Arimathea
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In Greek mythology, the muses were the daughters of Zeus the king of the gods and Mnemosyne the goddess of memory. The muses inspired men to create what we commonly call the fine arts. In this digital realm, you will find music of both high and low culture, from literature to the visual arts to what we narrowly call music in English. Enjoy and be grateful for being human; for the muses have richly blessed our race.
Friday, June 24, A.D. 2016
Rule, Britannia!

Please forgive me for my blog absenteeism, but I have been quite pressed for time (and far too sleepless) for the last month. However, I had to post today . . .

Albion, how I love you!

When Britain first, at Heaven’s command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful, from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies,
Serves but to root thy native oak.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

Thee haughty tyrants ne’er shall tame:
All their attempts to bend thee down,
Will but arouse thy generous flame;
But work their woe, and thy renown.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine:
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles thine.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coast repair;
Blest Isle! With matchless beauty crown’d,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

A day that I did not expect has dawned. May it lead inexorably to the destruction of our perverse new world disorder (it can happen), and may the Lord richly bless the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland! One day soon, perhaps even the micks will return to their senses and faith—and reject the godless, soulless bureaucrats who have eagerly helped to transform their beautiful island into a degenerate consumerist wasteland of the spirit.

To show that my support of healthy patriotism and my hatred of the E.U. are not based on any antipathy toward Europe as such—or even toward the Germans—I present a Kraut’s homage to the British—Beethoven’s Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vittoria:

And, of course, one must showcase “Rule, Britannia,” here cheerily (if cheekily) performed on the last day of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall by Sarah Patricia Connolly and the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra:

Glad all over!

Posted by Joseph on Friday, June 24, Anno Domini 2016
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Tuesday, May 10, A.D. 2016
Dvořák on Радоница

Kristus vstal z mrtvých!

For Radonitsa, I offer some much loved and lovely pieces from Dvořák. Here is his String Quartet No. 5 in F minor (Op. 9), performed by the Prager Streichquartett (starting at 35:53):

I could not find a suitable video of a live performance.

Probably the most well known movement in the piece is the second—Andante con moto quasi allegretto (51:14-59:26 in the video). Dvořák incorporated the work into his Romance in F minor (Op. 11), which WGUC plays every single day. That’s not a complaint, by the way. After all, I love Dvořák. Here the work is performed by the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson, with the violin solo by Tanja Sonc:

And another by the Israel Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ariel Zuckerman, with Itamar Zorman on the violin:

Zorman plays the piece more soulfully in my opinion.

I have a few curmudgeonly gripes. First, why isn’t Zuckerman in a tuxedo? He rather wears the open collared douchebag suit so favored by TED talkers and our new sartorially-challenged plutocratic overlords. I blame Al Gore for mainstreaming this unfortunate Silicon Valley trend (probably to counter his android appearance), but I really do not know who or what made that look acceptable—besides the obvious slide toward decadence in the West, of course.

Second, there should be more uniform uniformity expected of women in orchestras. From what I can tell, black and formal-ish are the only requirements for female members. I can understand special allowances for a soloist, especially a guest soloist, but each symphony should regulate their ladies better. From my personal experience, it seems that female conductors, like Wilson shown above, respect the idea of an appropriate dress code for their station. Every female conductor whom I have seen lead has worn the same (or almost the same) pure black femxedo. A quick web search proves the opposite, but perhaps there is a movement toward uniformity as respect for the profession begins to curb the narcissistic female tendency to exempt oneself from rules. We can hope.

Anyway, lovely pieces. As for the faithfully departed whom we remember on Radonitsa, may their memory be eternal!

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 10, Anno Domini 2016
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Friday, April 15, A.D. 2016
From Russia with Campanological Love

The ever interesting folks at U.C. Berkeley decided to replicate the famous Tsar Bell’s sound and to play it on campus for Cal Day this weekend. From ABC 7 News:

My brother Aaron and I got to see the grand broken bell in the Moscow Kremlin near the similarly massive Tsar Cannon. Let’s hope Berkeley’s experiment doesn’t inspire copycat projects to replicate the cannon; just imagine what the mischievous cadets at the U.S.M.A. might come up with. I wouldn’t want to be near West Point on that day.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, April 15, Anno Domini 2016
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Wednesday, April 13, A.D. 2016
Tyler Mancuso’s Psalm 103

One-man quartet Tyler Mancuso sings selections from Psalm 103 (104 in the Masoretic numbering) at the Antiochian Village Summer Camp:

His YouTube page states that he doesn’t use autotune; his variations are his own and recorded separately. I don’t know how Mancuso integrates the tracks, but I find the timing impressive.

