Saturday, May 18, 2013

App Review: Beethoven's 9th, by TouchPress

By TouchPress, 2013.

When I reviewed The Orchestra from iOS app developer TouchPress back in December, I wrote that while splendid, the format would better benefit a detailed study of one work rather than selections of several. Well, ask and ye shall receive. TouchPress now gives us its presentation of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

All the polish that defined The Orchestra is back: the curated, scrolling score, the smooth seeking. On top of these refinements TouchPress has added a number of features, from the color-coded identification of the key area, to brief descriptions of the many moods and gestures, and the option to view the original manuscript, all at any moment in the performance.

In place, though, of the new performances recorded with multiple camera angles that made The Orchestra stand out, this time we get four full landmark recordings of the 9th: 1) Fricsay's 1958 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic, 2) Karajan's 1962 also with the BP, 3) Bernstein's recording with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1979, and 4) and John Eliot Gardiner conducting his own Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique in 1992. Three of the recordings are audio only and Bernstein's is a complete, taped performance. Aside from having four stellar recordings of the 9th, you can switch among them at any moment during the performance. It is of course revealing to hear the differences in conducting from performance to performance, but the differences seem even more stark than if you had simply switched CDs or even mp3s because the shift is so seamless. How much more varied the differences of shape, tone, and tempo when so closely juxtaposed.

While all of these features are available during a listening, the app also includes brief interviews which you can separately watch. In these shorts, experts reflect on a few important points about the 9th from their perspectives as conductors, scholars, and performers. Here John Eliot Gardiner analyzes a section, there Albrecht Mayer reflects on performance challenges, and Paul Morley on learning to listen. There is great variety among these discussion and they're genuinely revealing about the 9th, not just boilerplate about the greatness of the work or maudlin effusions about "what Beethoven means to me." The developers clearly edited down longer interview to brief discussions of specifics, a good call since a topic like Beethoven's Ninth will make anyone ramble.

One feature I would like to see developed is the series of short recordings in which an expert discusses the piece while himself listening to it. A staple of DVDs, these casual reflections are rare in the musical world and seem to stimulate more personal, frank, reactions because of the frisson from the performance in the background. It's treat enough to hear Sir John Eliot Gardiner talking about Beethoven, but it's just plain fun to see him perk up when a favorite part is coming up.

Overall, this is a brilliant app, a combination of CD recording, DVD performance, score, manuscript, program notes, and analysis, all wrapped up in a smooth, slick interface that lets you cycle through it all with ease and bring up exactly what you want at any moment during the piece. Not bad for $15.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Intimacy

and the thrill of harmony.

I'm eating a piece of cake, and it's delicious. Savoring each bite I revel in the flavors, first the rush of sweetness and the velvety cream. Then tonguing away the cream I reach the strawberry which pops between my teeth like a balloon, radiating its tartness around my mouth. At last the soft banana base rounds out the experience.

Why should food taste so good? Why is a fine confection so satisfying? Aristotle said that man takes delight in his senses because he delights to know, and coming to know the world he comes to know himself. I would propose to elaborate on this, that sensory delight is akin to a sense of harmony.

Harmony, that elusive, seemingly chimerical balance of elements has been sought after by creators of every stripe, be they philosophers or artists. What sense of rightness we find in harmony. Whenever we find it we experience it as a universal, as if we've stepped out of our corporal confines into a perfect, infinite home. In an instant we are lost in the ecstasy of consummate belonging, for it seems harmony knows no limits since the more details we uncover, the more intimate our encounter and the more thrilling the reverberations.

Of personal affairs, is it not thrilling to get to know someone? I find it terribly exciting to learn someone's tastes, what thoughts turn in their minds, and what makes them laugh. What delight is there in giving someone an intellectual tickle. At the highest level of friendship, though, rests a mutual and magnifying satisfaction in being, a reflexive love of oneself as other. This is naturally an affection which exists in activity, but though the activity can be cut off by distance, the friendship and love persist in the existence of in the friend's virtue and verisimilitude. With people we experience harmony as sympathy, but Cicero of course elevated the concept of friendship not only to consensio but consensio omnium divinarum humanarumque rerum cum benevolentia et caritate. 

This cosmic, transcendent dimension of harmony is available to us, besides in the ineffable, through art.   I am never more transported than in this one mere minute, one tiny fugato of Bach's cantata 102, but what world in this grain of sand.

It's an entrancing passage, the accented rising quavers and descending semiquavers cutting through the increasingly dense texture, here above, there below, each a fleeting revelation above the ceaseless walking of the bass line.

The pleasure of harmony is essentially sympathy with the beautiful, whether in character or appearance.  Such is why, as Aristotle and Cicero observed in friendship, that one must cultivate it in oneself to experience it in perfect sympathy with someone outside oneself. In art, one must be orientated toward the beautiful. In neither case can one simply "be oneself" for the bad and ugly will find no sympathy with their opposites.

