Muncie seems like a dream to me now…

We have arrived. Yesterday afternoon Tracy and I rolled into Kansas City in a too-big U-Haul (17 foot!), towing our poor Camry behind us, and within an hour were moving things into our new apartment. By the workings of Providence we arrived as an upstairs neighbor was moving out, and we were able to hire her three gigantic movers to unload our truck for us (which saved us hours of hard labor and possibly injury to me, since Tracy’s on the mend from a foot injury and wouldn’t be able to do a lot). Thanks be to God for all good things.

It is difficult to put into words my feeling about this change, but it is very good. The apartment is amazing: a large two bedroom in an old brick six-plex, with a beautiful shady screened porch in front (in which we have already enjoyed one meal, to be followed I am quite sure by many more). Unpacking is always a chore, but the place is already beginning to feel like home, and more of a home than our Muncie apartment ever was. It feels very much like our apartment in Pasadena did, for those of you who experienced it. For those who didn’t… well, you’ll just have to come visit us, then (hint hint).

Speaking of Pasadena, the area of Kansas City where we are bears some striking resemblances, including a beautiful outdoor shopping district (“The Plaza”) that feels very much like Old Town. Right now we’re sitting in the public library branch near us, which is large and full of art, and this afternoon we had lunch at McCormick and Schmick’s. The only things missing are our friends and Trader Joe’s.

We’re excited about living in Kansas City. It’s beautiful here, with lots of parks and great architecture. Locals tell us KC is known as “the city of fountains,” and I believe them–they’re everywhere. We’re one block east of a gigantic free park with ponds and streams and such, a few blocks south of the Plaza, and less than a mile from campus. I haven’t had much interaction with UMKC folks yet, but the ones with whom I have have been both nice and helpful, and I’m supposed to meet one of the composition professors for a beer sometime soon. A month ago when we were here for entrance exams I met a few other incoming doctoral students, a married couple who were both singers and who seemed quite nice. I think things here are going to be great.

Other news and such to follow. Stay tuned…

A Muncie Miscellany, mkIII

Tomorrow begins the second week of classes for spring semester. “Spring.” That’s what they call it, at least. When it’s not wet and cold out there, it’s generally dry and cold (rain or snow being generally ubiquitous lately). No matter, such is January back here in the midwest. Ah, how distance makes life out west all the rosier in retrospect!

There have been some changes for this semester. I am no longer tutoring a small army of theory students, but now am actually in front of their class talking. It’s been 5 years since I last taught in a classroom, so it’s taking a little re-getting used to, but I really enjoy it. This is what I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m teaching two sections of what is informally referred to as “Sight/Ear,” and which has many other possible names–aural theory, or ear training and sight singing–, along with a few composition lessons. This also means I’ve picked up another 10 hours of work each week, which means a stipend on top of tuition. Definitely welcome.

Over December I managed to find a final barline for my De Profundis, although I’ve been letting it percolate for the past few weeks without looking at it because I know there will be some tweaking and revisions to be made. Overall, I would say this is the most ambitious, and probably best executed, piece of music I’ve written, and I’m anxious to hear it performed (hopefully this spring). The next project is in the brainstorming stage, the only detail decided for certain being that it will be orchestral. I’ve been thinking thoughts about it, but that, dear reader, is all you get for now.

Classes this semester: Analytical Techniques (music theory), Principles of Music Theory (music theory pedagogy), and (of course) composition lessons. That, along with my teaching load, is enough to keep me quite occupied.

And away I go…


A pictorial reprise:
Tracy and Scott actually do rule this time

I’m scratching “theology student” from my little “about” deal over there. It’s hard to believe, but the wife and I are both done with everything for Fuller. Everything has been mailed off, e- and otherwise, and any theology reading following today will be uncoerced.

The big final paper took me most of yesterday and today to finish (not to mention the past few weeks of slogging through Balthasar and Hart); but, despite my earlier predictions, I don’t think it is actually all that bad. Parts are even good, although given another day/week/month I would have polished/expanded/rewritten others.

My attention turns now to catching up with work I was able to postpone for BSU, which I expect will be comparatively relaxed and easy going. I hope to finish my De Profundis before the end of the semester and get started on something new, and it looks like an arrangement of one movement from Separations (which I have extracted as the standalone Elegy) will be given a performance in November by the BSU graduate string quartet.

Going to Fuller was an amazing experience and a great blessing, and I am very grateful to have been able to do it. All the same, with it now complete, I’m exquisitely happy to be diving into my musical life again with both feet. This is what I studied theology in order to do: be a musician, a composer, with a strong theological foundation to my work.

I hope, too, that I can fill out this blog according to its original purpose. I’ve written a lot about theology over the past two years, and less about music. It is, after all, new mus(ings)ic, and perhaps I can better unite the two now that my attention will be differently focused.

So congratulations to my lovely wife for finishing a day ahead of me–and what the heck, I’ll congratulate myself for finishing, as well. Onward!

The End is… Near?

