February 28, 2003
February 25, 2003
The Stone of the Choir Director
On the OrthodoxPSALM mailing list, we have been talking recently about the use of modality in Christian chant. The dicussion has centered mostly around the dichotomous association of pieces in major with happiness, joy, and generally pleasant feelings and of minor with sadness, compunction, grief, and generally unpleasant feelings. The general idea of some participants, with which I agree, is that these associations are purely psychological and cultural associations, and even stereotypical in some situations. To this I would add that these associations can cloud our judgment of Beauty in musical objects. Established readers know already that I am suspicious of any assertion that might lead to a thoroughly relativist aesthetic.
In the midst of this discussion, Mark Bailey, Lecturer in Liturgical Music at St. Vladimir’s Seminary and Director of the Yale Russian Chorus, related the following anecdote, which I reproduce with his permission:
A few years back, a few families from the Middle East had moved to
the United States and started attending an OCA parish. The parish’s
liturgical music repertoire consisted mostly of St. Petersburg-Moscow
Slavic choral settings—the typical stuff for many OCA churches.
But, because of the new families, the choir director, at Pascha,
decided to do Ode One of the Canon in Byzantine chant, and then
continue the rest in Ledkovsky and Obikhod.
After the Paschal service, the families from the Middle East with
great exuberance thanked the choir for doing such a joyful rendition
of the Byzantine chant for Ode One—they loved it. The rest of the
parish, however, questioned the director, “Why did you start the
canon with that dreary, minor key sad chant? Pascha should be happy—thank goodness you switched back to the other music.”
I love this story, because it illustrates the relativity of feelings associated with music. It also demonstrates part of the task of music directors and choir directors in the Orthodox Church by raising some interesting questions.
Does the director choose chant settings based on how he thinks the setting will make his people feel—a choice which simultaneously is dominated by and reinforces these associations? Or, does the director ignore these associations, developing a repertory that is timeless and that transcends the particularities of the present culture?
This last question is the most nettling. It seems to me that this is the goal that is in many ways placed before the director of music. Yet, it is simply not an attainable goal in this world.
Makes one think that perhaps Sisyphus and not Saint Roman the Melodist is the patron of church musicians.
February 21, 2003
A few days ago, I was persuaded to join a Yahoo! Groups mailing list ostensibly dedicated to “free and open discussion of jurisdictional issues facing the Orthodox Church.” Upon joining, I read through some of the archives, and I was struck by the bitter, factious, and divisive tone of most of the emails. My immediate response was, “Thanks, but no, thanks. I have enough sin in my own life to deal with; I don’t need to feed myself on bitterness, factiousness, and divisiveness.”
We have all been exposed to this spirit at some time or another, and its fruit never gives life. The fruit of this attitude is always schism: first from the holy Trinity, then from our spiritual fathers, then from our brothers and sisters. Finally, if in God’s mercy we come to our senses, we find ourselves deeply alienated. A great chasm stands between us and those we have claimed to love. And, primarily, we find that the chasm between us and Christ, the only true lover of our souls, is the deepest wound we have inflicted upon ourselves.
The Great Fast is approaching; it is only weeks away. May God be merciful to all of us and in his kindness shake us from our deadly slumber. May he reveal to each of us how we have embraced schism within our own souls and show us again the path to repentance and communion with him and his Church.
February 12, 2003
More New Shwag
The KevinBasil.com Online Store is pleased to announce four new products. Each new product proudly displays this memorable quote from Saint Herman of Alaska, “Let us at least promise ourselves that from this very minute we will try to love God more than anything and to fulfill his holy will.” This beautiful exhortation perfectly captures St. Herman’s classic approach to life in Christ. It is perfect as a reminder that we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ep 2.10), as well as a conversation starter for witnessing to the Christian faith.
Along with the mug and tee displayed here, there are also mousepads and ladies tees. These items—the t-shirts, the mug, and the mousepad—are perfect for spring break, summer camp, coffee hour and the office. If you are a sinner like me, the pagans are not tripping over themselves asking you to tell them about the things of God. Witness wear from the KevinBasil.com Online Store lets you give witness to God as far as you are able.
