Easter 2024

31 August 2006
Buxtehude, Dieterich (1637-1707) - Nun lob mein Seel den Herren, BuxWV 212

Dieterich Buxtehude

I've been working a lot on the Nun lob mein Seel den Herren settings of Buxtehude this week, and one of them has caught my theological imagination.

The chorale's text is a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 103.

The paraphrase starts:

My soul, now bless thy Maker!
Let all within me bless His name

And BuxWV 212 may very well be based on this, as I will soon show.

I think the order here is important:

  1. My soul
  2. thy maker

It's always struck me that the score indicates a alternation between two keyboards, and hence two divisions, of the organ

  1. the "Ruckpositiv," and
  2. the "Organo."

A Ruckpositiv is a small-scale version main division of the organ (here called the Organo) that is situated behind the organist in a typical North German instrument. (It's that part of the organ that blocks the organist from view.)

In this type of organ construction size does matter; the Ruckpositiv is softer than the Organo.

So, here we are, a softer Ruckpositiv begins this piece. Buxtehude is setting up a kind of reverse echo. Soft, loud, soft, loud, etc.

And I think that he might be toying with the dichotomy of the soul and the Lord.

We know that Bach uses the Ruckpositiv to symbolize the incarnation (specifically thinking here of the logical manual change in the "St. Anne" Fugue in E-flat, BWV 552b), and we know that Bach studied with Buxtehude. So let's pretend that this concept came from Buxtehude.

So, then we can very gracefully conclude that Buxtehude portrays the human self in contrast with God. And there are some points I like about this.

First, and most importantly, God listens to our praise. The first Organo response is a direct quote of the beginning of the piece.

But the whole chorale prelude is not banal mimicry. Rather, a dialogue develops. It grows naturally, and is playful at times. The dialogue becomes increasingly sophisticated and connected as the piece goes on. As a performance practice, I think it's helpful to take this playfulness into account and carry it through into ornamentation, phrasing differences and other alterations to the score.

My soul, now bless thy maker.

To bless, is to praise.

To borrow a line from the Book of Common Prayer "We praise God, not to obtain anything, but because God's Being draws praise from us."

In this dramatic rendition, our first utterance, offered perhaps by the memory of God's deeds in the past, is answered loudly and triumphantly in the present, and then the dialogue continues in real time.

According to Buxtehude, praising God feels good because it is a dialogue. God hears, and he answers God. Praise is a type of prayer, and what is prayer if not the "practice of the presence of God?"

This joyful chorale prelude is Buxtehude's delightful invitation to celebrate God's glory.

Buxtehude current event tangent: Buxtehude was in the news today with the discovery of a Bach manuscript that dates before 1700.

"Nun" chorale current event tangent: Bach, apparently unaware of the concept of intellectual property, blatantly copied Buxtehude's "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein." I don't know it, but we'll have to examine it for theological symbolism now, won't we?

29 August 2006
area code - humorous

A little joke from the phone company that I've never noticed before:

The area code for Cape Canaveral, Florida is 321.

Humorous phone tangent: Hearing about this mobile phone throwing contest only increases my desire to visit Finland.

28 August 2006
change - complete, yet ongoing

Back in 1987 I started a yearly ritual that I have failed to observe this year. Every year around this time, I would go to school.

This started innocently enough (Kindergarten), but quickly spun out of control (Aural Skills V, Organ Construction and Design, Organ Music of J.S. Bach).

So enough with that. I'm not going back to school this year.

I'm doing something else.

Hint: check the sidebar under "Archon"

Change tangent: The New York Times thinks that this video reveals something about the changing classical music scene.

27 August 2006
change - major

Some of you are expecting a major change to this website tomorrow, 28 August. (I made reference to this in "yo -wow", published after I returned from Anglo-Catholic military camp.) Prior to that change, a few remarks are in order.

I see as an outlet (or maybe an outgrowth?) of my personal self, not my professional self.

