Sunday, October 22, 2017

Too Fast

Listening to Bach's sublime A minor violin concerto.  The tempos are so ludicrously fast that it forces one to ask many questions.  It's no wonder the esteem of classical music has suffered so much.  Why the obsession with rushing through this incredibly complex sublime music?  It evinces a kind of contempt for the music, its composer, its significance, its import.  Bach's music is about as fancy as music gets from the fanciest era of music.  It was the era of the doctrine of the affections.  It can't possibly work at these tempos.  Please, players of baroque music, stop trying to "get through" this or any music.  If playing it is such an unpleasant chore (like disposing of a dead animal, or something similar that is done quickly), then maybe do something else that you actually enjoy.  But please don't destroy this music for the rest of us.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Anointed One--Program Notes

Here are program notes for The Anointed One, a song cycle to be performed Tuesday night, 10/17/17, Madsen Recital Hall, Provo, Utah.

The Anointed One

Bach’s Passions have been among my favorite works of art since I was quite young, the only drawback being that they end with the burial and don’t include anything about the resurrection.  I always aspired to write something like them but have realized over the years that there is little scope in my own situation for pieces of that scale.  In 2015 I decided to compose a “micropassion”, a stripped down piece using only the account from the shortest gospel, that included the resurrection account.  The passion portion was performed on Good Friday evening and the resurrection portion on Easter Sunday morning, both in my home.  In 2017 I arranged another performance, but this time added hymns from the L.D.S. canon and reflective songs that I have assembled into a cycle.  The poems below are preceded by scriptural texts that accompanied them.

Jesus, the Anointed One
She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.
(Mark 14:8)

Jesus, the Anointed One
You need not my anointing
Yet how I wish I could touch you
To kiss you and bathe your feet with my tears

As I cannot touch you now
May I anoint you with my life, my love
As I anoint your other brothers and sisters

May I anoint the poor in spirit, the poor in substance, the poor in body, the poor in time…

With my food, my shelter, my clothing, my touch, my words, my prayers, my tears,

May the perfume of this anointing ascend to your nostrils as the sweet savor of primeval offerings.

May I remember the woman, the women who anoint and bathe your feet with tears.

And they all forsook him, and fled.  And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:  And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.  (Mark 14:50-52)

naked came i hither
and naked i go forth

sin and death, your enemies
 strip me
as naked without the covering
of your presence, of your forgiveness
i flee, not knowing where to go

may i be one of those who overcome
may i be clothed in white raiment
as a bride
that I may join you

“Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” And when he thought thereon, he wept. (Mark 14:72)

would that my tears could
my deepest desire
and not betray
my animal fear

would that i could
rest in thy safety
and not wander

would that i could
speak my witness
not regarding the outcome

instead i curse,
glimpsing (guiltily) from a safe distance

And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
(Mark 16:11)

never will i
ignore your witnesses
on earth

when you left
i refused to be comforted
when i heard you had returned
i believed not for joy
how i longed to hear your word
to feel your embrace
but i wouldn’t listen

They trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man. (Mark 16:8)

i’m trembling with fear
with love
with light
i’m amazed
i cannot speak

when i think on the despair i felt
before i knew you lived
when i realized my life
would never be the same

i couldn’t find words

how can i speak
what can i say
is it really possible
are you really alive

i dare not imagine
an end to my sadness
i dare not imagine
to see your face again

yet trembling and speechless
i look up
filled with hope
that i will see you again

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Death Drive

-The Book of Mormon describes two civilizations in two different time periods becoming possessed with hatred and obsessed with weapons, death, and killing, ultimately resulting in genocide in one case, and mutual destruction in the other.
-Freud talks about a Death Drive, the instinct to kill and destroy.
-The Book of Mormon talks about the natural man (sometimes called the carnal man), in opposition to the divine within.
-The Book of Mormon also proposes that its detailed accounts of wanton hatred and violence are included to be instructive to people of our era.
-The Bible and Book of Mormon repeatedly talk about beating swords into ploughshares.
-At it’s darkest, I see our society as one obsessed (in its fantasy world (media), its preaching and pronouncements, its politics) with violence and death.  I see an ever accelerating addiction to button-actuated weapons, essentially killing with remote controls.

-The completely unreasoned, bizarre, drunken resistance to any kind of limitations on remote killing devices can only be explained with the Death Drive, or the natural man, coupled with the Mahan principle, also of ancient origin, described by Hugh Nibley as the ease with which one can “get gain” by exploiting human suffering and death.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


If we can't collectively see Harvey, and the crumbling of everything built and fought for us in the 20th century as the direct failure of conservatism...I dunno, I just don't know.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Inspiration, Comprovisation and Creativity

What I do/why I do it:

I create music in three genres: classical music, jazz, free improvisation
-none of these genres has much/any mass/commercial appeal
-why do I do it?
3 reasons:
-when it’s good, it’s incredibly enjoyable
-microcosm of spirituality

Inspiration and Comprovisation:

-inspiration sometimes gives everything, sometimes very little—very often in unpredictable/new formats
-sometimes hard to tell where inspiration starts and ends (good to be ok with this)
-sometimes hard to distinguish fake from real inspiration
-easy to use skill/experience to fake inspiration, sometimes easier than seeking/following inspiration
-have to nurture the gift
-forget how hard it is and where it came from, or to believe in it (when beginning new project)
-each new composition is a new problem
-never know when, what, with whom the magic is going to come
-be willing to create a plan
-be willing to significantly revise or scrap that plan
-be willing to accept tasks that are hard
-be willing to accept tasks that are easy
-be willing to throw things out
-sometimes use up all your licks – can be good or bad
-scary, taxing, existential
-never know what pieces are going to move people and when
These are attributes of spirituality
There’s a reason for this: music is divine
-creativity is divine
-all human activity is/can be creative

What is creativity?

