A classical musician on heavy-metal singers

Claudia Friedlander is a classical musician and voice teacher.  She was asked her opinion of five different male heavy metal singers.  (The link also plays samples of the music that she was analyzing.)  Notice that classical aesthetics contains principles that apply to every kind of music, without necessarily demolishing the more popular genres:

On Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden:

I have nothing but admiration for this singer. Listen how he starts off with a soft growl, then moves seamlessly into a well-supported, sustained high full-voice sound that then evolves into an effortless long scream! His diction is easily intelligible, regardless of the range he’s singing in or the effect he’s going for. He achieves an intensely rhythmic delivery of the lyrics without losing legato and musical momentum, something a lot of classical singers struggle with, especially when interpreting the many staccato and accent markings that crowd scores by Bellini, Donizetti, etc.

On Ozzy Osbourne:

This is a singer with decent diction and good musical instincts but no command of vocal technique. He is massively over-adducting his vocal folds while driving enough air through them to get them to speak, but his throat is so tight that there is no flow or resonance. His rhythmic punctuation of the lyrics is very distracting, in contrast with Singer #1 [Dickinson] who delivered his text with rhythmic accents that served, rather than detracted from the flow of music and poetry. It hurt my throat so much to listen to him that I was tempted to ask Cosmo how long his career lasted before he either washed out or needed surgery. The entire range of his singing is contained within a single octave – with the exception of the moment when he yells “Oh Lord!” a little higher, in my opinion the only quasi-free vocal sound on the entire track.

HT:  Webmonk

What China must learn from America

 The prominent Chinese general Liu Yazhou, possibly at great risk to himself, is calling upon his country to adopt American-style democracy and rule of law:

A Chinese general has warned his conservative Communist Party masters and People’s Liberation Army colleagues that China can either embrace American-style democracy or accept Soviet-style collapse.

While officers of similar rank have been rattling their sabres against US aircraft carriers in the Yellow and South China seas, General Liu Yazhou says China’s rise depends on adopting America’s system of government rather than challenging its presence off China’s eastern coast.

”If a system fails to let its citizens breathe freely and release their creativity to the maximum extent, and fails to place those who best represent the system and its people into leadership positions, it is certain to perish,” writes General Liu in the Hong Kong magazine, Phoenix, which is widely available on news stands and on the internet throughout China.

His article suggests China’s political and ideological struggles are more lively than commonly thought, and comes before a rotation of leaders in the Central Military Commission and then the Politburo in 2012.

”The secret of US success is neither Wall Street nor Silicon Valley, but its long-surviving rule of law and the system behind it,” he says. ”The American system is said to be ‘designed by genius and for the operation of the stupid’. A bad system makes a good person behave badly, while a good system makes a bad person behave well. Democracy is the most urgent; without it there is no sustainable rise.”

General Liu was recently promoted from deputy Political Commissar of the PLA Airforce to Political Commissar of the National Defence University. His father was a senior PLA officer and his father-in-law was Li Xiannian, one of China’s ”Eight Immortals” and one time president of China.

While many of China’s ”princelings” have exploited their revolutionary names to amass wealth and family power, General Liu has exploited his pedigree to provide political protection to push his contrarian and reformist views.

But his article is extraordinary by any standards. It urges China to shift its strategic focus from the country’s developed coastal areas including Hong Kong and Taiwan – ”the renminbi belt” – and towards the resource-rich central Asia. But he argues that China will never have strategic reach by relying on wealth alone.

”A nation that is mindful only of the power of money is a backward and stupid nation,” he writes. ”What we could believe in is the power of the truth. The truth is knowledge and knowledge is power.”

But such national power can only come with political transformation. ”In the coming 10 years, a transformation from power politics to democracy will inevitably take place,” he writes.

”China will see great changes. Political reform is our mission endowed by history. We have no leeway. So far, China has reformed all the easy parts and everything that is left is the most difficult; there is a landmine at every step.”

General Liu inverts the lesson that Chinese politicians have traditionally drawn from the collapse of the Soviet Union – that it was caused by too much political reform – by arguing reform arrived too late.

