Monday, July 18, 2011

Vivaldi's Women

The documentary "Vivaldi's Women" on BBC Four presented the story of an extraordinary creative partnership between one of history's great composers–Antonio Vivaldi–and an all-female orchestra and choir. In the early 18th century, Father Antonio Vivaldi was a violin teacher, musical director, musical instrument procurer and in-house composer for a Venetian institution called La Pietà, a home for children who had been abandoned at birth.

The institution had its own all-female orchestra and choir who provided sacred "entertainment" in the church for the visiting "Grand Tourists". The unique creative relationship that Vivaldi formed with these women resulted in what many believe to be one of the finest performing groups of all time.

Further Vivaldi reading:

Antonio Vivaldi and His Sacred Music, by William Peter Mahrt [PDF]
Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque, by H. C. Robbins Landon [Amazon]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tovey, Cello Concerto in C, op. 40

Cello Concerto in C Major Op. 40 written in honour of Pau (Pablo) Casals by his friend, Donald Francis Tovey.

Rondo-Allegro giocoso
Pau Casals, Cello; BBC Symphony Orchestra; Sir Adrian Boult, conductor
Queen`s Hall. 1937.

D. F. Tovey

Sir Donald Francis Tovey (17 July 1875 – 10 July 1940)

Still over 135 years after his birth, few, if any, have written about music with as much love, sagacity, and good humor as Donald Francis Tovey. His modestly titled "Essays in Musical Analysis" is in fact a six-volume collection of his program notes for the concerts under his baton at the Reid Orchestra in Edinburgh. Since publication in the thirties they have become the model for concert notes aiming to do what they ought to: prepare as quickly as possible anyone who picks them up to appreciate the piece. With them Tovey aimed not to "vex with grammatical minutiae" but rather be "counsel for the defence," to tell you what a work is trying to do and suggest it is successful enough that you ought to keep your seat.

Their author suggested they don't make for good continuous reading and he's probably right, but they are fine preludes to any pieces Tovey deigned to comment on. I say deigned for these notes brim with his character. First, the reflections themselves bear out his taste, a taste moved by Schubertian songfulness as Bachian contrapuntal density. In his mind and character there was room for the Olympian and the urban and throughout these notes one sees as much love for a spiky chord of Beethoven as a chattery piece of Mozart. On the one hand we have sober appraisals like, "The vulgar popular author often does not know that literature and art contain higher thoughts than his own" and on the other, old world parables: "the centipede whose inspiration was paralyzed by a malicious snail, who asked him which leg he put down first."

Tovey's love and reverence for this music is today sometimes seen as uncritical. Arthur Hutchings, whose admiration and reverence for Tovey is clear from his own notes, hit the correct note when he said that to Tovey, to mention weakness in one of the classics was to be "perky."  What a compliment. Should you find a misplaced phrase, a clunky line, thin plots, cheats, or stock bits, do make note and, in the fashion of a good gentleman scholar, enjoy the rest. Must one comment on such trifles? What will doing so teach about, say, Mozart? Yet Tovey's softness is overstated. He can call a phrase trivial, point out (often contra common suppositions) who owes what to whom, and so forth. Yet there is a disposition rooted as much in classical education as humane perspicacity and cultivated by years of pruning away thorny habits from a genteel deportment, that yields a pious, and grateful, temperament. By all means criticize this phrase from Beethoven, or Shakespeare for that matter, but to remember their successes is to see how small the imperfections.

We mentioned a "classical education" and seldom have the joys which spring from it and only it been on fuller display. What else would have permitted analogies between the 18th century Viennese music and Aristophanes, be it likening the croaking chorus of the Frogs to a phrase from Mozart or seeing in Haydn's treatment of a theme the debt-ridden, sleepless Strepsiades: I'm being bitten through the bed clothes by a b-b-b-b-b-bailiff.

Deficiency would mark this essay if we passed over Tovey's charming turns of phrase, turns Wikipedia impenetrably refers to as "Humpty-Dumptyish." Regardless, if saying that, "Haydn never produced a more exquisitely bred kitten" doesn't crack you a smile, then perhaps Papa H. isn't for you in the first place.

