Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Minnesota December

Cold stars above me
Cold wind surround me
Cold snow enveloping
my world in white
Endless black frozen sky
studded with brilliant diamonds

A feeling of a message we don't know how to decipher
Empty, yet full,
like light whose UV rays are outside our visual scope,
hearing music in frequencies too high or low for our ears.

The snow embraces the world, all of it;
sound, air, draws the warmth from the world
and tucks it deep into the earth.

Shadows lie atop the glistening starry surface
like tarnish on silver.
The air is still, deathly still, sleeping still,
life is hibernating.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Geography as a Factor of Diversity

Why does it matter?
  • Our Identities as people are tied to it
  • It provided a cultural context for living
  • It impacts our economic life
  • It determines how we relax and enjoy life
North America
  • Three out of four people live in the northern hemisphere
  • North America is culturally diverse due to immigration
  • Resource rich
  • Great deal of economic development
  • Technology rich
  • Oriented to a global economy
The South
  • 12 Southeastern states
  • Historically cultivated subtropical crops
  • Slaver, plantation economy
  • many subregions
  • Creolization culture - mixing many
  • Higher numbers of African-American heritage
  • Income lower
  • Schools poorer
  • Religion important
  • Parts of many states along the Appalachian Mountain chain
  • Historically impoverished area
  • Twentieth century government projects brought some change to the area
  • Coal an essential resource
  • People stereotyped as hillbillies d
  • Primarily rural
  • Predominantly white
  • Education historically poor - few exceptions Berea College
New England & Mid Atlantic
  • Earliest site of European immigrants
  • Inhabited by political and relifious dissidents
  • Protestant work ethic
  • Fishing logging, industries, some mixed agricultural systems
  • Less racially diverse
  • Atlantic coast important for commerce and tourism
  • High educational statistics, colonial colleges
Great Plains and Midwest
  • The Breadbasket
  • Some of the flattest land on earth
  • German, English, Scottish and Irish immigrants from East
  • Great seasonal changes and extreme weather
  • Very rural with few large cities
  • This huge area holds less than 6% of the nations population
  • Midwest has greater diversity
  • Education, solid- highest high school graduation rate
  • Mexican and American Indian cultural influence
  • Formerly part of Mexico
  • Continual border issues
  • Large percentage of the population has noneuropean heritage
  • Younger population
  • Most live in metropolitan areas
  • Bilingual education is an ongoing debate
  • Mexicans, Catholics, American Indians as original inhabitants
  • Gold rush brought in Chinese laborers
  • One in five Americans live here
  • California has largest population overall, second larges city, LA
  • Most divers part of the US
  • Catholic mission schools established by Spanish priests
Geography and Educational Issues
  • Half the world's population lives in megacities with greatcontradictions
  • Great worldwide migrations and immigrations
  • Migration in the US from city to rural
  • by 2010 60% of US population lives in the South and West (California, Florida, Texas)
  • Population in Northeast and Midwest is getting older
  • The world economic structure is intricately linked
  • Environmental concerns are a growing issue - the US is a major culprit
  • Indigenous people currently live on some richest natural resource areas - they face extinction
Incorporating Global Perspectives
  • Understand how global connections impact their lives
  • How can you integrate world events?
  • Lessons on manufacturing - child labor laws
  • Influence of music
  • Perspectives of other people, classes
  • Indigenous people and the environment
  • Email pen pals around the world
  • Travel

Age as a Factor of Diversity

Age is...
  • An interaction with ethnicity, gender, social status and culture
  • Influences perceptions, attitudes, values and behavior
Childhood & Adolescence
  • Social Class % Poverty - 1 in 6
  • Prejudice
  • Child Abuse
  • Relationship with parents
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexual behaviors
  • Suicide
  • Violence
  • Ages 20 - 64 ... HUGE life decisions
  • Baby Boomers - 1946-1964
  • Education for adults
  • Generation X - 1965 - 1976
  • Generation Y - 1980 - 1994 1/3 of the US population
Old Age
  • Age 65 and up
  • in US, value is placed on production
  • by 2030 we shall have 70 million elderly
  • Pensions & health care are major issues
  • Elderly make up a strong political force - THEY VOTE (AARP)
  • Socioeconomic factors present difficulties

Educational Implications
  • Perception of various age groups
  • Understanding age-group characteristics
  • Child abuse reporting responsibilities
  • Health issues and risky behaviors
  • Education will continue to compete for scarce resources

Religion in Schools

1st Amendment
Separation of Church & State
  • Separation or a schizophrenic experience?
  • Oaths on the Bible
  • Coins with religious exhortations
  • the Pledge
  • Military Chaplains
  • Congressional prayer breakfast
Assumes religion as a natural part of the human experience - a HEALTHY perspective

The Facts
  • In 2003, 80% identify themselves as belonging to one of the six main religions (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islam, Eastern Orthodox)
  • In 2003, 41% of adults attend church, which has increased since the 1950's
  • Numbers:
  • 49% Protestant
  • 24% Catholic
  • 10% No religious affiliation
  • 4% Buddhism or Hinduism
  • 2% Muslim of Mormon
  • 1% Orthodox

Controversial Issues
  • Prayer in schools - (1961, 1963) Abington Township v. Schempp - outlawed school-sponsored Bible reading in public school... private prayer is permissible
  • Homosexuality - a choice v. sinfulness
  • Gender - in some cases the roles of women and men are defined and polarized
  • Curriculum - tricky standards for subjects like biology (sex ed, evolution,... etc)

Guidelines for Teachers
  1. The function of the public school is to educate about religions, not to convert to any one religion
  2. The public school may expose students to all religious views, but may not impose any particular view
  3. The public school should study what all people believe, but should not teach a student what to believe
  4. The public school's approach to religion is one of instruction not one of indoctrination

Multicultural Education

What is it?
  1. Placing the student at the center of the teaching and learning process
  2. Promoting human rights and respect for cultural differences
  3. Believing that all students can learn
  4. Acknowledging and building on the life histories and experiences of students' cultural group memberships
  5. Critically analyzing oppression and power relationships to understand all the "isms"
  6. Critiquing society in the interest of social justice and equality.
  7. Participating in collective social action to ensure a democratic society

Creating a Multicultural Curriculum
  • Supports and Celebrates diversity in the broadest sense using student histories, experiences, traditions, and cultures
  • Students should be able to see themselves and their experiences in the curriculum
  • Connect their curriculum to the special diversity that may exist in their area of the country
  • Help students understand and respect another person's perspective, EVEN if they don't agree with it
What Else?
  1. Always hold high expectations, regardless of whatever!
  2. They won't care about what you teach until they know you care about them!
  3. Work to understand their life experiences and begin teaching from that perspective
  4. Practice with high student engagement!
  5. Teach students fairness and justice by your example
  6. Critically examine the practices done in your school
  7. Don't be afraid or get too tired to "intrude" in their lives

A Constructivist Approach to Learning

  • Learning is best conceived as a process. To improve learning, the focus should be on engaging students in a process that best enhances their learning
  • All learning is relearning, drawing out the students' beliefs and ideas so that they can be examined, tested, and integrated
  • Learning often requires the resolution of conflicts between reflection, action, feeling and experience
  • Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world
  • Learning results from synergistic transactions between the person and environment, assimilating new experiences into existing concepts
  • Learning is the process of creating knowledge, in a constructivist fashion where social knowledge is created and recreated into the personal knowledge of the learner.