I imagine that Mancuso entertains the campers well, though here we see the superiority of a real (multi-membered) a capella quartet. Four fellows can charm and wow an audience without any additional equipment—even at a rustic auditorium in the woods. Mancuso’s gift is better appreciated online. At camp, Mancuso probably joins with other campers and staff to sing. The Orthodox have plenty of singers!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, April 13, Anno Domini 2016
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Monday, April 11, A.D. 2016
カントリー・ロード

Thomas Bertonneau has shared a thoroughly charming item on the Orthosphere in “Western Culture I.” It is a music video of a Japanese group named Goose House doing a cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Enjoy:

I thus commented on Bertonneau’s post:

I love it. (Cultural appropriation sirens go off) Seriously, how did the “multicultural” Left transform into the enforcers of xenophobia? Human culture = cultural appropriation . . . that’s a good thing, overall.

Also, I have a theory about “imperial peoples” and “tribal peoples.” The imperial folks are into cultural appropriation — they’re interested in the rest of the world and have a strong cosmopolitan aspect in their national character. This need not conflict with a healthy nationalism and sense of identity. Indeed, the latter allows for the former to be useful and strengthening (broadening those horizons). Tribal people, by contrast, are ethno-narcissists — they have little interest in anything that doesn’t prominently concern themselves. As charming as tribals can be, I confess to finding the imperials far more fascinating and worthy of breath. Yet, liberalism is far more dangerous to imperials; without a privileging of one’s own, liberal imperial societies are wont to produce strays who go native — leading Arabs into battle, wearing dashikis on campus, joining ISIS, etc.

Lastly, the Japanese appear to be a well constituted imperial people par excellence. And John Denver is super. And that is a great song. Hurray for this post!

I have loved this song since childhood—it’s the perfect American song. First, it stirs feelings of home in the soul and works well as popular poetry with the simple but impressing images that it evokes (“Dark and dusty, painted on the sky . . .”). It is also quite easy to remember and sing, which makes it a good democratic song for group participation and ongoing cultural use—and appropriation! Furthermore, it is about Appalachia, perhaps the most “Old American” part of the country, as hill people tend to keep memories longer than most folks. The song itself celebrates this grateful returning to the old. Critics call such nostalgia-kitsch. I call it human.

As Dr. Bertonneau notes in his response to my comment, the Japanese young’uns’ performance is superb. I watched the video multiple times, and the grin on my face and the warmth in my heart grew with each viewing. They harmonize well, and they certainly are enjoying themselves. That is what music, youth, and fellowship should entail—joy (not always, of course, but regularly). Joy unmitigated by self-conscious pride or fear! I imagine that such is a foretaste of paradise—of real freedom subjectively experienced. Children facilely enter into such a state naively, but then most people lose that ability as they age. The wonder in their eyes dims. Their sense of self overshadows their self. They become too comfortable in the world, which paradoxically renders them less comfortable in their skin. Sadly, children are beasts, bereft of reason and good judgment, often slaves to their passing fancies. How unfortunate it is that the experiences that form human beings and allow them to tune their moral instruments almost invariably dull the glorious qualities of their state of innocence. After the fashion of wise men and poets, we might say that the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve slowly forget Eden the longer that they stay in the world. Fools and saints may remember the voice of their shepherd, but the herd in general comes to hear only the sounds of coins jingling, sycophantic flattery, and carefully memorized insults and slander.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, April 11, Anno Domini 2016
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Friday, March 18, A.D. 2016
Lepota Iconography Studio and School

An Orthodox sisterhood that ministered to several hospitals in Minsk founded the Saint Elizabeth Convent in A.D. 1999. The nuns eventually established an iconography studio and school—a venture that both serves the practical financial needs of the monastery and provides an additional ministry by which the nuns and lay workers may share the beauty and grace of the Lord.

As Fr. Z. says, brick by brick. Christendom is slowly being rebuilt in the Orthodox lands that Communism ravaged. Thanks be to God!

Posted by Joseph on Friday, March 18, Anno Domini 2016
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Monday, March 7, A.D. 2016
Reynolds’ Little Boxes

Enjoy a folksy oldy from A.D. 1962, Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes.” I could not find a recording of a live performance; the song alone will have to do.

