Composing when not under the influence

I read this article the other day by Katie Botkin:

https://medium.com/@katherineheline/why-the-devil-gets-all-the-good-music-dbe4335e7098

It purports to be looking at the deficiencies of Christian art, specifically music. She makes some obvious points, which tend to throw more rocks at a form of American Christianity than illuminate the matter of music with any depth.

Her main point is that Christians make poor art because they will only project a censored view of life, which lacks any authenticity with respect to the “human experience”, is cold and therefore bad art. She bases this on her own attempts to conform to this artificial and culturally-influenced standard in novel writing. She contrasts this with her brother’s song-writing which invokes more Buddhism than Christianity and is better art because it is “real”.

Read More

How to make music and still be a child

This still from my Music Mania promo is a real photo of girls in the town where I was born. They already wear the weary of look of children forced to practise beyond the point of pleasure or even patience. Most children who have undergone Classical music training will remember the day when they reached this same level of “dedication” to music. My Grandmother, an accomplished pianist, associated making music with a much loved teacher and so her effort was associated with happiness.

Read More

A Sharpened Antithesis & the London Humanist Choir

Henry R. Van Til said that we are influenced by what we oppose and that is true. As Christians, we recognise error and distance ourselves from it. We try to be more consistent in the face of obvious inconsistency. However, we are not defined by the difference.

By contrast, the London Humanist Choir is a screaming example of people who are defined by their hate. They hate God. They hate the Lord Jesus Christ. And when the members of the choir gather, they sing in order to mock the Lord. That is their worship and their damnation.

Read More

The Alignment of Romanticism and Roman Catholicism

England apostatised through Romanticism. It was a suitable portal because it did not appear to be a religion. Most people did not even know the term - they just became obsessively interested in literature, art, music and architecture. Once their interest was captured, the English became very jealous over their right to enjoy the Arts. Ultimately, in 1870, they fought the clergy over the right of the people to have a concert in a cathedral rather than a sermon. The people won and there was no turning back.

Read More

Why do we sing?

When we sing (rather than read) the Psalms, we hear the words differently. We proclaim rather than study and, unless we are dreadful hypocrites, the act of singing Psalms is a declaration of consent. There may be parts of the Psalms we do not understand as well as others and that should provoke us to further study, but it is still important to sing them all. We are not told only to sing the Psalms once we have reached a level of theological acumen. By contrast, the person who sings the hymns of men selects those which he feels to be most true, which accurately reflect his beliefs and experience. We are not given such autonomy with the Psalms. We sing the same songs as children, adults and in old age. We change - the Psalms do not.

Read More

Modern Music vs. Good Music

I noted this week that one of my former professors in composition and orchestration died last spring. It was not unexpected, after suffering a stroke in 2013.

I met James Wishart on my first tour of the university and listened to a presentation he delivered on composition. On that occasion he had forgotten to bring a CD of his own music and so I had no opportunity of knowing his style, namely what he called good. I could not have guessed how ghastly his modernistic compositions sounded. Instead, I heard him speak of being a grand encourager to every young composer and I looked forward to his support in starting my own career.

Read More

Answering Criticisms of my Review of Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts"

In December 2016, I received a lengthy comment on my review of “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I chose not to publish the comment at that time because to do so would have required a response. I was not sure how to approach the commenter and therefore put it aside. But I never forgot the comment's opening words:

Firstly, it's not a book of theology. 

My original review was written nearly 4 years ago and in that time I have given little thought to Ann Voskamp and her large number of followers. This week I revisited her website to see how things had changed. Less than one week ago and to coincide with Easter, she had published an excerpt from her new book. It started thus:

Read More

Songs for suffering hearts

As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart. ~ Proverbs 25.20

When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, many of the artistic types in my social media feed merged into a single repetitive voice: On the one hand, they thought the world had come to an abrupt end; on the other hand, they believed that the inevitable misery would be good for Art.

