Friday, August 29, 2008

Tradition and Traditionalists

I have decided that when someone asks me how I stand on "la question liturgique" - as opposed to just assuming, which I think many people do - I will say that, "I love liturgical tradition while I have trouble, at times, with self-identified 'traditional-ISTS.'" That is, I have problems with some of the personal attitudes and narrowness of vision, the frankly cultish tendencies of some who have chosen the Tridentine Mass as their banner. And frankly, I don't think some of them have anywhere near the appreciation for the very thing which they claim defines them. My yardstick is that, if I had to choose between a Tridentine Low Mass (esp. with only the server doing the responses) and a Novus Ordo Latin Mass celebrated ad orientem with incense, a complement of servers, chant, polyphony, etc., I would definitely choose the latter. The second follows the spirit of liturgical tradition far better. (I am not saying that you can't criticise specific prayers/features of the 1970 Missal. Neither am I saying that there weren't serious problems with the liturgical reform. I am just trying to make the basic point that the solemn sung Mass is the liturgical ideal.)

Of course, most people do not have these two things to choose between. Still, since I have been in this ideal situation I can get closer to the truth of the matter.

However, having criticized traditionalists, I will not let the neo-Catholics off the hook - or at least some of them who think that the Extraordinary usage will go away if they grit their teeth hard enough. What I say to them is, "as long as you insist on quarentining something, you are guaranteeing it will be associated with sick people." The whole point of Summorum Pontificum was to acknowledge that it is wrong to treat something considered holy for centuries as if it were all of the sudden bad - rather than what it should be, revered. You are undermining the Pope's intentions. The Extraordinary usage is a legitimate, normal liturgy of the Church - it belongs to ALL Catholics (not just Catholic's whose belts are tied a little too tightly) - so get to work and start forming 'ordinary' catholics in it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beautifying the Ugly

In Walker Percy's first novel, The Moviegoer, the lead female character, who has psychological/emotional problems, utters a line like, "I wish I could have a nervous breakdown like those people in the movies." The point being, nervous breakdowns and other such things are not at all "aesthetic" experiences. They are painful and ugly, but in order to render them artistically they have to be in some way cleaned up, made more presentable. Yet, by doing so, they are falsified, at least to some degree. The solution of modern art/music/drama/etc. has been to develop a repertoire of truly ugly sounds, images, techniques which do more vividly portray these things. The reaction of the general public (at least it used to be) is to say, "well, that's not art." I used to be unsympathetic, but I think that they are correct in that it is certainly not classic Western art which insists on a certain level of beauty.

This is a subject that needs more exploration. Any ideas?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More on Listening to Music

I had discussed Theodor Adorno's "types of musical conduct" in regard to listening to music. It is very useful, but a bit more of a sociological analysis than some might want. I recently came across another, simpler, approach which sheds light on the way in which people listen to music in a book entitled "Thinking about Music" by Lewis Rowell. It is a very good summary. He discusses three ways of listening to music:

1) The first approach identified by Leonard Meyer as "associative listening." According to Meyer:

"Often music arouses affect through the mediation of conscious connotation or unconscious image processes. A sight, a sound or a fragrance evokes half-forgotten thoughts of persons, places, and experiences; stirs up dreams 'mixing memory with desire;' or awakens conscious connotations of referential things. These imaginings, whether conscious or unconscious, are the stimuli to which the affective response is really made. In short, music may give rise to images and trains of thought which, because of their relation to the inner life of the particular individual, may eventually culminate in affect."

This is basically Adorno's "emotional listener." Music is seen exclusively as a stimulus to reverie and affect. It is the least sophisticated approach to listening to music. I used to listen to music this way when I was a teenager.

The next two approaches were named by Edward Cone:

2) "Synoptic listening" is a name for what Adorno calls the "expert listener." "Synoptic" means "side by side," so it refers to the ability to hear individual moments and put them together "side by side" in the mind into a whole. It is another name for "structural hearing." This is something that requires a fair amount of training and experience.

3) "Immediate Apprehension" is [t]he mode by which we directly perceive the sensuous medium, its primitive elements, and their closest relationships." It is what most people are capable of - hearing a theme or melody. The relationship between immediate apprehension and synoptic listening is analogous to that between "experience and contemplation" according to Edward Cone.

So, to summarize, "immediate apprehension" combined with "synoptic listening" is the ideal, while "associative listening" alone is the least sophisticated.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Topaz: More Bravura Moments

To continue with the theme from my previous post, there are two more scenes of some significance in which Hitchcock cuts out dialogue altogether - or at least our ability to hear it. Both involve the black actor Roscoe Lee Brown who is on our right in the picture. He had a very rich, baritone voice and had trained as a Shakespearean actor so he was often called upon to play a certain sort of urbane, upper class black man. (I remember him from television shows like "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son" from the 70's when he was often used as a comic foil. Sadly he passed away last year at the age of 81.) Anyway, in Topaz he plays a florist shop owner in Harlem who originally is from the isle of Martinique. Remember, the movie takes place around the time of the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962 and that shortly before that Castro and his delegation had been to New York for a session of the United Nations. In order to show their "solidarity" with the oppressed classes of 'capitalist America' they deliberately chose a hotel in Harlem. This black florist, however, works as a spy and is approached to try to infiltrate the hotel and take pictures of some important documents one of the Cuban officials has. These documents confirm that the Russians have sent missiles to Cuba - something which had been suspected.

The first scene is when a French agent, on behalf of the Americans, approaches this florist to do the job. Because the shop is open and people are all around, Roscoe Lee Brown takes the French agent into that glass enclosed refrigerated area that most all florist shops have (yes, ladies, I actually have been in a number of florist shops). So we see their conversation, all of the hand gestures and facial expressions, but don't hear a thing. We don't need to. We know basically what is being said. Is this a stylization - a bravura moment? Yes, I think so, but we are also forced to focus on the visual and let that reveal to us how the characters interact.

The second scene is when Roscoe Lee Brown goes to the Harlem hotel to bribe the Cuban official. They have information that he has accepted bribes in the past. The French agent watches from across the street and we become his eyes. We can see easily into the lobby of the hotel because it is completely glass enclosed. The Cuban official comes down into the lobby and we can see immediately that he is a morally weak man by the way he moves - hesitant and indecisive. The actor played his part very well with his body language. First he refuses, but we see Roscoe Lee Brown confidantly tap his breast pocket where the money is and the official agrees. Temptation - weakness - minor resistance - one more habitual failure of the will.

The fallen human condition. Excellent acting.

