Notes on religious discourse – left and right

10 01 2011

Above: People taking their religion far too seriously. Really, to sing this with a straight face, you would have to, wouldn’t you?

We interrupt this otherwise serious blog to talk some serious smack:

In general, I think right-wing Catholics are far more pagan and enjoy their religion more.

In general, I think liberal Catholics are far more devout and serious about what they believe.

I mean neither of those things in a good way.
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On “modern” classical music

9 12 2010

Really, I have very little patience for people who say I hate modern classical music. To tell the truth, “difficult music” comes in all genres, and challenging pieces can offer unexpected rewards. I do not expect Bach’s Musical Offering to be on easy listening classical CD’s, nor do I expect people to use the late Beethoven string quartets in television commericals. Arguably, some of the most difficult music to listen to are some of the scholarly reconstructions of medieval music: Perotin, Machaut, and so on. So to unnecessarily dump on Schoenberg, Webern, Stockhausen, Feldman and Co. seems to be an exercise for weak minds who want to score cheap points at being erudite.

[I realize that the critic may share my sentiments. I am more targeting my ire at those who mindlessly attack composers after a certain year.]

I think I have learned to appreciate “atonal” music after seeing a composer like George Balanchine choreograph to it. It has really helped me “see” the music. Other than that, I may not want to listen to the complete works of Anton Webern (all three hours of it), but in the right setting, I can see myself enjoying some of it. One of the best concertos of the 20th century was Berg’s Violin Concerto. Stravinsky after his neoclassical period did some interesting works that flirted with serialism (like the score for Balanchine’s ballet, Agon, heard above). There are moments of beauty in many other “modern: composers who I could cite: John Cage, Luciano Berio, John Adams, Frederic Rzewski, La Monte Young, and so on. The fact that people don’t want to listen to them is beside the point. Often the world of classical music is all about hype and names. You are probably not going to sell out a concert of Hildegard von Bingen’s chant, or even a ballet by Lully. People tend to like crap. I rejoice when popular taste and aesthetic quality meet, but such instances are all too rare.

On superstition – part II

20 09 2010

“Your grandmother was superstitious,” my mother told me when describing my paternal grandmother’s veneration of la Santa Muerte. “She said that if she prayed to her, she wouldn’t come to take her in the night.”

This from my mother, who could seamlessly weave faith and folklore, old wisdom and wives’ tales into her exhortations to close the door when I left the house or not put too much salt in my food. Even my mother has standards, even when it seems that I don’t.

Perhaps this was the reason why my mother would only reluctantly tell us how things could really be like back on el rancho in Mexico. It was at a birthday dinner that AG and I took her out for (my mother is out of her element in any restaurant that doesn’t serve hamburgers) that she first told me about the remedies for el mal de ojo, or evil eye. I had known such things existed, of course, as my closest cousin was “cleansed” by his grandmother of the fright sickness. This type of stuff was just background noise for a pocho kid growing up in rural central California. By the sheepish way that my mother recounted this particular story, she probably already heard the “half way catechized” Catholic naysayers telling her that this was just superstition. “Here, have another scapular.”
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Latent Calvinism

10 03 2008


With some people, you can move the furniture around and even change the wallpaper, but when they go from Protestant to Catholic/Orthodox/whatever, the predominant theological premise remains the same: 99% of people go to Hell and are therefore WRONG whereas I am part of the elect and hence I am right. Since everyone else is wrong, everything they do is wrong, and it should be condemned as wrong.

 I for one prefer to have mercy as I would wish to receive it. In other words, I may think that that guy who just graduated high school and is bagging groceries, smokes pot, listens to rap, and needs to pull his pants up, is on the wrong path, but I would like to think that he is trying his best with what he has been given. If he isn’t, then what excuse do I have? I don’t think that God is just hanging over us, ready to condemn us because of XYZ, as if He were standing over us with a clipboard ready to reject us as defective as in the old style factories. If this were the case, then I would definitely be rejected precisely because I do know better.

 And that is why I am reading the Renaissance Neoplatonists: they viewed the world through the prism of what is being done right rather than what is being done wrong. It is an attempt to trace truth even in the least likely of sources.