Our own experiences of harmony, fleeting in art and firm in friendship, are far more than aesthetic or moral experiences, but glimpses of what Benedict XVI called the "mystery of infinite beauty," that ineffable reconciliation of the self and the transcendent.

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Masterworks, $1

Reflecting again on my recent Met excursion, I recall another telling moment which occurred upon entry.

As the first of the party to arrive I stepped onto one of the lines to purchase our admission pins. It was a slightly misshapen line, actually, and while the asymmetry first irked me, my position to the right of those ahead me proved useful, for I spied their donations. From these two people who each purchased two pins the museum made a whopping $4. Despite that I handed the teller my own donation whilst beaming with pride, I was aghast.

Consider, though, that you'll find no one with more qualms about state-funded anything than me. Too, the Met has been fairly lambasted of late for being less than forthcoming about the voluntary nature of the contributions. I don't here see those as the issues though, since either way, I want the museum to have funds to operate. Now I don't know an awful lot about its finances and whether it is efficiently run and who of its employees makes what salary. I would prefer to  know soI could give a more precise donation, be it more or less, but the suggested donation is not so implausible as to concern me.

I suppose one could take a principled stand and pay a paltry sum if the museum were known to be corrupt or grossly mismanaged, but to my understanding, the Met is neither, and I hope it continues to exist. Too, I would prefer it to run without tax dollars, therefore I see my contribution as more, not less, important.

Still more to my point, though, I wonder precisely what thought goes through the mind of an individual with a Coach handbag around her shoulder and an iPhone in one hand as she hands the teller at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a $1 bill. Was it for the Tiepolo? The Monet? Was everything she saw worth precisely that to her, or did she determine that what she paid to the Met in taxes was exactly the proper amount? Perhaps she knows what the museum needs to run? Who can say, but I find it hard to believe that your average couture-wearing gadget-toting bourgeois can't spare a little more.

For my part, even if I had some objection to its funding or existence, I would find it hard to walk amidst the masterworks had I made such an infinitesimal contribution to their preservation.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Put More Arts

In the great taxonomy of baffling statements a special place is reserved for those which guarantee that the author has no idea what he's talking about. Since the article in question reads more like press release, I'm not sure the author is so much to blame here. He does, at any rate, open with a doozy.
Increasingly, many colleges and universities are looking to put more arts at the center of campus life and in the process, foster creativity.
So short, so innocent, no? If only he were talking about park benches or lamp posts and not art. What galls me about this sentence is its flippancy, its subtle arrogance. What disrespect is there for nearly each of its words. Please, read the sentence a few times and pause on the words. Now see if the following definitions are familiar to it.
  • College - a col-legium, a speaking together, a collaboration of scholars for learning and fostering the liberal arts and sciences, involving the sharing of ideas in the presentation of lectures and debates. 
  • University - a community of colleges with various purposes whose sum total offers the corpus of knowledge of the day and some unity of pedagogy.
  • Art - techne, poiesis, expression of concept, outgrowth of spirit, through craft.
  • Create - to bring into being
Though the words are the same, the article uses not the language of philosophy, but of bureaucratese. There is no debt to ideas, only utility. Such a statement has more in common with an interdepartmental memo requesting a 2.5% increase in paper production for the month than any artistic credo. Here, college means "place where classes are taught" and university means "big college." Art means "anything called art" and create means "result of activity." The goal here is not love, virtue, beauty, honor, piety, or any such principle, but the cliche art. Art must be put in so art can come out and we'll have more art.

It's a Keyenesian approach to art, really. Never mind the details of life, human nature, and philosophy: put something in so something comes out. It doesn't matter what it is. More is better, so if you need more something put more something. What does anyone with an emotional reaction to art, a love of and fear for its power and fragility, make of such irreverence?

Of course the statement is perfect prelude to what follows where the really gobbledygook starts flowing.
[the] Creative Campus Innovations Grant Program was created "to seed innovative, interdisciplinary programs that brought together artists with a range of community and campus-based partners in order to stimulate arts-based inquiry and elevate the role of the arts in academic life."
So you seed a program to get artists partnered with people to "stimulate arts-based inquiry." Wait, what? What is that, how do you do it, and why would you? And they're elevating the arts on what principle? And why does bringing people together automatically elevate it?

Now it gets real.
While Creative Campus projects fell into both (cooperative and collaborative) categories, the truly collaborative projects proved most transformative for both participants and the larger campus.
Transformative? What did they transform into? Badgers? Muffins? I guess when you have no point to a project, whenever you're done you just say that you "did art" and that it "transformed you." Yay art. Because art.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Music of Middle Earth: The Fall of Gil-galad

Gil-galad was an Elven-king
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

It's possible my favorite part of The Lord of the Rings is that seemingly least popular first book. You know, the slow-moving three hundred or so pages of walking, singing, and all-around hobbitry. Critics often carp about whether a story has a satisfying ending, but I love a satisfying beginning, learning names, places, and the laws of the land. A great author creates not only characters but a specific sense of time and place. The intimate opening chapters to Tolkien's romance succeed as a sumptuous introduction both to the characters and Middle Earth. One of the author's beloved poems in these pages, The Fall of Gil-galad, is a prime example of painting characters, time, and place.