-principal attribute of God
-collaboration with God
-raison d’etre
-key to joy and success in any endeavor
-wholeness, organicism: organization of intelligences
-preparation for godhood
-creativity synonymous with courage – not knowing the outcome
-opposite: compulsivity: doing something ineffective just because you know the outcome
-understandable: we’re strangers here
-we all have trauma – the unknown/unexpected

Creativity is also vulnerability (wind bloweth where it listeth)
-Jesus made himself vulnerable – other holy men also
-recognition that we are dependent
-response to dependence can either be trying to control as much as possible or accepting providential unpredictability

Moroni 7:16-19
D&C 93:2, 29-30, 33-34, 36-39

D&C 88:6-13

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trump and Treason

The following was a reply to a Canadian friend and mentor's query about some of my Facebook posts:

My politics are far to the left in the U.S., but they would be pretty middle of the road in any advanced country, e.g. Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, etc.  (where there is a basic safety net to assure essential human needs including food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and education, and where the democratic process is carefully regulated to allow most voices to be heard).  People outside of the U.S. might not realize how bad things have gotten over here, how skewed wealth is toward the very very rich.  Most people spend ridiculous amounts of their income on healthcare (if they can afford it at all) and housing.  Job security is kind of a thing of the past.  The political process has become so infested with money, consultants, etc. that it's probably not accurate to call it "democracy."  This has all happened in the years since the end of the cold war.  The U.S. system only tolerates two parties.  Any attempts to form other parties fail.  This means that so, so many voices are ignored and the party leaderships have immense power and are not all that interested in what ordinary people think.  The Democratic Party is a somewhat benign, basically competent coalition that claims to represent a, or the, diversity of viewpoints/people.  But it is a very weak coalition that has not tackled or even claimed to tackle the real problems of our society, or to mitigate the effects of rapacious capitalism and monopolism for at least the last 24 years.  The Republican Party, on the other hand is, to my observation, a truly evil organization that has tried to defeat the democratic process and concentrate wealth and power as much as possible to a small elite.  Their model is a plutocracy.  They gain support from non-rich people (very much against their own self-interest) by the use of wedge issues.  Abortion, gay marriage, non-binary bathrooms, racism, sexism, religious bigotry, the environment, etc.  I don’t believe the republican leadership, or the party as a whole really gives a hoot about any of these issues, especially considering they almost always lose on them (Roe v. Wade, for example, was challenged unsuccessfully with a solid conservative majority on the supreme court during Bush Sr.’s presidency.  Same sex marriage, etc.).  These are just useful wedge issues that, in my opinion, should not be part of the partisan political debate, i.e. parties should allow their members to vote their consciences on them.

  More than anything, though, as a Mormon and a close reader of the Book of Mormon (thanks in no small part to you), the republican party seems more like a secret combination, of the kind Book of Mormon authors warned us about.  It just seems to always take the side of evil and destruction, even when that side does not support their plutocratic goals.  The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is a weak opposition to this onslaught.  As I said, I believe it to be essentially benign in its intents, but it feeds from the same fundraising and lobbying troughs, and most of its leaders are themselves elites, and suffer little if at all from their own (many) defeats, unlike the majority of Americans (and the world).  They also have trouble resisting the wedge issues brought forth by the right, like moths to light. 

OK, so with this backdrop, I should say that Trump is an anomaly.  To any thoughtful observer, Trump has been running with significant support from Russia for quite awhile.  To any person with a pea-size or larger brain, Trump is a frightening, offensive, narcissistic, dumb, tacky, crooked mess of a person who has no business holding or running for any political office.  In spite of all his extremely odious qualities, his connections to Russia are by far the most disturbing.  To anyone with any knowledge of history, or to anyone who has any memory of the cold war, this is amazing (in a bad way).  We watched in horror as Osama Bin Laden basically manipulated the U.S. into two disastrous wars.  America has so damaged its ability to reflect and discuss that we still haven’t examined how that all happened.  Now it appears that our current adversary, Putin’s Russia is poised to get us to dissolve pretty much all of our post-WWII international connections that prevented WWIII and kept the soviet empire from taking over and imposing their 1984-esque vision on a large share of the world.

This is *not* conspiracy theory.  This is really happening.  And it is extremely distressing that a large percentage of our country has allowed the allure of Fox News, and the right wing media to poison and colonize their minds to the point that they are not susceptible to even the most basic truths or warnings.

If the republican party had not crookedly taken over a majority of the three branches of federal government and most state government bodies, Trump would be impeached on his first day of office and it would be kind of like prosecuting Timothy McVeigh.  There would be dozens of charges to successfully use.

What has been especially distressing to me has been how Utah appeared to be poised to lead the conservative opposition to Trump in the last weeks of the election.  But, as usual, party loyalty appears to “Trump” *everything* else, including loyalty to country (i.e. Putin etc.) and religion (Deseret News explicitly de-endorsed Trump, and the Church implicitly did so).  In the end, it was *my* congressman, Jason Chaffetz who initially led the opposition, then, like a dog to its vomit, initiated the Comey debacle that sealed the deal.

I didn’t come to this country expecting to become so political.  I’m a composer and a teacher and an admirer of America.  But during my sojourn here, I have watched all of the things I admired about this society come under attack, and some of them outright destroyed.  I don’t feel like I have much of a choice anymore.  You know, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” and all.