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.

Timing is everything

Arts Fest begins tomorrow. Well, I guess it started last night. We had Denison Witmer and Rosie Thomas to Fuller last night for a show which, thank God, Tracy and I didn’t have to do anything but give money and the ArtsFest07 logo to. And it was a great show. I’m not familiar with Denison’s stuff, and only a few songs of Rosie’s, but they are both very talented songwriters.

(Incidentally, if you head on over to, you can procure some free music. He asks that in return you donate some money to a couple of charities he links to.)

But that has little to do with timing. No, no. Rather, in what would surely be the fates frowning most unpleasantly at us, on the eve of the week-long pinnacle of our Arts Concerns year, Tracy and I are both sick. Papers, tests, and last-minute cancellations were not enough, apparently.

Oh well, I suppose there’s nothing to be done about it. If you’re a SoCal person, come on by Fuller this week and check out some of the art goings on! The gallery is particularly impressive this year, and well worth a trip through it. Just don’t get too close to us if you see us…