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June 29, 2004
Vol. IV, No. 19

"The Way Things Are. Or Not."
Caution: Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. That warning on the side-view mirrors of cars popped into my head today as I pondered an interesting thread I found running through several articles I've read lately. The thread is that things are not necessarily the way they seem. For instance, an article from the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Journal Gazette dispels some of the notions we may take for granted about church music. I find it particularly interesting because "The Way Things Are" is often used in churches and elsewhere to support the "Because That's The Way We've Always Done It" argument.:
"'Lewd' harmony, pub tunes, 'pagan' lyres created today's church music"

The next article points out that while it may seem to some that Christianity is on the way out, "The perception that religion in general and Christianity in particular is dead is a peculiarly Western-dominated line of thought. It not only ignores the major demographic trends in Africa and Latin America, it forgets the historical view of the church itself, which has always operated as a world entity, not a European one."
"The Rise of New Christianity"

Finally, this article from the Australian discusses the varied ways a composer may be perceived during and beyond their lifetimes. "Bach was created by his time but outlived it; Mozart was in tune with his time, but his legacy took surprising turns in the next generations....Contrary to later myth, Bach was never forgotten before his revival in the 19th century, but he was more admired than performed. The peculiar thing is that this charge of "an excess of art", which was used to cudgel Bach in his last years, was one that dogged Mozart throughout his maturity."
"Ye Olde Criticism's Greatest Hits"

The bottom line is that it's all about perspective. What you believe derives from what you know however the articles above illustrate that what we know is subject to change. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out current events and decide what's what in the world. I think that it's harder than ever to do that these days. Information is increasingly more fluid and the US seems to be suffering from a reality crisis. We get the news from a movie and movies from the news. And the problem goes all the way to the top. When someone says, "I did not authorize torture," I'm sure they believe what they're saying but for my own purposes, I'm just not that believing. After all with a track record like

"I am not a crook."
"I did not trade arms for hostages."
"Read my lips-no new taxes!"
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Is it any wonder I have a hard time taking things at face value? Fortunately, time has a way of putting things in perspective. One thing I can count on is that JS Bach was the greatest composer who ever lived. Was it a coincidence that he was also the world's greatest organist? We're so fortunate to have a role model like Bach, who kept on doing what he was doing, maintaining his artistic integrity in the face of changing times. It should give us comfort and support when we're facing our critics, real and/or imagined. Bach's music has stood the test of time and stands as a testament to his compositional genius. And that's something I can hang my hat on.

Click this link to read comments and offer your own:

Updated Pages
Composition Free Exchange:
Added are Ryan Frederick's Pedal Prelude #4 in D Minor and Pedal Prelude #3 in F Major. If anyone in the community feels so inclined and has the time, Ryan is still seeking feedback on his pieces.
Musician Jokes:
Speaking of perspective -- "So you think you don't like new hymns? See if you can guess which hymns are described in the following letters." Follow this link to continue:

Have a safe holiday weekend!

Dan Long

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