. Mostly, I am not sure whether my blogging software is properly set up. I keep getting errors when trying to view what should be my RSS file in XML. Anyway, I’m linking to Hixie’s extended discussion of pingback to see what happens.

If it works, it sounds seriously cool. I’m especially interested to see the network of hyperlinks expand as URIs become aware of being linked to.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 10:24 pm

«— Censorship
—» Pingback?

Web Drone Will Work for Food

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

OK, everyone. My résumé has been completely revised, and it is now available at the same location it has always occupied. If you are looking for a knowledgeable web designer, for a network administrator, for a monkey who is willing to learn, or just for a parlor trick droid to replace your previous bot that vomitted code all over your cow-orkers, I’m your man!

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 5:04 pm

«— The Agony of Incompliance
—» Web Drone Will Work for Food

Censorship

Censorship">Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

I am trying to determine the possible reasons NBC, CBS and ABC decided that the American people did not need to see President Bush’s speech to the American people.

  1. The American people are not really concerned about why the president thinks we need to topple Saddam Hussein and his cronies. [Read: the ratings will plummet.]
  2. That’s what cable news networks are for. [Read: public service schmervice. Screw people who don’t have cable. Who doesn’t have cable these days?]
  3. Bush will make a very convincing case for regime change in the next year or less. [Read: we cannot let the American public see that, for God’s sake!]

With regard to (1), it will be interesting to see exactly what the ratings actually reflect. With regard to (2), thank you. I consider myself screwed, insulted, and dismissed. Everyone without cable, for whatever reason, should feel the same. I watched it at a friends house, where I would not have even heard of it otherwise. With regard to (3), I really hate to say this, but it is clear that the bias of the networks came into play in this decision. If former president Bill Clinton (during his term of office) had scheduled a press conference to come clean about all of his illicit escapades, would the networks have been so cavalier about the public’s “need to know”? I rather doubt it.

In my mind, there does not seem to be any compelling reason for the omission.

Update: A similar censoring of the president took place during sweeps week last November, and ABC actually saw a ratings boost. (Thanks for the tip, Moose.) Additionally, the original version of this article mistakenly stated that NBC showed the president’s address to the nation. What I saw was, evidently, MSNBC. According to MediaLife, the situation was even worse than I thought. Only Fox showed the address.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 12:33 am