Humor aside, the essays brim with scholarship and for their variety demonstrate a surprising interconnectedness. Yes, Tovey can speak about the "Beethovenian sonata" because he has in fact been through every bar of every Beethoven sonata but it is not so much overt research and arguments that come through, or even his lively literary characterizations of the musical gestures but the, often rather oblique, discussions of style. This phrase or development is very Mozartian insofar as. . .  Such and such could never have written this. . . Whose style anticipates whose, who had whose procedures in mind, whose subject resembles whose, who perfected his use of the orchestral ritornello. . . Nearly every essay is littered with throwaway observations and comparisons. Observations and comparisons which could only be made by someone who spent a lifetime studying, playing, and loving music. Many such observations could be turned into volumes of their own and the dutiful student will be rewarded by pulling out scores and following Tovey's prompts to follow up a discussion. 

So cast aside the flashy irreverence of modern criticism and the gobbledygook of contemporary scholarship. Too cast aside Tovey's own modesty about these enlivening and invaluable volumes and seek them out. Born before the premier of Parsifal, Tovey was of the musical tradition he wrote about. For someone who heard Joachim himself play those famous cadenzas to the Beethoven Violin Concerto Tovey is more approachable, more near to us, than we could ever expect. He bridges the world between the living culture of classical music and today. We may only look back at, but he would be happy, delighted, to introduce you to the "elaborate mystifications" of Carnaval and the "eternal laughter of Mozart," though you'll make a few stops, and jokes, along the way.

Some Classic Tovey

On Mozart's Piano Concerto in B-flat, KV.450
The raillery is continued even more quizzically. But soon Mozart, though refusing to leave the tonic chord, plunges into the usual forte theme which comes to the usual half-close. Then, thinks the usual theorist, we have the usual second subject. But, as we have seen before, it is impossible to tell which, if any, of the themes of a Mozart tutti is going to belong to the second group. Another tutti theme, beginning with a conspirator's crescendo, leads to the cadence-figure of the whole ritornello. On the state this would imply a ribald gesture addressed to deluded husbands. See Figaro, Act IV, No. 26 'gia ognuno lo sa'.
On Verdi's Requiem
The language of the theater was Verdi's only musical idiom; and our musical culture, resting secure on its foundation on Bach and Beethoven, can derive nothing but good from realizing that to object to the theatricality of Verdi's Requiem is about as profane to point out that Beethoven lacked the advantages of a university education.
On Haydn's The Creation
Asbestos is not in common use as material for writing or printing, and so I cannot express my opinion of the cuts sanctioned by tradition in performances of Haydn's Creation.
 On Bach's Jesu, Meine Freude
The ninth movement, the fifth verse of the chorale, is oneo f Bach's great choral variations; not, this time, in the free declamatory style that so effectually disguises the structure of hte third verse, but in a stupendously complete and clea rform which only Bach has achieved, though his examples of it are so numerous that they are believed to be normal specimens of academic music. (The first chorus of the Matthew Passion is one.) The essence of this form is that, while one voice or part sings the chorale phrase by phrase, with pauses so long between each as to stretch the whole out to the length of a long movement, the other parts execute a complete design which may or may not have some connexion with the melody of a chorale, but which in any case would remain a perfectly solid whole if the chorale were taken away. . . we may confidently say that before Bach it was hardly known, and that it has never been attempted since. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Around the Web

Long-Overdue Edition

1) Celebrating the Art of Italy: A show in Turin reflects on 2,000 years of cultural heritage

2) This is Your Brain on Art

3) Interview: Frank Gehry

4) Interview: David McCullough

5) A 40 Megapixel 360 Degree Panorama of The Strahov Philosophical Library

6) But Is It Art?

7) My Uncle, Oscar Hammerstein

8) Off With Their Coattails: Investigating the mysterious origins of the tuxedo

9) Hayek versus Habermas

10) Rango: A Libertarian Spiritual Epic

11) On The Leopard, A Lyric, Elegiac Lament for a Lost World

12) The Philosophy of Insomnia

13) Jacket (Not) Required

14) The Tyranny of Science

15) The Fine Art of Living

16) Out of the Miasma of Bardolatry, a Masterpiece

17) Exposing Shallowness: On Margo DeMello's Bodies of Inscription

18) Harold Bloom by the Numbers

19) The Corrupted Treasures of This World: On the Selected Poems of Anthony Hecht

20) Clientelism on the Defensive

21) Why the Art World is a Disaster

22) The Unintended Consequences Of The Welfare State

23) Jane Jacobs: Libertarian Outsider

24) Why Catholic Schools Matter

25) Can Conservatives Be Libertarians?

