private jupe and public hymn singing


I am thinking this morning of how very private and intimate the act of composing is for me. I have developed rules for myself over the years about this area of my life. I do not share very much about it especially when something is in process. I have found that if I do so, it can sabotage it. Of course it’s all my own doing. But still I have to find what works for me no matter how pathological it looks objectively.

This morning I woke from a dream about composing. In it I was showing a work in progress to two people: one young man and one tall thin professorial type man. I had just shown them a sketch for a piece. It was the melody only and was modal. I had words in mind and godhelpme I think it was a religious piece of some sort.

As I prodded the young man for feedback he kept asking me if I was sure I wanted a high schooler to give me reaction. I could see that both he and the professor had questions about the work in progress. I began asking them about specific flaws they might be seeing in the work.

Then I woke up and remembered that I had attempted to set some time aside today to do a little composing.

When I was a younger man, I remember spending long days alone in a cottage in northern Michigan working on compositions. This was before Finale and I remember taping pages and pages of works in progress on the cottage walls. It helped me think about the music.

Yesterday there was a very odd moment in the funeral. We were singing the closing hymn which was “When Peace Like a River.” I wasn’t sure how familiar this particular hymn was going to be to this particular congregation gathered to mourn. It comes from the Ira Sankey American hymn tradition which is to say it’s evangelical and slightly sappy.

I remember my own father leading congregations in this hymn.


It is found in the Church of God hymnal of my youth.

It was printed in the bulletin so I didn’t give too long of an introduction. I began it with a conservative solid tempo. About halfway through the first verse I heard a loud twangy voice singing at its own tempo. At first it seemed to rush through, then it held end notes very very long. I was at loss at what to do and the congregation was certainly unsure of how to proceed.

I admit to a certain amount of perverse amusement which I hope did not show on my face even though few people look back at the organist.

I spent the rest of the hymn negotiating with the loud voice and trying to shepherd the congregation through the hymn which they were for the most part attempting to sing despite the crazy man.

Gradually the loud twangy voice sort of fell into my tempo and ceased holding the ends of phrases way too long.

Another day in the life of this church musician, I guess.

Law Without History? by John Paul Stevens | The New York Review of Books

I have bookmarked this to read. John Paul Stevens is a retired associate Supreme Court Justice.

Chobani and Dov Seidman Wrestle Over Use of ‘How’ Trademark –

It always amuses me when people try to claim ownership of meaning.

‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher,’ by Hilary Mantel –

This book review inspires me to try this author.

Charles M. Blow’s ‘Fire Shut Up in My Bones’ –

I have been a fan of Blow ever since he appeared on the NYT Op ed page. I will probably read his new book of which this is an excellent review by the Nation’s Patricia Williams.

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