james weldon johnson


Another busy day yesterday. I did manage to choose anthems for the choir through Palm Sunday and get them in the folders for last night’s rehearsal. I also put in time on my new composition tentatively called “Breath Dance.” Since the performance at which this piece  might be played is early in February (I think it’s Feb 2), there is a good chance I won’t  have it done.

Today, I need to recuperate a little bit. But I have Friday and Saturday free to finish it or at least have a version of it ready for the performers to have in their hands by this weekend.

My copy of the Library of America’s volume of selected James Weldon Johnson arrived in the mail yesterday along with a box of music. I only had about an hour and half between prepping for last night’s rehearsal and the rehearsal itself. I spent that time happily looking over my new book and music.

I am interested in James Weldon Johnson largely because I have recently realized that my love of Negro Spirituals is a subset of my love of poetry as much as music. This morning I was reading in my new book and realized that one of the selections was Johnson’s introduction to the Second Book of American Negro Spirituals.

Image result for the book of the american negro spiritual

I own both books bound in one volume. I pulled it out and continued reading but in the introduction to the first book. Although it’s not clearly attributed I believe it is also by Johnson. He points the reader to is in his introduction to the second book.

He is writing in the 20s and his prose is dated but I find it lovely. I am aware that the author is a poet of some considerable ability when I read “[T]he Spirituals were literally forged of sorrow in the heat of religious fervor.”

Johnson brings me closer to Christianity by his emphasis on to what he calls “a reversion to the simple principles of primitive, communal Christianity.”

I struggle with the idea of belief. I recently told my shrink that poetry does for me what religion seems to do for some people But I do not struggle with what Johnson calls its Cardinal virtues: “—patience—forbearance—love—faith—and hope”  nor with the beauty of Johnson’s poetry or the poetry of the American Negro Spiritual.

It is one of the ironies of my life that I continue to circle back round to Christianity, this time via my love of non academic music of all sorts. Many of these draw from the well of Negro Spirituals without which there would be no blues, no jazz, no rock, no hip hop and on and on.

My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror

James Risen was interviewed in a recent On the Media Podcast, A Journalist of Consequence. This is the article they mention and this is the book.

Image result for state of war james risen


Rush Limbaugh: The Media Are What They Accuse Trump of Being… Totally Unfit | Video | RealClearPolitics

I don’t get exposed to Rush Limbaugh much. I bookmarked this article to read since I’m pretty sure it’s full of shit but Limgaugh has helped us get to the terrible place we now are at in the USA so I want to understand as much as I can about those I vehemently disagree with.

Miles Davis is not Mozart: The brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently

I basically think this study is full of holes. One of the holes is that I would consider myself someone who plays a bit of both Jazz and Classical music as well as other styles . There were only thirty pianist in the study. Is that even a statistical sample?

Donald Trump’s first year made me rethink my American government class

A year later the USA has lost its way to the point that we are witnessing the erosion of the possibility of the dream of democracy. This article is written by a teacher of a government class at Rutgers.



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