26) Religious Alternatives to the Public Sector

27) Are Artists Liars?

28) The Handwriting Is On the Wall

29) Middle Earth in LEGOs

30) A Lego Bedroom

31) A Magical 'Flute' Without the Fanfare

32) Sounds Unfamiliar: Concert halls should take a chance on lesser-known composers

33) Reentering Opera’s Lost World


34) WWII Did Not End the Depression

35) Is Inflation Harmless or Even Good?

36) Our Unaccountable Fed

37) The Moral Issues of Money

Book Reviews

38) The Use and Abuse of Literature by Marjorie Garber

39) No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf by Carolyn Burke

40) Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India by Joseph Lelyveld

41) Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda

42) The Long Goodbye by Meghan O' Rourke & A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

43) Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science by Lawrence M. Krauss

44) Modigliani: A Life by Meryle Secrest

45) Tolkien and Beowulf

46) Brothers, Rivals, Victors by Jonathan W. Jordan 

47) Bismarck: A Life by Jonathan Steinberg 

48) The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders

49) Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II by Michael Burleigh 

50) The 125th Anniversary of the Death of King Ludwig II

51) The Quantum Story by Jim Baggott

52) James Levine: 40 Years At the Metropolitan Opera

53) The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness by Lila Azam Zanganeh

54) The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce by Deirdre N. McCloskey

55) The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism by David Harvey

56) How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One by Stanley Fish

57) Sacred Trash by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole

58) The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind by Robin Fox

59) Chasing Aphrodite by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

60) Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life by Saul Frampton

61) The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture by David Mamet

62)  When the World Spoke French by Marc Fumaroli

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fin ch'han dal vino Sing-off

Nine great Don Giovannis sing the famous Champagne aria. Only one will emerge victorious. . .

A fun treat, enjoying as we do comparisons amongst versions of a piece. (Always interesting to see what they do what that rising bassoon phrase, amongst other features.)

Fin ch'han dal vino calda la testa. . .

Taste, Character

One of the many throw-away jewels in T. S. Eliot's 1961 essay To Criticize the Critic is a distinguishing between fashion and taste. The point is worth developing particularly because of the trope that "taste varies." Let us begin as Eliot does, distinguishes between fashion, "the love of change for its own sake" and taste, which "springs from a deeper source." The former seems a sensible definition since fashion varies according to life's many vicissitudes. Fashion trends and without any regard for anything. To be fashionable one must simply change from something to something else. Before tackling taste I would posit another category, style. Style rather simply is some particular convention, but in particular it exists without any special regard for the reason behind the convention. It is simply a protocol, of greater or lesser specificity. Thus with this definition one does not have style per se but rather uses a particular style. This may seem an arbitrarily limited usage of the term but it leaves a some necessary room for defining taste.

Indeed taste springs from a deeper source, but more importantly I would suggest taste is unique insofar as it springs from any source at all, because in contrast to fashion and style as we have defined them, taste is a personal attribute. Taste is the reason for some style or blend of styles. Taste requires the active choosing and rejecting of certain styles according to some principles. Whereas style may be principled, accidental, or incidental, taste is always chosen. Taste is always cultivated, that is, taste requires character. To have a particular taste requires an awareness of possibilities and a preference for one way of thinking, of doing, of being. It is unique to the curious blend of influences upon a particular person and the way in which the individual synthesizes them. One might, for example, write in the style of, say Bach or Shakespeare, but one cannot in fact write actual Bach or Shakespeare. Taste then is in fact a component of character, themselves both essentially creative acts though admitting certain variables, namely that does not have control over what he is exposed to.

One is, as we have mentioned before, by nature, of a certain place and time and passing through. By our definition of taste then, to possess taste requires a sense of time and place, of one's tradition, of combining influences in the present, and all towards some future state of being.

To possess taste then is no small feat, requiring as it does a sense of self and other, of principled preference, and of tradition.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mini-Review: Looking for Richard

Directed by Al Pacino. 1996.