Anyway, I highly recommend the movie if you like spy thrillers. There are a few somewhat steamy romantic scenes, although not as bad as North by Northwest and nothing like what you would see in a movie today. It is second tier Hitchcock, but that still is quite good.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Topaz: An Example of What I Mean

My preference for films which involve a skillful manipulation of visual imagery is exemplified in another one of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, Topaz. Topaz was released in 1969 and was based on a Leon Uris novel of the same name about the Cuban Missle crisis. The picture I have included is the famous one of the beautiful Cuban spy who is shot and whose dress unfurls as she falls. (This still is from the very end of her fall so, of course, it does not convey what I am talking about very well. Frankly no 'still' would convey it.) It is a memorable scene which virtually every movie reviewer points out. It is, in a sense, like a flower opening (she is beautiful in life, beautiful in death), however, more obviously, it is a stylization of a pool of blood forming. It is quintessential Hitchcock in that he is working within the confines of the structure of the "American movie" of the time but includes moments of European 'artsiness' (Kind of like Haydn and Mozart using the sometimes overly cutesy and transient 'style galant' material of the time, but doing things with it that transcend the genre?) Leonard Maltin called this a "bravura moment" - "it's artistic, poetic, flamboyant, yet it works . . . it is the work of a master."

I agree.

However, what I really want to speak about is the opening sequence - the first ten minutes. There is virtually no dialogue. The only speaking is: 1) a tour guide speaking at the figurine factory (this is PURE background), 2) the Russian father asking for directions to the figurine factory (very unimportant), 3) the Russian teenage daughter phoning the American Embassy from the figurine factory office to ask where they should be to be picked up when they defect (more important - but not as much as it may seem). The whole focus is on the Russian family evading the KGB agents, first at the figurine factory, and then outside the department store. Two sounds, however, are important. The first is the dropping of the porcelain figurine by the daughter so she will be taken to the office (outside of the view of the KGB agent) from where she makes the brief phone call. It is preceded by 30 seconds of almost total silence and I cannot stress how much this is a climax. The second is at the very end of the sequence when they finally escape in the car with the Americans. The daughter cries in her mother's arms partly out of physical pain (she had run into a bicycler while they were escaping and had fallen, painfully scraping her knees), partly out of emotional anguish (the whole painful ordeal of the defection seems to be finally over.)

So two sounds - the sound of porcelain breaking and the sound of a girl crying - are key to the first ten minutes. Everything is conveyed by the visuals and by these sounds. Dialogue is unimportant.

There are two other scenes in which there is a total 'black out' of the dialogue in this movie (a black out of the original scripted dialogue, I believe) - more stylized "bravura moments" which I shall blog on later.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It Doesn't Translate

I recalled from my European trip a brief exchange I had with one of the Hungarians that was amusing. I should preface this by saying that in German when you say, "Danke schoen," the other person replies, "Bitte schoen." Sometimes you just say, "Danke," and they say, "Bitte." A few times I heard someone say, "Danke" and the reply was, "Schoen." It doesn't make sense in English, but that is what they say sometimes. One of the Hungarians, who spoke German well but not English very well, was offering everyone a piece of some candy she had bought. When I said, "Thank you," in English she replied in English, "pretty!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Maritain: Art and Scholasticism

I just picked up the book and found a very moving passage:

"The Middle Ages knew this order. The Renaissance shattered it. After three centuries of infidelity, prodigal Art aspired to become the ultimate end of man, his Bread and his Wine, the consubstantial mirror of beatific Beauty. . . And now the modern world, which had promised the artist everything, soon will scarcely leave him even the bare means of subsistence. Founded on the two unnatural principles of the fecundity of money and the finality of the useful, multiplying needs and servitude without the possibility of there ever being a limit, destroying the leisure of the soul, withdrawing the material factible from the control which proportioned it to the ends of the human being, and imposing on man the panting of the machine and the accelerated movement of matter, the system of "nothing but the earth" is imprinting on human activity a truly inhumane mode and a diabolical direction, for the final end of all this frenzy is to prevent man from resembling God,

dum nil perenne cogitat,
seseque culpis illigat.

Consequently he must, if he is to be logical, treat as useless, and therefore as rejected, all that by any grounds bears the mark of the spirit.

Or it will even be necessary that heroism, truth, virtue, beauty become useful values - the best, the most loyal instruments of propaganda and of control of temporal powers.

Persecuted like the wise man and almost like the saint, the artist will perhaps recognize his brothers at last and discover his true vocation again: for in a way he is not of this world, being, from the moment that he works for beauty, on the path which leads upright souls to God and manifests to them the invisible things by the visible."
I detect a certain approach to history which is very consonant with the views of our Distributist brethren. I am not saying that I disagree or agree, only that I find the passage very passionate and moving. I think it is worth some reflection and comment.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Latest Humor?

At a rehearsal this weekend, the guy next to me was saying things like:

"Rhode Island: neither a road nor an island. Discuss."

"Peanut: neither a pea nor a nut. Discuss."

"Chickpea: neither a chick nor a pea. Discuss."

Was this something on SNL, or part of the routine of some comedian?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Evelyn Waugh: Musical Conduct #7?

I have always wondered whether or not the English Catholic novelist, Evelyn Waugh, suffered from the condition known as "amusia." As I say below, it seems to be a neurological condition which prevents people from assembling music in the brain and making sense of it in the way that even the most amateur of listeners can. What tipped me off was reading an article in which some sufferers of this condition say that they find music "painful." "It sounds like this painful jangling of tones," said one woman. All music sounded that way to her not just, say, Heavy Metal or Schoenberg.

Here are several of the incidents:

Right after World War II, about 1945-46 Evelyn Waugh was at the Sunday High Mass at Westminster Cathedral and the choir (which had continued singing throughout the war and the Blitz) was in the midst of the Gloria. According to an observer Waugh had the most painful expression on his face and then spied a (you guessed it) Jesuit priest go to one of the side altars to say his private Mass. Now I can picture those side altars, as I saw them just a month ago, and the interesting thing is that they face east as well - just like the main altar. They are not up against the side walls, as in a number of old American churches, facing north or south. They are more side "chapels" with oriented altars within them. (This was the case in Munich as well.) Of course he bolted for the side altar and the Jesuit's Mass was probably over before the choir even finished singing the Gloria. Waugh walked away smiling.

Now one could say that the choir was bad - which it certainly wasn't - or that Waugh simply was in a hurry or just preferred low Masses. Possible.

