Saturday, September 21, 2013

Schubert: Ständchen "Zögernd leise"

I love this performance by a soloist and a small chorus of women as much as I love the other version for mezzo soprano and mens chorus and the more rarely heard version for all men's voices.  And, I'll point out, it's hard to play those kinds of accompaniments this well.

The story is that Anna Fröhlich commissioned the poet  Franz Grillparzer to write the text which she brought to Schubert with a commission to come up with a quick piece for a special occasion.  She claimed that he read the poem and said, ‘There, I have it—it’s all worked out.” .  Only he didn't realize she wanted him to compose it for a chorus of women and a couple of days later brought her the version for alto solo with mens chorus.  But, one of the fastest producers of masterworks in musical history, he recomposed it for her once she made her intentions clear.  I don't know if it's true but have no problem believing he was up to it.

The poem in translation.

Hesitating, softly, / under the nightly shell of darkness / we are here.
And with finger gently bent, / softly, softly / we rap at the bedroom door of the beloved.

And now growing, / swelling, rising, / with one voice, loudly / we call out confidently: / Do not sleep / when the voice of affection speaks!

A wise man once sought near and far / for a true human being, with his lantern; / How much more precious than gold / are those who show graciousness and affection for us? / Thus, when friendship and love speak, / my friend, my dear one, do not sleep!

And yet what in all kingdoms / could compare to slumber? / Therefore, instead of words, instead of gifts, / you should now have some rest. / One more greeting, one more word, / and the merry melody falls silent; / softly, softly, we sneak away once more.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Schubert Arppegione Sonata Played on a Real Arpeggione* And Period Fortepiano

The arpeggione was a sort of bowed guitar invented by one of the most famous of the "romantic period" guitar makers,  Johann Stauffer.   The only well known piece composed for it was the famous sonata by Schubert, which is played on virtually everything but an arpeggione.  The young Belgian cellist Nicolas Deletaille, who played the Beethoven Sonata I posted yesterday, is trying to revive the instrument.  His has adjustable frets to play intervals closer to pure intervals, something the original didn't have.   

Looking at the score it seems to be written like guitar music, in G clef an octave above pitch.  I believe the instrument has the same tuning as the guitar. 


* For once

The Wedge Experiment 1 Month In

After choking on the price of the ear-training textbook I'd used for decades - it's ridiculous to expect music students to spend c. $80 on a beginning ear training textbook - I decided to look for a public domain alternative.  I settled on an old textbook, Sight Singing and Ear Training  by George A. Wedge and am delighted with the results after a month.   It's not even necessary to print it out on paper so it's essentially free.  A lot of his exercises, especially in the beginning with hearing octaves are vitally important and entirely neglected in modern text books. 

All ear-training books have their limits but going through just about any of them will move you on.  I will probably use Wedge's Advanced Ear-Training for students who get through the first book.  It would be a good idea to supplement the major-minor oriented exercises with reading modal melodies and those are available for free as well.   

If you went through all of those, learning to sing them on the extended version of fixed-do, using a keyboard or guitar as necessary (keeping in mind that a guitar plays an octave below written pitch) you would be entirely ready to take on any beginning counterpoint or harmony textbook.  And the price of harmony textbooks!  And my favorite one,  Sessions's Harmonic Practice, has been out of print for ages.   I'll be looking at pdfs of old ones as well. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grab und Mond - Franz Schubert

Schnittpunktvokal Male Quartet

An excellent male quartet singing Schubert's setting of Seidl's meditation at the grave side on mortality and the question of an afterlife.  It could have been the kind of group Schubert expected to sing this music instead of the usual choral performances - the only kind I've ever heard.  It is a complete success, making me wish they'd record more of his male quartet music.

Schubert set it in September 1826, having stared the prospect of a terrible death by syphilis in the eye, though lots of people think it was typhoid fever that carried him off.   The translation of the text will give you a good idea of what inspired one of Schubert's bleakest scores.

Silver-blue moonlight falls down,
Lowers many beams down into the grave.
Friend of slumber, dear moon, don't be silent,
if in the grave, darkness lives, or light.
All is quiet? Now, silent Grave, speak,
You drew so many beams down into the stillness,
You hold so many glances of the moon, silver-blue,
Just give one beam back. Come and see!


