24 June 2011

New York Descends Further Into the Pit

They've legalized same-sex "marriage." Knowing that the vote was coming, some of my friends have been much more busy on Facebook than usual, and through this I discovered that three of my college friends are lesbians. I hadn't known that, although in one case I suspected it. They didn't have girlfriends when we were in college, but they do now (two are in a relationship together). I'm not so upset by information like this about my graduate-school acquaintances. Most of them are not religious and never have been. But it really throws me for a loop when somebody that I used to go to daily Mass with stops going to church and announces on Facebook that they're engaged to be married to a same-sex partner. Please, if you could keep my friends AS, AK, AM, and AS's partner D in your prayers, I'd appreciate it. I hope that they will be open to God's Will, and return to the Church.
Ut, Re, Mi
Warning: technical music stuff ahead!

Happy feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist! Father Z reminds us that the Vespers hymn for today is Ut queant laxis from which the 11th-century Benedictine monk Guido d'Arezzo derived the now-familiar system of "solfege"--ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, or as Americans and some other English-speakers know it, "Do, re, mi." Each phrase of each verse of the hymn begins one pitch higher than the previous note. The syllables are the first syllable of each phrase of the first verse of the hymn. As Father Z mentions the seventh pitch of the scale, "si" (for some reason transformed to "ti" in English-speaking countries) is probably derived from Sancte Ioannes.

Guido used this system, along with the so-called "Guidonian hand" to teach music to choir boys. He bragged that with his system he could teach boys in a few weeks what it used to take them years to learn. The boys at a monastery or cathedral school were expected to sing with the monks for liturgical services. Although very large choir books from which many people could read at the same time did exist, monks and boys were largely expected to memorize the chants. Guido, with his new system, could teach the boys about interval relationships very quickly, and using his hand as a guide, he could "conduct" them by pointing to the part of his hand that represented the next note they were to sing. Anyone who has seen a children's (or adults'!) choir director mouthing the words at the singers has some idea of how this might work.*

The ut, re, mi system is still used in Europe and in European-style music schools in Asia, South America, and elsewhere. The often don't use the alphabetical system, ABCDEFG, that's common here in America and other English-speaking countries for referring to notes and key signatures. For instance, I bought a CD in France that says "W.A. Mozart: Messe en ut mineur." Not Mass in C minor, but in "ut" minor. Needless to say, their solfege system is "fixed"--that is, Ut=C every time. In America, we often use a "movable" solfege system, in which do is the primary note of whatever key or scale we're working with at the time. In other words, if we are in the key of C, Do=C. But in D, Do=D, in E, Do=E, etc. Where you put your do in a minor scale also depends on what method your teacher uses. In E minor, it could be that Do=E, or maybe Do=G.

Each method has its advantages. Moveable Do is, I think, very useful for beginning musicians. You learn scale degrees and how they relate to each other quickly, so that the same song transposed into a different key doesn't suddenly become a foreign thing. I think this also helps with basic chord relationships. The trouble comes when you start doing music with more complex modulations than simply major key and its relative minor. Fixed Do/Ut is much more useful for complicated music. But Americans plow ahead with Moveable Do, figuring that once you get to that complex music you probably don't need solfege much anymore.

I first encountered the Fixed Ut usage when I was in high school. A disproportionately large part of the 20th century harp repertoire is French, and a lot of it is only available from French publishers. The pedals on the pedal harp, to refresh your memory, are not like the pedals on a piano. They are for tightening and loosening the strings, which changes the pitch of the strings, whether natural, sharp, or flat. So there are seven pedals--one for each note of the scale--and one pedal operates the mechanism for all of the A strings, one for all the C strings, and so on. So, put the pedal in its lowest position, and all the C strings become C-sharp, put a different pedal in its highest position and all the B strings become B-flat, and a third pedal in the middle position and all the F strings will be F-natural.

For some music you can set all your pedals at the beginning and not worry about it, but in other pieces you have to change in the middle because there are accidentals. Sometimes, kind editors will put indications in for where to change the pedals (otherwise you have to write them in yourself). In American music, you'll see, for example, a big "C#" written under the staff, telling you to put the C pedal in the lowest position. But in French music, the same indication will be written "Ut#." I was mystified at first, but now that I am aware of the thousand-year history of solfege, I am tickled every time I see "Ut" written in my music.

So hopefully now you know more about harps and solfege than you already did, or probably ever wanted to know. Happy name day to any Johns or Joannas out there!

*I have actually sung using Guido's method, in a music history class. One of my professors is very hands-on, so to speak, and thinks that the medieval and early-Renaissance methods of teaching are still very useful for teaching the music of those periods, if you want the most period-accurate performance.

21 June 2011

Prayer Request

Please keep this baby boy and his mom and dad in your prayers. He was born prematurely on June 18th. He weighs just 2.1 lbs. The good news is that he is breathing on his own.

Poor little fellow doesn't have a name yet--his mom and dad thought they had almost three more months to think of one.

Update: The baby's name is Bennett!
Belmont Abbey, Again

Well, I may have criticized them for their church interior re-design, but here is something I can completely get behind:

College Maternity Center is a First

I'm also glad to see that the Knights of Columbus of North Carolina have contributed to the project. So proud my husband is one of them!

Catholic colleges, particularly the larger ones, I hope you're taking notes. Non-Catholic colleges, too. Projects like these save the lives of babies and help break cycles of poverty by making it possible for women finish their college degrees. Hopefully there is a childcare center on campus as well.

