Kids Who Write Songs, NPM memories, and other QTs

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Let’s start with a story about this boy: Treehouse 8Alex loves to rewrite songs. And oh lordy, sometimes it’s hard for an occasional songwriter to listen to it! Last night in the car, he decided to rewrite Rudolph with shades of the Lego movie: “Big Mr. Buz-niss MA-AN, had a bi-ig crane ro-BOT!”

“ALEX!” I shrieked. “Stop! Stop! Stop! I can’t take it anymore! You have to put the STRONG syllables on the STRONG beats!”

Dead silence. Then: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Christian roared with laughter. “Alex, I’m sorry, you have a mother who’s a spaz about music and words, and she’s freaking out!”

Deep breaths, Kate. Deep breaths.

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TurtleI have another Alex story. You have no idea…never mind, I take that back; anyone with multiple kids in the house knows exactly what I’m listening to this summer.

Mommy Alex told me I can’t change my Batman plane back!

Legos are meant to make NEW things, not keep the old ones!

But I want my LEEEEEGO plane!

But E. made this!

But it’s myyyyyyyyyy Batman plane!

Shut UP!

At lunchtime yesterday, Alex sighed with vast contentment. “I love summer.”

Me, running around doing the short-order cook thing: “Uh, okay, why’s that?”

“Because I lllllllooooooove spending time with my family.”

Face palm.

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You can really see just how small she is. These two are only two years apart.

You can really see just how small she is in this shot. These two are only two years apart.

Last weekend as the choir circled up I had one of those moments when you really process things you see every day. In this case, Julianna’s size. I know she’s tiny, but looking at her on Sunday I realized just how small. She and Nicholas have always been mistaken for twins, but now Nicholas is bigger. Julianna is still marginally taller but Nicholas outweighs her by almost ten pounds. And she’s so much smaller than other kids her age.

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Julianna’s view of the world is so streamlined, so simple and apparently un-nuanced, that sometimes I’m startled when she shows understanding of something her brothers don’t get at all. For instance: she knows when it’s Wednesday. She asks me every single Wednesday can we go to church? She doesn’t ask it any other day. Only Wednesdays.

Now, if you ask the boys what day of the week it is they’ll look at you blankly. Julianna, however, knows Wednesday means either “church school” (religious ed class) or choir practice, and those are highlights for her. And somehow, she knows when it’s Wednesday.

There’s much more going on in that little brain than it appears…but perhaps she processes things differently and that’s why we don’t recognize how much is going on.

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A few snippets of my week at NPM convention. First: I spent hours trying to figure out the route to drive in to downtown St. Louis, and where the best/safest/cheapest place to park would be. When I got there Monday morning, the garage I chose was closed for renovation. Sigh. So I ended up parking on a surface lot across the street. And every day the same youngish man was on duty to come over and collect my $5 for the day. (Yeah, it was a good lot.) He was so nice, and I couldn’t help thinking how nice it was to build relationships, however fleeting, with people.

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Photo by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton, via Flickr

Wednesday evening I played flute for a concert of music written by women composers, sponsored by WLP. The seven of us who were performing arrived at the Shrine of St. Joseph, site of one of the miracles for St. Peter Claver’s canonization, shortly after 5p.m.. It was a gorgeous day for July, and the man who let us in opened the huge church doors to let the cool breeze air out the building.

Almost immediately three little African American boys, kids who live in the neighborhood, I presume, appeared on the church steps, obviously not sure if they were allowed to come inside. The man went to greet them, invited them in, and for the entire hour that we were practicing, he was shepherding them from one part of the church to the next, explaining the imagery and the statues and who knows what else. I was too busy preparing for the concert to get emotional, but I’ve thought of that several times a day ever since. That memory will remain one of the highlights of a wonderful week.

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The Shrine of St. Joseph was a really lovely space to play flute. My first test note went reverberating around the high ceilings for most of a second before it faded. But it’s not as big and live as the Cathedral in St. Louis. Last summer, Christian and I went to Mass there, and the sheer reverb in that space clarified something for me about musical styles.

It makes perfect sense that the history of sacred music in Europe developed as it did; the music was created for the spaces where it was to be used: ethereal chant; soaring, exquisite motets, stirring organ-accompanied hymnody. That music is uniquely suited to those spaces, and I really question whether guitar/pop-influenced music could be used successfully there.