Beethoven cello sonata No 4 in C Major op.102 No1

Nicolas Deletaille - Cello
Jean-Michel Dayez - Piano


Ban And Suppress "Real Men Rape Teenage Boys Tumblr"

I am going to violate one of my rules against anything that could direct people to pornographic images of the rape, degredation, exploitation, endangerment and violence against the people either so desperate or mentally ill as to be used in it.  But someone who has read what I wrote about in the past has asked me if I'd seen the Tumblr blog that carries this discription.

Teenage boys are the rightful property of men, whom rape, gang-rape, fuck, face fuck, spank, whip, beat, punish, discipline, and humiliate their property whenever and however the urge takes them.

This blog will focus on images and videos of teenage boys in bondage, rape fantasies, gang bangs, getting used by older men, and just being cute little sluts. Have fun, and send me submissions. 

As I noted in the post I did about the horror being expressed by those "free speech" fans at the scenes of Russian fascists abusing and attacking gay boys and men, exactly the same thing is being freely shown as something sexually stimulating all over the internet.   Some of the boys being raped by men in the pictures are certainly under the age of consent.   I am certain others who may be technically above the age of consent would never sanely consent to what's being done to them in the images.

This kind of stuff should be expunged from the internet, its circulation should be illegal.   It is the major venue of anti-gay hatred, internalized found anywhere.  There is virtually nothing that anyone but the most infamously febrile gay-haters say about gay people that matches the hatred of gay people found in gay porn.

The Roberts Court Have Turned The United States into a Terror State

I just listened to a story about Starbucks deciding, after trying to make nice with the "open carry" terrorists, to tell them they aren't welcome in their stores, terrorizing their unarmed customers.  The "open carry" industry has vowed to make them pay for asserting their right to have gun free places of business.  We can only hope financially and not violently but I doubt that the organized gun nut industry has that much control over their armed, paranoid, arrogant members.

Starbucks didn't dare outright ban guns for fear of the consequences for their employees if they had to ask armed people to leave.   In other words, they are worried that the gun enthsiasts might use their guns in a fit of rage of exactly the kind that produces the movement for "open carry".  It is a reasonable expectation that, eventually, someone will be killed by them. 

The Roberts Court is to blame for this, they have given a free hand to those who want to intimidate the country with guns, to hold the rest of under a reign of gun terror.  I suspect that open carry wouldn't carry the day in the Supreme Court or in venues the RATS+K "Justices" like appearing in.  I can only imagine what would happen to someone displaying a gun in a way that could be interpreted as possibly intimidating in a restaurant where Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia or Kennedy were sitting.   I hope that someday soon we will find out what happens as they experience the freedom they've granted to the kind of people who want to openly carry guns.  Somehow, I don't think it would be seen by them as being the same as it is for the rest of us.  But it's always been my opinion that politicians and judges should get to experience the effects of their decisions.    Certainly unelected judges shouldn't ever be able to exempt themselves from the rules they make for the rest of us.  That should automatically nullify those rulings. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Julie London No Moon At All

Well, there is a moon tonight.  The harvest moon and they harvested the fodder corn in the 15 acre field today.  Not us, the farmer we rent to.  Hopefully we can harvest some more from the garden if the scarecrow keeps the deer out of it.  Next year, deer fence, this year, Julie London.

The "Holy Water" Story

Yesterday I became vaguely aware of stuff like this streaming from from that font of atheist chop logic, tedious anti-religious snark and instant umbridge, Ophilia Benson:

It turns out that God’s a comedian. Holy water is full of shit.

Of course it was an occasion for religion bashing, especially Catholic bashing.  One wit on Eschaton (a certain source to test for religion bashing) made a remark about priests washing off their buggering dicks in baptismal fonts.  Which counts as a bright thing to say among the "Brights".

