31 December 2007

Holy Innocents

The feast of the Holy Innocents--the male children under the age of two years ordered to their deaths by King Herod--was on the 28th. That day is also my birthday. I first found out that I shared my day with the Holy Innocents when I was about ten years old. It was a sobering realization. I sometimes joke that it was a good day to be born a girl; I would not have been under threat from Herod. For a while, I thought that there might be some cosmic significance to the day of my birth, that I might be specially called to assist in the pro-life movement or something of that sort. I no longer think that to be the case, although I do remember to pray for the souls of all murdered children and for the conversion of those who perpetrate evil on children on my birthday when I attend Mass (I always go to Mass on my birthday, even though I'm not in the habit of going to daily Mass anymore). It isn't the most cheerful way to begin my birthday celebrations, but it makes me grateful to be alive.

For the last couple of years the homilies that I have heard on that day have not been centered on the pro-life movement or even particularly about crimes against children. They have been about coming to grips with the presence of evil in the world. It's an excellent yearly reminder for me, as it's something I've always had difficulty understanding. Why do floods and fires deprive good people of homes, property and life? Why does fatal illness take parents from their children and children from their parents? Why are people who commit horrific crimes allowed to remain in power while innocents languish in prison? How can a human being order the death of thousands of people who have done him no wrong?

I don't have the answers, but every year I have a particular opportunity to meditate on the questions. Every year I find myself more sensitive to the problems of the world, but at the same time better able to cope with the evils that arise in my path, learning to depend on God to sort things out when I can't do it myself.

18 December 2007

How Musicologists Amuse Ourselves

We generally have an end-of-semester grading party, during which many of us read aloud the more ridiculous answers we get on our exams. Some people may think it's cruel to ridicule students; I say we're not ridiculing the student, we're ridiculing stupid answers, and if you study so little that you think Lully was a woman, well, you deserve to be laughed at a little in the confines of our seminar room.

We parodied some of our worst exam answers by hybridizing them with commercials for a soap opera called "Musicologists of Our Lives" (maybe it was "Days of Our Musicology"--I've had a lot of coffee since then). Here are some of the gems that we made up:

"Gesualdo has killed his student, Heinrich Gabrieli, by stabbing him with a conducting staff, thus causing him to contract the Plague! What will happen next week?"

"Dowland, the well-known 14th Century French composer of Italian madrigals, is about to serenade his girlfriend, Lully."

"William Byrd travels to Venice in 1609 to study with Thomas Tallis, but will Tallis accept him as a student? Will he have to compete with Monteverdi for Tallis' attention? Answers after the break, along with the amazing revelation of the subject matter of Martin Luther's next composition (hint: it's a Florentine carnival song)!"