Structurally, the poem is quite simple: three stanzas of two end-rhyming couplets, each line consisting of four iambs. At a slow pace, the iambs give the poem a limping, dolorous quality, appropriate to the sad tale, and apace the poem sounds a song of war.

The opening stanza sets up a character ancient and exotic to the hobbits: an elf, and a king at that. In using harpers for the more common harpists, Tolkien avoids excessive sibilance in the already alliterative line. The second couplet paints in some tantalizingly incomplete details about the tale: why was it the last realm? What's the significance of the land between the mountains and the sea? Where is 'between the mountains and the sea?'

Stanza two casts Gil-galad in a hero's relief. It's a subtle touch painting the warrior with the firmament reflecting in his glistening armor, as if Gil-galad himself emanates some pure, astral grandeur. It also foreshadows the hero's end and the metaphor of the last stanza.

Tolkien concludes by drawing Gil-galad's death in two metaphors reflecting the second stanza. The first, long ago he rode away, picks up the martial theme, and the second, into darkness fell his star, draws on the celestial imagery. The first line of this stanza throws us and Galad into ancient history and the last line, in effect, places us in the present day of the story and the dominance of Mordor.

Aside from this nice segue back to the story, the poem is effective in the narrative. First, it's a splash of  history whose gaps and mysteries give Middle Earth a lived-in quality. The fact that the poem is incomplete amplifies both the passage of time and the sense of the present as fallen era after Gil-galad's "silver age." Second, by describing the poem as translated, Tolkien suggests a multifarious Middle Earth of peoples, places, and languages. Finally, giving this little lay to Sam, a hobbit of often humble expression, paints the servant and gardener in the unexpected role of an ancient bard, and giving knowledge of the poem to Strider, whom we have already seen as far too articulate to be a mere ranger, grants him a unique, if presently unclear, claim to the past.

It's more than a narrative device, though. Whether wistful or forceful, the Fall of Gil-galad is an affecting little poem, lovingly crafted and given a happy little home in the sprawling story that completes the tale.

The Typographical Art of the '28 Prayer Book: D.B. Updike's "Some Notes on Liturgical Printing"

Arguably, one of the most magnificent achievements in American printing is Daniel Berkeley Updike's Standard Edition of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer of what was then known as the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. Updike was an Episcopal by birth, and so familiar with the Anglican liturgy. Prior to producing the Standard Edition, he had made a careful study of the history of printed liturgical texts, Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox. This essay, printed first in The Dolphin, no. 2 (1935), is the result of his historical and aesthetic study of the typographical art of his predecessors. The moment I first handled a Book of Common Prayer, many years ago, the typeprint and durable binding immediately convinced me that I was handling a book consecrated by centuries of Christian wisdom and experience. Later, I would enjoy a similar feeling, handling an old Roman hand missal. Our predecessors in the faith knew the value of a beautiful object, hallowed to the service of God. Need I say that we could learn from the practical and aesthetic wisdom of J.B. Updike?