Monday, November 21, 2011


  • An original American  genre of experimental or "Downtown music" named in the 1960's. It demonstrates a tendency towards a simple and more direct music
  • Minimalism is based mostly in consonant harmony, steady pulse, static tonal structures, additive rhythms, and slow transformation
  • Typically it is characterized by constant thematic repetition and reiteration of musical phrases

In C ~ Terry Riley 
  • semi-aleatory work
  • "a group of 35 is desired if possible but smaller or larger groups will work"
  • Response to the academic abstract serialist techniques used by composers in the mid-twentieth century
  • consists of 53 short, numbered musical phrases, lasting from half a beat to 32 beats
  • Each phrase may be repeated an arbitrary number of times
  • players are encouraged to play the phrases starting at different times, even if they are playing the same phrase
  • The performance directions state that the musical ensemble should try to stay within two to three phrases of each other
  • the Phrases must be played in order, although some may be skipped
  • It is customary for one musician "traditionally a beautiful girl" to play the note c in octaves in repeated eighth notes. This is referred to as the "pulse"

  • all voices amplified
  • vibraphone is the conductor
  • violin, cello, 4 voices, 4 pianos, 5 marimbas, 3 zylaphones, metallophone, clarinets/ 2 bass clarinets, 2 maracas
  • Rhythmically: two basic times are occurring simultaneously: a regularly rhythmic pulse in the piano and mallet instruments that continues  throughout the piece; the rhythm of the human voice on vocals and winds
  • "The combination of one breath after another gradually washing up like waves against the constant rhythm of the pianos and mallet instruments is something I have not heard before and would like to investigate further"
  • structure: cycle of 11  chords played at the very beginning of the piece and repeated at the end
Phrygian Gates ~ John Adams
  • The Gates in the title is an allusion from the electronic music gates, a term from rapidly shifting modes
  • The work is written in a minimalist style and based on a repetitive cell structure but Adams decisively moves away from the conventional techniques of minimalism
  • The work is set in the phrygian mode and cycles through half the keys, modulating in the circle of 5ths
  • there is a constant shifting between modules in Phrygian mode and lydian mode
  • Adams explained that working with synthesizers caused a "diatonic conversion" - a reversion to the belief that tonality is a force of nature

Indeterminacy/ Chance/ Aleatory Music

  • Music in which the composer introduces elements of chance or unpredictably with regards to the composition and/ or its performance
  • the terms aleatory, chance music, indeterminacy, have been applied to many works created since 1945 by composers who differ widely as to the concepts, methods, and rigor with which they employ procedures of random selection
  • European: Meyer-Eppler, Darmstadt (1957) ~ "its course is determined in general but depends on chance in detail"
  • American: Cage, early Ives, Cowell ~ an aesthetic that strives for a fluid process that eliminates traditional control of the composer over the material
In the composition process:
  • pitches, durations, degrees of intensity and other elements may be chosen or distributed in time by dice throwing, interpretation of abstract designs, or according to certain mathematical laws of chance (Xenakis, stochastic music)
In Performance
  • Chance is allowed to operated by leaving the choice or order of appearance of some elements to the performer's discretion (Earl Brown, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Henri Pousseur)


Projections for Solo Cello ~ Morton Feldman
  • timbre indicated
  • relative pitch is indicated as a square or oblong written in one of three boxes which represent either high, medium of low registers
  • Duration is indicated by the amount of space taken up by the square or rectangle within the dotted lines
  • dotted lines represent four pulses at tempo 72 "or therabouts"
  • Indeterminate parameters
  1. pitch within each of the three registers
  2. dynamics
  3. expression

Zeitmasze ~ Stockhausen
  • Wind Quintet
  • Indeterminacy in time - flute and bassoon playing in exact time quarter note 112, set against oboe playing "as slow as possible", english horn "slow quickening"; clarinet begins after a pause of imprecise duration
  • Imprecision is made part of the structure in the overall tempo and in the relative tempos of the five players. The tempos are dependent less on notational precision than on limitations of techniques and feasibility
  • "is an elastic play of five time-strands, each of which mixes passages in strict tempo with others whose speed is determined by the musician's capacity to play as fast as possible or as slow as possible

Music of Changes ~ John Cage
  • solo piano
  • Based off the I-Ching, a chinese classical text used to identify order in chance events
  • four "books" of music
  • Chart system used with 8x8 cells to accommodate the 64 hexagrams
  • charts for sounds, durations and dynamics
Folio "December 1952" ~ Earle Brown
  • Expansive palate of cultural influences, especially abstract-expressionism and jazz
  • immediacy of what comes next
  • single notes
  • "music is my material but art is my subject"

Corroboree ~ Earle Brown
  • for 3 pianos

Four Instruments ~ Morton Feldman
  • A sound world where coordinates are staked out by extremely reduced dynamics and "glassy" timbres
  • piano, tubular bells, string harmonics
  • slow tempos
  • minimal density of events
  • Indeterminate parameters
  1. duration open (typically 12 minutes)
  2. coordination of parts
  3. Some coordinated vertical events
  4. player must enter before the previous event from another performer has died away - forming a continuity of surface
  • silence used to anticipate events

Electronic Music

  • Genres of music that use electronic oscillators and other analog equipment to create, modify and transform acoustic waves
  • sound that is synthetically generated by an oscillator and enhanced through electronic means
Early Electronic instruments
  • Telharmonium
  • Theremin
  • Ondes Martenot

Composition for Synthesizer
~ Milton Babbit
  • Mark II Synthesizer

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Musique Concrete and early electronic music

Early Electronic Instruments
  • Telharmonium
  • Theremin
  • Ondes Martenot

Music Concrete
  • Music produced from recorded sounds of all Kinds
  • Concept and term introduced in 1948 by Pierre Schaeffer on the basis of his work at the French Radio in Paris
  • Schaeffer's view: The concept excludes sounds that are electronically synthesized
Capabilities of Tape Technology
  1. altered playback
  2. reversed direction
  3. cutting and splicing of tape
  4. creation of a tape loop
  5. tape delay

The Rise of the Radio Stations
  1. French Radio - Pierre Schaeffer, Herbert Eimert
  2. German Radio - Loenig, Stockhausen (first electronic music studio 1952)
  3. Italian Radio - Berio, Maderna, Pousseur
  4. USA - Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center - Ussachevsky, Luening, Babbit

  • First large music center in the USA
  • Ussachevsky collaborated with Mauser to experiment
  • Summer of 1952, recorded Sonic Contours
  • October 28th, 1952, first electronic composition presentation at the Museum of Modern Art
  • 1954-55 - small studio in the gatehouse of an asylum
  • 1957 - permanent studio, but too small for teaching
  • 1959 - music center founded


Etude aux chemis de fer
~ Pierre Schaeffer
  • recorded sounds of locomotives
Etude Noire ~ Pierre Schaeffer

Sonic Contours ~ Vladimir Ussachevsky
  • superimposed tape loops of piano
Inventions in 12 Tones ~ Otto Luening
  • flute
Thema (Omaggio a Joyce) ~ Luciano Berio
  • Spoken/ sung text from Ulysses

Electroacoustic Music

  1. Music that is produced, modified or reproduced by electronic means, including computer hardware and software, and that makes creative use of those technologies
  2. Any music in which electricity has had some involvement in registration/ Production
  3. More recently, much electroacoustic music has combined the use of such "concrete" sounds with wholly synthesized sounds as will as with live performance

Gesange der Jungling ~ Karlheinz Stockhausen
  • utilized both synthesized and vocal sounds
  • speech sounds of children
  • Song of the Youths in the Fiery Furnace from the Biblical passage of Daniel
Poeme Electronique ~ Edgar Varese
  • Written especially for the Brussels World Fair
  • 400 speakers surrounding the audience
  • uses both concrete and synthesized sounds
  • Extremely sophisticated work
Imaginary Landscapes I ~ John Cage
  • important for being one of the first examples of electroacoustic pieces
  • for performers
  • muted piano, cymbal, two variable-speed turntables with amplifiers and frequency recorders
  • all of the imaginary landscape works include instruments requiring electricity
  • "It's not a physical landscape, it's a term reserved for the new technologies. It's a landscape in the future."