”Stability weighed above everything and money pacified everything, but eventually the conflict intensified and everything else overwhelmed stability,” he writes.

This is extraordinary by any standards, and it contains lessons for us Americans who have possibly taken for granted what we have.   “A bad system makes a good person behave badly, while a good system makes a bad person behave well.”  What a brilliant observation!   Our constitutional system of checks and balances minimizes the harm that a particular office holder or citizen can do, and our economic system channels even self-interest into a force for the greater good.  Conversely, corrupt systems–defined in part as lacking the rule of law–create corrupt people.

HT:  Adam Hensley (from one of the leading Australian newspapers)

Facebook connections

I am one of the few people left in the world who does not have a Facebook account.   Maybe I’ll get one one of these days.  Right now, it seems like just one more thing to check.  Still, I appreciate its potential for facilitating human interaction.  Commenter Todd wrote me this message:

In reading the comments about the decline of phone conversations, Facebook came up. I realized that, though I am friends with a few Cranach commenters on Facebook (Bror, FWS, Louis, WebMonk … that’s all I can think of), I don’t really know how to find other people I might talk to on a near-daily basis — on your site, that is. After all, we mainly use handles on your site, and even those using their real names aren’t always easy to find elsewhere. I know I’ve tried to find you on Facebook, but I never found an account I was sure was yours.

Anyhow, not sure if anyone else wants to get connected via Facebook, but if this is of interest to you and you want to do a post about it, my Facebook account can be found at http://www.facebook.com/tstadler Or, you know, if you do have an account, you can add me, too. Or not. People use their accounts differently, I understand.

But I enjoy seeing what glimpses I can catch of people when they’re not replying to a post or comment. It’s not always the same picture you get from reading more argumentative writings. In fact, I can’t remember the last political thing I said on Facebook. This might surprise some people.

Todd in a later message said how he appreciated following and getting to know his frequent political nemesis Bror.  “After all, once you realize someone isn’t just some political/theological firebrand, easily pigeonholed and stereotyped, well, you tend to view them more as they are, as humans.”

So he is inviting you to “friend” him.  (Nouns as verbs!  Hard for me to deal with!)  Beyond that, he suggests that anyone who would welcome further contact with Cranach commenters could just post as a comment his or her Facebook URL.  Whereupon you could friend and be friended.  So if you’d like to do that, do that!

The nature of marriage

Philosopher Stephen J. Heaney discusses the nature of marriage in the context of the same-sex marriage debate:

Marriage is often characterized today as follows: 1) two people 2) who love each other 3) want to perform sexual acts together, so 4) they consent to combine their lives sexually, materially, economically 5) with the endorsement of the community. Since same-sex couples can meet the first four criteria, how can society refuse the fifth?It is easy to see why this would be a cause of aggravation, not only for same-sex couples who wish community endorsement of their relationships, but for millions of others. If the criteria stated above actually define marriage—and in contemporary Western society, many have come to view marriage as no more than this—then refusal to acknowledge and endorse same-sex relationships is a rank injustice, nothing but an exercise in bigotry or stupidity.

Typically, marriage does in fact have these characteristics. But why does marriage have these characteristics? Remembering why will help us to remember how they show themselves in a relationship that has the essence of marriage—and how that is often different in other relationships.

First, human beings have a powerful hankering to engage in sexual intercourse.

Second, sexual intercourse between a man and a woman naturally and frequently leads to children. Male and female alone each have part of a complete reproductive system. Without both parts, reproduction cannot happen. Without the result of children, it would be a real puzzler why we have these organ systems at all, and why we have such a deep urge to engage in sexual acts.

Third, the rearing of children is a lifetime responsibility. As deeply social beings, we remain connected to each other across generations. Even adults with children of their own need the wisdom and guidance of their fathers and mothers. It is easier for those who enter this project that they have affection for each other, and that they form a self-giving friendship. To perform these actions lovingly is the properly human way.