The word "liturgy," from which comes the word "liturgical," is derived from the Greek leitourgia, signifying public worship, but in English its primitive meaning was the service of the Holy Eucharist, sometimes called the Divine Liturgy, because it is a service instituted by Christ Himself. There was, too, a secondary meaning, which has now obscured the original idea; it signified the set formularies for the conduct of divine service in the Christian Church. Liturgiology is the science, if it may so be called, which pertains to liturgies, their construction, peculiarities, forms, and use; and liturgical printing is that branch of typography which has to do with the arrangement and printing of such forms.
To understand liturgical printing as it is now practiced, we must know something of its typographic history, for it has retained the marks of that history to the present day. The first liturgical books were, of course, manuscripts, and although in the earliest of these there appear to have been scanty directions for the performance of divine service, when fuller directions came into use the writers had in some fashion to differentiate the words to be said or sung from the accompanying directions as to where, when, and how to say or sing them. The easiest way to show this was to write the words to be said in one color and the directions in another, the latter sometimes in a smaller letter as well. The words to be said, being of major importance, were written in black, and red was adopted for the directions. These directions, being rubricated, were by a transference of meaning called "rubrics. " Apparently the word "rubrics" first appeared as applied to a liturgical book in a Roman breviary printed at Venice in 1550; but it occurs in manuscripts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. "Lege rubrum, si vis intelligere nigrum," says the adage: "Read the red, if you wish to understand the black."
As early printed books were nothing more than a mechanical imitation of manuscripts, when liturgies came to be printed they followed the arrangement of liturgical manuscripts, with text in black and rubrics in red. The materials used for manuscripts and books differed--manuscripts being usually on vellum, printed books on paper--though even in printed missals vellum was often used for the canon of the Mass, since the pages devoted to this were subject to wear by constant handling.
[1] Both in manuscripts and in printed missals, the canon was arranged in considerably larger type than the rest of the book, and the old name given to a large size of blackletter type, "canon," is a reminder of this. A smaller size was called "brevier," which was sometimes used for breviaries. For a very long period blackletter type with rubrication was altogether used for all such books; [2] but later roman type was adopted, with, however, precisely the same rules as to rubrication. A good deal later italic type (invented by Aldus about 1501) was, for economic considerations, employed to represent rubrics, as this avoided the necessity of printing in two colors; and this plan was adopted for inexpensive editions of liturgical books, though sometimes a very small size of roman type was used instead. This, in brief, is the story of the development of liturgical printing.
Indeed, rubrical directions exist in the Bible--for instance, in the Psalms the word Selah, which appears to be some sort of musical direction, meaning, probably, an interlude. Whether any difference was made in the characters used for Selah in Hebrew manuscripts, I do not know, but it is a fact that the differentiation in the use of type in liturgical printing was not confined to Christian liturgies. In Hebrew modern books of devotion one finds the same thing. Rubrical directions are indicated by the insertion of a Hebrew character in outline, or by the use of a small size of the normal Hebrew character. Furthermore, the important sentences or words in the service are indicated by very large type, precisely as in Roman Catholic missals, or by setting certain words in capitals, as in the American Book of Common Prayer. The earliest Greek Orthodox liturgical book printed in Russia was Chasovnik, a book of hours, issued at Moscow in 1565--the second earliest dated volume printed in Russia, the first being an edition of The Acts of the Apostles printed in 1564. These books were printed in the Cyrillic character, a letter derived from late Greek capital letters. Liturgical books of the Greek Orthodox Church appeared prior to that date outside of Muscovy, the earliest ones having been printed at the end of the fifteenth century in Poland--at Cracow in 1491. These, too, were printed in "Church Slavonic," using the Cyrillic character.
Two modern books printed at Moscow are good examples of comparatively recent Greek liturgical printing, for under the Soviet regime such books are no longer produced. The first book mentioned is a service book (Sluzhebnik) of 1894, and the second (Trebnik), of 1906, is of the same nature. Both the Sluzhebnik and the Trebnik came from the press of the Synod Printing Office (Sinodalnaya Tipografia) of Moscow. These books are printed in red and black, and an illustration of a page in the Sluzhebnik volume is reproduced. Before the Revolution, the Synod Printing Offices of Moscow and of St. Petersburg were the chief printers of Greek Orthodox liturgies and of devotional works generally. Although the Moscow establishment came under the jurisdiction of the Most Holy Synod only in 1721, its history goes back to 1563; as for the St. Petersburg Printing Office, it was active for over two centuries prior to the Revolution, with some intervals.
As far as I have been able to examine the eighteenth-century books used in the services of the Orthodox Church, they are roughly put together and are not very good pieces of typography. But the rubrication in all these books, whether old or new, appears to be governed by the usual rule that words to be said are printed in black, and directions for their use in red, as in Roman Catholic and Anglican rubricated prayer books. When only black is employed, the rubrics are printed in a smaller size of type.
These Greek Orthodox service books are so unfamiliar to most English-speaking people that they have little practical value for the reader, except as showing the universality of certain methods of printing liturgical books.