Textural Music/ Sound Mass

  • a Trend of the later 1950's
  • shaping music through its larger sonic attributes rather than as an accumulation of individual elements
  • Sound Mass composition minimizes the importance of pitches in preference for texture, timbre, and dynamics as primary shapers of gesture and impact
  • developed from the modernist tone clusters and spread to orchestral writing by the late 1950's
  • Sound Mass obscures the line between sound and noise


Makrokosmos I by George Crumb
  • Crumb combines conventional piano techniques to form a synthesis
  • Each piece is associated with a sign of the zodiac
  • Makrokosmos requires special techniques: pizzicato using both the finger nail and the finger tip, muted tones, production of harmonics on strings
  • Strings should be clearly marked with bits of tape. Modal parts for harmonics should be indicated with tiny slivers of tape on the string
  • mystic, surreal
  • full range of piano, inside and outside, tried to use all possible techniques
  • innovative, extended techniques combined with conventional techniques
Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima ~ Krzysztof Penderecki
  • String ensemble not organized in the normal five part groupings, each instrument has its own part
  • traditional textural components such as melody and harmony absent
  • chromatic bands/clusters - listener perceives undifferentiated mass of certain width and dynamic level
  • form is thus primarily determined by the transformation and development of generalized shapes
  • Penderecki ignores the distinctions between pitch and noise, drawing from a wide spectrum of available sounds
  • Proportional Notation = the temporal placement of musical events is approximate
  • Graphic Notation = nontraditional symbols represent musical information
  • Extended Techniques = between the bridge and tailpiece, playing behind the bridge, striking sounding board with fingertips
Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments Part I ~ Gyorgy Ligeti
  • four woodwinds, two brass, five strings, two keyboard instruments
  • "micropolyphony" - a simultaneity of different lines, rhythms and timbers
  • 4 movement work
  1. cluster micropolyphony - polyphonic and contains "micropolyphonically interwoven lines that merge together to form a homogeneous texture"
  2. homophonic and static
  3. mechanical in the manner of clockwork
  4. insainly virtuosic presto
  • imperceptible entrances and exits
Atmosphere ~ Gyorgy Ligeti
  • 52 individual parts
  • Formed clusters from separate components that changed constantly to produce subtly transforming internal patterns - micropolyphony
  • Opening cluster chord that spans 5 octaves
  • Slow changes in dynamics

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Left My Heart in a Cardboard Box

My encounter with those living with poverty or exceptionalities through my experience delivering lunches with the Hunger Coalition at Benedictine College struck a chord in me that I did not realize was so out of tune. I did not experience very closely during this time a great connection to persons with exceptionalities, but the reality which confronted me as I stepped into the homes of those whom I encountered filled me with a kind of sickeningly sorrowful sense of helplessness.

To perfectly amplify and clarify what I was feeling, at one of the houses where we stopped there was a box of very young kittens, beautiful and delicately small. I knelt and picked one of them up, petting its fur gently and feeling like I was in heaven they were so beautiful. Never mind that they were dirty, never mind that they looked desperately hungry, they were the most beautiful kittens in the world to me. The lady of the house looked at me and said “if you want em, take em! I can't care for em.” If there was a policy that let me take stray kittens into my dorm, I would have snatched that box up in an instant, but alas, it was with a sigh of dejection that I extracted the kitten from my sweater, where he had latched his claws as if to say “don't leave me!”and walked away.

I felt as though I were leaving part of my heart behind as we drove away, and as I reflected upon the rest of my day, I felt for the persons I met in a similar manner. I felt as though I were giving them something for a day, but who would be there tomorrow? I held that kitten for a minute, but what it needed was more than a minute, it needed a family to love and take care of it. I am not infinitely wealthy and I can not bi-locate, so I can not solve all of the world's problems through my presence and monetary support, but maybe that's the point. All I have to give in my own student poverty are my prayers, my time, and one meal a week. The potency of my prayers I leave in the hands of the Lord, but after witnessing the joy my time gave to Gloria, the excited faces of children who held my dinner in their hands, I could not possibly bring myself to do anything less than giving everything I can possibly give. It's intoxicatingly beautiful, and a much better feeling than walking away, feeling like you've left your heart behind in a cardboard box to starve.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Armchair Theology

On Love

"When man loves woman, it follows that the nobler the woman, the nobler the love; the higher the demands made by the woman, the more worthy a man must be. That is why woman is the measure of our civilization." - Bishop Fulton Sheen

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Concert Review

Benedictine College Pops Concert: "Showstoppers!"

The Pops Concert by the Benedictine Chamber Choir and Concert Chorale was a high-energy, entertaining venue which attracted students and families from all departments of Benedictine College. Faculty, family and students alike all loved the enthusiasm and music and could not stop telling the singers afterward how much they enjoyed it.

The concert opened with the Concert Chorale singing Jump, a energetic piece by Van Halen and arranged for chorus by Ed Lojeski. The arrangement was charming and engaging, though the men in the small ensemble were sometimes hard to listen to, varying so much on pitch and expression that they seemed to be singing different parts.

The next piece was a work originally performed by the King Singers, Africa. As a da capo pops work it was quite charming, exploring innovative vocal textures. It was wonderful that the men had the most important line, though unfortunately the tenors in their solo on the chorus were hard to hear. There were some tempo problems when people forgot to watch Dr. Krusemark's direction and the sopranos forgot their ending as usual.

The Chamber Singers took the stage next with In the Still of the Night with a solo by Joe Heron who has a sweet, masculine tenor voice. The choreography was simple but charming and the subdued dynamics in the choir highlighted the romantic solo line. The sopranos and bases were really into their choreography, but the lack of enthusiasm in the majority of the altos created a rather unbalanced feel.

The next work was a medley of numbers from the musical Godspell with solos from Katherine Bittner, Rachel Noffke, Erin Martin and Joe Gifford. The works were boldly sung and brought out the diverse characters of the musical via completely biblical texts.

Love Potion No. 9 was the only piece in a minor key in the entire concert and made the audience laugh with the high-pitched “I took a drink!” from bass Mich Bechina. The only mistake I noticed in the piece was when the sopranos forgot to diverge during the bridge.

The Concert Chorale once again took the center stage with an arrangement of Somebody to Love by Queen. The soloists were Emily Storment and Michael Clinton . I was very unimpressed by most of the choreography for the Concert Chorale, and this work was no exception, but for the Chorale the singing was probably the best.

The Chamber Singers came forward immediately after with a swing piece from the 50's called At the Hop. The Sopranos were the only part with speaking lines during the verses so they were a little hard to understand, but the choreography was well done and sung with enthusiasm. The swing dance solo in the first performance was unnervingly close to the edge of the stage, but Joe Gifford did a brilliant job of making sure his partner did not fall to her doom.

The last work by the Chamber Singers was a work for only men, Calendar Girl. This was the highlight of the concert with its ridiculously corny romantic and comedic effects. Tom Henry the soloist brought a lady friend out from the Chorale and spend the verses singing to her and emphasizing the words with amusing actions. The best part, however, was when the entire line of men began a high-kicking can-can and the audience roared with laughter and applause.

The Concert Chorale then performed another work by Queen; Bohemian Rhapsody. There were drastic speeding problems during the middle section of the work and the “thunderbolts and lightning” section was completely botched by the sopranos. It was also quite obvious that many people were lost in the choreography, which seemed to highlight unimportant sections and ignore the parts which screamed for action.

The concert concluded with The House is a Rockin which featured the most creative choreography from the Concert Chorale. The only criticism I had was that people were unsure of the choreography and of the modulation, which was performed quite clumsily. Otherwise it was very engaging and had the audience rising to their feet with a standing ovation.