A few years later, in about 1948, Waugh and his wife were in New York on some sort of book tour and they were introduced to the Stravinskys. They had dinner and some very good conversation as Stravinsky was a Catholic convert and a bit of an intellectual himself. Igor then proceded to offer the Waughs free tickets to the New York premiere of his latest work, a concert Mass. Waugh refused saying that they had already booked passage back to England, but then added, "I find all music positively painful."

Finally sometime in the late 1950's, the American Paul Moore was in England and was able to finagle an invitation to visit with his literary idol, Evelyn Waugh. I cannot remember if he wanted to interview him or not. At any rate, Waugh was kind enough to invite him to stay the weekend. At one point Waugh left the house and Moore began playing the family piano. After a few minutes he realized Waugh was just outside a window, glaring in at him. Later that day at dinner Waugh confided to Moore, "I don't like music . . . I despise it."

Does anyone have any further information on this?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Types of Musical Conduct

In a discussion a few days ago the issue of what sort of music people listen to and the different ways in which people listen to music came up. I remembered a useful article I had read years ago by the philosopher Theodor Adorno entitled "Types of Musical Conduct" which was ultimately published in his book "Introduction to Music Sociology." Now I am not saying that I agree with everything he would say in other venues, Adorno having been a part of the Neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, but I really think he is onto something here.

Adorno identifies seven different types of listener (which is what he means by "musical conduct"). They are:

1) the EXPERT listener - this is someone who is capable of what is called "structural hearing," which is hearing the various musical themes, their permutations, the connective tissue (i.e. episodes, transitions), as well as other elements and devices the composer uses, and gets these "past, present, and future moments to crystallize into a meaningful context." He can put it all together as a Gestalt, rather than as a disconnected series of temporal events. Generally, the expert listener would know the technical names for these things. He knows and appreciates what the composer has done. This is the highest level of listening to music as an art form.

2) the GOOD listener - this is someone who can intuitively appreciate the structural elements in music similar to the way the expert listener does, but isn't fully conscious of these things and usually doesn't know the technical names. He "get's it" as to why a piece of music is great, but when placed on the witness stand wouldn't be able to give anything more than a mediocre explanation of why this is so.

3) the CULTURE CONSUMER listener - this is a person who is sometimes mistaken for one of the first two types. He is a busy beaver collecting objects of musical culture, from recordings to biographical information about composers and his attitude can run the gamut from "an earnest sense of obligation to vulgar snobbery." He is not a good listener. Sometimes he is even a poseur who is class conscious and who holds himself apart from the "great unwashed." However he often would rather talk about the circumstances of the first performance of a piece by Beethoven than actually listen to the piece itself. When he does listen to music "he lies in wait for specific elements, for supposedly beautiful melodies, for grandiose moments."

4) the EMOTIONAL listener - this is the type of person who listens to music for the emotional "zing" it can give him. Such a person would prefer Tchaikowsky (or Rutter) to Bach, and, even more so, popular music to classical music. This is not to deny that music engages the emotions, but this listener focuses on this obvious aspect of music (and often in such an extreme, exaggerated form) that he is like the man who "falls in love with falling in love." The "emotional listener considers music a means to ends pertaining to the economy of his own drives" which are, well, highly emotional. That a piece of music might be an object worthy of serious study in itself and that it would give delight to the mind (even the mind delighting in the subtleties of emotional expression) would be foreign and, perhaps, even offensive to him. He is a naif and a sentimentalist - a rank amateur.

5) the RESENTMENT listener - this listener is probably unknown to most people and that is because he tends to exist within professional musical circles or among other people with a high level of training in music. Basically it involves listening to a piece of music from the standpoint of a very partisan view of how it should be interpreted, and then reacting in an uncharitable fashion when it doesn't follow "the party line." There was once a French visitor at the college Mass who happened to be a chant expert. He engaged me in conversation after Mass with this opening gambit, "Zo, ah hyear you ztill use ze IC-tus." He spat the word "ictus" out with contempt as his lip curled up into a smirk. The point was, I was a benighted ignoramus who wasn't up on the latest methods of chant research and interpretation.

To be fair, I fell into that trap in grad school when we "young Turks" would sometimes scrutinize each other's compositions to see if there was an acceptable level of dissonance - and comment dismissively when there wasn't enough.

6) the ENTERTAINMENT listener - according to Adorno this is "music to talk to" or to do just about anything else to but listen. It can be "Muzak," but not necessarily so. Music is not so much listened to, but is a kind of "sonic wallpaper" which either breaks the monotony of life and/or provides some sort of a badge of tribal loyalty. Adorno describes such a listener thus: "if the culture consumer will turn up his nose at popular music, the entertainment listener's fear is to be ranked too high. He is a self-conscious lowbrow who makes a virtue of his own mediocrity."

7) the UNMUSICAL listener - here Adorno uses the unique German word "amusisch." It is the opposite of "musisch" which literally translates "musical," but has a broader meaning of "cultured." (from "the Muses"). Frankly, I think that Western culture has had a major infection of the "amusisch" virus for centuries, but there are particular people for whom music seems to mean little to nothing. Sometimes it seems to be the result of a neurological problem - as in the condition "amusia" - when a person cannot seem to process musical sounds into a meaningful whole in the brain (in a way that even an emotional or entertainment listener can). At other times these are people who have a high competancy for math and science and other related technical disciplines, but for whom music (and often other arts) mean little to nothing.

In summary, musical conducts 1, 2, 3, and 5 (expert, good, culture consumer, and resentment) would all want to fit into the simpler classification of "cultured listener," even if some would dispute the other's right to belong. Musical conducts 4 and 6 (emotional and entertainment) would fit into the simpler classification "uncultured listener," the entertainment listener (#6) perhaps being proud to be so classified, the emotional listener (#4) blissfully unaware that there are other ways of listening to music ("but isn't music just about feelings . . . my feelings?") Number 7's "musical conduct" is that he is incapable of listening to music in any meaningful way- incapable of making sense of it even in the simple way the emotional (#4) and the entertainment listener (#6) can. So, while he may "hear" music, he is not really a "listener" at all.

I want to stress that these vignettes are deliberate broad-brush characterizations. Not everyone would fit neatly into one of these, people can move from one classification to another, and some people might belong to several of these. Nonetheless, I think that these are useful categories for discussion and reflection.

(Incidentally, the picture is "Listening to Schumann" by Fernand Khnopff, 1883)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Speaking of Truth, Goodness and Beauty All in One Package

Catechism 966: "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." [Vatican II LG 59; cf. Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950): DS 3903; cf. Rev 19:16] The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Are Truth, Goodness and Beauty Separable?