Perhaps counterintuitively, we “commenced” last Saturday and are now back in class. We still have a few classes to finish before we’re all officially graduated. Anticlimactic, one might say. Still, it was a good feeling to walk, and we’ll be done soon enough…

Tracy and Scott rule

Contrapuntal love

Another gem from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this a letter to his friend Eberhard Bethge. Very Begbian, and fitting for a blog shooting to be about faith and music (emphases in bold are mine, links thrown in for your edification):

“Dear Eberhard,
Once again this letter is intended only for you…. I must say to begin with that everything that you told me has moved me so much that I couldn’t stop thinking of it all day yesterday and had a restless night; I’m infinitely grateful to you for it; for it was a confirmation of our friendship, and moreover reawakens the spirit for life and for battle, and makes it stubborn, clear and hard. But I can’t completely escape the feeling that there is a tension in you which you can’t get rid of completely, and so I would like to help you as a brother. Accept it as it is intended. If a man loves, he wants to live, to live above all, and hates everything that represents a threat to his life. You hate the recollection of the last weeks, you hate the blue sky, because it reminds you of them, you hate the planes, etc. You want to live with Renate and be happy, and you have a good right to that. And indeed you must live, for the sake of Renate and the little – and also the big – Dietrich. You haven’t the right to speak as your chief did recently. On the contrary, you couldn’t be responsible for that at all. Sometime you must argue it out with him quite quietly; it is obvious what is necessary, but you mustn’t act as a result of any personal emotion. There’s always a danger in all strong, erotic love that one may love what I might call the polyphony of life. What I mean is that God wants us to love him eternally with our whole hearts – not in such a way as to injure or weaken our earthly love, but to provide a kind of cantus firmus to which the other melodies of life provide the counterpoint. One of these contrapuntal themes (which have their own complete independence but are yet related to the cantus firmus) is earthly affection. Even in the Bible we have the Song of Songs; and really one can imagine no more ardent, passionate, sensual love than is portrayed there (see 7.6). It’s a good thing that the book is in the Bible, in face of all those who believe that the restraint of passion is Christian (where is there such restraint in the Old Testament?). Where the cantus firmus is clear and plain, the counterpoint can be developed to its limits. The two are ‘undivided and yet distinct’, in the words of the Chalcedonian Definition, like Christ in his divine and human natures. May not the attraction and importance of polyphony in music consist in its being a musical reflection of this Christological fact and therefore of our vita christiana? This thought didn’t occur to me till after your visit yesterday. Do you see what I’m driving at? I wanted to tell you to have a good, clear cantus firmus; that is the only way to a full and perfect sound, when the counterpoint has a firm support and can’t come adrift or get out of tune, while remaining a distinct whole in its own right. Only a polyphony of this kind can give life a wholeness and at the same time assure us that nothing calamitous can happen as long as the cantus firmus is kept going. Perhaps a good deal will be easier to bear in these days together, and possibly also in the days ahead when you’re separated. Please, Eberhard, do not fear and hate the separation, if it should come again with all its dangers, but rely on the cantus firmus. – I don’t know whether I’ve made myself clear now, but one so seldom speaks of such things…” [20 May 1944, from Tegel Prison; the rest of the letter is lost]

New news

I’m getting slow on the updates, here. Sorry ’bout that.

Obviously, T and I survived Arts Fest two weeks back. It was a success, a good time in general although rather stressful at the time (especially with both of us sick all week).  Of particular note was the use of the Mass I wrote last summer in the mid-week chapel service.  It was the first performance of any of my music here at Fuller, and was well received.  Now that things have quieted down, I’m thinking I might ask the choir about doing it once more for a recording.

We’re pretty much done with Art Concerns work now, just wrapping up the year. We threw a “thank you” party on Friday for all those who helped out over Arts Fest, which was also fun. We used to throw parties all the time back in Michigan, and entertaining in our home has got to be a favorite thing of ours. Now we’re thinking one more this summer before we leave for other (possibly greener) shores.

What of those other shores? Well, that’s the “news” part up there. Last week, on my birthday, I got the letter informing me that I have been accepted to Ball State University’s doctoral program in composition! To say that it was welcome news would be something of an understatement. We’ve been praying for some direction for next year for a while now, as we’re nearing the end of the program here at Fuller with no open options for what comes next… until now, when suddenly we do.

I’m still waiting to hear from one other program (Catholic University of America, in D.C.), and I’ll need to know about what aid is available at either one before I can think about registration. I’m also waiting on a teaching job to which I applied two weeks ago. Northwestern College (in northwest Iowa, not Chicago) has an opening in music theory, percussion, and music technology–all three of them things which I have taught in the past. I don’t know what the likelihood is of getting the job, since they would prefer a doctorate (which I don’t yet have), and my classroom teaching experience is mainly in the technology part above. I’ve taught all three in high school age music camps, and tutored theory college students while I was in grad school, but only for music tech have I taught in a college classroom setting. Sooooo… I don’t know. It would be fantastic for many reasons, but for now I’ll just have to wait and see.

Finally, without going into too much detail, my thesis is proceeding nicely.  As you may recall, I am setting the De Profundis (Psalm 130 in Latin) for an ensemble of vocal trio, wind trio, string trio, rock trio, and piano.  I tend to write very long text settings (long phrases, lots of repetition, and so on), so with the roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the text I have set I am probably nearing the ten minute mark.  It will be a pretty good sized chunk of work, and I’m very pleased with how it is taking shape thus far.  Here’s hoping for a performance this summer after it’s done.

More later.