But it also made it clear to me the flaw in the argument that nothing other than chant, motets, and organ-accompanied hymnody is appropriate for worship. That music developed as a practical matter, not because there is something inherently more holy about it. More reasons to appreciate the greatness of the Holy Spirit, who inSpires people to write music of all styles to nourish the people of God in the many and varied places they gather. 7 QT logo

Where I Spent Last Week, And What I Learned From It

I spent last week at a conference for church musicians. I want to blog about it this morning, but so far I have spent ten minutes sitting in front of the computer grasping for what to say. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I can think of lots of things to say, but I can’t find the thread that ties them together. Some experiences have to be unpacked slowly over a long period of time.

WLP Instrumental showcase

It was a wonderful week, spent with wonderful people, making wonderful music and gleaning inspiration and insight. At the end of the week, Msgr. Ray East urged us to think of the encounter with Christ we had had this week, and share it with others.

Well, here goes.

The last few years, I’ve spent most of my time and energy being Mommy and freelance magazine/fiction writer. But there’s always a little part of me that tugs on my sleeve, reminding me that I’m a musician, and begging me to carve out some time for writing music. I spent this week away from my children, focusing on being a liturgical musician and composer. I got to be part of several great musical events, singing and playing flute with really terrific people. I got to spend a week focused on writing music and texts for worship with people whose work I admire tremendously.

Showcase

I had deep conversations with old friends and made new friends I can talk to as if we’ve always known each other. Being a morning person at a conference that didn’t get started until hours after I’m accustomed to rising, I had time in the mornings to spend a few minutes being still in the presence of God in the adoration room.

And at length, I realized the obvious: that writing sacred music grows out of one’s spiritual life. If your spiritual life consists of clinging to the rock face and just barely hanging on amid the crazies, well, you’re not exactly in a position to bear prodigious amounts of fruit, are you?

For years, I’ve clung to the idea that you do what you can, and a great deal of a mother-of-littles’ prayer time consists of prayer by service. You know: doing dishes and brushing teeth and folding laundry equals my spiritual work.

I still think that’s valid, but my soul is longing for more. I don’t have the solution worked out yet, but I know I’m going to have to make time for contemplation. I’ve been trying for the last several months, but it’s scattered and haphazard. Now it’s time to get real.

You’re all busy people. Feed me. How do you find time for silence and stillness to nurture your relationship with Jesus in the midst of the crazies?

Kid Conductors, Sleep, and Other Quick Takes

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Wednesday night, we took the kids to a symphony concert. This one was about visual art inspired by music. At “family concerts” they also let the kids come up and take turns conducting for a few bars. The kids had a lot of fun. Nicholas Conducting blog

(no idea who the little girl with Nicholas is, hence the blacked-out face. Can’t ask permission.)

A and J conducting blog

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It’s been a high-powered few weeks, and I am tired. So very tired. I go to bed when I should and I lie awake, trying not to retreat to the couch, because Nicholas already thinks the couch is Mommy’s regular bed, and because Christian tells me forlornly how much he misses my presence when I’m not there. Earlier this week, I’d just drifted off when a storm ripped across the state and Michael sat bolt upright in bed, screaming, while the sky beyond the blackout shades resembled a dance club with a strobe light on maximum.

Photo via Wiki Commons

I don’t sleep while my children are in bed with me. I merely lie there and try not to get wound up until the storm passes and I can move them back to their rooms. That night, I winced in anticipation of Nicholas and Julianna waking up, but they didn’t. I thanked God for a day at the lake, because those two were so shot, they slept through the storm. Otherwise it would have been triple the fun.

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On Wednesday night I decided to capitulate and take a Benadryl to help me sleep. And not to set my alarm in the morning. It’s a sacrifice I don’t take lightly, because that early morning hour is a big chunk of my productive time on any given day, but I knew I needed it. Christian got up and went running. When he came back at 6:20, I was still in bed. He came over to me. “Are you okay?” he asked with deep concern. “Why, because I’m still in bed?” I said groggily. “Well…yes!”

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Later, I went to swim lessons and realized I had forgotten to bring my Things To Do. Basically I never go anywhere without Things To Do. This block of time, beside the pool, I had intended to devote to singing through music for a concert next week. Instead I ended up…gasp!…simply sitting there and watching my children’s lesson for half an hour. And some of the tightness in my chest went away.