Al Pacino walking around Manhattan asking people what they think about Shakespeare was not such a bad idea. It could have been played as a cheap trick setting up some point about how no one today appreciates Shakespeare or how we need to pedestrianize the Bard to make him "more accessible." These strolls through the city, though, avoid such tempting alternatives and instead simply ask people what they know and what they find difficult. Some people think Shakespeare is boring, others complicated. Some people have not heard of him, others can quote a phrase. They all, though, admit to a certain distance, a divide some of the actors we meet later admit to remembering from their first experience with Shakespeare. A ways through trying to explain the plot Pacino himself admits, "I'm confused just saying it to you. So I can imagine how you must feel hearing me talk." This frankness and the admission that the film is as much about the actors trying to find Richard as it is to help the audience is an effective, if not entirely necessary, hook to bring the audience into the endeavor of experiencing Shakespeare.

The film's structure of cutting among discussions of the film with actors and staged scenes is effective. Wisely both types of scene are always cut off before one gets to settled into seeing a film or watching a roundtable. The ability to intersperse actual scenes from Shakespeare, with full costume and music, with discussions, and even overlay them, is a great tool Pacino uses effectively to broaden the scenes, explaining who is doing what without getting caught up in a cycle of explication followed by the scene, followed by explication. . . The highlight of the film, though, is the actors and listening them discuss the film. For those beginning their experience of Shakespeare it is a wonderful resource to see a scene played a few different ways because it demonstrates both how much you have to understand the character to perform him consistently through a play and how there can be different meanings and subtexts to a given word, line, or scene.

Sometimes, though, you'll have a scene of discussion in which nothing is resolved and in which the actors do not seem to have gotten to the heart of the scene followed by a fine performance. One can't help but wonder, how did they get here? Other time's they are really just explaining the plot.
Too some of the scholarly justifications for getting down to the essence of Shakespeare don't quite work. One scholar mentions how it's more important to get to the bottom of every scene than "getting obsessed with the British way of regarding a text." Well what do you do with the text? A scholarly discussion would have been welcome here. Sometimes they merely point at the issue. Similarly, they do not so much explain how the meter works in Shakespeare as they just define what iambic pentameter is. (Because it's a big scary Greek word they even reveal it slowly on the screen.)

For a documentary, or "docu-drama type thing" as Pacino calls it, Looking for Richard is quite light on the critics, historians, and scholars. In one scene Pacino's collaborator Frederic Kimball grows quite adamant about the this point, insisting that the scholars should not get the special privilege of looking into the camera for their scenes if the director's point is to demonstrate that it is the actors who are the true possessors of the material. This seems plausible enough, yet we constantly see the actors scurrying about and quarreling trying simply to comprehend the play. The point Pacino seems to demonstrate is rather in fact that the actor has to become the scholar. Likewise the film's premise that Shakespeare is for everyone is not quite so perfectly true. On the one hand the film does demonstrate the beauty and truthfulness of Shakespeare by doing such a fine job of the acting. Surely the content is for everyone. On the other hand, despite how entertaining the film is, it also does a lot of teaching and explaining. Well if all of this teaching is necessary, then there is an inherent barrier isn't there? The actors need scholars, or to be scholars, the actors need the audience, the audience needs the actors, and so forth. There seems to be more truth in that line of thinking, that there are discrete but overlapping roles, than the egalitarian "we're all in this together" schtick. Such a discussion, however, would have necessitated another about culture, which surely would have bored the audience Looking for Richard was aiming at.

One senses that the director would consider Looking for Richard a success if someone who didn't like Shakespeare enjoyed this film. Yet for that person it took an entire other film, two hours of scholarship dressed up as entertainment, and leaving out the majority of the actual play, to get him into Richard III. I would consider Looking for Richard more of a success if it got someone into reading, studying, seeing, and enjoying the full play.

I enjoyed Looking for Richard very much while watching it, but seemed a tad more shallow after further consideration. That said, it is probably a good introduction for people living only in the 21st century. For people who already enjoy Shakespeare, the discussions are lively, enthusiastic, and frank, and the acting is fine. It was quite a treat hearing Estelle Parsons as Margaret delivering,
O but remember this another day:
When he shall split thy very heart with sorrow:
And say (poore Margaret) was a Prophetesse:
even though what made it to film was a composite and truncated version of Margaret's lines. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Movie Review: John Adams

Directed by Tom Hooper. 2008.