Well, duh, of course they are! Now these transcendentals are not separable in God, but in man and creation (especially a fallen creation)? That should be a no-brainer, and yet this came up in discussion a couple of nights ago as it has other times in the past. Just think Hollywood and its "beautiful people." They may have zero amounts of truth and goodness, but they have beauty - in spades. Call it "superficial beauty" or "mere physical beauty," but it is beauty as we commonly understand it and experience it - first through the senses - and according to its definition as "the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else . . ."

Now, to be honest, I do not consider Paris Hilton the most beautiful woman ever (and I had to go through quite a few pictures in order to find one in which she didn't look simply trashy), but she has an honest to goodness natural beauty (maybe nothing else!) which will only grow as she matures, provided she doesn't destroy herself - something which is still open to question.

Nonetheless, I think that we like to have these things together. Because these transcendentals are together in God, we yearn for them to be together in creation. It can run the gamut all the way from disappointing to dangerous when they are separated, but it happens all the time. I once had a female fellow student in grad school say to me, shocked, "I just learned from a psychology major that when most men see a beautiful woman, they assume she must be a good person, too. Is this true?" Well, yes, it tends to be. With experience you learn better, but there is something to that. (I was shocked that she was shocked. Women don't think that way, too?) I think women are less taken with other women because they know them up close. They know what scoundrels attractive women can be at times - so they are less fooled. I also think women are driven differently in their attraction to men, not excluding looks, certainly, but including other things that don't factor as highly with men. That, however, is not my area of expertise and is, maybe, a matter for another post.

I know what scoundrels artists can be, so I have no trouble with the notion that an artist leading an immoral life can produce something beautiful. Now, I grant you that the darkening of the intellect and the will that comes with a life of sin can have an effect on the art one produces - especially in an age which stresses art as "self-expression." (not a universal concept) Nonetheless, the only way you are going to know that for sure is through the work of art itself, not through examining someone's personal life and then assuming their art must reflect it. After all, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

ALWAYS start with the work of art, first, and judge that. Anything else is a kind of "ad hominem" approach not worthy of people of culture and remember that art is about "making" - techne, facere - a skillful making which some people have through natural talent and/or training in a way that other people never will have. They may not have truth, they may not have goodness - but let's not deny the obvious and try to claim that they don't have the skill to make something beautiful when the evidence is staring everyone else in the face.

I also have no problem with the notion that a work of art itself can be beautiful, but, for example, lacking truth - or let us say the fullness of truth. We would certainly say that about Greek dramas. We don't believe those gods are real, although there may be major truths taught otherwise. I would even say that a contemporary movie like Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors," is, in a sense, beautiful. It also has elements of truth and is very skillfully made, yet comes to a moral conclusion that is just wrong.

It IS beautiful, but it is wrong, just like Paris Hilton, and therefore it is potentially dangerous.

All right class, discuss.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Key Phrases From This Weekend's Rehearsals

I try to write down phrases other choral conductors use, when I find them useful/amusing. These are phrases used by the various conductors I sang under at the Voices United Conference: John Rutter, James Bingham, Joe Eveler, and Patrick Walders.

"Altos, you are my little trouble children there."

"The basses are the most important section in the choir, but the sopranos are its crowning glory."

"Listen more than sing."

"Now you're listening too much."

"Do not sing 'beyond beautiful.'"

"Basses, you've had 'donkey's days' to prepare for that entrance and you still blew it." (I guess an Australian expression)

"I will tolerate no break away factions."

"Sir John will reciprocate your energy."

"The tone should be 'thin and crispy' rather than 'thick and crusty,'" or 'a spot of tea' rather than 'Sam Adams.'" (head tone vs. chest tone)

"Great . . . Right . . . Super." (John Rutter after almost every piece in rehearsal)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More on Movies

An interesting point was raised by one of my commentators in my "To Catch a Thief" post which has inspired me to better formulate my view on film as art. For whatever it is worth, my view on movies is that, at their best, they are "moving paintings" ("moving pictures") more than they are "filmed plays." Partly this is inspired by Mel Gibson's statement about "The Passion of the Christ" that it was a "moving Carravaggio," although I don't think he quite meant it the way I mean it. I think he just meant that the lighting and color scheme was similar to Carravaggio's paintings. I mean it in the sense that the visual element in a good film is primary, in the same way that the music in an opera is ultimately what is primary.

Now, the history of opera is replete with various reform movements to better integrate plot, text, acting -even costuming and scenery, into opera. Wagner's operas and his concept of the "Gesamtkunstwerk" being only the most obvious example. (These were greatly needed at times, as some opera singers, with the connivance of the conductor, thought nothing about substituting arias from totally unrelated operas just to show off their voices.) Nonetheless, an opera is primarily a musical art form and thus a "concert version" of an opera (with no staging or acting) is possible. By extension, a play treated as literature to be read is also possible. Of course it loses something, but the study of Shakepearean drama in an English literature class is done all of the time. However, to read a movie script as literature? I think it may work in some cases, but for the most part, one can get more to the essence of a great film by watching it with the sound off, than by reading the script. Something is still missing, but I think LESS of its "nature" (if you can say that about an inanimate thing) is missing.

I suppose it is a controversial opinion which may reflect nothing more than my preference for a certain school of film-making. Certainly there have been great moments of dialogue and monologue in films. However I put this view out as, perhaps, a slight provocation in much the same way that Ezra Pound's statement that "music degenerates the further it moves from poetry and the dance" would have been a provocation in my grad school days. Ah, I can still see the hackles raising and the sound of switch blades clicking when someone would say something like that.

I am just trying to start a friendly rumble.

Anyway, above is a still from "La Dolce Vita," which I really need to blog on at some point in the future.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Between Schmaltz and Substance (or how I learned to stop hating Sir John Rutter and love the bomb)

A whimsical title beginning a reflection on the relationship (or lack of relationship) between Schmaltz and Substance - and detailing my experience of John Rutter over the past several days.

THURSDAY - I arrived early at George Mason University's Fairfax campus to register for the ACDA "Voices United" Conference with special guest director John Rutter. "Registration" consisted of picking up my name tag as I had filled out my application and sent in my check months ago. Also, before I left for Europe, I received the music we were going to sing in the mail, the most important piece being John Rutter's "Mass of the Children" which is a concert Mass he wrote for mixed chorus, children's choir, soprano and baritone soloists and chamber orchestra. The rehearsal began at 4 PM with an introduction from the chairman for this event, which was sponsored by three different ACDA chapters, after which we went to different rooms for sectional rehearsals. This lasted about an hour and then we came back to the original room for a full rehearsal which lasted another hour.