For liturgical printing, as English-speaking people know it, we have two sources--Roman Catholic liturgical books and the liturgies in use in the Anglican Communion. These differ in some particulars.
The printing of the authorized Roman Catholic books is chiefly in the hands of three publishing houses, Desclée & Cie of Tournai (otherwise known as the Société de St. Jean l'Évangéliste), Pustet of Ratisbon, and the Vatican Press, at Rome, about each of which something should be said.
The brothers Henri and Jules Desclée, who had already built a monastery on their property at Maredsons, Province of Namur, Belgium, founded a printing press in 1882 at Tournai, and under the name Société de St. Jean l'Évangéliste published a series of admirable liturgical works, arranged according to the best liturgical traditions, harmoniously decorated, and technically excellent. They had a part in the musical printing required in the movement for the reestablishment of the liturgical chant, inaugurated largely through the influence of the Benedictines of Solesmes. Their editions served as the basis of the Vatican edition ordered for universal use by Pius X.
In the Desclées' books the principle that the directions are to be printed in red and all else in black is consistently followed, and headings such as "Introit," "Gradual," "Epistle," or "Gospel," are rubricated, as these are in a sense directions Moreover, references to passages in the Old and New Testaments are rubricated, for they are merely guides to the verses quoted and would not be said. For the same reason, apparently, the running headlines describing the contents of the page below appear in red, for they, too, are directions as to the day, hour, or occasion of the service. But for purpose of convenience the headings of each new section on the page are printed in bold black capitals--which, while not absolutely consistent, is convenient for purpose of speedy reference. In these books the "Amen" to prayers is treated as a response--as it actually is--and is preceded by R/ in red in rubricated editions, and the words of all versicles--short sentences said by the officiant--are preceded by V/. In the matter of initials there appears to be no fixed rule, and prayers begin with rubricated initials or black initials, as taste directs. I think this is a mistake. Strictly speaking, prayers should have initials in black, for these initials are part of a word to be said, and, moreover, black initials have a better typographical effect. Rubrics in these books have initials in black, which I think also open to exception, for rubrics, except in rare instances, require no initials; but if used, such initials should be rubricated also. A more serious fault is the introduction of gothic initials in prayers printed in roman type. As a whole, however, these books are consistent and careful pieces of typography.
The Pustet family was of Bavarian origin. In the first quarter of the last century Friedrich Pustet, who had been a bookseller, started a printing house at Passau which four years later, in 1826, he transferred to its present location at Ratisbon. Enlarging the establishment and adding a paper mill to the plant, the firm began to print and issue liturgical books in 1845, and later added facilities for the printing of church music. In 1870 the Pustet house was given the style of Typographus S. R. Congregationis, and the Vatican authorities have placed in its hands the editio typica of all liturgical work. The best books issued by Pustet are excellent, but their product is uneven and they have been less fortunate in their decorations than the Desclées, whose books show a greater uniform excellence. A disagreeable feature is the use of colored lithographic frontispieces and pictures, and a later series of these, intended to be more modern in feeling than those they supersede, are no improvement on them. "In the latest Pustet Missal," writes a correspondent learned in these matters, [5] "the incipit letter of the text itself is often in color, usually red. Another characteristic is the introduction into the Canon of certain parts of the varying Communicantes and Hancigitur prayers, to obviate turning the page at that important moment of the service. In general, this new Pustet Missal pays attention to the pagination of the prayers."
The Vatican Press (Tipografia Vaticana), founded by Pope Sixtus V in 1587, was housed in the palace in the building known as the Cortile della Stamperia and an interesting "specimen" of its types and characters for musical notation--Indice de Caratteri, . . . esistenti nella Stampa Vaticana, & Camerale--was published in 1628. Shortly afterward, the Congregation of the Propaganda established a separate printing office for the needs of missions, in which connection it issued, during the seventeenth century, a series of grammar-specimens of its various exotic alphabets, the first of which, Alphabetum Ibericum, appeared in 1629. This press later developed into the Tipografia Polyglotta. In 1910, Pope Pius X effected an amalgamation of the two, under the name Tipografia Polyglotta Vaticana, and arranged a modern and finely equipped plant. The new office prints the usual output of the Curia, especially the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, as well as the special choral editions of the liturgical chant, and the typical editions of the missal, breviary, ritual, and other service books.
The Vatican editions of plain song printed in one color, italic being used for the rubrics, are practical, workmanlike, and handsome; they are well adapted for what they are meant for. "The typical editions of the Vatican Press have the custom of printing the top of the page in red for the title--for example, Praefatio solemnis in festo Sancti Josephi, but using black for this same title as a heading for the actual preface itself. Furthermore, in the actual directions, when a text is referred to by name, the text itself is printed in black. For example, 'Dicto Pater Noster et Credo,' the underlined words are in black, the others in red"--precisely the use in rubricated English prayer books. To persons wishing to consult authoritative Roman Catholic liturgical books, the Desclées' publications will serve the purpose best. The books to be looked at are the Missal, Breviary (in four volumes for the four seasons), Rituale, and Officium Majoris Hebdomadae (Offices for Holy Week).
