Monday, June 25, 2018

Kings: Bad Idea

Last week in Gospel Doctrine class we were talking about the transition from judges to kings in the Old Testament.  There was a lot of humming and hawing about how maybe this was necessary, etc., the judges weren’t that great, etc.  My comment was something along the lines that, taken as a whole, in addition to being a lineage of the Messiah, a secondary overriding theme is how utterly terrible kings and tribes are.  

Yesterday while waiting for stake conference to start I looked through every chapter heading from 1 Samuel to 2 Kings.  It’s just a series of absolute disasters caused by these kings.  And the first three were carefully hand picked, but even they turned out really bad and caused unspeakable suffering.  I know God sanctioned, selected and had these guys anointed, but I imagine it somewhat in the character of providing I.V. drug users with clean needles.  “If you’re going to do this really awful, dumb thing, then at least make sure that…” etc.

Kings and tribes are unmitigated disasters.  And why wouldn’t they be?  If we are children of a perfect and loving god, tribalism, racism, and nationalism have to be viewed as wicked.  Moreover, lifting up one man and his descendants as above the law, better than everyone else, able to boss people around and steal from, enslave, kidnap, and rape them at a whim are likewise wicked.  And yet we have this human tendency to want kings, strongmen, and celebrities.  We are also incredibly susceptible to believing in tribes, races, and nationalities.

I keep coming back the the lyric of the reggae classic from Carlton and the Shoes:

“God made man and He gave them all
An equal share of blessings.
Some men want to take it all and
Keep the rest of the world in
Bondage and oppression.”

The song ends with a hopeful note though:

“But the Father, He’s not sleeping.
He’ll set his people free.
Better days are coming,
Better days for you and for me.”

Sunday, June 24, 2018


So the fact that there is a word for this, demagogue, and that vile strongmen throughout recorded history have taught and preyed on fear of the other to divide the majority or plurality and thus gain power and control; does the fact that history is replete with this ugly phenomenon and that despite our living in the information age, and thus having super easy access to all this history and information, does any of that matter? I guess we really have to look at root causes. About 50 percent of any society are susceptible to fear, easily manipulated, and generally not super smart or able to think independently/critically. This is just simply a given. And these people do amazing and beautiful things in most circumstances. About 35% of people in any society are both smart and have a social conscience. About 15% are smart and are douchebags, and just want wealth or power, at whatever expense. Sometimes the 15% (or a subset of them) get so greedy that they are willing to create/promote hatred to squeeze a little bit more, mostly out of the 50% (getting them to act against their consciences and their own interests). It's really all up to the 35%, and I think we've failed. We failed to educate. We failed in the political process. We promoted a doctrine of moral relativism at the very wrong time in history. We sucked up to mass media and popular culture also at the very wrong time in history. We allowed "wedge issues", tailor made by the 15%, to cause us to succumb to dislike of the 50%. We also failed to shame the 15%, but that is only possible when we sufficiently educate the 50% such that we have shared values with which to shame the 15%.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Avant Vespers

I shared the following on FaceBook today regarding a new series that takes over somewhat where the Locust Salon and Avant GaRAWge left off:

For many years I have been experimenting with different ways to structure time in music.  I’m very excited to present a piece tonight that does this in ways that I’ve imagined but never quite realized.  No Within No is also an exploration of liminality, the space within the supposed borders.  This is something I’ve been fascinated with for years, but I feel like I’m getting further into that groove.  The borders that become continua are those between speech and music, composed and improvised text, intelligible words and phonemes, humor and profundity, heterophony and polyphony, and a few others.  I’m so glad to have two of my favorite vocalist/performers joining me, Hannah McLaughlin and Stuart Wheeler.  And also very grateful to be surrounded with other fascinating music being made by Mr. Wheeler, Gavin Ryan, Devin Maxwell, and the music of Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier, and Phil Niblock, composers rarely heard in these parts.  Incidentally, I share a regard for Sunday as a sacred time and consider this event, in a beautiful and intimate church, a wonderful opportunity for meditation and the celebration of the divine gift of sound, whatever your beliefs or life practices are.

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.