We were released for dinner from 6-7 PM. I had to buy something at the food court on campus. It consisted of about six fast food restaurants. All were closed except a Chinese place and an Indian place. I tried the food at the Indian place and it was surprisingly good.

After dinner we had a two hour rehearsal with Dr. James Bingham, who currently is Director of Choral Activities at Columbia Union College in Maryland. If you want to get an idea of what James Bingham is like, my dear Christendom Choristers, think of an older, taller Australian version of me. He was tough, very particular but, in the end, got a very good sound out of us.

[Found myself sitting behind a teenage boy with the most incredibly beautiful golden highlights in his hair. What some women would kill for, this rather ordinary pimply-faced boy seemed to have by nature. Odd observation I know, but there it was right in front of me for two hours. (Don't worry, I haven't turned into Gustav Aschenbach yet.)]

FRIDAY - We rehearsed for six hours. Three hours in the morning at GMU, and then three hours in the afternoon at the site of the concert, Vienna Presbyterian Church. It is funny in that from the opening of the conference on Thursday we had been prepared for THE MAN (Rutter) as if he were royalty. The first people referring to him reverently as "Sir John" - although I am not sure how accurate this is. He did receive the "CBE" (Commander of the British Empire?) Award in 2007 from the queen, but I don't know if such a person gets to be called "sir." And James Bingham, who is a good friend, never referred to him that way, but he certainly added to the mystique in other ways, saying things like, "Oh, don't ever let John Rutter catch you not looking up when he cues you," etc. He had us scared.

Another thing I learned was that, in the festival choir, my section (Bass I) seemed to be made up of a few men my age, a number of rather shy high school to college age students, and then a whole bunch of naughty old men who clearly had not learned their part and had all sorts of bad singing habits. I was disappointed as I had not had as much time to prepare as I would have liked, assuming that I would be the weakest link in the chain of a top-notch section of other choral directors who had thoroughly learned the part. I thought I would be able to lean on them. That wasn't to be.

I was right next to one of those shy young men, probably 18-20 years old. He seemed to have a decent voice. He also reminded me of a young Elvis Presley, both in his looks, his manner, and his speech. He didn't have the hickish Southern accent of Front Royal, but the more melifluous accent and polite (almost courtly) manners Elvis was capable of at times. "Yes suh. Wah ahd be greatly ahnud, Col. Pahkuh." I found that if I sang out (someone needed to take the lead) AND leaned slightly in this young man's direction, he would sing out quite strongly, too. So, Elvis and I ended up leading the baritones and Dr. Bingham seemed quite pleased.

John Rutter arrived around 3 PM. He was a short, very thin man, in his early sixties, who seemed to bounce on the balls of his feet a lot. He wasn't tough at all. I am not saying he was no good, he seemed quite competent, but the vast majority of the preparatory work had been done by Dr. Bingham and the others who had run the sectionals. All that was left for "Sir John" to do was add a few finishing touches. (I wish I had assistants to do all the major preparatory work with a choir, while I was off having a martini.) In other words, Bingham got to be the "Dutch uncle," while Rutter was the "fun uncle."

SATURDAY - I got to hear the children's choir for the first time. They were exceptionally good. Very well prepared. About 100 of them, maybe 10 of whom were boys. (That's another matter. There need to be boy choirs, or else boys won't join. It becomes a "girl's thing." Major mistake to insist on "inclusive" children's choirs only, because boys end up being excluded.) Final rehearsals went well and it was a joy rehearsing with the orchestra (very professional) and with the organ (a three manual Schantz with a French console). Performance went very well. (Incidentally, the festival choir was made up of about 140 voices) This brings me to briefly discuss the music.

I had sung a few of Rutter's anthems in the past and ended up referring to them as "Men and Boy Pop," and "Anglican Cathedral Light" because of their combination of the Anglican choral sound with rather light, treacly-sounding music. I have listened to more of his music since then and have found that his longer works (e.g. "The Mass of the Children") are definitely better - there is more substance. I suppose these pieces of his could be compared to those of some of the Romantic composers, who tried to combine music of strong (sometimes overdrawn) emotion and musical craftsmanship. He gets closer to such pieces. I still don't think he gets all the way there. (I have also listened to some of his other anthems and found them to be even more treacly than the ones I knew - they were the worst sort of elevator muzak.)

I walked away from the concert thinking that, at its best, his music was "schmaltz for the thinking man" or "intelligent music for schmaltzmeisters." At any rate, what should the relationship between "schmaltz and substance" be or, better yet, between emotion and intellect in music? In any art?

Friday, August 8, 2008

To Catch a Thief

Well Rick D., you and I can enjoy half of the picture. (I suppose Cary Grant wasn't bad looking, either.) Anyway, I bought "To Catch a Thief" a few nights ago and watched it. This was against my general desire not to buy DVD's anymore, having had my faithful factotum (and Soviet emigre), Mikhail Kolinovich, donate a whole trashbag full of old ones to the local library while I was in Europe. This was part of an effort to clean up my apartment. I am thinking of trying the NetFlix thing, but anyway, I am making an exception for classic movies - keeping and, occasionally, buying ones which I know I will watch over and over. And that is the thing with movies. I generally find that I can watch them once - maybe twice - before I am bored to tears. If I can watch a movie many times, I know it was well made.

Of course, this is the case with anything "classic," but I sometimes wonder if movies are different. Is it something intrinsic to them, or is it that it is a relatively new art form (approx. 100 years old), or is it that there would have been just as many, say, bad novels at any given point in time as bad movies - is it just that there is such a backlog of good novels now that we can focus exclusively on these? I don't know. At any rate, I often find that good movies are "idiomatic," that is, they use the idiom of film which is VISUAL.

This is why, differing from some of my friends, I do not think that the film version of "Brideshead Revisited" is a great MOVIE. I think it is a very enjoyable, competent, and faithful rendering of a great NOVEL. I have watched it many times - except for that one unpleasant scene which really was unnecessary - and it has not worn thin. This is because it is well made. However, all the talk about "how faithful it is to the novel" with the voice-overs taken word for word from the book, I think misses the point. A novel, obviously, is about words: dialogue and descriptions. A film, though it can have dialogue, succeeds to the extent to which there is a skillful manipulation of visual imagery.