However, because of the nature of my professional self -- working in the Church, working for faith communities that share my personal faith -- my personal and professional selves overlap.

I mean, seriously. What would constitute a "professional faith?" Such a concept is dishonest.

It is my personal self that I offer in my professional services, and it is my professional activity that is injected with my personality. Making music is always a personal act, but I think this is especially apparent when a musician improvises. This is, in a very real, raw sense, that person made vulnerable to an audience.

Therefore, while covers a wide range of subject matter, it sometimes bears record to my professional acts.

I recently have come to understand this relationship as critical. If I am honest it my professional life, I must bring my full personal self. If I am faithful on -- and I intend to be -- then I must record those professional experiences which bring about change in my mind, my body and my soul.

I am pursuing a career as a church musician because I believe in God.

I believe in a God who calls us to worship and serve Him.

I believe that God has called me to worship and serve as a musician. I specifically remember coming to this understanding about 14 years ago at a Presbyterian camp in Texas.

I hold to be self-evident the Anglican tenets of scripture, tradition and reason.

And it is the scripturally sound, rich tradition of Anglican church music that I find the most reasonable.

Some quick thoughts on all this:

Scripture & Understanding (or musicians and their music)

If the traditional forms Anglican church music are going to continue to flourish, we need to understand them.

This starts with the "scripture": the music. What does the text say? How does the text inform the music, and vice versa?

Who wrote the text and the music? And how do new compositions join the "canon" of sacred music?

There's such richness in the "scripture" that musicians work with. Inheritors of church music have been gifted with considerable amount of material.

Tradition & Communicating (or An English Tradition in America)

The church can be a self-centered place. A lot of churches I have been a part of have been prone to acronym proliferation. What do all those letters mean? And how would a newcomer find out?

Well, what does all this church music mean, and how would a newcomer uncover that meaning?

A responsible tradition communicates itself effectively. Is the Episcopal church communicating it's musical traditions effectively? Or is music of the Anglican church just seen as being grandiose and snobby and kind of weird? (My grandmother thinks it's a little depressing.)

And isn't this tradition needed? We live in what Stephen Carter calls a "culture of disbelief." If the disestablished church is going to be counter-cultural, don't we, in fact, need our own culture? Don't we need to march to the beat of a different, counter-cultural, Christian drummer?

And what is an Anglican (English) tradition doing in America? Is it this Englishness that makes our church music "different"? Or is there some point at which the tradition stopped being English, and started becoming American? Or both?

Tracing the development of Anglican church music helps us understand how we inherit the tradition. Looking closely at the music (scripture) helps us appreciate how the liturgical employment of that music (tradition) changes, and looking at liturgical changes helps us understand innovations in the music.

Reason & Reacting (or we hear, sing, pray and worship)

At the end of the day, we're left with ourselves and the music.

As much as Thomas Tallis has left us in the score, we are not Tallis.

As much as the tradition has continued to sing Tallis, and as much as other composers are indebted to him and his work, they are not Tallis, nor do they write like him.

At the end of the day, we hear the music. Even if we're singing it -- we sometimes forget this -- we are hearing the music (or at least we should be).

Music is meant to be heard, and hearing it, especially the passionate, evangelical music of the Church, should elicit a response.

This response is singing. Either literally or metaphorically. I consider an engaged listening tantamount to singing. It is, in a sense, "joining the song."

And we all know that by singing, we pray (twice!).

And by praying we practice the presence of God.

The God who draws forth song.

The God we worship.

Another change: As this site becomes more timely, I'm experimenting with being all atwitter. You can see this on the right sidebar under my picture and where it says "I'm David Sinden." Which I am. That's not changing.

Dutch tangent: Ryan is in Holland!

23 August 2006
remote control - infallibility of

I was sure that the problem was in my remote. Every now and then, I would aim it at my amplifier and nothing. No volume, no input changes, I couldn't even turn it off. It was frustrating.