For Anglican prayer books the three authorized houses are the University Press, Oxford, the University Press, Cambridge, and the King's Printers. These have in the Anglican Communion much the same authority as the publications of Tournai, Ratisbon, and Rome in the Roman Catholic Church. 
  The chief of these three houses is the Oxford University Press, which dates from about 1517, though there was a long interruption in its work and it was only in 1585 that it began its present function. Its chief promoters were Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Archbishop Laud, who secured for it a royal charter; Dr. John Fell, Dean of Christ Church, and later Bishop of Oxford; and Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon. The printing of Bibles and prayer books was secured to the University in 1675, largely through Fell's efforts. Its present equipment numbers some 550 fonts in 150 characters, a foundry, a bindery, a paper mill, etc. It is governed by a body styled "delegates," headed by the vice chancellor. In its prayer books "every attention has been paid to accuracy and excellence of printing and binding, to the provision of editions suited to every purpose and every eyesight, and to the efficient and economical distribution of the books all over the world at low prices. In all these respects a standard has been reached which is unknown in any other kind of printing and publishing, and which is only made possible by long experience, continuous production, and intensive specialization." [6] Of the hundred editions of the prayer book, the Coronation prayer book of 1902 in octavo and the Fell prayer books are perhaps the best known, but the smaller editions are often exquisite though unobtrusive specimens of printing. Just as the Roman Catholic books of devotion continue to need constant additions through the canonization of new saints, so "the accession of a sovereign makes it necessary to print a large number of cancel sheets, which have to be substituted for the old sheets in all copies held in stock or in the hands of booksellers."
The Cambridge University Press, now four hundred years old, has printed Bibles and prayer books since early in the seventeenth century. Baskerville produced for this press, in the eighteenth century, some prayer books, more remarkable because he printed them than for any merit of their own. Creditable as are the Cambridge books and those issued by the King's Printers, Messrs. Eyre & Spottiswoode, I should recommend the consultation of the Oxford prayer books to students of English liturgical printing. The Anglican use in printing these official prayer books differs from the Roman use only in minor details, the chief of which is its employment of italic for responses, eliminating the use of R/ before each response. Italic even in rubricated editions of a prayer book has in Anglican books come to signify something not readily signified otherwise, i.e., a response, as, for instance, the responses to the suffrages in the Litany, and to the versicles in Matins and Evensong, and "Amen" when said by the people. For the printing of Protestant orders of service this use of italic is desirable, for to the average congregation the V/ and R/ would be unknown, but when a response is printed in italic the R/ mark should be omitted. The rule that italic should never be rubricated still holds. In both Roman and Anglican uses, notes indicating references to the Bible which are not said are rubricated. In the folio Oxford prayer books the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel are printed in full measure and, as far as may be, on facing pages, enabling the book to be carried, open, from the "Epistle" to the "Gospel" side of the altar. The quarto prayer books are printed in the traditional double column, which in liturgical books saves space and avoids ragged pages. Both editions are printed from the celebrated types given to the University by Bishop Fell, and are duly rubricated, but are disfigured by the introduction of a ponderous series of seventeenth-century Dutch "bloomers," as that kind of initial letter is called, mixed with free initials, both kinds being rubricated. A better piece of printing is the octavo Coronation prayer book, also from Fell types, issued in 1902--though a bad fault is the rubrication of italic in the catechism. There are also a number of liturgical books issued by Anglican convents, private societies, or persons, which, while having no authority, are interesting pieces of typography.
So far our attention has been given to rituals of liturgical and historic churches. But modern Protestantism is more and more leaning to liturgical forms, either for constant use or for certain occasions. Protestant "orders of service" offer no great difference in typographic treatment from services in the Book of Common Prayer, except that they very often introduce the names of those taking part in them, composers of the music, the words of hymns, or anthems that are sung. The prayers, being extempore, cannot be printed, and for that reason these "orders of service" lean toward the form of programs, and the endeavor should be to avoid this as much as possible. As far as feasible, everything that can be ascertained beforehand should be printed in full, and the names of those taking part in the service should be as inconspicuous as possible and grouped on a separate page. Decoration should be omitted, and, above all, the indiscriminate use of crosses avoided. Further than this it is not possible to give any very detailed directions, as each service is a problem in itself. In general, what is said should be made of the first, and who says it of secondary, importance.