Overall it was a wonderful performance with some rough sections that no one minded because the energy level was contagiously high. There is one not I would like to make, however, and it is that the skirt levels on most of the ladies was much to high. Many audience members commented to me that when the girls sat on the risers they practically put their panties on display. When one is performing on a stage that is more than four feet off the ground, the cutoff length for skirts should be no higher than the knee. If this can not be followed, shorts are a necessity for the sake of the audience.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Character Markings of Music

Dolce ~ Sweetly
Sotto voce ~ Subdued voice
Con brio ~ With vigor
Animato ~ Animated
Giocoso ~ Humorously
Espressivo ~ Expressively
Tranquillo ~ Gently
Cantabile ~ Singing
Dolente ~ Sad, mournful
Grave ~ Solemn
Con fuco ~ With fire
Vivace ~ Lively
Pesante ~ Heavy
Maestro ~ Majestic
Scherzando ~ Playful, jesting
Semplice ~ Simple, unaffected
Agitato ~ Agitated
Con bravura ~ With boldness
A capriccio ~Whimsical
Con tenerezza ~ With tenderness

Terms indicating a Change in Volume

  • fp
  • Loudly-softly
  • sfz.
  • Loudly accented
  • cresc.
  • Becoming louder
  • decresc.
  • Becoming softer
  • dim.
  • Diminishing
Crecendo poco a poco
  • cresc. poco a poco
  • Louder little by little
Subito piano
  • sub. p
  • Suddenly soft
Subito forte
  • sub. f
  • Suddenly loud
Crecendo molto
  • cresc. molto
  • Becoming much louder
Crecendo e diminuendo
  • cresc. e dim
  • Gradually louder, then gradually softer

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Poem of the Day


A rotten seed has fallen
In amongst the fruit
of my garden
And there it took root
Whilst I looked blithely away
and tended elsewhere.

Now I behold the blossom,
and smell its pungent odor,
and am ashamed
that I neglected this weed in its youth,
for now I find 
in every corner
small, green tendrils,
like emerald serpents,
coiled and twisted about the stems of
my fair flowers and fruit trees.

What name shall I give thee,
Tormenter of my labors?
Envy, for you have choked the
Joy I took in my garden.
There is not a place I can go,
not one of my fruits is free of you.

Because of your presence 
I weary of life
and if the King should
stop by  my house today
I should die of shame if He
bear witness to my complacency,
see the fruit of my disposition.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Concert Review

Benedictine College Faculty Recital

Dr. Christopher Greco, Saxophone

Guest Artists
Bryan Pezzone, Piano
Krystal Heib, flute

The concert on the evening of the twenty-seventh of September was a glorious affair between a saxophone, a piano, and a flute. Dr. Christopher Greco, saxophonist, was joined on the piano by his close friend Bryan Pezzone, and a former student, Krystal Heib with her flute. Throughout the concert, images and text was displayed on the drop-down screen above the stage to offer visual and contextual aids for the listeners.

Dr. Greco and Mr. Pezzone opened the evening with the Sonata VI by J.S. Bach, originally for flute and transcribed for saxophone by Marcel Mule. In the opening “Adagio” the saxophone exhibited a sweet, careful articulation and expression which was slightly undermined by a gravely undertone. It sounded at times as though there was something mechanically wrong with the saxophone, but this did not prevent Dr. Greco from displaying for his listeners how gently, how elegantly he could rise and fall in dynamic level and how nimbly he could dance through Baroque trills. The “Allegro” seemed to have some discrepancies between the piano and the saxophone at first, but they quickly settled into a better synchronization. The dynamics were well pronounced and the runs smoothly executed with impressive tonguing and sensitive rubato. The third movement, “Siciliano”, made me smile with it's more romantic and creative harmonic structure, but the last movement, “Allegro Assai”, was the highlight of the sonata for me. The graceful swells and dips reminded me of a swallow in flight, an image reinforced by the lighthearted and playful melody which was created by frequent use of appogiaturas and anticipations.

In the second work, Dr. Greco and Mr. Pezzone were joined by Krystal Heib to perform Epitaphe de Jean Harlow op. 164 by Charles Koechlin. At the beginning, the flute sounded slightly out of tune, and in this listeners opinion, the saxophone could have held a more pronounced role in the balance of the trio. Nonetheless, there was excellent interplay between the voices; sensitive phrasing and articulation which was accented by tight harmonic structure in disjunct lines. It was well performed overall, though the last note did not seem to be sustained in tune, the flute dropping slightly in pitch.

Next came the Concert a'3 pour Fronsac by Henri Sauget. The entire cycle seemed very surreal, like someone painting scenes from nature, which was very a very appropriate given the naturalistic inspirations for the movements. “Feuillages” (foliages) contained a very expressive melody conveyed through contrapuntal lines which were very jumpy and light on their feet. The glory of “Ramages” (foliage patterns) was the contrast between the flute and saxophone, like the small and deep veins which are etched into the surface of every leaf. Together they created an interlocking band of color, a web of spontaneous dialogue. The piano swelled in a solo before a strong conjunction of all three voices which led nicely into the third movement, “Ombrage” (shades). This last selection in the cycle contained a sweet, simple duet between piano and flute, with periods of solo lines for the sax. This created a beautiful sense of the border between light and shadow, the brightness of the sun and the deep coolness of the shade. Compared to the other two movements it swelled more, was deeper and more surreal.

At this point there was a brief interlude before the trio reconvened for Les Treteaux Trio by Pierre Max Dubois, which was by far the most quirky of the pieces. “Prologue en Fanfare” was a humerus, sarcastic work which featured an almost ironic use of chromaticism. The “Romantic” was paired visually with a work by Mucha, which reinforced the avant garde impression of the cycle. Simple, clear lines outlined descending sequences which were played with great sensitivity and support. The “Vlase Vulgaire” (vulgar waltz) could not have been more aptly named with the feeling of a London bar tune. There was excellent dynamic expression, and the short, highly accented articulation in one voice nicely contrasted the smooth lines of the other.

For the last cycle, Dr. Greco once again took the spotlight in the Fuzzy Bird Sonata by Takashi Yoshimatsu, a contemporary composer from Japan. The program notes describe this cycle as expressing the spirit of the bird through a mixture of oriental folk, jazz, and bird song as well as a tonal background, a goal which this piece pulled off quite well. “Run, bird” contained many quick trills and a jazzy walking baseline. There were bent notes and short “pecking” sections which made Dr. Greco's children in the front row giggle. “Sing, bird” expressed the high, sweet notes of a singing bird, swelling and dipping gracefully. There was quite a heavy influence of traditional Japanese instrumentation which the composer employed in the saxophone line and which lent itself beautifully to pandiatonicism. The concluding work “Fly, bird” was an effortless and playful flight through the registers of the saxophone and on the piano through the use of quick and nimble runs, bending and leaping like a sparrow in flight. Once again, the influence of Japanese instruments was highly obvious.

Overall it was an excellent display of grace, agility and musicianship by all three performers. They had excellent performing chemistry and the creative visual displays added greatly to the listening experience.

A Sermon on Modesty in the Mass

Now, there are some things about his sermon that I am not sure are orthodox, but the points he makes are VERY poignant.

Seeing my fellows dressed immodestly before the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is like seeing nuns shun the habit. One thing that is so important to realize is that the Eucharist is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! Recall that those who arrived at the Wedding Feast in the improper garb were thrown out into the darkness "where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth." The Wedding Feast is DIFFERENT from normal every-day life, it is sanctified life, and we should dress in a way which affirms that conviction.

I am very glad he also addresses the topic of men dressing appropriately for Mass. Men have a standard of modesty as well and need to give glory to the Eucharist in the way they dress. Guys really shouldn't dress for Mass like they are going to a beach party afterward.

I disagree on his concrete standards for modesty, however we must realize that he is speaking to his particular flock, and therefore it is completely within his place to make these regulations for his parishioners.

I do want to say something about modest dress in general, though, and not just before the Holy Anaphora.

A certain young man once said to me that to intimidate know a woman's beauty is something that no man has a right to, it is a privilege that is given in Marriage. He made it quite clear to me that he didn't want to see me or any other women in a way that was anything less then uplifting to my person, and wanted me to treat him with dignity. How? By dressing modestly. He told me that there is a double standard for men these days; a standard which expects men to be impure and encourages women to exert power over men by dressing however they want to. This young man expressed extreme frustration for a world that bombarded him with temptation to impurity and then told him that it was a crime to look at a woman's chest.

