held, diemer, hindemith, froberger, ross, cage, & more

I managed to write a bulletin Music Note for church yesterday. I was still exhausted from the weekend marathon and had several little things I had to do yesterday. After getting all my tasks done, I went over to the church to choose organ music for the weekend.

As usual I had looked up organ settings of hymn tunes we will be singing Sunday in my personal index. I was settled on a Wilbur Held setting of KEDRON for the prelude and an Emma Lou Diemer setting of LAUDA ANIMA (Praise my soul) for the postlude.

click on the pic to go to a website that will play Kedron

The Held setting was an okay little piece whose charm relied pretty much on the charm of the tune. The Diemer setting didn’t seem that interesting to me, but as usual it was well-crafted.

The beginning of the tune, LAUDA ANIMA, or Praise my soul. Again click on the pic to go to a site and find out more.

A while back, Diemer came on my web site and left a confusing snide little comment on a post because I didn’t rave about her music.  She didn’t seem to have read the post carefully in which I actually complemented her work (“interesting” “clever”) but pointed out that many  church musicians sort of look down on her. (link to old post so you can read for yourself if you so desire)

Since then, whenever I contemplate scheduling a setting by her, I remember this little distasteful exchange.

It came to mind yesterday when I was looking for something to prepare for this Sunday. At the same time, as I age, I am less inclined to schedule music I don’t feel enthusiastic about.

So I changed my mind and ended up deciding to do a prelude by Paul Hindemith (Organ sonata 3, mov 1)

and a postlude by the interesting 17th century composer, J.J. Froberger (Canzon III from his Livre de 1649).

Froberger (1616-1667)

These will both require more prep but it will be worth it to me to be spending my time with music that satisfies me with its beauty.

On another topic, I subscribe to the actual magazine, The New Yorker. It’s snobby and pretentious and a bit luddite, but I enjoy the cartoons and often find an article to read.

The New Yorker website is ridiculous. Since I am a snail mail paying subscriber, I get full access to the site with my subscription. The digital editions are sort of a pdf which simulates flipping pages. There are no cross links from the index. (I just double checked this).

There is a note about their evolving tech in the Oct 4 issue. It mentions they have had a website for 9 years. 9 years??!!? Good grief. Seems like it would be better by now. I find their web site pretty counter intuitive to use. I couldn’t easily find the index for the Oct 4 issue since, of course, it’s not the current issue. They admit in the note in the Oct 4 issue, itself, that tech is a secondary issue for them (writing is supposedly primary… no mention of the cartoons). I have been reading the magazine since I was a kid. I even submitted poetry to them for consideration a couple of times. So I do admire the mag. But I find their approach to tech unnecessarily clunky.

Having said that there were several good reads in the Oct 4 Issue.

John Cage. My wife, Eileen, actually heard him lecture live.

Alex Ross (whom I admire greatly and wrote the excellent The Rest is Noise) has an article on John Cage. (link to the abstract, unfortunately it’s not all online. Thanks again, New Yorker website). In it, Ross mentions several books on Cage and passes on anecdotes that fill in the portrait of this interesting musician. Example:

Zen attitudes notwithstanding, Cage had a conservative, controlling side. It is a mistake to think of him as the guru of Anything Goes. He sometimes lost patience with performers who took his chance and conceptual pieces as invitations to do whatever they pleased. Even his most earnest devotees sometimes disappointed him. Carolyn Brown recounts how puzzled she was when, after she had laboriously followed Cage’s instructions for one work, he reprimanded her for executing it ‘improperly.’ If the idea is to free oneself from conscious will, Brown wondered, how can the composer issue decrees of right and wrong? Alex Ross, “Searching for Silence: John Cage’s art of noise” New Yorker Oct 4, 2010

How indeed. This is a tough problem that extends beyond the Zen corridors of Cageville. It’s something I think about quite a bit these days. Composers seem more and more to me to be part of a process but not the whole of it. I think of composer’s intentions, but I also think of the meaning for me as a performer, not to mention the limits of the instrument and the performance arena.

read the full text...
Rachel Hall

Another good article in this issue was “The Scholar: She was brilliant. Was she also a fraud?” by Jeffrey Toobin. (link to abstract, also not available free online). This is a fascinating portrait of Rachel Hall. She seems to have been a brilliant student who also defrauded the government of mucho student loan bucks. On the side, she claimed to be the victim of years of sexual abuse. The article is fascinating and disturbing. Here’s a link to various articles about her recent conviction via Google news.

Finally, Sam Lipsyte who wrote the fun read, The Ask, has a short story in the Oct issue. This one is actually entire online. (link) I haven’t finished it yet, but so far I am enjoying it. It’s called “The Dungeon Master.”

That’s it for today, dear reader. I am started to feel a bit more rested and relaxed. Daughter Sarah gets on a plane and flies to New York today. It has been a delight having her around (as usual). I managed to spend a bit of time with daughter Eliz and her partner Jeremy. But I wish it could have a bit longer.

We are planning breakfast with my Mom this morning and then deliver Sarah to the airport in Grand Rapids. I have  give a lesson at 3 but the rest of the day is free. Ahhhhhh.

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