A wise lady of my acquaintance once remarked that although moral laws were clear, simple, and explicit, the cases to which they could be applied in their entirety were few; and she added that this was because the circumstances or situations to which they were applicable were in themselves often confused and complex. I am reminded of this dictum in connection with our subject, for while it seems simple to say that all directions in a liturgy should be rubricated and all else printed in black, along with the understanding of a difference between liturgy and rubrics there must be some knowledge of the particular liturgy in question, as it is used. This knowledge demands some further acquaintance with the theological views implied or expressed therein, and I doubt whether a printer unfamiliar with the ritual of the historic communions could acceptably print services for them. Certain theological views lead to certain acts; and these acts have to be expressed by certain words used in certain ways, and these words and ways have to be fostered, or at least not impeded, by the typography that presents them. Nor are rules for rubrication, etc., simple from another point of view: they cannot always be pushed to an absolutely logical conclusion without doing violence to the appearance and convenience of the book when in use. So while such systems are of very general application, there are "exceptional exceptions," and one must know when these are allowable. The following axioms may be of practical use to persons to whose lot it falls to prepare for printing, or to print, liturgical work.

Concerning Type

  1. Roman initial letters, either free or block, should be used with prayers set in roman; and gothic initials if prayers are set in blackletter.
  2. Rubrics at the beginning of an office or service do not require initials, the initial occurring in the first prayer following the rubric. But, if used, the initials should be printed in red.
  3. Paragraph marks before rubrics may be printed either in red or black, but when a number of rubrics follow each other, black paragraph marks separate them from one another more clearly. In some Roman Catholic books a black arabic figure is substituted for the paragraph mark, but then only when a considerable number of rubrics follow each other.
  4. When it is intended to indicate a versicle and its response, V/ and R/ marks should be used in either red or black. But in Protestant services, as these marks are unfamiliar, the words Minister, People, etc., may be employed, printed in italic.
  5. Italic, being a substitute for rubrication, should never be rubricated.
  6. "Amen" when said by the people should be printed in italic in a service printed in one color, but when said by the clergy only should be printed in roman. Note that in Roman Catholic services the "Amen" is preceded by R/ in red or black when said by the people.
  7. A Maltese cross X is a sign of blessing and should never be used except to denote that the sign of the cross is to be made. Almost the only exception is its use in the singing of the Passion in Holy Week, when it indicates the words of our Lord; or before the printed signature of a bishop.
  8. Prayers, psalms, hymns, etc., must be set throughout in the same size of type and with the same leading; and rubrics must follow this rule and be uniform throughout the work.
  9. While blackletter may be used for titles or display lines on title-pages, or for running titles, it should never be used for prayers in a liturgy to be publicly used.
  10. The use of colored inks to indicate liturgical seasons (i.e., violet for Lent) is always to be avoided.

    Concerning Arrangement

  11. A rubric should be on the same page with the prayer, etc., to which it refers, and should be closer to the text following than to the matter preceding it.
  12. The breaks caused by the turning of a leaf should occur, if possible, at the end of prayers that are followed by anthems or hymns.
  13. "Turnovers" should be avoided during prayers, psalms, or lections. But turnovers during music are less objectionable than during portions of the service which are said or intoned.
  14. A versicle should never have its response appear on another page.
  15. In Anglican services the canon and the prayers following should always appear on pages facing each other, unless the Roman use is followed of a facing representation of the crucifixion.
  16. The traditional form of service books was in double column, probably adopted by calligraphers to save space, and to avoid blanks by short lines on a wide page. For books of private devotion this is allowable. In books for public use, however, a full-page measure is preferable, since it is easier to follow. In the Roman Catholic missal, the canon is probably for this reason sometimes printed full measure, though the remainder of the service is set in double column. This also applies to the arrangement of plain song, which must be set in full measure for the same reason.
* * *
Here these notes on liturgical printing end. So little of a practical nature has been written in English on the subject that they may be a slight contribution to a codification of the rules applying to it. In an age when there seem to be more questions than answers, it may be asked what need there is of such minute rules at all. But in this instance there is an answer. It was made by St. Paul when he said to the Church at Corinth, "Let all things be done decently and in order."

Friday, May 10, 2013


At mass yesterday, after the post-communion drum solo, I saw one of the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion returning to the altar. No, there was no flood or fire or imminent fiasco which imperiled us and necessitated an extraordinary minister, nor were throngs of parishioners expiring in the lines. The use of extraordinary ministers is of course de rigueur these days. Perish the thought that anyone should be forced, at mass of all places, to sit and pray by himself. Anyway, what struck me was less the lack of necessity for such an exception to the norm, than there realization that serving as an extraordinary minister is perhaps the last thing I'd want to do at mass.

First, I can't imagine receiving Communion at the altar all by myself while the rest of the church looked on. Likewise, I would never want to receive and then go off and do something, whatever it is, without first praying. I suppose it is possible to serve as an extraordinary minister and not receive beforehand, but receiving before ministering seems the default.

Second, I wouldn't want simply to be handed the ciborium full of Holy Communion. I mean, they just hand it off to you, often very casually, I might add. The slightest thought about what the sacred vessel contains should give one pause.

Third, it is not my preference to receive in the hand. I can't remember the last time I did. How can one just touch the Consecrated over and over again? It doesn't compute.

Fourth, I don't think I could actually utter the words. Who am I to assert such a thing? Who am I that anyone should affirm such to me?

All of these objections have in common a reverence, fear even, of the mystery. How can one step into it without a priest's authority and training? Cultivating the reverence needed to offer mass is a nexus of scholarship, self-understanding, discipline, and prayer. So why would one so eagerly step into part of the priest's role?

Most people, I think, just want to help. This is something that they're permitted to do, so why not do it? Such people are, in my experience, pious, often very pious, but it is a certain sort of piety. It is an intellectual piety though which they understand the importance of the liturgy, and perhaps even that there exists an ineffable dimension, but it is not an emotional piety. They don't fear or tremble before the sacrament.

Or maybe they do. For my humble part, I can't fathom why you'd take up such a burden, or how you could truly bear it, outside the context of priestly duties and training. There are so many ways to serve outside the liturgy and so much one needs from it, that the choice baffles me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Whose Bones?

While teaching short poems, notably Catullus 85, I'm fond of saying that if you to put forth a mere two lines of poetry, they ought to be good. Well today in my Twitter feed I saw the image to the right. Putting aside policy, what does it mean?

First I thought he meant that we individually define ourselves as a nation of immigrants, but that can't be so because I don't define myself as a nation. So then I realized that the president must mean that we collectively define ourselves as a nation, and a nation of immigrants at that. Fine. We're too far into this administration's tenure for such a statement to up my libertarian dander.

