Easter 2024

30 August 2007
Richter, Gerhard - window in Cologne Cathedral

Gerhard Richter window in Cologne Cathedral

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29 August 2007
Walker, David Charles - distinguished hymn tune composer, weblog author

I'm always on the lookout for organists with their own websites, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would find the composer of GENERAL SEMINARY has his own blog.

Here's his "about me" blurb:

Initially trained as a classical musician (organ, harpsichord, conducting, composition). After ordination, I taught for a few years at General Seminary in New York City before becoming Rector of a small parish in Brooklyn. Then to California & served parishes in San Diego, Beverly Hills, and ended up with 12 years as Chaplain & Director of Pastoral Care at Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles, from which I retired in June 2003. There have been a few of my compositions published & recorded, and I wrote the music for two hymns in The Hymnal 1982: “King of Glory” (GENERAL SEMINARY) and “Baptized in Water” (POINT LOMA). My partner, Nam, is a Pharmacist, and we live happily in a beautiful section of Long Beach, not far from the ocean, with our much-loved four-legged little guy, Josh, a Shih Tzu.

Go read David Charles Walker's On the Beach. Then go sing hymn 382 in the Hymnal 1982

At least, that's what I'll be doing.

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28 August 2007
eclipse - total, lunar, 2007

Indianapolis, Indiana


eclipse - lunar, total, right now

It's 5:15 a.m. Do you know where your lunar eclipse is?


27 August 2007
seal - Oberlin's imitated

The logo for Gawker's "Celebrity Theory 101" bears an uncanny resemblance to the Oberlin College seal.

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26 August 2007
birds - St. Louis

Every so often I watch baseball and I see the abbreviation "STL", and I know it's stupid, but I think of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But everyone knows the baseball team in Pittsburgh is the Pirates, otherwise known as the "Bucs".

And the "Bucs" also play football in Tampa Bay. If you're looking for baseball in Tampa Bay, you want to look for the Devil Rays.

If you're looking at the Devil Rays you're looking at the newest team in the AL East. Before that you would have to look at the Toronto Blue Jays.

Blue Jays are a blue bird, but the Bluebird (Eastern) is the state bird of Missouri.

That's strange. I thought it was the Cardinal.


24 August 2007
Vick, Michael - musical joke about

This is not Michael Vick.

Q: Why does Michael Vick like marches by John Philip Sousa?

A: Because there's always a dogfight in the middle.

Yeah. I went there.

(The dogfight is the chaotic transitional section that follows Sousa's main themes.)

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Wittels, Harris - how many are there?

I was shocked by the name Harris Wittels on Jimmy Kimmel Live! late last night.

I think I might put an exclamation mark after more stuff I come up with, because it really does add a festive quality to things.! Or maybe it's the addition of the word Live to something. Choral Evensong Live!

Anyways, yes, Harris Wittels. He lived down the street from me in Houston. I've been to his house.

Now, after graduating from Emerson College, he appears to be making a go of it as a comedian.

I didn't really need to check, but it is the same Harris. I mean how many can there really be? Facebook comes up with a Harrison Wittels at Southern Methodist University, but no other Harris Wittels.

I really wanted to like his abbreviated routine more (the whole "I knew him when" factor), but something about interacting with homeless people on a daily basis makes me less eager to laugh at his homeless jokes. They didn't seem to go over so well with the JKL! audience either.

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23 August 2007
theme song - NPR

On the way home tonight on NPR's "All Things Considered" I heard listeners singing their entries for the theme song lyrics contest.

Lately, I've been reading This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin (now available in paperback). Levitin introduces the counter-intuitive concept of contour. It's maybe not so important to music or musicians as it is to our brain and our cognitive grasp of how music works.