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And then we had choir practice, only for reasons too complex to explain in a post with the word “quick” in the title, I was not leading but instead watching everyone’s kids while they rehearsed. It was a lovely evening, and I took them onto the school playground. Eight kids, to be exact. One good-hearted uncle along to help, thank God, or that trek to the bathroom-and-water-break would have been quite an adventure–but the point is, again, no Things To Do. Because with eight kids to watch, you’re pretty much committed to doing nothing but, well, counting to eight repeatedly. But it was surprisingly relaxing.

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Photo by east_mountain, via Flickr. Yes, I know it’s a piccolo, not a flute. But Lego Star Wars storm troopers? That’s just too perfect for my life right now.

I’ve been practicing lately–regular flute practice! what a concept!–and it feels good. I have scheduled a recital for this fall (locals: September 21!), but somehow that has not been as high a motivator as I had hoped. Next week’s performances, however, did the trick. I’ve been practicing just about daily to get my chops in shape, and man, it feels good. But it is not like it was in  college and grad school. My practice sessions are accompanied by little boys taking toy cymbals and crashing them together right beside me. I can barely hear myself think, let alone play. I have to do most of performance analysis by how it feels. :) I never thought I would reach the day when it was a simple joy to clean my own flute. Something I do at a tiptoe, hoping to sneak out of the basement before the boys realize I’m done playing and start fighting over who gets to push the stick and cheesecloth through the flute.

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On a serious note: I’ve been reading the book Generation Me lately, bit by bit. Every so often something electrifies me. Like this:

“A 200 study of almost 20000 teens found that those who watch TV with a lot of sexual content are twice as likely to engage in intercourse as those who watch less. ‘The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior,’ said Rebecca Collins, the study’s lead author. Watching sexually explicit TV led to teens having sex two to three years earlier, with media-savvy 13-year-olds acting the same as more sheltered 15- or 16-year-olds. Another study found that young black women who watch many rap music videos are more likely to have multiple sex partners and to acquire a sexually transmitted disease.” (p. 170-171)

Good reasons to be strict about policing screen time. 7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes in which I demand beverage service during turbulence, laugh way too much on the radio, and try to decide whether to root for Argentina or Germany

Published in: on July 11, 2014 at 6:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Stream Of Consciousness Rant About Pop Music

Katy Perry dancing with others at the Buda Cas...

Katy Perry dancing with others at the Buda Castle with fireworks bursting from them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Katy Perry was singing on the radio when Nicholas popped out with, “Is this song called ‘Tiger Rahr’?” I chuckled inwardly at the way his brain changed “roar” into “rahr,” and then suddenly chuckled at myself, because all our kids yell “rahr” instead of “roar” as a result of being chased them around the house by me, growling thusly on all fours before tackling them to tickle and chew. And why, it occurs to me, do we say “roar” in the first place? After all, it does sound more like “rahr.”

Pop music has been on my mind lately. From the time I entered college in 1992 until about a year ago, I had only the most tenuous connection with the contents of the radio stations. I spent a long, long time immersed in classical music to the exclusion of all else, and when I poked my head up it was in the presence of a boyfriend/fiance/husband who preferred country. When I started Jazzercise last year, the instructors were always shouting “who is this singing?” like a pop quiz I was doomed to fail.

I started paying attention, because there were quite a few songs I really liked. And these days it’s a matter of mood, whether I put on pop or the classical/NPR station. I keep a list of songs I want to download until I have enough to burn a CD. (No, I do not have an iPod. I don’t need music with me anywhere there isn’t a CD player, and I can’t even keep track of my wallet and sunglasses; I don’t need one more thing I’m worried about losing.)

Yet at the same time, I get really frustrated, because some of my favorite music ends up being on the list of things I can’t buy because of the lyrics.

Example A: Enrique Iglesias. Man! Some of the most creative music out there, and such filthy lyrics. That example isn’t one of the worst, but you notice I didn’t embed the video. As one of the Jazzercise instructors said, “Whatever happened to all that ‘I wanna be your hero’?”