You see, they believe that Art comes from suffering. (By having their will crossed in a political verdict, they think they are suffering.) They also believe that, if they make music, recite poetry and tell stories in the face of evil, then their Art will atone for the sins of the world. 

Read More

The Search for Happy Music

Some years ago I signed a contract to become a library track composer for a company in New York. They wanted one thing: happy music.

The task did not seem too difficult. I had written happy music before. Unfortunately, such works had always been in conjunction with visuals or words, which tended to inform the listener that the music was happy. So, while I attempted to produce such stimuli for myself, the resulting compositions were not really "happy". There was melody, sweetness, sincerity, harmony, beauty, but happiness proved elusive.

Since then, I have scored many promotional films. The nature of film production inevitably includes some stages of revision, but the only suggestion ever made for my music is that it should be more upbeat / happy. These two experiences - in promos and library composition - have aroused my curiosity about what precisely makes music “happy”.

Read More

The Theology of Song

"We Anglicans, like many other Christians, learn a fair amount of our theology through the hymns we sing"

~ N. T. Wright in For all the Saints? Remembering the Christian Departed (Continuum 2003) page xiv

This is the true reason for the deposition of the Book of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs in the Holy Scriptures from its pre-eminent position as the appointed music of the Church. Their theology does not suit our theology. The Rev. William Romaine stood against the tide in his own generation, when the pragmatist said that the hymns of Charles Wesley were necessary because people were so ignorant of any knowledge of God.

The nature of the worth we proclaim moulds us. If we praise God's tolerance at expense of his justice and if we praise God's love in the absence of his mercy, then we sing from a different hymn-sheet. This does not mean that Christians cannot write good songs. But they are not fit for God's worship. Our theology is too poor and the Lord God knew it in giving us songs for his worship. He leads us as children. If we stand on the table and pronounce that we are tall enough to look grown up and can now write songs for ourselves, we only show how childish we still are.

Tohu and Bohu

Before creation, there was Tohu and Bohu - confusion and emptiness.

Each day of creation banished tohu and bohu more and more.

Light established clarity, where darkness brought confusion.

Light revealed the subsequent creations - plants, birds, fish animals - and a world so far from empty as to be full of goodness.

The creation of man was the final abolition of confusion, for man was commanded to rule Eden. With the order for all creatures and life to be fruitful and multiply, the world was to be less empty, every day, every year, everywhere.

Read More

King Arthur Sullivan

Arthur Sullivan was an ambitious composer. He wanted to put pride into English music by promoting new English operas. The idea was straightforward - three English composers at a time would be commissioned to produce an opera each and these would be performed in the same theatre as a block. It might have succeeded if Sullivan had not been the only composer of the three to produce an opera. The other two left a gap that had to be filled somehow and the only solution was to use an existing European opera. Already the ideal had died. Sullivan's contribution - Ivanhoe - ran until everyone who wanted to hear/see it had done so. This was not a failure on Sullivan's part, but it was treated like one and - when the production closed - so did the dream.

Read More

To Blame for the Abuse

http://www.channel4.com/news/sex-scandal-five-uk-music-schools-implicated-exclusive

Channel 4 news have broken the silence surrounding the scandal of sexual abuse at the UK's most prestigious music schools. One lady's words in this latest report are impossible to forget.

She taught at one of these colleges, where sexual contact with pupils was - allegedly - rife. She said it was not just tolerated, it was normal. She was asked by the journalist whether she had considered blowing the whistle on it all. She had thought about doing so, but she had counted the cost in the knowledge that they would close ranks. In other words, she would have lost her job.

Read More

The Sound of Smut - Stephen Ward

This week Andrew Lloyd Webber launched the first taste of Stephen Ward the musical - based on the life of the pimp central to the Profumo affair.