Yes, men are fully responsible for their virtue, but tell me, if you saw neon letters framed in black, wouldn't you look at it? Now realize that those letters are situated on the front of a very tight-fitting shirt and ergo, you are looking at a woman's chest. Ouch. Same goes for text on the seat of someone's pants. Our eyes are drawn to cut-off lines, drawn to text. Girls! Why do we play with purity, even subconsciously? Attention from guys in this way is not worth it; it gives lame guys the wrong idea and sends great guys who are actually concerned with their virtue running in the opposite direction. Don't we want sensitive guys?

I have heard a lot of girls say: "Oh, well if you don't like it, then don't look!" Okay, so don't be surprised when they turn around and run. After all, you've made yourself a near-occasion of sin. Am I pointing the finger? HEAVENS NO. Just ask my dad, and he will tell you some stories of my struggle toward modesty that could curl anyone's whiskers.

When dressing, let's dress with love and with dignity. I can always tell someone is Muslim by the way that they dress. Why can't that be said about Christians, and especially Catholics? Let's reclaim modesty and sanctify it, like we transformed Christmas and Sunday. Let's go on a mission!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Canticle of praise

Oh Lord open my lips
and my mouth shall declare Your praise.

Oh Lord, long have I languished
long have I sought after that which can not satisfy
Lord, how long I have pursued shadows,
lifted up and glorified myself.

To love You is an abandonment
not an engorgement of the will.
Praise and Glory are due to You
Truly our inheritance is Your Goodness

I am dumb
I am mute

Shall I speak of Your wonders before the peoples?
Who would believe me?
I shall proclaim what the Lord has done for me,
How he has ransomed me from death,
from the stain of sin.

All Glory to You, Oh Lord,
All Glory to You.

Wordless splendor come pouring from our hearts
Command and we shall proclaim
Send forth Your Spirit on the Nations

All Glory be to You, Oh Lord,
The Lamb that was slain.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hi Mommy

Hi, Mommy.

I'm your baby. You don't know me yet, I'm only a few weeks old. You're going to find out about me soon, though, I promise. Let me tell you some things about me. My name is John, and I've got beautiful brown eyes and black hair. Well, I don't have it yet, but I will when I'm born. I'm going to be your only child, and you'll call me your one and only. I'm going to grow up without a daddy mostly, but we have each other. We'll help each other, and love each other. I want to be a doctor when I grow up.

You found out about me today, Mommy! You were so excited, you couldn't wait to tell everyone. All you could do all day was smile, and life was perfect. You have a beautiful smile, Mommy. It will be the first face I will see in my life, and it will be the best thing I see in my life. I know it already. ... Today was the day you told Daddy. You were so excited to tell him about me! ...He wasn't happy, Mommy. He kind of got angry. I don't think that you noticed, but he did. He started to talk about something called wedlock, and money, and bills, and stuff I don't think I understand yet. You were still happy, though, so it was okay. Then he did something scary, Mommy. He hit you. I could feel you fall backward, and your hands flying up to protect me. I was okay... but I was very sad for you. You were crying then, Mommy. That's a sound I don't like. It doesn't make me feel good. It made me cry, too. He said sorry after, and he hugged you again. You forgave him, Mommy, but I'm not sure if I do. It wasn't right. You say he loves you... why would he hurt you? I don't like it, Mommy. ... ... ... Finally, you can see me! Your stomach is a little bit bigger, and you're so proud of me! You went out with your mommy to buy new clothes, and you were so so so happy. You sing to me, too. You have the most beautiful voice in the whole wide world. When you sing is when I'm happiest. And you talk to me, and I feel safe. So safe. You just wait and see, Mommy. When I am born I will be perfect just for you. I will make you proud, and I will love you with all of my heart.
... ... ... ... ... ...
I can move my hands and feet now, Mommy. I do it because you put your hands on your belly to feel me, and I giggle. You giggle, too. I love you, Mommy.

Daddy came to see you today, Mommy. I got really scared. He was acting funny and he wasn't talking right. He said he didn't want you. I don't know why, but that's what he said. And he hit you again. I got angry, Mommy. When I grow up I promise I won't let you get hurt! I promise to protect you. Daddy is bad. I don't care if you think that he is a good person, I think he's bad. But he hit you, and he said he didn't want us. He doesn't like me. Why doesn't he like me, Mommy?

You didn't talk to me tonight, Mommy. Is everything okay?

It's been three days since you saw Daddy. You haven't talked to me or touched me or anything since that. Don't you still love me, Mommy? I still love you. I think you feel sad. The only time I feel you is when you sleep. You sleep funny, kind of curled up on your side. And you hug me with your arms, and I feel safe and warm again. Why don't you do that when you're awake, any more?

I'm 21 weeks old today, Mommy. Aren't you proud of me? We're going somewhere today, and it's somewhere new. I'm excited. It looks like a hospital, too. I want to be a doctor when I grow up, Mommy. Did I tell you that? I hope you're as excited as I am. I can't wait.

...Mommy, I'm getting scared. Your heart is still beating, but I don't know what you are thinking. The doctor is talking to you. I think something's going to happen soon. I'm really, really, really scared, Mommy. Please tell me you love me. Then I will feel safe again. I love you!

Mommy, what are they doing to me!? It hurts! Please make them stop! It feels bad! Please, Mommy, please please help me! Make them stop!

Don't worry Mommy, I'm safe. I'm in heaven with the angels now. They told me what you did, and they said it's called an abortion.

Why, Mommy? Why did you do it? Don't you love me any more? Why did you get rid of me? I'm really, really, really sorry if I did something wrong, Mommy. I love you, Mommy! I love you with all of my heart. Why don't you love me? What did I do to deserve what they did to me? I want to live, Mommy! Please! It really, really hurts to see you not care about me, and not talk to me. Didn't I love you enough? Please say you'll keep me, Mommy! I want to live smile and watch the clouds and see your face and grow up and be a doctor. I don't want to be here, I want you to love me again! I'm really really really sorry if I did something wrong. I love you!

I love you, Mommy.

Every abortion is just…

One more heart that was stopped.

Two more eyes that will never see.

Two more hands that will never touch.

Two more legs that will never run.

One more mouth that will never speak.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

God bless the Cistercians (Trappists)

I have so much respect for the Monastic way of life, and especially for those who continue to wear the habit in this day and age. Power to all you monks and nuns! What a noble, glorious, and infinitely blessed vocation you have! May my future little ecclesia domestica be inspired by your example.

Official Website

The Catholic Encyclopedia on Cistercians

On of the best movies EVER

Chant and their history

Testamentum Eternum

In Timore Dei

Life of Cistercian nuns in Wisconsin

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tempo Markings

Fixed Tempo
Prestissimo ~ As fast as possible
Presto ~ Very fast
Allegro ~ Fast, quickly
Allegretto ~ Moderately quickly
Moderato ~ Moderately paced
Andantino ~ Moderately slowly
Andante ~ Slow but moving
Adagio/lento ~ Slow
Larghetto ~ very slow but moving
Largo ~ very slow and broad
Grave ~ very slow and heavy

Variable tempo
Ritardando ~ Gradually slower
Rallentando ~ Gradually slower and broader
Ritenudo ~ Suddenly slower
Allargando ~ Gradually slower and louder
Calando ~ Gradually slower and softer
Sostenudo ~ Sustaining
Accelerando ~ Gradually faster
Stringendo ~ Gradually faster and hastening
Piu allegro ~ more lively
Piu mosso ~ more motion
Meno mosso ~ less motion
Morendo ~ Dying away
Tempo rubato ~ taken freely
A piacere ~ at pleasure
Tempo giusto ~ in exact tempo
Alla misura ~ strict tempo
Senza misura ~ moving freely
A tempo ~ previous tempo
Tempo primo ~ first tempo
L'stesso tempo ~ same tempo

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And again, because I am a nerd,...

I decided to write down my notes from my Theory and Analysis class from this semester so far.