Being concerned with more pressing problems, I vaguely considered the possibilities of contamination in samples taken from stoupes, the small holy water fonts at the door of the sanctuary in Catholic churches.  I can easily imagine a small bowl of water that had scores if not hundreds of fingers dipped in it would be less than pristine and hygienic. You could probably find problems with frequently handled objects in any heavily used public venues.  And it turns out that is one of the things they were talking about.

The study, published in the Journal of Water and Health, also found that all church and hospital chapel fonts contained bacteria -- the busier the church, the higher the bacterial count.

"This may represent a problem that has hitherto been underestimated, especially in hospitals, since there a lot of people with weakened immune systems there," Kirschner said.

Which is hardly a surprise, especially with what we've learned about hospital hygiene in recent years.   I will have to say that the descriptions of the ABC report, that water from the door font was used to anoint the lips was something I've never seen or hear of.  It was used to make the sign of the cross and it was never something required.   I'd thought it was something that went out of fashion forty years back or so.  A quick check with the three church going members of my family, two of whom are Eucharistic ministers, they said they didn't do it.  None of us ever heard of anyone putting it on the lips.  Considering the outraged reactions I've gotten from the religion bashers while bringing up issues of e coli and other fecal borne pathogens during kinky sex, this is comparatively low in risk.   One of those who Catholic-bashed about it on one of the blogs I checked had previously announced her enthusiasm for anal sex in the past.

Apparently the problem was known before now as means to improve things were already underway even the report Benson relied on noted that:

There have been advances made for the more hygienic use of holy water, including the invention of a holy water dispenser a few years ago by an Italian priest, while studies have also indicated that adding salt (at recommended levels of 20 percent) can help disinfect the water.

Which is a big improvement but I'd think it would probably be a better idea to discontinue the tradition which was never considered to be a sacramental necessity.  Or, at least, telling people of the risk.   From what I've read, this doesn't indicate that the holy water used in baptism is known to be at risk, though I'd think it was important to test that too.  I doubt that priests take that water from door side stoupes but from a supply which could be maintained under hygienic conditions.

To add to the confusion, holy water, that is water blessed during the Easter Vigil Mass, is mixed up in the reporters imagination with water from so-called "holy springs" which, I'll bet, wouldn't fare much worse in testing with just plain old springs found in similar locations.  The semi-famous Maud Muller spring, located several miles from where I'm typing this carries health warnings and, safely protestant, if not entirely secular,  it's got nothing to do with holiness.   As I recall, it was located not far from fields that used to be under active cultivation though I have no idea if cow manure was applied to those in the past.  I haven't gone past there in ages.  For all I know it's surrounded by housing projects by now.  I wouldn't drink unboiled water from any source except a tested well.  And those should be periodically tested.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Julie London- Laura

It's everything, short, bitter sweet, perfect.

Getting Old

Family crises seem to proliferate at just the time of life when you're least able to deal with them.  This one isn't the worst but it's really time consuming.  And then there's all of the students eating up my time again.  I'll be trying to get some writing done tomorrow. 

The Gun Industry And Their Allies The Corporate Republicans Have Been In A Real Shooting War Against Us It Will Get Worse

A mixture of gun industry propaganda, the paranoia among gun nuts that they have whipped up, Republicans' exploiting that weakness - mixing in the racism it has also gone with in lieu of coming up with anything positive - and the Republicans who came to dominate the courts and who openly serve their party and the corporations that own the Republican soul are at war against the American People.   

The figures of gun deaths in the United States are the casualties a war on the United States made by the gun industry and its political allies. They've duped a fifth column of some but not all gun owners and hunters into funding and staffing that war even as some of them become victims in it and if not them than the children in their families.  The political and legal response to the epidemic of gun shootings has shown that for those who are warring against us even the youngest children are not exempt from attack, and the many victims of accidental shootings by children playing with guns have shown that even the children of gun enthusiasts are not too big a price for them to extract from us. 

Many tens of times more Americans have been killed in the gun industry war on us than any foreign government or terrorist organization have murdered.   And the courts have sanctioned that war.  There is no immediate prospect of that changing as even Supreme Court "Justices" expand the opportunities for the gun industry to arm the enemies of the American People who are murdering us.   I know that's not how it's usually put but that's exactly what they did, they may as well have legalized terror attacks on us because it probably would have ended up with fewer Americans dead and living in terror.  