Contour is a relatively gross characterization of a song's identity. However its utility has been shown in various laboratory experiments. There is evidence that for melodies we do not know well (such as a melody we have only heard a few times), the contour is remembered better than the actual intervals (Massaro, Kallman & Kelly, 1980). In contrast, the exact interval patterns of familiar melodies are well remembered, and adults can readily notice contour-preserving alterations of the intervallic pattern (Dowling, 1994). Infants respond to contour before they respond to melody; that is, infants cannot distinguish between a song and a melodic alteration of that song, so long as contour is preserved. Only as the child matures is he able to attend to the melodic information. Some animals show a similar inability to distinguish different alterations of a melody when contour is preserved (Hulse & Page, 1988). One explanation of why the contour of a melody might be more readily processed is because it is a more general description of the melody, and it subsumes the interval information. It is only with increasing familiarity, or increasing cognitive abilities, that the intervallic details become perceptually important.

The concept of "contour" was in evidence as I heard these NPR listeners try to sing the ATC theme song. It's not an easy tune. And though different listeners settled on radically different solutions to the question of pitch, all of them matched the contour.


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22 August 2007
Alison, James - on liturgy (!)

"When people tell me that they find Mass boring, I want to say to them: It's supposed to be boring, or at least seriously underwhelming."

"Christian worship is predicated on the understanding that there is nothing left to achieve."

"[Worship requires] no whipping up of emotions in order that we glimpse the crucified and risen Lamb. Exactly the reverse. The crucified and risen Lamb is just there."

"Because he is just there, our liturgy is an ordered and relaxed way of habitually making ourselves present, as worshipping group, to the one who is just there, already surrounded by festal angels and our predecessors in the faith. If you like, it is an orchestrated detox of our mimetic fascination with each other which is the only way we are going to be able to glimpse the other Other who is just there, and who has been inviting us, all along, to his party."


These quotations (via The Ekklesia Project) all come from James Alison's latest book Undergoing God which I somehow didn't hear about when it was published last fall.

Alison is unparalleled as a theologian, and I am particularly excited to read his thoughts on liturgy.

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16 August 2007
big things - small things influence on

Chuch music has been around for many thousands of years, but each church musician has only been around for a handful of decades. So, while the tradition will probably hold itself together, each individual laborer in the musical vinyard has to figure out the best way to harvest his or her own musical grapes.

I like to maintain an interdisciplinary approach to my work, and that's why I am drawn to the ramifications of design concepts -- like How Apple's small things influence their big things -- on church music, and more specifically, rehearsal technique.

Here, I think it's important that we pay particular attention to our small things: hymns. The trebles sing hymns at every service, but they are often relegated to the status of "small thing". Especially if the hymns are rehearsed all in a lump and all in the same way every week, the treble perceives them as second-tier.

This is fine. Musically, there's only so much material there. It's literally a small thing. But if a standard of excellence can be brought to the hymn -- focus, intonation, clarity of text, phrasing, musicality -- this standard will permeate the rest of the rehearsal and infect the larger things: the psalm, Mass setting, and anthem.

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07 August 2007
bomb - the, organ

I've always told you that playing the organ is the bomb.


03 August 2007
pitches - hitting, throwing, hit-by-

Earlier this week, it was remarked that Barry Bonds was chasing the all-time homerun record (and he still is), Alex Rodriguez was seeking his 500th homerun and Tom Glavine was seeking his 300th win.

Despite the media hype, none of the coveted records materialized on Tuesday night.

Now another player, seeking a much more illustrious record reveals exactly how much pressure these record seekers are under.

HOUSTON—The intense pressure and scrutiny that comes with attempting to break Major League Baseball's all-time hit-batsman mark, a once-thought untouchable record that has stood at 287 for over a century, came to a head yesterday when Craig Biggio lashed out against the media, blaming an avalanche of news coverage and reporters' ceaseless questioning for his recent hit-by-pitch slump.

Craig Biggio Blames Media Pressure For Stalling At 285 Hit-By-Pitches from The Onion



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The author of this website is an organist whom the New York Times calls “repeatedly, insisting that he pay for his subscription”. He likes to read parking meters, music, Indianapolis Monthly, and weather forecasts in Celsius, particularly whilst wearing cassock and surplice. He serves lasagna, overhand, as an example to many, and on ecclesiastical juries. He mixes salads, drinks, and metaphors. He takes photos, lots of dinner mints, and a little bit of time to get to know.




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