The section we are working on now is the first wave of new tonalities in the early twentieth century, beginning with Debussy and his Impressionistic works, and into the American experimentalists (Ives, Cowell, Cage). Mostly, this chapter focuses on the materials and techniques of these composers.

No one can fully understand 20th century music without a first look at Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and his influences. His compositional style has its roots in tonal harmonies, but he ventured forth into very new territory, a bridge from the extended tonalities of the 19th century into what many refer to as "atonality". His style is generally referred to as Impressionism after the name given to the art style of Claude Monet and his contemporaries in which there was a profound fascination with color. Debussy expressed this fascination in music through the use of new harmonies, instrumentation and rhythmic devices.

Example: Debussy. "La Soiree Danse Grenade" from Estampes

Scale Materials

1. Diatonic Modes

Part of the innovative use of new scale materials and chord structures was a renewed interest in the church modes, or the diatonic modes. A diatonic mode is a scale built off any note in the diatonic scale, and only containing notes in that diatonic scale.  In the key of C, the diatonic modes are
  • Inonian - C
  • Dorian - D
  • Phrygian - E
Example: Debussy, "Girl with the Flaxen Hair"
  • Lydian - F
  • Mixolydian - G
  • Aeolian - A
  • Locrian - B
2. Pentatonic Scales
  • Any five note scale
  1. Major Pentatonic
  2. Minor Pentatonic
  3. Hirajoshi
  • Many, I am sure, will recognize the Hirajoshi pentatonic because of it's place in a very famous Japanese folk melody, Sakura.
3. Synthetic Scales

A synthetic scale is a scale built by a composer's imagination. These three are very common and have a symmetrical structure.
  • Whole Tone - composed of adjacent major 2nds (Debussy's favorite)
Example: Stravinsky, "Danse russe" from Petrouchka
  • Octatonic - alternating minor and major 2nds
  • Hexatonic - alternating minor 2nds and minor 3rds
 A scale that Debussy favored is the lydian-mixolydian scale, which is  two juxtaposed major-minor seventh chords with roots a whole step apart

Chord Structures

1. Extended Tertian Harmony
  • 9th, 11th, 13th chords
Example: Ravel, "Rigaudon" from Le Tombeau de Couperin

2. Polyharmony
  • polychords - two or more chords from different harmonic areas sounded simultaneously. The elements of a polychord are called chordal units, and a special kind of polychord is known as the split-third chord. This is a major and a minor chord built on the same root sounded simultaneously
  • bitonality/ polytonality - two or more key centers heard at the same time
3. Chord/Scale connections
  • In this new musical language, the aural effect of sonorities is solidified by scale reference, doubling, spacing and their arrangement, rather then traditional tertian harmonies

4. Quartal and Secundal Harmony
  • Quartal harmony - sonority derived from stacked 4ths, and closely tied to quintal harmony, which is stacked 5ths. There is a close relationship to quartal and quintal harmonies, but the aural effect can be quite different.
Example: Hindemith, Flute Sonata, II
  • Secundal Harmony - chordal sonority derived from stacked 2nds. Three or more adjacent pitches in this relationship is referred to as a tone cluster
Example: Cowell, "The Tides of Manaunaun" from Tales of Our Countryside

5. Parallelism
  • Parallel motion of intervals through a scale. Can be chromatic (intervals do not change values) or diatonic (intervals align themselves to the scale)
Examples: Debussy, "Fetes" from Nocturnes
                                    "La Cathedrale engloutie" from Preludes
                  Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra, II

6. Pandiatonicism
- An attempt to equalize all the tones of the diatonic scale, so one one can tell which one is the tonal center

Example: Barber Excursions, III

Rhythm and Meter
  • Hemiola - an interaction between rhythm and meter that implies a 3:2 ratio
  • Asymmetrical meters - irregularly subdivided meters
Example: Adler, Capriccio
  • Composite meter - meters which can be divided into smaller aural meters (usually part of asymmetrical meters)
  • Mixed Meter - rapidly changing meter signatures
  • Displaced Accent - shifting the accent to a weak beat
  • Polyrhythm - Two or more strikingly different rhythms sounded simultaneously 
Example: Stravinsky, "The Shrovetide Fair," from Petrouchka
  • Ametric Music - music without a regular series of recurring pulses
  • Metric Modulation - an immediate change in tempo created by equating a particular note value to another note value, usually located in the next bar
  • Added Value - Rhythmic irregularity created through addition of a note value or rest to a rhythmic figure
Example: Messiaen, "Dance of Fury for Seven Trumpets",  from Quarter for the End of Time
  • Nonretrogradable rhythms - rhythms that are the same played forward or backward
  • Fibonacci sequence - an infinite sequence of numbers in which each new number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two numbers
  • Golden ratio - a proportion of ration 1.618:1, found in nature and in art and mathematics. The golden section is an area about .618 of the way through the piece which is the most balanced for a climax.
  • Polytempo - simultaneous use of two or more strikingly contrasted tempos
  • Ostinato - a musical pattern that is repeated many times in succession
  • Isorhythm - a modern term for a rhythmic technique associated with Medieval motets and masses. Today it combines a repeated rhythmic figure (talea) and a repeated pitch sequence of a different length (color)
  • Tempo Canons - Canons in which individual voices are presented at different tempos

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Investment of Love

On building genuine relationships

In the book Same Kind of Different as Me, Deborah Hall was a true light to all dark places in which she walked. She had a spark and her spark was contagious, because instead of staying safely in her personal bubble, she ventured forth into the souls of all she met, “infect(ing) em with love.” Her ministry was effective and life-changing because she made a personal investment of time and energy in the people she met at the mission, especially Denver. If we wish to make a difference in the lives of others, we must be consumed with a sincere desire to know and love them fully, to become part of their lives.
Any interaction between persons can be called an encounter, but while investing in the lives of others, every encounter must become an engagement, a relationship. Denver's analogy of “catch and release” illustrates perfectly Blessed John Paul II's idea of the personalistic norm, that all interactions and relationships must be focused on the persons involved. The person must cease to become a brushstroke of color on the canvas of your life, and be “blown up” into life-sized proportions, filling the screen with their unique and irreplaceable character. In our engagements with others, we must treat each and every individual as though they were the only person in the world.
When you meet someone for the first time, don't just pass them by, averting your eyes and ignoring them. Look into their eyes and smile. Even if it's just for a second, make every moment the highlight of someone's day, a someone in whom the image and likeness of God is crying out for love. We must also not forget those closest to us, our family, who strangely are most often the recipients of our uncharitable words and deeds. We must go the extra mile to imbue our parents, our siblings, our spouse, or our children with the truest sense that they are important to us. In his opening convocation address to the freshman class of Benedictine College, Dr. Robert George said that “each one of us is an investment of love”, and we are most profoundly an investment of divine love. Let us all, then, capitalize on that investment of love by coming to know that beautiful an unique person for whom divine blood was shed.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Poem of the Day

Lady, as Thy fair Swan

-Gerald Bullett

Lady, as thy fair swan doth in self-love 
His clear reflection prove
So thou, again, 
If thou wilt look without distain
Shalt profit in that kind
Here in my heart thine own perfection find

Yet prithee look not long in me thy glass
Lest thy proud eyes, alas
Enamored be
And fall to loving that they see;
So should we live and die 
Rivals for thy possession, thou and I


Friday, September 16, 2011

Voice of the Martyrs

"In a surprise decision, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Aug. 28 invited Turkey’s Christian and Jewish communities to reclaim long-confiscated religious property. The decree came 75 years after the Turkish government seized land and buildings owned by the Greek, Armenian, Syriac and Jewish communities. The seized property included schools, churches, cemeteries, stores, hospitals, orphanages, houses, apartment buildings and factories, which the Turkish state had re-registered as public or foundation property. The new decree states that owners of property that was sold by the state to third parties will be reimbursed at market value. Thank the Lord for this development. Pray that the transition will go smoothly and that there will be no resistance or negative reaction to the decree." - VOM Weekly Prayer update

Praise be to God! Many blessings on the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and may God grant him many years!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Karamazov Unrestraint

In honor of the Feast of the Exultation of the Life Giving Cross

My first reaction upon meeting someone who is homeless or in dire financial straights runs along two different avenues. In my experience, there is a way to be poor and suffer homelessness with a profound dignity and there is also poverty which draws out the meanness in man, makes him petty and fills him with despair In the first case, I am humbled and encouraged by the sight of hope and virtue in the midst of suffering. The idea of redemptive suffering is central to the Faith, and for those who meet their homelessness and trials with dignity and virtue, their salvation is being worked out here on this earth. Their purgatory is a twice blessed one because it was done in out midst, so that we might witness the supreme joy of purification.