I'm fed up with this situation in which we have to pay for judges, politicians and even the lobbyists who are the willing dupes of those who are engaged in a terror campaign against us.  The Roberts Court and the present day Republican caucus are the enemy as well as the gun industry and the organized paranoids of the gun industry are the enemies of the American People.   

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

I've got to admit I've always liked this song even though I know it's definitely regressive.

Milton Babbitt Two Easy Pieces

Duet:  Hannah Ryu  Piano

Semi-Simple Variations:  Niklas Kniesche Piano

I could hug these kids.  So good though so young.

The Brightest Sparks of Britatheism Are Just Glitter In the Lime Light

From RMJ's blog, I  got to this video of an "Intelligence Squared" "Oxford style debate" on the proposition “The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World”.   The debate was held in Central Hall Westminster in London on October 21st 2009.  The big draw was certainly those great historians and scholars, Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens.   They were up against the incredible star power of Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Ann Widdecombe.   I know it's going to shake your expectations to their very foundations but the crowd that roster of debaters drew our to listen in London came down rather heavily on the atheist - Catholic bashing side, side.   I know, what a surprise.

I have never been very big on formal debating, on a stage with a voting audience, as a useful way to learn things and come to conclusions.  It is are a form of show biz, entertainment, first and foremost.   As compared to even a lackadaisical perusal of real scholarship, debates are at least as likely to lead you to a faulty conclusion based on superficial thinking and performance talent as they are to lead to a sound conclusion.  Reality, on the other hand, seems to be rather resistant to that method of attack.  Especially taking performance talent into the mix.  In this particular case, with the combined erudition of Fry and Hitchens presented to the kind of British audience who would come out to hear them, it is a virtual guarantee of a confirmation of predispositions.  Nothing new was likely to be learned.  I didn't hear anything I hadn't before, debunked lies included.  "Oxford style debate" has a tendency to do that.  It has a lot in common with another show biz style stunt, James Randi's completely bogus "Million Dollar Challenge" which precludes any science happening.

Apparently listening to the entire thing was even too much for the atheist attention span because a tiny fragment of Fry going on like a 19th century British Catholic-baiter has been the most circulated part of it.  In one blog post it was asserted:

Stephen Fry is the kind of person to avoid debating against. He's basically a huge brain piloting a finely tuned public speaking machine.

"A huge brain"?  Perhaps that was based on his head-size because I didn't hear anything that would lead me to believe that.  Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that Fry isn't actually stupid.  He is, though, a thoroughly superficial and pedestrian middle-brow Brit who went into show biz after going to one of the big-name Brit training grounds in the common received POV.  Cambridge, in his case.   And he says nothing daring or original or especially informed.  The money shot consists of this assertion:

But on the other hand we must remember the point that was made that the church is very loose on moral evils because although they try to accuse people like me who believe in empiricism and the enlightenment of somehow what they call moral relativism as if it's some appalling sin whereas what it actually means is thought  they, they, for example, thought that slavery was perfectly fine absolutely OK and then they didn't.   What's the point of the Catholic Church if they say,  Oh, well we couldn't know any better because nobody else did. [Said with that kind of dramatic outrage that only a Brit anti-Catholic with a posh education and acting experience can ] Then what are you for!

I guess that the "brain" of Stephen Fry was more focused on the Cambridge Footlights than on the history of his university, which was chartered and authorized by several medieval Popes as well as originally staffed by clerics well into the modern period.  Not to mention the foundations of virtually all other early universities in England and Europe.  Apparently Fry suspects there was no "thought" going on there until it became, first, safely Anglican and then atheist dominated.

Not to mention the beginnings of empiricism or the fact that quite a number of bright lights of the "enlightenment" had no problem with slavery, some of the early figures in the "enlightenment" were slave holders, themselves.  