There is a great deal to admire in HBO's John Adams. Foremost perhaps is how well the screenplay fits the story to the medium. I often watch a program and conclude that the movie might have been better suited as a miniseries, or vice versa. Many television shows are not more than films stretched out unnecessarily, and usually inelegantly, to many times their proper length. John Adams overcomes this hurdle and takes advantage of the liberty that premiering on HBO provided. The series falls into seven parts of unequal length, avoiding the pitfall of having the story get chopped and stuffed into neat 50 minute segments. Too it accommodates details, spends more time in certain parts of the narrative than others, and skips over several periods, all of which would be hard to accept in a feature film. Indeed this is a fine screenplay and fine material for a miniseries.

John Adams' main theme is a rollicking martial tune orchestrated and its soundtrack is wholly appropriate, with selections influenced by Barry Lyndon and Master and Commander. The camerawork is a balance between plain television and elaborate cinematic styles, the former which would have grown dull and the latter which would have grown tiresome over the course of seven parts. The small simple interiors of the colonial houses really do make for a splendid contrast to the vast and ornate Parisian chambers.

Yet all of these technical details never distract and merely serve the story, which I am glad to say is a great success. It is not quite so much about the American Revolution though of course its events play a prominent part, but rather, and appropriately, about Mr. John Adams. I say "Mr. Adams" because it seems impossible for one not to develop an affection and admiration for Mr. after watching this series. Affection for this dutiful husband, father, and friend. Admiration for the citizen, lawyer, and political philosopher. Gratitude for the delegate, ambassador, vice president, and president.

The husband and father who spent time, years, away from his family. The lawyer who defended the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre. The author who wrote the  Massachusetts constitution between assignments to Europe. The delegate who, with the other members of the Continental Congress, risked his life to meet as a member of that body. (A body whose work was not to sign and flash about one glorious document, but to sit on endless committees and boards, to travel to and fro, and endlessly to debate the proper course of action.) The president who steered between British and French interests and immense pressure to declare war. Yet it is not quite so much that one comes away from John Adams impressed with the man's accomplishments so much as with his character. His character which he worked tirelessly to improve over his life, whose deficiencies (vanity, stubbornness, querulousness) he acknowledged and tried to remedy not for himself, but so he may carry out his duties to his family and country. He made a life's work of being a good man and one never doubts he lived the advice he gave his children, "Be good and do good."

Not just a life's work, but a life's effort. We mentioned some of his sacrifices, chiefly risking his life on a number of occasions and being parted from his family, which he undertook with heavy heart. He would, like any sensible man, have preferred to stay home with his books, farm, and family. Yet he went out far from his country of Massachusetts because he was asked and again we feel he lived the advice he gave to his children, that if offices will not be held by honest men, they will be held by others. He realized that some tasks require much. The life of a scholar requires many hours of lonely work. Scholarly success can be achieved no other way, as he told his sons. Again, while courting the help of the French for the Revolution, he defends his business and lack of knowledge of music thusly:

I must study politics and war, so that my sons will have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons must study navigation, commerce, and agriculture, so that their sons will have the right to study painting and poetry and music.
In this seemingly simple statement lies an important observation about life, or at least Adams' own political philosophy: a man cannot avoid being born in a place and time and that he is both coming and going. Certain times ask certain things and surely Adams would have preferred to do much else, but he was bound by duty to certain endeavors. If he and his children were to be free, then he need to know of war and politics. It was for another generation to make use of his sacrifice and study music and poetry. The scene in which he explains the above to a room of French aristocrats is a fine contrast. Adams, from his own sacrifice, knows what he lacks and sees the cause: that he is bound to do other things. The French, not bound and free to do as they please, see only the freedom of status quo in which they bask. The political trajectories of the French and American nations add a poignancy to the scene, as do the frequent cuts back to Abigail maintaining the household in John's absence.

It would be impossible not to mention Mr. Adams without his wife for their relationship is one of the central threads of the series. Their lifelong friendship is inspiring and, in fact, reassuring. A decisive woman, she pushed against his stubbornness when he most needed the shove, she told him when he put to much in his speeches, and she told him when he just needed to shut up. She raised the children and ran the farm. Their witty quarreling is great fun to watch, both in their youth and old age. Of the rest of the cast we must mention two who steal more than a few scenes: Tom Wilkinson brings Benjamin Franklin's jocular sagacity to vivid life, and the philosophical remove of Stephen Dillane's Jefferson draws us into his scenes in the hope he'll reveal something to us.

