“Gus never talked about art and hated art theory.”
Gus himself, however, was an artist. He was Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of the best sculptors of the nineteenth century per historian David McCullough. Apparently, Gus didn’t need to talk about art to make great art.
This thought prompted some self-reflection. I’d rather write less about music and make more of it instead. So, while this blog isn’t going away, I’m hitting the reset button. Today's post is the last new post of 2020. Posts in 2021 may follow a different schedule and become more eclectic.
The reset goes for the e-mail list, too. I don't want to assume all of you wish to keep getting these posts. So if you’ve been getting e-mailed posts, click here or reply to the e-mail to keep getting them. Otherwise, this is your last e-mailed post!
To close this year of blogging, here are the top five posts from the last twelve months. They were chosen because they were most-commented, most-read, or a personal favorite.
1. Music in Wartime
“Music in wartime is an ancient tradition. Why? Why should something so beautiful, lively, and celebratory be laced with something so horrid, devastating, and grim? There is the simple explanation that music is a mood-booster. I think we can extract a deeper reason, though. Music declares victory before the battle...
They had sung, 'Peace on earth.' They were announcing the means by which God would achieve that Peace, but they were also declaring Peace before the war was over, before the crucifixion, before the final return of Christ.
We still need that song.”
This post concludes with a run-down of several favorite Christmas records.
2. What I learned in jail
"'Her name’s Becky.' That’s the description I once heard of the average listener of Christian radio. Having answered to that name before, I searched inside for a witty comeback and never found one.
I’m not enamored with the music of Christian radio and keep close company with a few who’d block the frequency if they could. But one day I left the radio behind me and walked Inside - Inside, where a group of women dressed in orange were waiting for a Bible study to begin."
3. Let them not sing alone
"The slave population was liberated, but, too often, the black community had to sing to themselves. But sing they did, and their music became irresistible to its hearers. It transformed American music into a brilliant gift to the world." This was posted before 2020 became what it became.
4. Turning thunder into song
"My father surprised me one night by telling me he liked thunder. I didn't like thunder. Thunder made me feel like unseen powers were about to crush my bedroom between their hands. Thunder made me rise and go to my dad and quietly say, 'I'm scared.' He came to sit with me for a few minutes while it passed. That's when he told me he liked thunder. He liked feeling its awesomeness, its greatness.
Then he told me something else unexpected. 'I find it helps when I'm scared to worship God.'"
5. Routine is magic
"Routine and tradition are powerful pedagogical tools that throw light on another aspect of learning: the miracle of incrementalism. We haltingly begin a new craft and get dizzy when looking at what the experts do. It seems too far away. But the mountaintop metaphor, though simple, is not simplistic: step by step, you get there. No matter how tangled the notes look or how awkward the fingering feels at first, the minuscule gains each day seem suddenly to resolve in a creditable performance. And a little bit every day goes farther than a lot every now and then."