Don't get me wrong, I think that the director of "Brideshead" (I forget his name) was given a job to do, and he did it extremely well. That is life. My hat is off to him. What I am saying is that this is a movie that is lower in the hierarchy of "cinematic greatness" than say, a Fellini or some Hitchcock films, because it does not exploit as fully the idiom of film, which is primarily visual.

This brings me to the movie at hand. First, Grace Kelly . . . . . .(sigh) . . . . . . well, let's move on. Actually, I did not think that this was one of Hitchcock's best films. There are no incredibly arresting scenes as in movies like "North by Northwest" or "Topaz." I am thinking of the scene in "North by Northwest" of Carey Grant standing on one side of the country road across from the other man waiting for the bus. They are totally, absolutely alone together, but they are not together - they might as well be two anonymous commuters in New York City - they themselves are social islands within a desolate landscape; or the scene in "Topaz" where the attractive Cuban spy is shot and the camera from above shows her falling and her long dress unfurling on the ground, like a flower opening. She is still beautiful, even in death. However, to try to "explain" these visual symbols does them a minor injustice. There are more layers of meaning to them AND like any good symbol, artistic or liturgical, they are more than just their explantion(s) - which a certain type of literal-minded person has trouble understanding - they simply ARE.

You cannot say, "Oh, now I know what the symbol means, therefore I can dispense with it." It is more than the sum total of its rational explanations. A profound symbol is inexaustible - and it exists, in a sense, for its own sake. It is irreplaceable.

"To Catch a Thief" is not one of Hitchcock's "Best Movies," but it is one of his "Better Movies." A decent enough basic plot with interesting twists, good camera angles and composition, a believable enough character development and interaction given certain conventions of 1950's movies. (Really, a 51 year old man being PURSUED by two young women, ages 26 and 18, may give some of us hope, but lacks a certain versimilitude. Although given Mr. Grant's looks and wit and the convention, it seems to work for some reason on the silver screen. And it doesn't seem in any way "dirty." "Foolishly romantic," perhaps, but not dirty.) And the wit, style and (natural) grace of Grant and Kelly are what really make the movie enjoyable. And it does end in marriage - certain "implied" pre-nuptial shenanigans to the contrary. Of course I am referring to the famous "fireworks" scene, but one has to admire Mr. Hitchcock's creative response to the censors. And the fact that there were censors, who may have forced him to be creative. Had they not existed, would we have simply gotten 5 minutes of pornography instead? One hopes not, but still wonders.

On the plane home from Europe, I watched a contemporary movie which I described to myself as, "a bunch of self-centered twits in bad clothes." "But I am 38 and I NEED to have a baby," says one of the characters. So she decides she will have one with her current boyfriend, but - apparently this gal thinks she has standards - so decides he is not good enough. Then she finds another guy, whom she decides isn't good enough, but, when he takes her ailing father to his doctor's appointment she decides, "he'll do." Of course there was no talk of marriage - and they were such self-righteous, unappealing characters (in bad clothes) - but the whole thing was presented as if it were "touching."

Anyway, watch "To Catch a Thief." It is much better.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Artistic and Cultural Symbols

There are only two things you can do about a symbol you don't like:

1) suppress it (although censorship can backfire)


2) supplant it with a healthier symbol.

What you cannot do is argue against it. There is no argument against a symbol. The problem many of my parents' generation had was that they tried to teach their children one thing, while an entire apparatus of symbol-making institutions (TV, movies, etc. - a truly pervasive mass media) said, "no kids, this is what life is really all about." Guess who won?

I know Plato didn't like it, but it is the poets who hold sway - the philosophers have limited influence.

Man is a rational animal and arguments are important, however a way of life is ultimately bound up in symbol systems (whether high art or simpler cultural ones). I can, thus, understand the genesis of homeschooling. Sometimes, I think some homeschoolers go too far and are too restrictive, too reclusive. They become little ignoramuses, cut off from the greater cultural resources we all need.

Nonetheless, they are on to something real. It is the pervasive culture of the mass media, all its pomps and all its works, that is the problem. THIS is truly the "infamous thing" that needs to be crushed - or better yet, supplanted. Until then, we will all have to respect each other and live as best as we can.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Religion, Culture, and Liturgy

A very short post for today.

I have encountered two people over the past year, American Catholics, who are both of a very high level of culture. Both of them have said to me that they prefer a "quick, vernacular (ICEL vernacular!) low Mass," to the fullness of the Church's traditional liturgical heritage - whether ordinary or extraordinary usage. You know, Latin, Gregorian chant, incense, etc. Without giving away the names or locations (and I have been all over the country in the past year), I will just say that it isn't as if they haven't had access to and a good sampling of the Church's liturgical tradition where they are from. Somehow, they want beauty when it comes to poetry, architecture, literature, music, etc. - and they will willingly sit through a three-hour long opera - but when it comes to the liturgy they consciously choose brevity and spartan simplicity. Can someone explain this to me?

There may be practical explanations (e.g. I wouldn't exactly want a Pontifical High Mass at 6 AM on a Wednesday morning - but that is not what they meant). There may be personal explanations peculiar to these individuals' make-up. I, however, think the explanation is more cultural. I think that this is the triumph of the "Mass as legal precept" and the "just the facts, ma'am - valid form and matter is enough, thank you very much" model in the West to the point that it is integrated even into some people's spiritual lives. These people were hardly what I would call spiritual slackers, either.

Don't get me wrong. I think there is room for a quiet low Mass during a busy weekday, but it should be as beautiful as possible. And it can be without that much effort. The church has done it for centuries. After my experience in Europe - where you see the traces of beauty much more strongly - I have pondered this more.

I do not think these people are totally alone - and I think Thomas Day has dealt with this (although I don't want to blame the Irish totally). There are more people like this, but not quite so extreme. Does anyone have any ideas?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Monsieur Hulot - "Playtime"

Here begins my post-trip continuance of my blog. I will be posting on cultural matters pretty much as they come to me. This is a picture of Jacques Tati's famous character "Monsieur Hulot" in the 1967 movie "Playtime." Jacques Tati (1907-1982) was kind of the French Charlie Chaplin and his character, Monsieur Hulot, was, I suppose, somewhat the equivalent of the "Little Tramp" - although he was quite a tall man. Most of us have not heard of Jacques Tati, but he was very famous in France and Europe and was acknowledged by Rowan Atkinson (i.e. "Mr. Bean") as a major influence. Like Atkinson, he had training as a mime and it shows, however, unlike Atkinson, his character was always a well-meaning, friendly bumbler rather than the crabby bumbler that Mr. Bean often is. Anyway, I just wanted to say a few things about this movie which I have enjoyed ever since I discovered it about a year ago.

