Sunday, June 29, 2008

Amazing grace, in the key of black

» Cross-posted at Jurisdynamics «

Negro Spiritual Singers
Negro Spiritual Singers, from the Works Progress Administration's Federal Music Project, entertained King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the White House, June 8, 1939.
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart

The Negro spiritual is a powerful and influential art form. Through their music and their words, spirituals transformed the tragedy of slavery into an enduring expression of faith, hope, and love.

Among the many beautiful songs within this tradition, Amazing Grace stands out. And how:

Hat tip: Already Not Yet and Rick Ianniello.
Wintley Phipps says he has God on his side, at his back, and in his soul. I am in absolutely no position to question any of that. I come solely to show that Reverend Phipps also has music theory and cultural history in his favor.

Amazing Grace uses a pentatonic scale. Properly spaced, five intervals within any octave are sufficient to generate an astonishing diversity of musical idioms, including Celtic, blues, and Negro spiritual. The belief that the pentatonic scale is the native tonality of children underlies Orff Schulwerk, a method of music education perhaps best known for withholding keys from kids' xylophones.

Piano keysIt's easy to generate a pentatonic scale. You can climb the circle of fifths on a piano. Starting at middle C, this trip yields the note sequence C G D A E. If you have a violin handy, the strings there give you the last four steps in that sequence: G D A E. Rearranging all five notes within a single octave gives you the pentatonic sequence, C D E G A.

Or you can subtract two from seven and yield five. Remove the fourth and seventh scale degrees from the familiar "do-re-mi" diatonic scale — or F and B — and you will reach the same C D E G A sequence.

Most simply, you can follow Reverend Phipps's advice and play just the black keys: G♭ A♭ B♭ D♭ E♭. How sweet the sound.

Finally, as for the cultural history of the Negro spiritual, I am pleased to leave the explanation to The Spirituals Project, whose mission is "[t]o preserve and revitalize the music and teachings of the sacred songs called 'spirituals,' created and first sung by enslaved Africans in America in the 18th and 19th centuries":

Editor's note: This Spirituals Project video presents an excerpt from I Can Tell the World, a new documentary by Larry Bograd and Coleen Hubbard.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

We hate Duke

»  Cross-posted at The Cardinal Lawyer  «

Christian LaettnerIn Danzig U.S.A. and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we take college sports very seriously. Partisans of the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky spare nothing in passionately supporting their teams — and in vigorously opposing their teams' rivals. If there is one opponent that unites the Cardinal Nation with Wildcat Country, it is Duke University's Blue Devils.

True to the traditional athletic preferences of Kentucky and North Carolina — two states where the cultivation of tobacco surely gives rise to their unusual predilection, unknown elsewhere in the South, for basketball over football — Louisville and UK partisans have historically trained their hatred at Duke's basketball program. But a recent decision by Judge Phillip J. Shepherd of the Franklin County (Ky.) Circuit Court gives people across the Bluegrass State reason to despise Duke football as well:
Maybe you can win for losingDuke iconA Franklin [County], Ky., Circuit Court judge sided with a devilishly clever argument and ruled in favor of Duke University yesterday in a breach of contract lawsuit brought forth by the University of Louisville.

Judge Phillip J. Shepherd agreed with Duke’s lawyers — the football team is so bad that any replacement would do.

U of L sued Duke for $450,000 — or a series with another Atlantic Coast Conference opponent — after the Blue Devils backed out of a four-game football contract with three dates remaining.

The contract called for a penalty of $150,000 per game if a date with a “team of similar stature” could not be arranged.

Duke footballDuke’s lawyers argued the Blue Devils, which have a record of 6-45 over the past five seasons, were so bad that any team would be a suitable replacement.

Judge Shepherd agreed in his summary:

“At oral argument, Duke (with a candor perhaps more attributable to good legal strategy than to institutional modesty) persuasively asserted that this is a threshold that could not be any lower. Duke’s argument on this point cannot be reasonably disputed by Louisville.”