February 11, 2003
I interviewed for a position yesterday morning. The person with whom I was supposed to be interviewing was ill, so another VP interviewed me instead. He did a good job of challenging my knowledge of PHP and MySQL. After discussing my experience with a trusted advisor, I drafted a follow-up letter that expressed my excitement about working in such a challenging role. I will be interviewing again on Wednesday, this time with the VP responsible for hiring for the position, I think. Keep the prayers coming.
February 9, 2003
The Problem of Ugliness
I was having a deeply satisfying conversation with the wonderful and joyful Katie via IRC this evening. She is also a choir director, and we were discussing Beauty — obviously a subject on which musicians would have some ideas. I was being conflicted, as usual, about the conflict between genuine excellence and personal desire and ambition.
I studied aesthetics some in college, both as a philosophy major and as an art history minor. As a result, I have beliefs about Beauty which are no longer widely held.
Classically, Beauty was called a Transcendental. It shared this honored distinction with Truth and Goodness. The True, the Beautiful, and the Good make up a triumvirate called the Transcendentals. A good introduction to them is Mortimer Adler’s Six Great Ideas. Another is C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man.
It is my conviction that once Western civilization gave up on Beauty, relegating her to the realm of the entirely subjective, then Truth and Goodness (i.e., morality, ethics) inexorably followed. Today, nothing is absolute. Everything is subjective. If some hail this as a triumph, then it is the triumph of intellectual anarchy. Without a resusciation of classical thought, our civilization is already a corpse.
So, let me get back to the revelation that I had in talking with Katie. I was describing these beliefs of mine in the context of explaining why I make the decisions I do as a choir director. In the course of this conversation, Katie made the following conclusions from my statements:
So, you’re saying that something true and good is inherently beautiful and vice-versa? Makes sense… God didn’t create anything ugly. We only became so after the Fall.
Then, I made an observation that is a totally new epiphany for me:
Non-beauty indicates somehow that we are trying to be something that God did not create us to be.
Katie and I both needed some time to unpack that statement a little bit.
February 7, 2003
We Got SHWAG, Baby!
You’ve begged! You’ve pleaded!
OK. Nobody begged or pleaded, but I need money. And you need shwag!
The KevinBasil.com Online Store now has the accessories you need. First item up for offering: Genuine Typikon Brand witness-wear! Don’t be a GAP advertisement! Pique the curiosity of your friends and coworkers with this enigmatic design inspired by the Orthodox faith. When they ask what it means, you have the perfect op to discretely witness to the Orthodox faith. Orthodox witness not included.
A special offer is going on through February 10: get a stainless steel travel mug, and you get a free bag of coffee. Please tell me what you think of the coffee if you get it. Customer feedback is valuable.
February 6, 2003
Unexplained Purple Bolt as Columbia Overflew California
An amateur photographer captured a startling image of a “purple bolt” that appeared to strike Columbia. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the San Francisco Chronicle are both reporting on the story. The same reporter, Sabin Russell, has a by-line on both articles. Russell was evidently present when former astronaut Tammy Jernigan viewed the photos and collected them and all related photographic equipment.
The photographer, who wishes to remain anonymous, refuses to publish the photos until NASA has a chance to investigate further.
February 5, 2003
Now You, Too, Can Join in the Fun!
Did you read my earlier post about Orthodox chat and think, “Brother, that sounds really cool. But I don’t have any clue what you’re talking about.”? I said client this, server that, and you just zoned out. The only thing you recognized was “chat”! Well, this is the solution for you. Log in and say, “Glory to Jesus Christ!”
- Before you log in, you might change the CGI000 to a “nick,” a online name that can be your real name, or one that says something about you. I’m basil; Chris Davis is Jesuit — he’s not a Jesuit, but he thinks they’re cool. You get the idea.