Adams' reconciliation with Jefferson is a fitting conclusion for the film and their correspondence, potentially awkward to dramatize, is deftly handled. The correspondence of the "north and south poles of the revolution" is most enriching. The conclusions therein are not the designs of untested youths or thinkers at remove from the consequences of their prescriptions, but thought tempered by action, and hope tempered by sacrifice.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sacred Music Resources

Here is a brief round up of the sacred music texts I use, two of which were just released this past week and which have already and thoroughly impressed me. This is obviously not a comprehensive list but simply one of what I use and like. Two are wonderful introductions, one a good for transition away from certain tendencies and practices, two are good companions, and the last is a timeless treasure. Of course feel free to add your own thoughts and recommendations!

I. Psallite Sapienter

This slender paperback is an excellent introduction to the Tridentine Mass. It consists of 189 points ranging from one sentence to one paragraph per point. The points are grouped into a few categories: 1) Basics, 2) The Music of the Missa Solemnis and Missa Cantata, 3) Special Days and Seasons, and 4) Occasions and Miscellany. This volume could not be clearer, often simply saying, "Do this and not this." Indexed and with a short bibliography pointing the reader toward more explanatory sources.

II. The Parish Book of Chant

Of the six books we are discussing here, this is probably my favorite, due in no small part to its elegance. Though it is only about 200 pages, the volume is hard cover and because of this combination of slender size and hard cover it feels particularly sturdy. It's not something your sweaty palms are going to wear away down after a few months of singing. Too the pages are bright white and the layout of the whole volume is pleasing and easy on the eyes. At about 6in wide by 9in high, it is just the right size for singing from, stacking, and carrying around.

This volume includes select: chants for the ordinary of the mass, general hymns and chants, and seasonal chants. The ten page guide to reading and singing chant and the two-page guide to liturgical Latin pronunciation are among the most lucid you'll find. English translations are provided throughout.Worth buying even if you have the last item on this list.

III. Simple Choral Graduale

Of the six volumes here Richard Rice's Simple Choral Graduale is the most approachable. Without any Latin and with modern music notation, someone who has grown up singing the Responsorial Psalms in English can sing this music. Too the page layout is similar to the usual Responsorial settings. Also, from the foreword, "the melodies are written in step-wise motion, seldom exceeding a range of a fight or rising higher than middle-c. The melodies generally employ one or two repeated phrases (three for the longest texts.) Harmonies are simple and rarely chromatic, enabling choirs of modest forces to master the choral texture with minimal effort. This volume is a wonderful book to start with to bring these entrance, offertory, and communion antiphons into Mass alongside the accompanying psalm verses. It's also a subtle wedge, I mean opportunity, for breaking out of the four-hymn syndrome.

IV. The Catholic Choirbook

This is a thoughtfully edited compilation of some of the best Catholic music, all appropriate in both text and style. From Fogliano and Byrd to Stainer and Elgar this is not simply a collection for medieval music aficionados but of the most beautiful and appropriate music for the Catholic Mass. Included are famous settings by Byrd, Palestrina, and Mozart but also wondrous pieces by lesser-known composers like Remondi and Lotti. The volume contains indices by composer, piece, and part (SATB, SSA, et cetera.) English translations of all texts precede the piece. The spine and layout allow for the easy making of copies, which is handy because copying and sharing of the music is permitted under Creative Commons license 3.0.

V. Simple English Propers

Another beautiful hardcover from the CMAA, about the same dimensions as the Parish Book of Chant but longer. This volume is a great gift to the Catholic community and an opportunity to return the mass propers to their place at mass. To quote the 1969 Vatican Consilium, "What must be sung is the Mass, its Ordinary and Proper, not 'something,' no matter how consistent, that is imposed on the mass."

The settings employ not just the chant modes (instead of modern scales) but preserve the mode in which the Latin chants in the Graduale Romanum were composed. The whole volume is in English, with translations from the Gregorian Missal (as published by Solesmes) and Revised Grail Psalter. In addition to the English and introduction to chant, throughout the book words/syllables on the termination are italicized and words/syllables on the final note are boldfaced.

VI. Graduale Romanum/Graduale Triplex

There is only Latin in this book! That includes the introduction, indices, and all titles. (Alright, the two page foreword discussing the manuscripts is in English, French, and German.) Still, without a knowledge of Latin, the ecclesiastical vocabulary for the liturgical year, and an understanding of the liturgical year, you might be hard pressed to get the most from this volume. It includes no helpful guides like the above volumes, but you get with one beautiful volume (semi-hard cover with place ribbon) the book of the Roman Rite. The antiphons for the propers and the settings for the ordinary, they're all here. Everything on this list is essential reading. This collection is priceless.