How does that sentiment, though, gel with the second sentence? Bones are pretty individual things, to start, so the image of us collectively having bones is awkward. Does the image of "national bones" resonate with anyone? Or are we the bones? Either way we still have our own, actual bones, so when he says "bones," which set of bones is he talking about? Either way, are we a nation of immigrants in our bones, or are we people who define ourselves as a nation of immigrants in the bones? Since the latter seems more likely, I am, according to the president, myself defining the nation as one of immigrants, in the, or I guess one of, the national bones?

I ask again, then, what are the bones made of? Do we constitute the bones, or do we defining ourselves as a nation of immigrants, constitute the bones, or do we actually being, which has not been established, a nation of immigrants, constitute the bones? Does something else entirely constitute the bones? Presuming, though, we're talking about metaphorical bones, he of course means essence, but the image of a bone is not that of a substance which admits a multiplicity of essences, if such a multiplicity is possible politically, philosophically, or metaphorically.

So when he says, "We define ourselves" does he mean define absolutely or partially? He must mean partially since the nation can't be singularly "a nation of immigrants" with no other dimension, but then how can we be so in our bones? As I asked, can we be multiple things in our bones?

What about the reflexive, though, ourselves? This has to be meant with reference to individuals. Do we have collective selves and individual selves? Are we anything else? I guess he meant "We define ourselves constituting a nation of immigrants, but he wrote as. None of these thirty one definitions of as fits the sentence. Maybe he's being rhetorical, using a simile? But isn't his point, which he makes three words later, not that we're like a nation, but that we are a nation? Besides, a simile is between unlike things, of what else can a nation consist than people?

So what's going on here? What's he talking about? This is Ciceronian? It's like Jabberwocky run through an Enigma encoder.

Dear Whomever Wrote Those Words,

There are only two sentences. Why couldn't you get this right? Why?

Thank You.

The Joy of Being Grumpy

Peevish, irritable, surly, ill-tempered. This is how we usually define grumpy, but to me it seems a more specific condition: a loss, usually temporary, of humor and sympathy. Such senses bind us to the world and its people, humor to the light foibles which ask charity, and sympathy to the serious seeking compassion. They also bid us be generous and forgiving to others while aware of our own imperfections.

Meanwhile, the grumpy are not aware of their own flaws, only the foolishness of others. All of the grumpy man's own flaws fade away under a bombardment of irritants. In fact, when you're grumpy you don't recognize the good in anything save the perfect. The world is never more black and white than when you're grumpy. The annoying girl is now a shrew, the slow cashier an imbecile, and the chatty neighbor a pest. Formal becomes stuffy, casual vulgar. People with questionable taste become full-fledged philistines, the frugal folks outright cheapskates.

In fact, apart from the dulling passage of time, only the most incorruptible excellence may snap you out of the grumpy funk. But why spoil a grumpy groove? Rather than trying to pacify oneself with some therapeutic excellence, it's far more satisfying to let the grumpiness boil over into a full-blown rant. A good rant is invigorating and cathartic. What liberation from gentlemanly confines, what control one seems to exercise over the life's ills when one rants and raves.

Unfortunately, it's hard to get a good rant going by yourself and an unfulfilled or half-started rant is quite an unsatisfying experience. What you need is a good friend to stoke the fires of disgust, someone who knows and shares just what ticks you off and who sympathizes with your frustration.

It's curious, though, that sympathy should be both the beginning and end of grumpiness. Perhaps it's because we grow grumpy by disconnecting from the intolerable vices of others, and thus the sympathy of friends returns us to a group to which we can happily belong. Ah, friendship.

Quid dulcius quam habere quicum omnia audeas sic loqui ut tecum? - Cicero, Laelius de Amicitia

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


There are many ways to insult a man. You can steal from him, strike him, shout him down, and on and on. Surprisingly few words, however, are so pregnant with scorn that they can single-handedly and unilaterally insult a man. We need not mention them, but most insults can be walked back, softened, used jovially, or explained away. Even many vicious remarks are limited in their focus. One word, though, seems to carry irrevocable and devastating repudiatory power: actually.

Actually will hew any conversation asunder and cut anyone to the quick. In fact, no conversation is so friendly or genial that actually won't cleave it in two. It's so flippant, as if the word means to overturn whatever argument preceded it, however logical and artful. You will be educated, it says. Actually. It smacks of such a smug self-satisfaction in what will follow that it etches the speaker's smirk, and there's always a smirk, into your mind.

No intonation or gesticulation, however soft and timid, can lessen actually's effect. No follow up can change course. It is a declaration of war. As such, it should be stricken from the gentleman's vocabulary. There's always a friendlier point around which one can pivot if you intend to disagree: speaking in the abstract, pretending to agree even though you are disagreeing, or re-attributing his statement to someone else and then disagreeing with that person.

When you get actually-ied, though, all bets are off. It's a total war of rhetoric. So disagree wisely, if you must disagree, less you wake the wit within the gentleman.