Kentucky courts interpret contract terms “according to their plain and ordinary meaning” barring any ambiguity. According to Shepherd, finding a suitable replacement literally meant any NCAA Division I team would suffice – including those in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA.)

After the teams played their initial game in 2002, a 40-3 U of L victory in Durham, N.C., Duke opted out of the remaining games in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Thanks in part to Duke’s cancellation, the Cards scrambled to find a 12th game for the upcoming season before signing an agreement with Memphis in February. U of L will play at Memphis on Oct. 10 and the Tigers are scheduled to play at U of L in 2010.

“We’re disappointed with the ruling,” said U of L spokesman Kenny Klein. “We will take our time to review the decision and explore our future options.”

[Other sources: (1) An earlier article in the Louisville Courier-Journal, (2), and (3) Red Lion Reports.]
Strictly as a football fan, albeit one who is a Louisville Cardinals partisan, I respectfully disagree with Judge Shepherd. There is no adequate substitute for Duke football, a patsy nonpareil in college football. There simply is no other (1) Division I-A team (2) that plays such appallingly bad football (3) so consistently and persistently (4) all while maintaining its membership in a Bowl Championship Series conference.

Memphis footballAs pleased as I am to witness a revival of the Louisville-Memphis rivalry, an old Metro Conference basketball grudge match moved to the gridiron, what I really want is a series of virtually guaranteed wins against the worst major college football team. And that team, despite its university's immense wealth and its city's sports tradition (think of the Bull Durham and the 1942 Rose Bowl), is the Duke Blue Devils.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Silver threads and golden needles

In Danzig U.S.A., we love old-time country music. There's a lot of loving and cheating, losing and loathing in our music. Here are four versions of an old classic, Silver Threads and Golden Needles:

Wanda Jackson
The Springfields

I don't want your lonely mansion, with a tear in every room
All I want's the love you promised beneath the haloed moon
But you think I should be happy with your money and your name
And hide myself in sorrow while you play your cheating game

Silver threads and golden needles cannot mend this heart of mine
And I dare not drown my sorrows in the warm glow of your wine
You can't buy my love with money, for I never was that kind
Silver threads and golden needles cannot mend this heart of mine

[Wanda Jackson version only:]
I grew up in faded gingham where love is a sacred thing
You grew up in silk and satin where love's the passing game
I know now you never loved me, and I know I was a fool
To think your pride would let you live by the golden rule

(Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, and Loretta Lynn)

Linda Ronstadt
Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, and Loretta Lynn (live)

Bonus multimedia:With some help from Chet Atkins, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, and Loretta Lynn perform Silver Threads and Golden Needles as The Honky-Tonk Angels:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Butchertown Neighborhood Worth a Visit

Louisville's Butchertown Neighborhood is filled with great architecture and good neighbors. Much like Clifton, Butchertown's residents are mixed lot. It's a great socio-economic group. I had a chance to walk around the neighborhood in early June, and I thought I would share some photos.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

St. Angela Merici

St. Angela Merici
St. Angela Merici on the campus of Bellarmine University in Louisville. Photograph by Daniel Light, March 7, 2007.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Music Festival in Louisville

Join us at the Mellwood Arts Center, June 19 - 22, 2008 for Terrastock 7.

There will be three stages (2 inside, 1 out).

According to the Terrastock Festival Site:
Each Terrastock Festival builds on the successes of the previous ones. The events are conceived in a spirit of peace, love and co-operation purely in order to celebrate the music championed by the The Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine and the Terrascope Online web community.

Terrastock is not an indie-rock A&R feeding frenzy. Bands and artists are there at the personal invitation of the organisers because we love their music and they love the way we do things. It's simply about the music, and about the whole Terrastock spirit. If you've ever been to a Terrastock, you'll know what we mean...

Click here for a list of bands.

To order Tickets, click here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Forecastle Festival

The 7th Annual Forecastle Festival will be held on the Belvedere July 25-27, 2008. The festival offers music, art, and activist information. Founded in Louisville, KY, the gathering is described as "a symposium for musicians, artists, and environmentalists. Forecastle connects the progressive Midwest."

Check out this year's lineup:
It's a good event for the whole family.