First of all, there is an innocence and naivete which would be foreign to many American movie audiences today - even when I was a teenager some of us might have said that it was "dorky." However there is a subtlety and sophistication to it once you get beyond the surface feel of it. There isn't a strong plot to it. To the extent to which there is a plot, it is about a group of American tourists in Paris - except Paris has become such a modern city, that they might as well be in New York (anything distinctive about Paris is pretty much gone) AND it is about Mons. Hulot wandering around town and his adventures AND it is about how these two groups (and others) encounter each other in a restaurant. However there is not really much plot or character development. What it is about is, modern cities, and public space and how modern architecture has created false barriers and is inhuman, and about how people end up reclaiming public space - sometimes breaking down architecture to do so. (In fact a modern reviewer stated that if Tati were alive today he would have delighted in tackling the "problem" of the cell phone - intrigued by the way it turns public space into private space. He probably would have created a movie in which all the cell phones would have malfunctioned and people would have been forced to interact with each other, being a part of the actual community around them.)

It is a long movie, so I will just concentrate on the final sequence: the "Royal Garden Restaurant" sequence. According to Jonathan Rosenbaum it is "Brueghel-like" and the "most formidable mise-en-scene in the history of cinema." It is a tour de force. It begins with the opening of a new restaurant and all of the last minute preparations of the staff. There is no single character who is focused on for very long and no close ups. (Thus the "Breugel-like" description.) There can be anywhere from 10 to 50+ people on the screen and the movie was filmed in 70 mm originally and meant to be viewed on a big screen. There are so many things that happen. However, one can gauge four major divisions based on the type of music. First there is a bossa nova band playing fairly relaxed music while certain architectural and personal problems are discovered at the restaurant. Division One. Then a jazz band replaces the first group and starts playing some more wild music. (I even think some of the people are dancing the "Christendom swing" and not the authentic East Coast Swing step - THAT is disordered!) Division Two. Then there is a long drum solo which changes into a more tribal, rock-like beat and the other musicians join in. Division Three. The people dance really wildly and even more chaos ensues.

Finally, a part of the architecture actually does break and the musicians leave in disgust, but it is used by this brash American tourist (who looks like an odd combination of Teddy Kennedy and Jay Leno) to create his own private club in one part of the restaurant. However he then helps to get someone to play the piano for everyone in the restaurant. The pianist, a young woman, plays some lighter, more relaxing music and is eventually joined by an older chanteuse who sings some of her old Edith Piaf-like hits and gets everyone to join in. Division Four. More and more people (who aren't strictly dress code) enter the restaurant to sing along and be a part of this community that has formed naturally after being freed from the "strictures" of the modern architecture. One of the reasons they can is because one of the glass doors had shattered early in the evening, but the doorman keeps up the ruse by "opening and closing" mime-like with only the bare door handle. He ultimately just gives up. (A very funny running joke in the movie has to do with the use of glass in modern architecture and how it gives the illusion of transparency, but ultimately is a boundary.)

Finally, the sun rises (it must be between 5 and 6 AM) and everyone realizes that it is time to go. They need to have some sort of "after-glow" party and the brash (and wealthy) American tourist buys coffee for everyone at a drugstore across the street.

All the humor, story-telling, and symbolism is in the visual. Although there is "dialogue" it is so insignificant and deliberately soft so as to indicate its unimportance. I have watched the movie in English and in French and it makes no difference.

It is definitely a "European" movie that is very symbolic and deals in concepts and social criticism. However it is not in anyway obnoxious or preachy, but rather sweet and light - and very humorous.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Final Reflections on My Trip

I have received some favorable comments on continuing my blog, and this I may do, but I will first wrap up my thoughts on Europe.

PURPOSE: The ostensible purpose was a "Chant Study Tour of the Alps," and this is basically what it was. The "study" part was not too in depth - there were some lectures given (although not all of them were about chant per se) - and we visited two monasteries (St. Gall and Einsiedeln) important in the earlier transmission of chant, but didn't get to see the original manuscripts. On the other hand, we weren't "scholars with credentials" and there are facsimile publications out there. However we did get to visit places which still showed large traces of the first millenium when this was all happening: the fresoes at Kloster St. John in Mustair and the at the "Engelkrypt" in Vinschgau with the famous one of the angels without eyes (concentrated solely on the worship of God) from about the 1160's. This was the famous crypt fresco which inspired then Cardinal Ratzinger to write his essay in 1992 entitled "In the Presence of the Angels I Will Sing Your Praise: The Regensburg Tradition and the Reform of the Liturgy." (It's in A NEW SONG FOR THE LORD)

There was a lot of time for informal discussion and the "picking of people's brains" on important subjects like the semiological interpretation of the chant (about which more later), and just seeing the beauty in which God has been traditionally worshiped.

CHURCH BUILDINGS: I saw many very beautiful ones - some of which were preserved with very little change. Some had the "Vatican II people's altar" put in, some wanted to have it (the monastery at Einsiedeln) but the government wouldn't let them do it -the building being an historical monument (interesting concept that would never work in America), some put in a "people's altar" for actual Masses but then removed it quickly when the tourists came through. ("we give the tourists what is historical, but the faithful what is relevant"?). Most of you know my thoughts on this, so I shall refrain from saying anything. I will just say that it will take years, decades, for sanity to return on this issue. It has already begun in some places.

One of the things that I liked about the bigger church buildings (St. Gall cathedral) was that there were many "antechambers to the divine." One could sit in front of the pieta in St. Gall Cathedral which was behind a pillar about in the middle of the nave and pray a rosary. You could be in a sacral environment without having to be directly in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This was no denegration of the Blessed Sacrament - as its presence was felt throughout (and this wouldn't work in a small church) - but I just liked it better.

Again, as in Brompton Oratory, there was just the feeling that these places were places of prayer. There was no confusion what so ever, and I have come to be a bit of a fan of the Baroque now.

GREGORIAN SEMIOLOGY: I need to learn more, but I had many of my suspicions confirmed by a "convert" from semiology to the Solesmes method who was part of the tour. It is an interesting concept, the study of the early 9th century manuscripts (and those lines, backslashes, check marks and dots above the words) and the assumption that one can derive rhythm from them for Gregorian chant. One cannot derive pitch as there were no staff lines. The problem is that these "signs" are highly vague at times and produce varying interpretations. It is not like we have a book from the time saying, "this sign means such and such, that sign means this, etc." It is all 20th century scholars looking and trying to figure out what they mean. For example the clivis in the 9th cent. would have been written thus " /.. " Now some say that the sign means that the first note should be held long and the last two notes should be normal length; others say it means the first note should be held long and the last two very short; still others say it means the first note should be normal length and the last two short. Some say the first note should be legato and the last two staccato.

