Category Archives: make mine music

Concerning recent events in music

One could do a lot worse than Dale Griffin, Glenn Frey, and Lemmy Kilmister in a band fronted by David Bowie.

It would be an extremely bizarre band, to be sure, but they’d be able to play.

They don’t really have a bassist, though. Hm. Guess that you could stretch the criteria a little bit and add Chris Squire to the lineup. Strange to think that it’s already been nearly six months since his passing.

And the band played on

The first album I ever owned was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins.

At the time nobody in the family knew what I was getting into. My folks just wanted something age-appropriate for me to listen to, and I thought it was cool that I had “my own record” to play. (My parents, understandably, didn’t want me fooling with their own collection, which has some standouts and rarities.)

It wasn’t all I had. My parents loved music, and I was given some pure kiddie albums too, some of the songs of which I can still hear in my mind nearly four decades later.¹ And my Dad loved superheroes and comics, so I got a series of spoken adventures on 45 featuring Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and others. I remember those less clearly, but anyone who knows me can tell that they had an influence as well.

But it was the brilliance of Richard and Robert Sherman that wound up helping to hook me on musical scores and soundtracks. I own dozens of every description, from video games to movies and television, foreign and domestic. And this guest post over at Sarah Hoyt’s reminded me of those great times growing up and all the joy I’ve had since then listening to these wonderful compositions.

The Sherman Brothers weren’t the starting point, however. The starting point, as it was so often for folks of my age group, was the great John Williams.

Continue reading

One… more… time!

The singing cowboy used to be a standard back in the 50’s. From Gene Autry, the actual “Singing Cowboy,” through Roy Rogers, on to The Mellomen (who featured the rumbling bass voice of Thurl Ravenscroft), a lot of people married the Western visual of the cowboy on the range to the songs of Country.  In 1973, Elton John could sing a twangy country-western tune [youtube, will autoplay] “of roundups and rustlers and home on the range” without any trace of hipsterism or post-modern irony.

We’ve lost one of the last of them today: the yodeling cowboy, Slim Whitman.

He maybe didn’t get a tribute quite as exotic or heartfelt as Sir Elton’s, but he was name-dropped in one of my favorite tunes:

I put on a Slim Whitman tape
Mama wore a brand-new hair net
Kids are in the back seat
Jumping up and down, saying “Are we there yet?”
And all of us were bound together in one common thought
As we rolled down the long and winding interstate in our ’53 DeSota
We’re gonna see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota!

More importantly, he seemed like a man of decent heart and good humor, such as in the closing quote from the linked obituary above:

I don’t think you’ve ever heard anything bad about me, and I’d like to keep it that way. I’d like my son (Bryon) to remember me as a good dad. I’d like the people to remember me as having a good voice and a clean suit.

But if that’s not enough, one of the standards he had a hit with was later remade (in a matter of speaking) very famously:

Continue reading

Quality vs. quantity in faith

As usual, posts happen when you’re not looking for them.

In this case, I was just going to leave a comment at Dustbury about the dreck-infested genre of modern Christian Contemporary Music, when it got away from me. So I rounded it up and dragged it back here where it won’t dig up the neighbor’s peonies.

You see, this is one of the many small things about which I have too much thought invested. As a Catholic, my Sunday mornings are usually spent in an exercise in true mortification: worshiping my God while trying not to hate modern Catholic hymnists. Good Lord, but this stuff is largely unsingable.

Now, take the bathetic, tepid, squishy-marsmallowy of what is laughingly called “worship music” in the modern Catholic Church, turn it up to eleven, and play it on a radio station exclusively devoted to the stuff, and you have Christian Contemporary Music.

Barf.

Now, hey, if you don’t like it, don’t listen, right? And I don’t. Praising Jesus in song is great, and I probably do too little of it. I probably do too little in all areas of my life, being your typical sinner. But there’s three things at issue here, three thoughts that reveal themselves as flawed attempts at being a better man of faith, and CCM gets right to the heart of them. The first thought is that if I love Jesus, then I will do nothing but Jesus-y things all the time. The second thought is that if I praise Jesus, then the quality of my praise is of no import. The third thought is that to praise Jesus is always a positive, affirming experience.

Continue reading

I like your eyes… I like him too

Godspeed, Mr. Brubeck.

He passed just short of 92, much as my Uncle Guy did about 18 months ago.  I mentioned him then, briefly, among other well-known folks that had enriched my life growing up.  It wasn’t very much of a tribute, but in the end, all the amazing music he wrote and performed, and the legacy of his children, are the greatest tribute.  I offer the following in that spirit.

There is something ineffably wonderful about watching these guys play; they were the heppest cats, but they looked as if they would spill a slide rule and graph paper out of their briefcase if it tipped.  Brubeck himself, in the interview segments, looks both enduringly goofy and impeccably professional.  His business was grooving out, and he was CEO… but he shows an unquenchable love and enthusiasm for music, for taking it in different directions and seeing what’s out there.  His piano was the bridge of the starship taking jazz fans to the final frontier, to boldly play what no one had heard before.

There is more on his own website, davebrubeck.com.  The site will autoplay… but for once I don’t think anyone will actually mind.

You can’t take it with you

Brent Spiner gets a lot of respect here in the Supersonic Rocket Ship.  It’s not just geek cred for having been Data, either… it’s also for being a clever, good-humored guy (his Twitter feed is a fun follow); for his varied acting gifts – comic, dramatic, and musical; and for generally leaving off the tired sermonizing that too many other entertainers indulge in.