Just as in Jesus Christ Superstar, Webber sought to make a hero out of Judas Iscariot, so here he says he wants to exonerate Stephen Ward:

It's about the life of this man - and how a man who was probably the most popular, most sought after, most urbane - a figure who you really wanted to meet if you were in London - ended up as a waxwork in the chamber of horrors in Blackpool. He was the fall guy for what happened in a whole series of events that spun out of control... but the more you look at the story the more it's quite clear that a lot of things that were alleged to have happened probably didn't happen.

Read More

The Music of Funerals

The antithesis is sharpening.

Funerals are now taking on a new complexion in England. Some are religious and some are humanist. And people are becoming so indifferent as to the distinction that, more often than not, they do not tell you it will be humanist until you are outside the door of the "Church".

The fact that a funeral is classed as humanistic does not remove religion. In my experience, humanists always need music. 

Read More

The Bible and the Composer

One of the matters I sought to refute in Beauty and Joy: The Christian Nature of Music is the idea that the best art made by Christians is art with content drawn from the Bible.

Paul Westermeyer advocates - or rather assumes - this:

If you emphasise Christ’s humanity at the expense of his divinity, you might choose music that affirms our humanity - music that relates to us who are beings with bodies. If you follow this logic, the music may be rhythmic and perhaps even sensuous. Or may be the highest possible art.

Read More

The Inevitable Prodigy

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2218844/The-Mozart-Alma-Deutscher-7-play-piano-cello-beautifully-written-opera.html#comments

Little Alma Deutscher has been likened to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for being remarkably musically precocious.

Some praise her concentration, others her technique. Most of all, she is praised for having developed her talent at such an early age. And this is the lot of the prodigy, the dangerous, poisoned chalice - for most prodigies do not reach the level of genius when they reach maturity of years. They achieved something sooner than the rest, but rarely better. When the novelty dies everyone begins to listen to the specific ability with more care, and discovers that what they took as special was quite ordinary ability after all.

Read More

The non-Christian nature of music

There is no jihadist Bach-equivalent, writing Soli Deo Gloria at the top of stirring musical masterpieces. Islamist “religious zeal” leads to lack of music appreciation and the quenching of creativity. All Western music was officially banned in northern Mali in an August 22 decree issued “by a heavily bearded Islamist spokesman in the city of Gao” Morgan reports. The decree referred to such music as “the music of Satan.” It informed the Malian people that “Qur’anic verses must take its place.

from The Sound of Silence in Mali - November 1, 2012 - Faith J. H. McDonnell

http://frontpagemag.com/2012/faith-j-h-mcdonnell/the-sound-of-silence-in-mali/

Read More

UKIP, Flanders and Swann

The bunting is out for the maverick voice, as UK councils turn purple towards UKIP. People on the street tell the media that they're not racists - they just like the idea of Border control. And the media pretends to understand.

The pace of change is frightening. People are expected to cope with the loss of national identity, merged as it is today in the spectacle of multi-culturalism. Those people who have voted for UKIP may be the same ones who have begun to wonder why they alone lack the right to an opinion in a country they call their own.

Read More

The Siren Song of Music

Carl Davis & Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Thursday 12th July 2012, 7.30pm

Programme:

  • SERGEI PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet

  • CARL DAVIS (b.1936) The Rainbow

  • LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Allegretto from Symphony No.7

  • CARL DAVIS Amazons, Sophy and Dr Harrison from Cranford Suite

  • JOAQUÍN RODRIGO (1901-1999), arr. Carl Davis Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez

  • PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Black Swan Pas de Deux from Swan Lake Finale from Swan Lake

  • JOHN LENNON (1940-1980) & PAUL McCARTNEY (b.1942) Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane

  • JAMES HORNER (b.1953) Titanic Suite

  • ALEXANDER FARIS (b.1921) / CARL DAVIS / PETER SALEM Upstairs Downstairs / Call the Midwife

  • MONTY NORMAN (b.1928) / DAVID ARNOLD (b.1962) James Bond Theme / Casino Royale

  • SAMUEL BARBER (1910-1981) Adagio for Strings

  • VARIOUS Fantasy on Liverpool Themes world premiere

Read More