November 7, 2017

Saxophony

Category: Music :: Permalink

Music fans today can hardly imagine how disruptive the saxophone was during the early days of jazz.  Even decades after the sax had taken over the bandstand, many New Orleans purists objected to its baneful presence.  And the instrument had other marks against it.  The sax was not an accepted symphonic instrument — the American Symphony Orchestra League even issued a formal prohibition of the horn during the 1920s.

It was loud and lowbrow and perhaps even morally dangerous.  I’ve heard stories, perhaps apocryphal, of radio stations refusing to play sax music on the Sabbath, fearing its corrupting influence on impressionable young souls.  But there’s little doubt that Pope Pius X had the sax in mind when, at the dawn of the twentieth century, he instructed the clergy to avoid instruments “that may give reasonable cause for disgust and scandal.” — Ted Gioia, How to Listen to Jazz, p. 159.

So what brought about the change, so that jazz embraced the saxophone and it became, as Gioia says, “the defining sound of jazz”?  Here’s Gioia’s answer: “Most of the credit for this stunning turnabout goes to a single musician: Coleman Hawkins” (159).  To find out why, you’re just going to have to read the book.  Or you could just listen to this 1939 version of “Body and Soul”:

 

 

Posted by John Barach @ 9:29 pm | Discuss (0)
November 3, 2017

Just So

Category: History,Literature :: Permalink

Angela Thirkell describes how she used to play Cavaliers and Roundheads with her cousins.  She and her cousin Josephine Kipling were the Cavaliers, and the Roundhead was Josephine’s father, whom Thirkell calls “Cousin Ruddy”:

Josephine, very fair-haired and blue-eyed, was my bosom friend, and though we both adored her father, the stronger bond of patriotism drew us yet more firmly together as Cavaliers against Cousin Ruddy’s whole-hearted impersonation of an Arch-Roundhead….

The war between Cavaliers and Roundheads raged furiously every year as long as the Kiplings were at Rottingdean, Josephine and I leading forlorn hopes against the Regicide and being perpetually discomfited by his superior guile, or by the odious way in which the Nannies would overlook the fact that we were really six feet high with flowing locks, a hat with feathers, and huge jack-boots, and order us indoors to wash our hands or have an ignominious midday rest.

How would they have liked it if they were plotting to deliver King Charles from Carisbrooke and their Nannies had suddenly pounced upon them with a “Get up off the grass now Miss Angela and come and lie down before lunch, and there’s Lucy waiting for you Miss Josephine, so put those sticks down like a good girl and run along.”  Fools!  Couldn’t they see that these were no pea-sticks, but sword, dagger, and pistol, ready to flash out or be discharged in the service of the King?  But Nannies are by nature unromantic, so we had to submit and pretend to be little girls till we could meet again later (Three Houses, 83-84).

Later, when she talks about Josephine’s death at six years of age, Thirkell writes:

I still have a letter from Josephine, written in sprawly childish capitals.  “I will help you,” it ran, “in the war against the Roundhead.  He has a large army but we can beat him.  He is a horrible man let us do all the mischief we can to him.”  It must have been a very real game that made her call the father she loved a “horrible man.”  The world has known Josephine and her father as Taffimai and Tegumai in the Just So Stories and into one short poem he put his heart’s cry for the daughter that was all to him (86).

Thirkell was one of the first to hear these stories:

During those long warm summers Cousin Ruddy used to try out the Just So Stories on a nursery audience.  Sometimes Josephine and I would be invited into the study….  Or sometimes we all adjourned on a wet day to the Drill Hall where the horse and parallel bars made splendid forts and camping grounds, and when the battle was over and the Roundhead had been unmercifully rolled upon and pommelled by small fists he would be allowed by way of ransom to tell us about the mariner of infinite resource and sagacity and the suspenders–you must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved.

The Just So Stories are a poor thing in print compared with the fun of hearing them told in Cousin Ruddy’s deep unhesitating voice.  There was a ritual about them, each phrase having its special intonation which had to be exactly the same each time and without which the stories are dried husks.  There was an inimitable cadence, an emphasis of certain words, an exaggeration of certain phrases, a kind of intoning here and there which made his telling unforgettable (87-88).

 

Posted by John Barach @ 6:17 am | Discuss (0)
November 2, 2017

“The Holy City”

Category: Bible - OT - Nehemiah :: Permalink

From the time of Moses and the building of the tabernacle through the time of David and the kings, it was the tabernacle or the later temple that was the holy place. But what is easily overlooked is that after the return from exile, things change. Peter Lau and Gregory Goswell explain:

It is plain from Nehemiah 2:20 what the wall [of Jerusalem] is intended to do, namely shut out all sources of uncleanness from the sacred place, the city. The entire city is now as holy as the temple, as the consecration of the first section of the wall by the priests makes clear (3:1). The appointment of (temple) gatekeepers, (cultic) singers and Levites to guard the city gates (7:1-3) shows the sacral character of the city, and situating the assembly “in the square before the Water Gate” does the same (8:1).  The city is designated “the holy city” (11:1, 18) and at the dedication the priest “purified the people and the gates and the wall” (12:30).  Lastly, in 13:22 it is the Levites who guard the city gates, which again bespeaks the expansion of the sanctity from the temple to the city as a whole (Peter H. W. Lau & Gregory Goswell, Unceasing Kindness: A Biblical Theology of Ruth, 15).

Posted by John Barach @ 8:44 pm | Discuss (0)

Mrs. Burne-Jones

Category: Architecture,Art,History,Politics :: Permalink

Angela Thirkell talks about how her grandmother — the wife and, later, widow of the painter, Edward Burne-Jones — used to have workingmen into her home to read to them about Pre-Raphaelitism and socialism: “All the snobbishness latent in children came to the fore as we watched the honoured but unhappy workman sitting stiffly on the edge of his chair in his horrible best clothes while my grandmother’s lovely earnest voice preached William Morris to him.”

In spite of her wide affections and deep understanding she was curiously removed from real life and I think she honestly believed that The Seven Lamps of Architecture on every working-man’s table would go far to ameliorate the world.  She was absolutely fearless, morally and physically.  During the South African War her sympathies were with the Boers, and though she was at that time a widow, living alone, she never hesitated to bear witness, without a single sympathizer.  When peace was declared she hung out of her window a large blue cloth on which she had been stitching the words: ‘We have killed and also taken possession.’  For some time there was considerable personal danger to her from a populace in Mafeking mood, till her nephew, Rudyard Kipling, coming over from The Elms, pacified the people and sent them away.  Single-minded people can be a little alarming to live with and we children had a nervous feeling that we never knew where our grandmother might break out next. — Angela Thirkell, Three Houses, pp. 78-79, 79-80.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:36 am | Discuss (0)