The above is actually a fine example.  Wherever you stand on the recent elections, or the rumbles of secession/nullity, et als, this is the sort of quip that will probably make you chuckle.  It’s reasonably plain where Mr. Spiner stands, in both senses of the phrase – it’s plain, and it’s reasonable.  That’s how you handle a subject that risks alienating a goodly part of your fan base.  Love it.

In any case, you tend to hear these rumbles from one or the other far side, as dawgmark35* points out here.  When it was W’s turn in office, we would regularly hear of some cheesed off lefty celebrity** threatening to abscond to some European clime.  When the Left seems most ascendant, it’s the reverse, and Texas is going to rise again or some such.

* There are 34 other dawgmarks?

** Celeftrity? No, that’s a coinage too far. I feel like there should be something there, but it would be a shame to force it.

I don’t take either thing very seriously, because it’s not at all likely to happen.  But there’s a distinction that I think that dawgmark and Spiner don’t mention here.  It’s most obvious to me in both cases, that of the Baldwinites and E Unumis Plurae,† that each group isn’t trying to take a country with them, but feeling that the country has already left them behind, and it’s time to decamp.

† I know my declension is off. It’s been a long while since my only Latin class.

Neither side makes a secret of this feeling, though I notice that the Left conveniently forgets this feeling when they retake authority.  Troubles and scandals that storm around the Right are somehow far less troubling to them when it’s one of their own in the center.  As CS Lewis observed, they have an engine called the press whereby the public is deceived.  They use this tool much like a high school might use a bonfire at a prep rally: whip up the observers and immolate (at least by proxy) the opponents.

But there’s one more difference, and this one runs right down the middle of the Left/Right divide.  To wit: the Left’s solution involves enforced conformity, and the Right’s does not.

What a lot of people are talking about with this succession business is actually more like Federalism – let the individual state come up with local-level solutions to problems where the Constitution gives the Congress no authority.  This arrangement has the dual advantage of making policy easier to implement AND easier to undo.  After all, if all of Wisconsin or Kansas wants something, why should they be outvoted by a cabal of Californians?  And if it turns out to be a disaster, why should people with no say in the matter be able to block your wishes?

Second, if you don’t like what your state has done, you can head to one more to your liking… without sacrificing your American citizenship or losing your voice in the affairs of your home country.

Now, the Left’s solution is essentially to tell everyone to lump it because they’re in charge.  When they’re not, they threaten to leave the process entirely.  It’s like some tiresome party-goer who insists that everyone will just LOVE their chosen activity, and runs about enforcing the gaiety (and policing the conversation) by a variety of means.  They naturally consider those who stop attending to be tiresome and dull people, and conclude that these wallflowers need livening up – something is obviously the matter with THEM.  They never get to see the parties that these “wallflowers” throw among themselves, with a variety of games, conversations, and even people quietly sitting in ones or twos when they please.  They imagine, if they get wind of such parties, that they’ve been snubbed and take offense… perhaps they never even faintly dream that they would be invited if only they wouldn’t try to carry out a coup d’fete every time.  They can gladly have their fun, so long as they don’t inflict that fun on all present.

Texas and New Mexico can coexist doing different things with abortion, health insurance, and whatever social issues present themselves.  They can’t coexist if one insists on making the other follow all the same policies.  The Big Ticket items that make us an Unum are outlined in the Constitution; that same marvelous document insists that where such items are not specified, the means to deal with them are vested in the Pluribus and the populace.  This would lead to more variety, more opportunity, more choices… horrors, we might run the risk of becoming a more understanding society!  We might have to learn to appreciate how another approach works for a different group of people, and not just reflexively condemn someone who thinks and acts otherwise.  We might just stumble into the shocking realization that it’s possible to disagree without being odious, and realize that it doesn’t make someone an -IST or a  -PHOBE for going their own way.

Rush was right.  No, not that one – the guys who sang “Subdivisions.”

We need an anti-Congress

Now, technically, we already have an anti-Congress.  It’s called the Constitution of the United States, and it sets very specific boundaries on what the Congress is permitted to do: a list of 18 specific responsibilites given in Article I, Section 8.

Thanks to M*A*S*H, “Section 8” is more familiar to us as the provision by which soldiers are found as mentally unfit for service.  It might help if we all think of Congress as falling equally under that category, because they blithely ignore this part of the Constitution in matters great and small, and it’s been getting progressively worse.  From the spectacular overreach to the picayune, from the Health Insurance law they passed (largely unread and deliberately misrepresented) to reaching into our living rooms to confiscate our light bulbs, there’s pretty much nothing left they think they can’t order us to do.

Now, isn’t the Constitution a “living document” and all of that?  Perhaps.  It does offer a provision for its own revision, through Amendments.  It’s a deliberate process.  This is most unwelcome to people who are enamored of their own authority and power, even if we assume that they’re mature enough to actually go through with a long and slow process to do what is required or what they wish.  But again, there are too many spoiled brats in government.  They want it NOW NOW NOW.  They are precocious enough to talk about all the times that quick action is required, and that the Constitution is elastic enough to handle emergencies admitting of no delay; they aren’t attentive enough to see that the Constitution again makes room for those acts in a lawful fashion, and sets strict limits on them.

Stretch any elastic too far and it will permanently deform – if it doesn’t snap outright.

The practical limit on that list of 18 responsibilities is made explicit in Amendments IX and X:

IX – The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

In current English, this means that the Constitution limits THEM, not US.  We don’t need written permission by law to do anything; the Federal Government is forbidden to act outside its mandate.  That’s the point beyond which our Government is not supposed to stretch.  Yet those boneless would-be potentates are making like Plastic Man with our rights.*

Continue reading