Prince dies

The eccentric, brilliant, musical artist known as Prince has died.  He was 57.  The cause of death has yet to be determined.  Prince Rogers Nelson, who once changed his name to an ideogram, was a life-long Minnesotan.

He was fiercely protective of his music, tightly controlling its availability via streaming or even on YouTube.

For Prince’s Jehovah’s Witness faith, which he somehow combined with a mystical sensuality, see this and this. [Read more…]

Merle Haggard as Christian & as evangelist

The late, great Merle Haggard lived a pretty wild life, but he turned more and more to faith, especially as he struggled in his last illnesses.  Not only that, at least one writer says that he became a Christian because of Haggard’s music. [Read more…]

The artistic freedom of musicians and bakers

Liberal musicians have long objected to their work being used by conservative politicians.  And, as the link shows, they usually get their way.  After all, artists should have the freedom not to have their creative work employed in a cause they do not believe in.

So why don’t the culinary artists who make wedding cakes have that same freedom? [Read more…]

Merle Haggard, poet of the common man, dies

Merle Haggard died, aged 79, on his birthday, still touring.  With his musicianship, his melodies, his multiple styles, his utterly expressive voice, and his eloquent, authentic songwriting, Haggard–to my mind–was the greatest country music artist since Hank Williams.  (I know, Johnny Cash has to be in there somewhere.  But “the Hag” arguably surpasses him on musical points.)

You probably know him best from the corny “Okie from Muskogee,” but listen to his others.  In fact, his greatest hits are among the most listenable in country music, no matter which style of music you usually prefer.  Blues, jazz, rock, gospel, Western Swing, and more–you can hear it all in his songs, which are also characterized by strikingly beautiful melodies.  What I most appreciate about him, though, are his song lyrics, particularly those that capture perfectly what it means to live paycheck by paycheck, struggling and sometimes failing to make ends meet for your family.  He sings about poverty–reflecting his own childhood during the Okie migration to California–with plaintive dignity.

If you don’t believe me about the greatness of Merle Haggard, I’ll prove it.  After the jump, read the obituary, watch the Youtube of “If We Make It Through December,” and then click to the other songs I link to.

[Read more…]

“Was ever grief like mine?”

Read George Herbert’s “The Sacrifice,” a poem from the perspective of Christ on the Cross, quoted and linked after the jump.  Do you see how it influenced the beloved Lenten hymn “My Song Is Love Unknown”?  (Throw in Herbert’s poem Love Unknown and you’ve pretty much got the whole hymn.) [Read more…]

How ancient churches sounded

Church buildings are acoustic spaces, in which music is performed.  Researchers are studying the acoustics of ancient and medieval churches.  They are finding that certain design elements were intended to adjust sounds, “trying to tune the space.”

Moreover, the acoustic data they are uncovering enables the researchers to reproduce the effects electronically.  Once a digital signature is discovered, it is possible to play recorded music–say, Gregorian chants–and filter it so that we can hear what it sounded like in that particular building.  “It’s like time travel,” says a musicologist.  We can make “a museum of lost sound.”

[Read more…]