- Once you log in, you’ll see some funky information scroll by. If you don’t understand it, just ignore it for now.
- At the bottom of the window, there will be a line for typing in text. Just type your messages and hit enter after each one. We will teach you more advanced stuff later.
- You may get a message asking if you are sure you want to send the information. Either disable this function or say yes every time. You will get it quite a lot if you do not disable it, so disabling this message is really highly recommended.
- There are several ways to log out. The easiest and fastest is to close the window.
- Safari users: For the 0.11% of you out there, this web app doesn’t work in Safari. I’m trying to track down the problem.
- Advanced: If you are familiar with IRC, this client only connects to the #orthodoxy channel on irc.lplug.org. Go elsewhere for a more robust web client. My poor server cannot handle a hundred hackers using her to get to #perl.
February 3, 2003
The Wheel of Fate
I completed and submitted three applications for employment today. All are dollar-an-hour positions, so I had no expectations of being treated with respect. No résumé, no cover letter: I just fill out a form. A simple, courteous “thank you” was all I expected. At The Coffee Beanery and Disc Jockey, that is what I got.
At Meijer, though, there was simply a slot to put my form in. As if I was signing up for the job raffle. I felt quite humiliated.
Then, I desperately prayed that I would have enough gas to make it home. I have been having a series of very bad days. I hope that there is a plan where all of this makes sense.
Holy IRC, Batman!
After searching for IRC channels either about Orthodoxy or inhabited by Orthodox Christians, I finally gave up and made my own: #orthodoxy on irc.lplug.org. (If you use ChatZilla for your IRC client, you can use this link: #orthodoxy.)
IRC is just chat. IRC is the older brother of instant messaging. IRC predates IM, and it still beats IM all up one side and down the other. (Although, it must be admitted that Jabber, along with some very cool IM clients like the one in the Lotus Sametime application, could topple IRC at some point.)
Here are some clients you might use. There are others available for various platforms, but these are either popular or highly-recommended or both.
- ChatZilla (All platforms)
- ChatZilla is built using the Mozilla engine, which is quite unique, and yields a chat client that can work on just about any computer.
- mIRC (Windows)
- Most of you out there are probably Windows users. I’m disappointed, but at least you can still IRC. mIRC brings the former domain of Unix weenies to the masses.
- Snak (Mac)
- Snak is by all reviews a well written, quality IRC client for the Macintosh. Everything I’ve heard recommends it hands down over IRCle, which I’ve hated every time I’ve used it.
- X-Chat (Unix)
- This client is a graphical client for use on Unix-based systems that run the X Windowing system. Very popular, standard equipment in most GNU/Linux distributions.
- BitchX (Unix)
- Despite the utter crudeness of the name, this is one of the finer IRC clients available. I really would be remiss if I overlooked it. Also comes complete with rude and crude quit messages appropriate to its name. If you’re getting this one, you’re already a Unix geek; I highly suggest editing the quit messages before one of the more obscene ones takes you by surprise. Text-based; perfect for ssh sessions.
- irssi (Unix)
- Yet Another “Comes Recommended” title. Text-based interface, which nevertheless supports multiple windows. Another excellent suggestion for ssh sessions.
February 1, 2003
Respect for the Dead?
I am deeply disappointed in the local CBS affiliate, WKYT, which has opted to show both coverage of the shuttle disaster and University of Kentucky basketball coverage in a split screen—no doubt in response to viewer complaints. I am relieved that they asked viewers with banged-up priorities to listen to a radio broadcast for the audio. Although, even that is disappointing. The screen for basketball is taking up about half of the screen, and the important news is in a small corner, taking up about a quarter of the screen.
I was feeling bad last night for everything bad I’ve ever said about Kentucky after reading Dr. Bacchus’ rant about raising the level of education and technology in this region.
This morning, I am disgusted. And vindicated in my opinion of these people.
Copyright © 2002–2011 Kevin Robert (Basil) Fritts, all rights reserved.