In the latter case, however, there is a constant, unchanging question that springs to my lips every time I encounter deprivation and despair . Like Dimitri in Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, I ask the question “why?” Why is there despair, why is there poverty? Why do people cry and weep, where is their food? How can one have more than another, when that other lies starving? And I want to do something, so that there will be no more children crying, no more tears from anyone from now on, and it must be done immediately, without delay!

Jesus said in Mark 12:17 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick...” In His earthly ministry he sought out the marginalized with a passion and brought the brightness of His Self into their lives. If we are to be Christians, little Christs, we must also bring His Divine Self into the hearts and lives of those we encounter by our actions and words. The poor are ever close to Christ because they share in His suffering, and if we would share in His Glory we must also share His Cross. Therefore, let us do as Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity, who lived in full communion with those to whom they ministered, going out in love with Karamzovian unrestraint.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Self Knowledge

Overcoming Personal Prejudice

Personal prejudice is a cancer in the heart that feeds on ignorance, a weed that chokes the true fruit of charity through selfishness, pride, and social convention. While prejudice is something everyone experiences in themselves at some time, it is possible to overcome such a divisive agent.

The first step in confronting personal prejudice is to recognize that one has these prejudices and recognize a need to change. After this, an excellent way to follow up this desire for change is to do research, discover what is fact and what is fiction in what you believe about other people. For example, many Catholic and Orthodox Christians will lay down numerous theological and historical divisions that supposedly exist between these two lungs of the Church, but very few ever take the time to do extensive research into the teachings of the common Church fathers and saints or examine the historical motives of actions which, through misunderstandings and misrepresentation, have driven us apart. Ignorance breeds bigotry, and thus education is an essential tool in overcoming prejudice.

The most radical way to confront one's personal prejudices is to live with or have constant close contact with a person who possesses the irksome traits. For example, a person who is irrationally prejudiced against obese people could consider taking an obese person as a roommate.
There are many singular ways for someone struggling with personal prejudice to combat this dark disposition of their heart, but to be truly successful in this endeavor, one should draw from multiple methods and resources. Micah 6:8 reads, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The bible paints out quite clearly for us that the Lord calls each and everyone of us to do justly in our actions, with a spirit of kindness, what is written in humility on our hearts. The natural law of love is inscribed on the souls of all, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, weight or any other aspects of the person created in the image and likeness of God, and it is also written on our hearts to recognize this glory, treating all with the same dignity and respect as though they were Jesus or the Blessed Mother themselves, come to visit us in the disguise which challenges us the most to love. The love of Christ is demanding and as Christians, called to the imitation of Christ, we must follow Him in His outreach to the poor, the marginalized, the sinful, and the unwanted, not only with our actions, but bringing them into the sanctuary of our hearts, making a home there for Jesus in all his disguises.

Photo Editing

And here is another one.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Photo Editing

Hmm, maybe I am not so bad at this after all.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Inter-Religious Project

The religious service I attended was an Aarti at noon on Saturday the thirtieth of April at the Hindu Temple of Kansas City. I heard much about Aartis, which are a form of Puja, before coming to the Hindu temple, but I was still quite unsure as to what I should expect when I arrived. Upon entering, I was first asked if I was a volunteer, at which I smiled and said that I was there to explore. My companion and I took off our shoes at the caddy and proceeded into the Temple, were we immediately saw an idol of Ganesha, before which offerings had been laid and incense was burning. The priest, Atul Trivedi, gave many blessings before and after the Aarti, where the people being blessed would come, prostrate themselves before him and touch his feet, and he would bless them, chanting and drawing symbols in the air over them or on their heads.

When I entered the worship area I was immediately floored by the beauty of the splendorous arrays of flowers and brilliant colors which adorned the alter and the idols around the room. There was a tile walkway down to the alter and around it, but the rest of the floor was covered in a white carpet, on which people sat and prayed or prostrated themselves before the idols on the alter, namely before Luxmi, the idols of Radha and Krishna and those of the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. People walked around the alter praying to the idols, which I found fascinating, given that all things are in their idea of reality Brahma, and therefore, to worship at these idols is to worship idealistic manifestations of sirguna Brahma, but more “enlightened” Hindus will not worship at temples at all to recognized the all-pervasiveness of the Godhead.

The Temple was open on Saturday from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, and all throughout that time people were having various pujas said for themselves or their loved ones, but the Aarti is an offering of fire from the whole community to the idols, blessing the various devas with the lamps which one person said took on the power of that deva. The people all took turns blessing the idols with the fire and then blessing themselves while two young men rang the bells on either side of the alter constantly. While the priest chanted, the people offered up fruit to be “sacrificed” to the idols, though I was quite curious as to what they mean by “sacrifice”. Do they mean that the idols need sacrifice to continue existing? It could be as a memorial of the sacrifice which began the world, which would make sense, as the food seemed like it was blessed rather than sacrificed, and the people consumed it after it had been blessed.

The pure devotion the people showed to these idols was striking and brought to my heart the question of why such devotion is locked away from sight in the Catholic of today, as if such devotion was embarrassing. I was ashamed for more than a moment at the death of living ritual in the spiritual life of the American Church, and in almost all of modern Christianity, which has aligned itself with secularism out of fear of condemnation by skeptics and atheists. If one were to ask a Roman Catholic what they thought of ritual, the answer would probably contain a contempt for ritual and even a denial of its efficacy, when in fact ritual has been a life-giving element of the Faith throughout its history, only eschewed during this present century as being outdated, what one could say was the effect of Protestantism on Catholicism. This, I am am sure is a heresy of some kind, which denies the efficacy of ritual and form in worship, spilling over into the disregard for proper ritual shown by priests and quasi-faithful alike.

Ritual does have meaning, which is both a blessing and a curse, for it means that while I was able to appreciated everything that was there, and sense the presence of a very devoted though misguided worship, I could not participate fully in the rituals. Rituals do indeed have meaning, and thus to consume the food that had been offered to those idols would have been a mortal sin for me as a Catholic, as would have blessing the idols been. When we as Catholics make the sign of the Cross, we are blessing ourselves in a profound way that imprints on our very bodies the sign of the Passion. When we say the Most Blessed Name of Jesus, we should cross ourselves and bow in reverence. In more orthodox churches, Catholics don't have pews, they move around freely and prostrate themselves in front of icons and burn candles, offering up a sacrifice of fire as a single undivided focus of the will for whatever intentions are needed. The ritualism of the Catholic Faith is a ritualism which is lethally potent, and which desperately need to be recognized in a culture of Catholicism which has trapped itself into the contradiction of a “uninvolved” Mass and yet bristles when anyone so much as says “Dominus vobiscum”. The physical form of a sacrament is just that, sacramental, and Catholics can reconcile new-age philosophy and the place of man as the pinnacle of creation by recognizing the quasi-sacramental nature of creation itself, this very flesh on our bodies, the air we breathe. Hinduism is a religion rich in ritual and overflowing with symbolism, which contributes to the joyful worship I witnessed these people engaging in. Throughout history, Catholicism has done what it is meant to do in the world: take what men have reached through the light of reason and created reality and enlighten it with the revealed Truth of Christ. The treasures of Hinduism should not be neglected, for they are true treasures indeed, which need to be polished before they can shine forth their brilliance. Therefore, let us as Catholics seek out diligently the good, the true, and the beautiful in Hindu ritual and integrate it organically into our own traditions.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Wine of Sleeplessness