This approach doesn't produce unity; in the past 30 years of existence it has produced a wide variety of schools of semiological interpretation.

Fr. Skeris' other main argument against it is that this may have been the way the chant was performed for 1-2 generations, as a kind of local tradition in these places, but that after that time these little books - which could literally fit in the palm of your hand - and were only intended for the cantor to make reference to, were forgotten about. Certainly by the time Solesmes was doing its historical research in the 19th century, Einsiedeln was not performing chant in some unique way (St. Gall had already been closed down as a monastery)

The point is, if you want to do it that way - fine. The question is: "is this the most effective and beautiful way to pass on a tradition, a culture, to the widest number of people?"

COWS: (from the sublime to the ridiculous) The cows in Switzerland are very skinny and small. They look malnourished campared to ours. I realize that they aren't, but are just a different breed.

COMMUNION LINES: Same thing in Munich as in London. Not as orderly as in America, although someone told me this was simply "the old way" of going to communion - even, perhaps, in America before Vatican II . It was normal to assume that not everyone was necessarily going to go, thus the practice of people getting up and going "out of order." The current practice in America actually may "force" (socially) people not in a state of grace to make sacriligious communions.

THE FAITH: It is in serious trouble in Europe. I have heard this before and seen it with my own eyes. One does see many beautiful faith-inspired cultural remnants which they are more sensitive to. One sees pockets of resistance: Old St. Peter's in Munich, Brompton Oratory in London, etc. One senses that the Europeans are just tired. They went through: the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Terror, Napolean, 2 world wars, Naziism, Communism, etc. One sense a jadedness at times, a cynicism about the Church in the tour guides (or rather an acceptance of a certain anti-clerical set of historical assumptions which are prevalent). It is not to deny some real natural virtue. I personally found the Swiss to be a very sweet, charming people. It is neither to deny that there are deeply religious Europeans, as I saw them in the churches.

What I didn't see were big movements and associations of young people - and young couples with lots of children (as I have seen in American Catholic circles). Maybe I just missed it. In fact, even the Muslims in Munich only seemed to have 1-3 children at most, but that may have been that they were newly married. I don't know.

What seems to be the case, is that Americans are a more positive, enthusiastic people who may be able to accomplish much if we learn the right things from or "older brothers and sisters." (i.e. Europeans) We simply do not have the level of culture and beauty - we have a tendency toward the utilitarian and of being comfortable with the down right ugly - but we do not have the cynicism, the world weariness that they have. As I have said, we are a "can do people." It has its disadvantages, as in the "Americanist heresy," but there is definitely a place for practical skills. (i.e. there is nothing like the Texas oil billionaire who has developed a genuine love of opera) In fact, art and art in worship has always required some sort of a "patron," - the rich guy who loves art and is willing to pay artists and artisans. The whole problem is that wealthy businessmen today are pretty much MBA's without even a semi-serious training in the liberal and fine arts.

This, however, is a much more complicated issue that requires something more than my ramblings.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Back in America

My flight arrived safely and I made it through customs and am now in my office at Christendom College. I have not yet changed the time back (at is actually 7:15 PM FRIDAY USA Eastern time) because I am still on Munich time in my head. I want to thank all of my readers and commenters: Mom, Karl, Anne, Christine, Sylvia, Michael C., Michael B., Alaina, Ken and everyone else. I can't tell you how much it meant to receive your comments when I was away. I am not sure why, but I needed that connection. THANK YOU AGAIN VERY MUCH.

I will wrap things up, putting up a few more posts this weekend or early next week pertaining to my trip. I don't know what to do after this. I was thinking of just letting the blog drop, as its original purpose is over, but you let me know if you disagree.


Imperial Residence Chapel

Well, here it is. The chapel in the Imperial Residence in which much of Orlando di Lasso's music was originally performed. (The picture is a bit dark as they do not allow flash photos. Still, if you double click to enlarge it, you can get some idea.) Fr. Skeris told me that this chapel was an early example of a choir loft. So the very spot from which I took the picture could have been the very spot from which he stood - directing the singers (take careful note Christendom Choristers!). I should add that the Residenz was bombed also during WWII and reconstructed meticulously. So, I am not sure if the chapel itself consists of the original wood and marble or reconstructed wood and marble in the exact same place and pattern as the old - anyway it was still quite a thrill.

He was originally hired by Duke Albrecht V who was quite devout, so there was a daily morning Mass and evening Vespers which everyone in the court was required to attend. He was a very prolific composer and needed to be. Lassus had held the position of director at St. John Lateran in Rome just before Palestrina took over and then ultimately moved to Munich when hired by Duke Albrecht. He had come from Belgium (his real name was "Roland," "Orlando" is an Italianization) and had been all over Europe - even to England - before finally settling in Bavaria where he spent the rest of his life. He married a German woman and had six children. Three of his sons became musicians. Interestingly he suffered from severe depression the last ten years of his life - something that we melancholic creative types can suffer from. I am very sympathetic to the man.

Old St. Peter's Munich

Here is a picture of the altar of the church we had our last Mass in on Thursday. It was at 11 AM and one of their five regularly scheduled weekday Masses. Even so, there were about one hundred people in this huge church which is in downtown Munich and competed with the Frauenkirche to become the cathedral, but lost out. I had to conduct the singers from the choir loft which was about a block away. We did the Byrd four-voice Mass. (Palestrina singers, I don't think you know how well you can make a phrase MOVE. Had lots of trouble with this group.) It was a Latin Novus Ordo Mass.

Anyway, this church - though parts of it date back to the Middle Ages (and it was "Baroquefied" as was typical) it was almost totally destroyed by bombing during World War II. What you see is a meticulous reconstruction carried out over almost 30 years after the war. Actualy this is typical of much of what appear to be "old buildings" in Munich. There was a law Hitler passed called "Wehrkraftzersetzungsgesetz," which was basically a law against "defeatism." It meant that, in practice, people weren't allowed to remove valuable things from buildings in target areas because that would imply the military couldn't defend the Reich. The church was hit several times by bombs and was on fire before anyone had the courage to even attempt to remove anything.

It looks very beautiful now.