Read Jeffrey Tucker on The Real Catholic Songbook.

N.B. While we have discussed only paper books, it would be foolish to look over the wonderful resources at, where you can also find free, legal, editions of much of the above. Lastly, check out and of course ChantCafé.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Crazy Libertarians!

There exists a discrete genre of journalism native to the internet. This writing, of the short and pointless variety, is too vapid to find a way into even the most fluffy or pandering papers. I do not mean to suggest this species of writing is usually poor, for in fact it is not. In fact I often find the pieces well-crafted. To what end, you surely ask. These pieces must conform to a few rules. First, they must have a clear audience, i.e. clear worldview, to pander to. Second, it must convey the centrality of that view. Third, it must not offend said audience. Fourth, it must entertain. Last, and this feature is most unique to this species, it must make other views appear alien.

This piece from NPR is a prime slice.

It starts off with a kitschy premise: bacon. I doubt this event, about a gathering in the woods in which nothing happened, would have been newsworthy in any way without a trendy hook, in this case, bacon.

The use of the word "best" in the phrase "best pitch" is extremely clever. Was it his best pitch? Did the man say, "here's my best pitch?" Did the author ask for his best pitch? We don't know and it's operative because calling it "best" implies that his pitch, and the whole event, is as good as libertarianism gets. It implies that if this event sounds ridiculous or doesn't work, this best effort, then the whole libertarian endeavor is daft.

The next bit is even more clever. Permit me a brief quotation:

As I'm asking about food safety, we are interrupted by another customer, who happens to have a handgun strapped to his belt.  

"We'll regulate him," he says. "If he poisons me, I won't buy his food. And he'll be done."
The sense here is odd, since adding the bit about the gun makes "We'll" seem like it refers to the man and his gun. One can almost feel the man pat his pistol as he says, "We'll regulate him." Being libertarians the man surely meant by "we," himself and the author of the article, i.e. the patrons of the business. The last sentence is clearly explanatory. The man is explaining, using himself as an example, what would happen if here were poisoned: the man's reputation would be done. So here we have a very simple encounter reported in such a way as to make a completely ridiculous reading of it plausible, but reported without saying anything untruthful.

Another quote:

Trying to give up the U.S. dollar means a lot of extra math. You hear it all day long. How much is silver? How many grams in an ounce?
"A lot of extra math?" Really? Converting units and looking up information that's been in the backs of marble notebooks for untold years? "A lot of math?" These people are wacky, I tell ya! They're doing "a lot of math." Nuts! "It's 8:30 in the morning, in the woods, and people are checking the precious metal prices on their cell phones." Egads! Of course the irony is that people with dollars are checking the prices too, but because the government is printing money. But no, the people freely engaging in private commerce are the kooks.

The point about government regulation, the FDA and USDA, is supposed to imply again, that even in this libertopia in the woods, you depend on the government, I suspect falls flat even among the people the article most precisely targets. The example clearly suggests you cannot escape the government, because they regulate practically everything.
But the guy just shakes his head. He only takes the round silver coins, not the laminated strips of silver I have.
Uh oh, back to the bank table! The horror! Better contract out the work of managing my money to the government so I can sit here and stuff my face! Viva la libertà!

The final two sentences drive home the point the author began with and the tone which he established in using the word "best:" that this is as good as libertarianism gets, and it doesn't work.

This piece is a clear species of the genre. Foremost it is entertaining and completely uncritical of the view, this time unspoken but implied as the opposite of that which is depicted, it places at the center of the world. It has a clever hook and it makes its subjects appear alien and lacking in the realization that what they are doing is in fact odd and nonsensical. The piece is very much like a very bad ethnography, slyly poking fun at the people it observes.

Whether or not he fancies himself a liberal Franz Boas the joke is on the author for it is indeed what he did not report that has become the center of the article. The inflation, the fistfights, the theft, starvation, thuggery. I guess there wasn't any. So a bunch of libertarians gathered in the woods and conducted their affairs privately, without force, incident, or need of assistance. Crazy libertarians!

N.B. I pass over the title, clearly intended as a diminutive to compare the attendees to children at summer camp, because authors often do not have a say in the title of their piece.