But then, after maybe 10-20 minutes, it might start to work again. And I don't mean sporadically, I mean it would work fine. I could adjust the volume with finesse, I could switch input options with precision, and I could turn the whole thing off and on until the cows came home.

I just assumed the problem was in the little plasticky remote. I could have spilled something on it, or something. I don't know. So I got a universal remote.

I was a little flustered at first because none of the codes I had worked with my amplifier. I tried again later in the day, and the first code worked like a charm.

After it had been working for a while, I was showing someone else how to use it. After the tutorial, I desired to adjust the volume, and lo and behold, it failed to affect the amplifier yet again.

That's when I realized that the problem was not in the remote, but in the infared receiver on the amplifier.

Normally I would turn this into a metaphor for our relationship with God, but I'll let you do this. Things to consider: grace, receiving, who's to blame when we don't receive God's freely offered grace? infared as an extra-liturgical color of, like, super-Pentecost . . .

20 August 2006
dozen - two

I'm two dozen!

19 August 2006
FAQ - Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion FAQ

Q: What is the Anglican Communion?

A: The Anglican Communion is held each afternoon consisting of tea and crumpets rather than the traditional bread and wine.

Q: What holds the communion together?

A: Peanut butter.

Q: What are the 39 Articles?

A: The official newsletter of the Anglican Communion, published quarterly, has exactly 39 articles in each issue.

Q: Wait a minute, are you supposed to put the peanut butter on the crumpets?

A: Scripture, tradition and reason.

18 August 2006
plane - snakes on a

There were snakes.

They were on a plane.

Sometimes, you definitely get what you pay for.

15 August 2006
microwave - survival without

microwaveOkay, I've survived for two years without a microwave. Tomorrow I'm moving to a new place, namely one that does have a microwave.

In my mind, this qualifies the place as a luxury apartment.

. . . these are the things I have to live without now.

Tangents: Diamonds are luxurous.

David Diamond was a composer.

From the samples on iTunes, Jay Greenberg sounds a little like David Diamond. A CD of his music is released today.

Jay Greenberg is 14.

From the sample on iTunes, it sounds like Evanescense is well on its way to 14 CDs exclusively in E minor.

12 August 2006
revelation - late night

St. James Episcopal Church
Lake Delaware, New York

There I was practicing at the loveliest little church in the Diocese of Albany late one evening about two weeks ago. I was all by myself, and I had been going at it for about three hours.

I moved my hands to the Swell, the uppermost keyboard on this organ, and was briefly disturbed by the sound.

I took off the strident 4' principal in favor of a more gentle 4' flute.

Then it hit me. Some part of me thought it necessary to make this change, in the middle of the night, all alone in this church, in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the mountains, in the middle of New York state.

I started laughing.

"I play the organ," I thought.

How ridiculous.


11 August 2006
yo - wow ( is back from summer camp) at summer camp

Capt. David Sinden, LDBC
(Photo: camper Brandon Applegate)

Wow, yo. I was gone for a while, but now I'm back in the American heartland. Mad props (that means a big, heartfelt thanks) to Dr. Will for filling in for me. For his services, Dr. Will will be receiving a item of his choice.

I just got back a couple days ago. I had a long drive.

Here are some things I learned on my drive home:

Early this week, I was living in a canvas Civil-War-style tent in Delaware County, New York. I had served for a little over a month as a Tactical Officer at Lake Delaware Boys' Camp.

Here are some things I learned at camp this year:

One camper did visit before camp this year, and he called me out for terming the place a "cult." I've rethought my label for the place, and the one I've come up with is this:

A hyperactive monastic community.

One of the things about being gone for so long is that the internet moves mercilessly foward.

Two things that happened while I was gone:

I'm working on getting caught up, and I'm moving., however, is staying right where it is, with one major change to come on August 28.

Clothing tangent: Take a look at the shirt that I'm wearing in the photo above. Now take a look at the shirt I'm wearing at (the pre-iced-coffee) McDonald's last year. Apparently, I only take one shirt to camp.

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