The Catholic history on slavery covers the gamut from the authorization and practice of slavery to it being specifically forbidden in many specific instances and strongly discouraged by other Catholics, including popes.  Any institution that has lasted the best part of two thousand years is bound to amass a record full of compromise, depravity and their opposite.  It is kind of funny for the self-appointed champion of reason AND relativism to insist on a consistent record in this one instance.   Apparently his relativism is also relative, especially when it is relatively convenient for him to appeal to the prejudice of his audience.  Ironically, for Fry's declaration, one of the Catholic theologians who held it was sometimes morally justifiable to hold people in slavery was the early empiricist, Thomas Aquinas.  Though I strongly suspect that Fry doesn't really know much about empiricism or its intellectual history.   It sounds more like a slogan coming from him.

Along side the history of papal and ecclesiastical permission of slavery, there is the long history of Catholic criticism of slavery and, in some rare cases, successfully agitating for its abolition, which goes back a lot farther than any atheistic effort I'm aware of.  I've mentioned the early success of St. Patrick in abolishing slavery in Ireland only to have it re-established during the English occupation.  There were Catholic institutions and religious orders that were dedicated to buying people out of slavery.  

There is no doubt that the papacy and many bishops and many Catholics were morally compromised by slavery and the economic-political system which benefited from slavery but they were hardly alone.  I remember once listening to Carl Sagan admit the paucity of rationalist and materialist anti-slavery literature and remarking on how surprising that was.   Considering that you have to hold moral positions that can't be discovered in materialism to even assert that slavery is a violation of objectively real rights and a violation of real moral obligations to respect those, there isn't anything surprising in that omission from the "empirical" and "enlightened" literature.  In 18th century America it was the Quaker saint, John Woolman, who dedicated his life to convincing people to free slaves, not Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.   One interesting point to make is that it was the very devout Catholic, Toussaint Louverture, who was  the man who overthrew slavery in the liberated Haiti which the combined forces of the American Enlightenment fought tooth and nail to sabotage for fear that it would endanger the slave power which most of them were the beneficiaries of.

If forced to participate in this kind of dog and pony show, I'd have answered Fry's Thomas Huxley moment** by pointing out that it was irrelevant to the proposition of the debate.  The question isn't whether or not the Catholic Church in the past supported slavery,  the proposition was stated in the present tense, it is a proposition about the Catholic Church today, in which slavery is officially condemned as immoral.   Present day Catholics just as anyone else alive today is not answerable to the sins of the past, they are responsible for their own actions.  That is also true of institutions.  Present day Catholics are answerable for their own actions, for better and for worse.

Catholic religion, unlike atheism, teaches the moral necessity of examination of conscience and the confession AND CESSATION of sin and a righting of wrongs.  If that is inconsistently practiced by people who hold that as a moral necessity, it is certainly less likely to be practiced by people who don't believe there is any requirement.

In recent history atheists who hold political power have been noticeably ready to use slave labor.  I am fairly certain that more people are held in slavery, born into slavery, destroyed by slavery in the 100% atheist controlled North Korea and China than in the entirely of the Catholic church today.   Modern popes of roughly the period of those atheist governments, from Leo III  to John Paul II have explicitly condemned slave holding.   In 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, which led to one of the major institutions practicing slave labor in the 20th century, Benedict XV outlawed slavery under cannon law.   The condemnation of slavery was incorporated by Vatican II into the pastoral constitutions of the church, reaffirmed by John Paul II (by far, not my favorite of recent popes, I'll note in passing).

The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: "Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator"

While I don't agree with some of that passage, I'd  ask Fry where he finds such a definitive condemnation of slavery - especially in its widest meaning today -  in his version of atheist "relativism".

*  See the point about atheism being presented as a reliable guarantee of intellectual status, entirely divorced from the substance of what is said.   That goes especially for the long oral and written literature of atheist lore, especially that emerging from Brits.  Quite a lot of that is no more based in actual fact than some of the more widely believed lore among biblical fundamentalists, though, I'll be frank, I was unhappy, as an opponent of fundamentalism,  to find out that among fundamentalist intellectuals, there's more of a chance that they'll have looked at the available written records.   I suspect that is due to fundamentalists not enjoying the same status in superficial intellectualism that atheists claim for themselves.

**  That is as portrayed in Brit costume dramas of the totally phony and largely mythical confrontation between Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce, part and parcel of the lore of Britatheism.