My father believes that this song is my anthem. Were I choosing an anthem for myself, I’d probably pick Smetana’s Má Vlast, but I can see Dad’s point. How odd it is that an old Red yenta-turned-Unitarian represents a throne and altar meets blood and soil traditionalist like myself. Well, we despise many of the same cancers in our body politic.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, March 7, Anno Domini 2016
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Thursday, January 28, A.D. 2016
Vodolazkin’s Laurus

Last year, I started to hear recommendations to read the newly translated into English novel by Eugene Vodolazkin, Laurus («Лавр»). Then, I read Rod Dreher’s discussion of it in The American Conservative: “People Need Other Things To Live By.” I recommend the article, which includes an interview with the author. I am currently in the middle of the book, but I won’t spoil it for you. Наслаждайтесь.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, January 28, Anno Domini 2016
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Tuesday, January 26, A.D. 2016
Scharl on the Gospels according to Kinkade and Rousseau

As a follow-up to “Christian Kitsch,” I would like to share Jane Scharl’s “The Gospels according to Thomas Kinkade and Jean-Jacques Rousseau” from the Intercollegiate Review. Scharl argues that there is a spiritual background behind shallow Christmas art, which she describes as the most that a secular world can provide:

Rousseau’s sublimation is the best we can hope for from secular traditions. Secular Christmas music, even the best, exemplifies this attempt to sublimate experienced feelings—of loneliness (“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”), nostalgia (“White Christmas”), or love (“Let It Snow”)—beyond their context in ordinary life and elevate them to the level of the sublime. A sublime experience is a universal experience, one that has meaning outside of itself that both clarifies and validates it. This is the purest impulse of secular Christmas: to elevate our experiences to the level of the universal, and in so doing, to create a myth of Christmas to validate the feelings that punctuate our lives, even if just for one day.

We all hold an ideal of secular Christmas in our imaginations, even though for most of us it has never happened: cottages covered in snow, lanes fretted with sleigh tracks, children laughing, clear voices singing in a village square lit by lamps. Countless sugar cookies made by a smiling family while a perfect tree gleams in the corner and orphans smile at the feet of Santa Claus. It’s the Gospel according to Thomas Kinkade. But in this picture, the light illumines only itself, reflecting endlessly. It doesn’t illumine—or transform—the things of the world.

Scharl contrasts Kinkade’s work with that of Rembrandt to make her point. Pitting Kinkade against the Dutch master strikes me as a bit unfair, but I found her essay insightful.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, January 26, Anno Domini 2016
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Monday, January 25, A.D. 2016
Christian Kitsch

I found a cheeky but thoughtful musing by Paul Griffiths on Christian kitsch in Duke’s Divinity Magazine, “A Defense of Christian Kitsch.” Griffiths argues that kitsch is the bread and butter of pious art for Christianity, “a religion of peasants and proles.” Therefore, he states, Christians should hesitate to look down on the gospel according to Thomas Kinkade.

I am not sure what to think. Griffiths is correct that most Christians have been from the unwashed masses; the good news is for all people, plumbers and MOMA curators alike, and there are always more of the former than the latter. However, I hesitate to agree with him—not (principally) because I am an insufferable snob whose stomach twists when I see sappy religious pictures and Jesus nightlights—but rather because art for the masses appears to have different characteristics in different regimes. In our contemporary democratic culture, mass tastes and consumption largely dictate what the entire society appreciates. Yes, we have art critics in the New York Times, and elite opinion trickles down (yes, yes, that cerulean speech in The Devil Wears Prada). Yet, our society’s master class appears generally content to fill the trough according to the swine’s appetite. In more hierarchical societies, the elite largely determines the aesthetics of the lower classes. Maybe, I just do not know enough about peasant art in ages past, but pre-modern religious art does not strike me as kitsch. Some of it crude, perhaps, but not kitsch (compare the paintings in the catacombs to the papal commissions of the Italian Renaissance—a striking difference in quality, but neither is kitsch). Consider traditional Christian iconography, the stained glass windows of Western Christendom, or the mosaics of antiquity. I do not even know whether we should call the governing force of such art “elite” taste—rather, artisans tended to work with canonical styles (hence, being determined by tradition, not any group’s fancy). The architectural progress of sacred buildings clearly involved the engineering elite, commissioned by the secular and ecclesiastical elite, but entire towns were involved in cathedrals’ construction and adornment. Would you call the windows of Chartres kitschy? Would the Most Reverend Maurice de Sully have found the aesthetic tastes in sacred art of his poor parents so different from that of the royal court? Griffiths even mentions the icons of Andrei Rublev, but surely this example provides a stumbling block for his position. Russian peasants and proles have always adored the transcendent beauty of Rublev’s iconography.

Christian kitsch may simply be yet another symptom of our decadent age.

That said, who doesn’t like angels and kittens, together, lightly hovering over little girls in Easter dresses having afternoon tea with their teddy bears in a peaceful meadow (with birds, chipmunks, and lots of unidentifiable flora in the background)?

Posted by Joseph on Monday, January 25, Anno Domini 2016
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