3:24 am

It is night, and all around me, the world sleeps in blissful rest. I wish I could sleep. I wish I could rest my weary soul and mind, but both are uneasy tonight. There is something about staying up all night that is much like drinking. The giddy elation, the clumsiness, the foggy brain, the inability to concentrate; all theses symptoms are from the twin diseases. I have not drunk my fill in a long time. I take pride in my ability to hold my liquor, but for my own sake I eschew the practice with great seriousness. When well practiced, the alcohol of no-sleep sits in the bloodstream without the effects of drunkards. It is mostly, though, that the drunken man will let himself go unto the pleasures of the flesh and loose himself in the intoxication of the wine, and his drinking will have been in vain. I sit in the dark and sip my drink quietly while the drunken pair downstairs collapse from exhaustion and the fumes. They are not well practiced, and have not found that path this liquor takes the poets of the world. During these times I like to sit back in a chair with a cup of tea at my elbow and a writing pad beneath my fingers. At least a computer, if nothing else, to save me the trouble of writing it down later. This is the time when my soul and my mind are unfettered, and fly free, yet they are uncontrollable, and savage in their whims. I can never be too serious when I am drinking, or I risk putting weight on the decisions and conclusions I made when I was in my drunkenness. I often drink when I am wrong inside, when the warrior has failed in his mission, when the philosopher is lost for a cause, when the artist has lost his inspiration, and when the child has lost her joy. When the poet within me is tired, and can not call to God for aid in the miserable constraints of his philosophical mind, I let it go, I let my soul free. It is dangerous. Even now I know that any moment my soul could fly down tunnels of dark and wicked thoughts, where it is not fit for the intellect to trod, and blasphemy, who knows what I shall uncover in the morning, when my hangover is complete? But I must listen, and when the muse sings, I must try to write down her notes as fast as I can. Muses take many forms, mine sings to me. What she sings I long for, I desire it beyond all my wildest dreams! But I am human and lack the skill of gods. I can only attempt to copy on a scroll in measures and notes the sound of air and sea and sky I hear, muddled, yet powerful, in my soul. But back to my drinking. It is hard to let my soul free; for it has grown so used to my body that it calls it home. This is a disturbing and troubling thought to me. I know my soul belongs beyond the flesh, in the realms of things unseen. Where dwell Truth and Beauty and all her sisters of undying Virtue. My soul belongs to worlds such as this, yet it has become content with the physical realm, and desires to remain in it forever, uncompromising. A lesson my soul must learn now. I can not be comfortable in this body, not yet. This is what made those self-mortifying saints so amazing, that they forced their souls to disavow their bodies. Of course we must honor our bodies as temples of the living God, but our souls must be comfortable with forsaking the body for a time. It is our reward, and we shall receive it restored and remade to transfigured glory when we rise again. This is another reason why I drink. I find in the hazy realms where my mind wanders and flirts, a sort of distressing calm, a drunken enlightenment, and all I can do is write. I do not comprehend what I put down on paper, but pray that it may prove to be of a greater end. I can not wait for the sun rise. It is the moment when all the waiting of the past night fades and if swept up by the joy, the great bliss and elation of the pink dawn rising on the horizon. When the blazing sun pierces the sky with its first rays, it pierces me too, right through the heart. I feel so deeply when I drink, as well as feeling dead. My emotions become bees buzzing in the background of my subconscious, but they sting me twice as fiercely when out of control. I am full of wine, but sober. Another characteristic of alcohol is that it makes heat diffuse through your skin twice as fast as normal. The immediate warmth of the liquor is fleeting, and false heat; which is why, I suppose, I drink hot tea with my wine at night, clutching the mug in my fingers, and letting the steam warm my face. I can not stop drinking tonight, rather, I can, but I will not. It is not often my senses are so alert after so much consumption. I know in my mind and heart that to drink in excess is to trip and fall into a death, into a vanity where all the fruit is rotten off the tree. When removed from its source, any good thing becomes sour, as the second fermentation from fruit to wine turns to the bitter vinegar that soaked the throat of our Lord at calvary. My meditations and my wanderings can not stray too far from home, or I may loose myself in the sins of the intellect. God guide my thoughts! I am beginning to feel drunk, for my limbs are week and my eyes are closing in fatigue. I can not imagine how decrepit and distortedly shallow my thought must convay themselves on paper, for I am beginning to become drunk. This is a hard and often times undoing part of the process. I must not allow myself to become drunk, for I loose any wealth I may have gained from this night, nor can I stop drinking, for my vigil is not yet complete and all the seeds are not yet planted. Tonight I prepare for the new year alone, for I will not have a chance to remain sober once the night of revelry comes to had and I will become drunk for want of solitude. But there is a time and a place for everything, and I pray that I may find it in myself to with hold the liquor from myself and sleep when such a time comes. God help me, for I do not trust myself.

4:15 am

Ah, and it is time to review my situation. I examine myself with great fervor often in my sorry state when the passions of the flesh have seized me and done their will. It is like the tears and vows a warrior makes after having failed in a mission, or having been defeated in battle, when he falls to his knees in remorse. But a warrior with all the vows and tears to fill an ocean, will fail and fail again if he does not train for the battles to come. Sloth and gluttony can not be companions in the same house as Virtue. She will be disgraced by them and become a wraith in the shadows of her own halls, where instead there should be sunlight. I must learn to distance myself from my body, this weighty block of brick! For what use is a body if not employed for the kingdom, and how can it be used for the kingdom when it can not lift itself? Aquinas was an obese man, but I have an inkling that it was not due to gluttony that his belly was large, rather that his mind was employed far more than his limbs. There is no limit upon me now, and thus it is will that is at fault in this situation. My reason is employed to the basest degree, and when I neglect my will, the rest of my life suffers. But perhaps, and I think it most probable, that the source for this predicament can be found in the deeper realms of my self; my spiritual life. I am most lax in this area of my discipline, and I have a theory that if I were to spend as much time in prayer as I do eating, I would exceed my current amount of prayer time by sixty percent! What a revolutionary thought. I am reminded, though, of something my father told me; that the movers of this world are the ones that take their dreams and act upon them. Until plans and ideas are put to action, that's all they are, plans and dreams. I can make plans for myself all I wish, unless I go past my conceived limitations and comfort realm, I can not make anything of myself. It is an interesting state I find myself in. I dislike the future, I've always said so. I will never go someplace willingly if I can not see the road ahead of me, and my usual plan of attack is to ignore the path entirely. I must grow up, though. I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that I can not live for myself. I am obligated to fulfill my days in the service of those around me, and that is not a reality I have been willing to accept. I have looked for and dreamed of a future where the only person in it is me. I never imagine a mob of people, only a select few with whom I would pour out my soul. But again, I must now learn how to grow up. It will not be easy, I know this and it's probably why I have been so childish in the past, but it must be done. Lord help me to grow up. I know I'm late, dreadfully late, and like the foolish brides maids, I deserve no pity; but I cling to your word; “God's graces are new each day. They are new every morning, they are new every morning,”

Poem of the day

And I know...

I stare out my window at night,

when the rain falls down,

down in torrents and tears.

I hear its drumming and know that I am alive

I breath in the cold air and let the moisture hit my lungs

and I know I am alive

I stand on the hillside

when the wind howls over the plain

like a hound chasing its prey

I feel it surround me and I feel as if I could fly

I close my eyes and spread my arms, bracing myself against it,

and I feel like I could fly

I lay on the sand

in the summer by the sea

When the sun saturates my every breath

I hear the waves lapping at the shore, and I know I am safe

I feel the sand beneath me, warm and rough and solid

and I know I am safe

I sit with my family

at the table, or in prayer

our chatter, our laughter, fills me

I hug my brother, and I know I am alive

I cry with my father in anger and in grief

and I know I am alive