Archive for March, 2008

John Cage, 4’33


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If I’d been writing last week, I would have included this then:

Nothing is more important than the cross, except the perfect reign of God. Indeed, when we suffer with love, his reign has begun in us, and we must be contented with that as long as God defers the consummation.

Francois Fenelon, Talking with God.

. . . . . . . .

In somewhat related news, my iPod sleeps with the fishes. I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, who looks at his expanding music library, er, grain holdings and says, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” (Luke 12:15ff)

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I remember going up to the college radio station late one night, and my friend happened to be doing his show. He was a constant reader, a brilliant student, passionate about everything beautiful; everything was burning with grace to him. We said hellos, started chatting, and he suddenly held up his hand and said, “Wait, wait a second: just listen to this.” He turned up the volume in the studio so we could hear the straining guitar at the end of Adam Again’s “River on Fire.” He closed his eyes and leaned back and had this look on his face of yearning and hope. He said something next like, “You can just hear the groaning in that sound, the lament, and the longing.” He loved it. He loved life, and expected God’s goodness at every turn.

I am sad tonight that he is gone. We were never as close as I wished we were. We always spoke in passing, but never really hung out or found ourselves in the same circles. We lost touch after graduation, and then only rarely saw each other when we worked in the same place for a few years. I wish we had spent more time together. I know that distance was partly because his passion both inspired and unsettled me. It was hard to commit to him, because of wanting to believe like he did, but not being sure if I could live life so. . . earnestly. I don’t grieve like those who truly knew him, and those for whom the loss is in every moment now. But I have a sense of how great this loss is, because there are so few like him, and for just one to go creates such a painful, gaping hole in Hope’s ozone.

Maranatha. Just a little more today than usual.

Adam Again, “River on Fire.”

Don’t miss that guitar at about 4:00. It was eight years ago last Thursday, March 20, that Gene Eugene died in his sleep at 38. My friend went home on Monday night. I s’pose he was about 36. “What can you say; the impossible happens.” And still, it is Easter.

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Capn: Okay, time to brush your teeth.
Young’un: NO! I DON’T WANT TO!
Capn: Well, that’s one vote. But I vote “yes,” and I am a superdelegate.

So, our law prof, essayist, and reasonable conservative soundbite machine Doug Kmiec endorses Obama:

. . . as Republicans, we are first Americans. As Americans, we must voice our concerns for the well-being of our nation without partisanship when decisions that have been made endanger the body politic.

I like the sound of anyone starting a sentence, “as group, we are first bigger group.” I would guess we are creatures, way before we are voters, but in this case I appreciate the courage of Kmiec’s conviction. I’ll be interested in the impact on him, and maybe others.


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At the sound of the tone

I’m off this week. Enjoy the other internets. Lean in towards resurrection.
Supper at Emmaus, Diego Velasquez

Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus, Diego Velasquez

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I’d heard Big Pink, but didn’t quite get The Band until an aunt-in-the-spirit suggested I check out Robby Robertson’s 1987 self titled album. “It’s like a tent revival,” she said, and it was (“Testimony,” a track recorded with U2, is exactly that).

That was kind of a big moment for me, I think. It eventually led to seeing The Last Waltz, my favorite concert film (Scorsese, 1978).* And The Last Waltz became my back door into Van Morrison, whose big hits I’d always known, but whose depth and intensity as a musician I’d never explored beyond the pop familiarity of “Gloria” or “Brown Eyed Girl.”

For some reason, all I can stand to hear the last coupla days is Van Morrison, Otis Redding, and Elvis Costello. If you’re interested in some well arranged words about Morrison that make a pretty good case for music in general, here’s Lester Bangs from 1979 on Astral Weeks. And here is one of my favorite moments from The Last Waltz:

*Just a thought about sensing time: The Last Waltz came out in ’78. I picked up Robbie Robertson in ’87. I probably saw The Last Waltz for the first time around 2000. It’s pretty amazing to think about how in ’87, The Band seemed like ancient history to me. By 2000, ’87 seemed fairly recent. Anybody picked up the Super Deluxe Edition Joshua Tree? Ah, that’s another post.

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Ooo Weee Oooo*

I didn’t mean to post these slides with no context (see comments), and, although I’m tempted to let it lie for my own amusement, I’ll offer at least this much explanation. I’ve been listening to Buddy Holly recently, thinking about his significance as an early rock performer who was also a songwriter, producer, and lead guitarist. The Crickets get credit for setting the basic rock band instrumentation footprint, and Holly gets a lot of credit for the impact he had with only about a 2 year career. I’m also partial to a kid from Lubbock. Plus, hey, Waylon Jennings.

A nice stripped-down version of Holly’s “Dearest” (actual earlier title: “Umm, Yeah”) appeared on the Juno soundtrack. I’ve always wanted to get hold of a bootleg I heard of Holly singing “Well Alright” on just an acoustic. He wrote some great songs, although some of my favorites weren’t his composition (“Rave On”), and some were posthumously overdubbed.

Holly credited Elvis for rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis probably knew there was a lot of credit to share, and Holly covered Chuck Berry enough that he likely did, too. But Holly was a key player in what a rock band could look like, and what a “rock musician” might creatively accomplish.

And, dig the frames.

*Weezer, “Buddy Holly.” I am getting so user-friendly.

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