Fourth, because it leads to children, sexual intercourse has extraordinary public consequences. It is not, as we might like to think, a purely private act. It matters a lot to the community who is doing it, and under what circumstances. So the community endorses certain sexual arrangements; others, which fail to abide by the fullness of truth of human sexuality, the community rejects as unfitting for human beings. To support those that are fitting, it offers the institution of marriage. In marriage, the couple promises before the community to fulfill this project through vows of fidelity and permanence, joining their bodies and their lives to make the project work. The community promises to give the couple the privacy to perform their sexual acts, and care for each other; it further supports the family by means of appropriate protections and benefits. It may be that others could receive similar benefits for different reasons, but this is why benefits accrue to marriage: to help the marriage project flourish.

If sexuality did not naturally bring us offspring, it is hard to explain why it exists, whether you believe in a purely material evolution or a loving designer of the universe, for it would serve no purpose. If sexual acts did not naturally lead to offspring, it is just as hard to explain how marriage would have appeared in human history, for it would serve no purpose.

Religions may bless marriage, but they did not invent it. Because it involves such profoundly important human realities, it is no surprise that sex and marriage have religious significance. But sex and marriage have existed as long as there have been human communities.

If we accept the misdefinition of marriage using non-essential characteristics as the complete story, it would be impossible to reject same-sex marriage. Given the whole truth, however, it is impossible to accept it. No matter how superficially similar they are to real marriages, same-sex relationships cannot function as marriages.

This is a good example of the “natural law” approach to moral reasoning. Does it make sense?  Is there anything exclusively Roman Catholic about it?

HT:  Larry Hughes

Christianity fever

Peter Berger is one of the major sociologists of our day.  A Lutheran Christian of the ELCA variety, he discusses the explosion of Christianity in still-Communist China, a phenomenon described in that country as “Christianity fever”:

The most reliable source for religious demography is the World Christian Database, headed by Todd Johnson, which has been counting Christian noses worldwide for many years now. Johnson and his associates claim that there were about one million Christians in China in 1970 (a sharp decline from earlier in the twentieth century because of Communist repression), and that there about 120 million today, with some 70 million in unregistered churches. Representing over 9% of the total population of 1.3 billion, this estimate, if correct, would constitute one of the most spectacular explosions in religious history. The WCD people further estimate that, if present trends continue (always an iffy assumption, of course) the Christian population in China will reach 220 million by 2050. This would be a considerably higher proportion of the total population, because of the demographic consequences of the one-child policy.  . . .

There are much lower estimates. The CIA World Factbook estimates 3-4% Christians. (Are CIA estimates on religion more reliable than those on weapons of mass destruction?) The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates 4-5%. The Chinese government comes up with a risible 20 million (but then, presumably, they only count officially registered Christians, or maybe those ex-Marxists engage in wishful thinking). But there is an estimate ever higher than the one by WCD. David Aikman is the author of a book, Jesus in Beijing (2003), in which he predicts a breathtaking future for Chinese Christianity. In a recent lecture which I attended, Aikman mentions a Communist party official who told him of a confidential estimate of 130 million. Aikman thinks that by about 2030 Christianity will have achieved cultural and maybe political hegemony in China.

via Counting Christians in China – Peter Berger’s Blog – The American Interest.

David Aikman, by the way, is the former journalist with Time Magazine who is now my colleague as a history professor at Patrick Henry College.

HT: First Thoughts


Well, I just got back from the ordination of my son-in-law, Ned Moerbe, and his installation as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Blackwell, Oklahoma (just a few miles from our ancestral farm outside of Tonkawa). It was a great occasion. I counted 15 pastors taking part. The circuit is far flung, including Stillwater (where Oklahoma State University is), Guthrie (where my wife grew up), and Alva (where I was born). It was very moving when Ned was ordained and then started leading the service himself, including his first celebration of Holy Communion.

And then the pot-luck dinner afterwards that the church put on was one of the biggest and best I’ve experienced, with at least half a dozen different varieties of BBQ!

Now Ned’s a pastor. I am so happy for him, the rest of his family, and his congregation.

The Moerbes on ordination day