20 June 2011

Father Corapi

All I have to say about it is, look at the date for this:

The Black-Sheep Dog brand information

Mantilla tip to my friend Barbara for this information.

16 June 2011

Bishop Burbidge

My bishop is in Rome for the Catholic/Pentecostal dialogue and he's Tweeting about it! With pictures! I really like that he uses his coat of arms as his profile picture. We love our bishop!

15 June 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}
Little Dog Edition

{pretty} This is Brody, dog of many nicknames.

Sometimes we address him as "Cockapoo," which is what we were told he is. We think he has some terrier in him too, though. He has some big troubles for such a small dog, both epilepsy and behavioral issues. From this comes other nicknames, including Mr. Grumpypants and Dr. Teeth. But he is often affectionate and playful, and so darn cute. That curly hair and those big brown eyes make it a lot easier to deal with the bad days. It does, unfortunately, make strangers want to come up and pet him, though. Dog rule #1: always ask if it's ok to pet the dog, and don't start bending down and wiggling your fingers before you hear the answer! I totally understand the temptation. He is adorable. Even I have a hard time not petting him when he is in Mr. Grumpypants mode.

{happy] Brody LOVES toys. And being indulgent pet owners who have no children to spoil, we sort of spoil him with toys. It doesn't stop him from shredding tissues or stealing socks, but it generally does help hold his attention away from the furniture and shoes. He is a happy dog when playing with Little Red, or Turkey, or Rabbit, or an empty water bottle, or that purple puzzle toy where he has to spin the top part to get it loose enough to stick his tongue inside for peanut butter, or keep flipping it over so it dispenses kibbles. That's the one I use to distract him while I'm cooking. Training him not to jump at the counter top didn't work so well, but a food-dispensing puzzle keeps him well occupied and VERY happy. If my camera did movies I'd show you the wagging tail.

{funny} The first picture is Brody in the music room. He hangs out on the rugs in there while I practice. After I practice, he wants attention. Stop playing the piano and pay attention to me! Rub my tummy! He loves tummy rubs. For several months he would not let my husband rub his tummy, though. I think he felt too exposed. Now he sometimes allows it. It's a good sign that his trust is growing. He looks pretty funny when he rolls over on his back, though, because as you can see the hair on his chest and belly is kind of sparse. He is not fun at every minute of the day, but for at least one minute every day he makes me laugh.

{real} Excuse the view of the bathroom, but I guess that's pretty real, right? Brody has some separation anxiety issues, to the point where he wants to follow me into the bathroom. He's ok with me being in a different room, but not if I close the door or even the shower curtain! He has even tried to get in the shower with me.
One time I replaced the dirty towels in the bathroom right before I was going to shower. I left the dirty towels on the floor, intending to take them to the laundry room after I got dressed. The dog didn't scratch at the door! Instead, when I opened the bathroom door after my shower, there was Brody happily curled up in the pile of towels. We've reduced the pile to one hand towel, now, but this how I find him whenever I come out of the bathroom--patiently waiting for me rather than freaking out. It's a bit odd, but it's a really simple solution and now I won't have to repaint the bathroom door anymore, so who cares?

round button chicken

11 June 2011

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Church Architecture

I was browsing around looking at lists of colleges here in North Carolina today, and I came across before and after pictures of the Abbey Basilica of Mary Help of Christians (Belmont Abbey College was founded by the same Benedictine monastery).

Why do we allow this butchery of historic buildings? This church building was the first cathedral in North Carolina, before the Diocese of Raleigh was created, and remained a cathedral until the Diocese of Charlotte took over its territory. This is a really significant building, not just any old parish church. Who decided that it was ok to do this to its interior? As if I needed to see more examples of ecclesiastical interior design heavily influenced by Original Series Star Trek sets, besides my current parish, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane, and a few others. I've posted pictures of Lourdes Cathedral before, and won't do it again. The carpet makes me feel ill. Here's the best I could find of my current digs:

At least in defense of my current parish, the building was built in the '50s and was ugly already, so the '70s renovation didn't ruin much. The Spokane Cathedral is of an age with the Abbey, late 19th-century, and used to be beautiful inside. The exterior has the superficial similarities of being red brick buildings with two towers.

The Abbey Basilica's towers are of different sizes, though.

This may be one of the rare instances of the Jesuits doing something better than the Benedictines. Take the case of St. Aloysius, the church that serves the Jesuits and students of Gonzaga University; it's a parish church of the diocese of Spokane, but always staffed by Jesuits and is in the middle of campus. The interior was renovated, and there are elements of the renovation that could be better (I wish they'd kept the altar rail, for instance), but they certainly didn't ruin the church. It wouldn't be too hard to put St. Al's back the way it was.

04 June 2011

Read This Blog

Not my blog, Appian's blog. He's a very cool guy. His post from 29 May reads like Chesterton, if Chesterton were less enamored of his own one-liners. I can hardly believe that someone can be as smart as this and not older than me. It makes me feel slightly old, actually. But he's brilliant, so go read.

ETA: Link fixed.

02 June 2011

Yesterday's Lunch

Cold leftover salmon, orzo tossed with olive oil and rice vinegar, lettuce. Garnished with feta and basil. The basil is the first harvest from our own vegetable-growing attempts. The feta acted almost like salt, as a flavoring rather than an independent element of the dish.

We've found ourselves eating out a lot lately--aka wasting money--because I either had nothing planned for lunch or what was available was boring for DH. He's a bit picky, and isn't keen on leftovers, which often lose something in texture. I'm trying to do better, both in the organization and imagination departments, and I think we could hardly do better than salmon salad!