Example B: Pit Bull. Okay, so rap is all the rage, and Pit Bull cameos on approximately a billion other people’s songs. I’m not a rap fan, but that song that goes with the Fiat commercial is actually a really good song. Except what’s up with that repeating lyric “sexy people”? I can’t play that in front of my kids. These people have got to be interested in picking up the next generation of fans; why make that lyric so prominent? It’s not even what the song is about, for all that it’s the title. In fact, that song seems to have three lyric strands that are only slightly connected: the beautiful love song about Sorrento, stuff about immigrants, and this befuddling “Sexy people”, implying, I suppose, that all immigrants are sexy? I don’t know…maybe I’m missing something.

The problem is, I really, really like these two songs. Or rather, I want to, and it’s frustrating to feel that I can’t actually listen to them, because–as noted above–there are little ears listening.

Of course, there are some really wonderful songs out there, too. Katy Perry seems to specialize in songs that affirm (think Firework), and this Jason Mraz was one of the first I knew I wanted to download–still one of my favorites. I suppose it’s always been this way, hasn’t it?

End rant. Time to start another crazy Tuesday.

Published in: on November 19, 2013 at 8:18 am  Comments (6)  
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In Which I’m Rediscovering A Piece Of Myself

Sometimes I forget how blessed I am that what I do and who I am are the same thing. I may have a crazy-busy life with too many irons in the fire, but if you were to boil me down to the essentials, you’d be left with wife, mother, Catholic, creator. With very few exceptions, what I spend my days doing is who I am.

Not everyone gets to say that. A lot of people enjoy their jobs and are very good at them, but very few people get to go to work to do exactly what they would do anyway, because it’s who they are at the core.

Photo by Bookmouse, via Flickr

A few weeks ago I set a goal of preparing a recital. Out of all my “irons,” my flute playing has been the one that’s fallen by the wayside. The chops you need for playing church and weddings just aren’t the chops you need for playing Lieberman and Ibert (the centerpieces of my senior and graduate recitals.) So I haven’t had a lot of motivation to keep up the daily habit. But the creative muscle you exercise is the one that produces, and besides, there are little flurps in my playing now that nobody else can hear, but that drive me crazy. Fingers that don’t want to lift in unison. Lack of fluidity. Uneven, unpredictable tone quality. The only remedy is regular practice. But I’m spread too thin to be able to practice just because. Ergo: a recital.

I did pretty well as long as I was discerning a program, but then I started trying to figure out how to prepare an hour’s worth of music when I only have half an hour to forty minutes a day.

My head nearly exploded. I know how to prepare a recital with four hours’ practice a day. Forty minutes of tone study. Run the scales. Do an etude. Then pick one piece at a time and spend the last two hours thusly: hit either the problem spots or run it through for musical phrasing and endurance. That’s how you prepare a recital.

On half an hour a day? I got nothin’.

I stopped practicing altogether for about ten days.

And then I took myself in hand. Pulled out a piece of paper and started a practice log: what pieces, what movements, and what I’d worked on.

I’ve practiced 3 hours and 40 minutes since the 24th of July. Pathetic, absolutely pathetic. But it’s regular and anyway, it’s all the time I have. Getting downstairs for ten or fifteen minutes, as I did a couple of days, and digging in on one small spot, is better than deciding it’s not worth it at all.

It hasn’t been as productive a summer as I’d hoped on the writing front–I set my expectations pretty low, and managed to undershoot them by a mile–because with my mix of kids who need naps, kids who think they don’t need naps, and kids who are clearly too big for naps, I have virtually zero undistracted time. It is really hard to focus on putting words, themes and concepts together when you have a constant narrative of bickering and barely-comprehensible shouting and Christmas songs and “Twinkle Twinkle” in the background. (To wit: at present, Michael’s on my lap grabbing for the mouse, putting his hands on top of mine and pushing the keyboard platform in and out; Nicholas is singing while moving his tongue back and forth across his mouth, and Julianna’s shouting “Alee! Alee!”)

Flute practicing, though–that I can do with kids around. I can’t hear everything, but I can hear enough for what I’m working on, and a lot of it is in the feel, anyway.

Why yes, I can in fact read all those ledger lines at a glance.

Why yes, I can in fact read all those ledger lines at a glance.

And it feels good. I’ve missed this part of myself. There’s a particular warmth in the hands and the lips after I’ve practiced, the warmth of small muscles well exercised, and the hum in my veins, as if my blood is carrying music around my body, filling me up until my whole person hums with it.

It hasn’t translated to musical output yet (i.e. composition), but mostly I think that’s because I don’t have time to sit down at the piano. When school gets back in session, two of the kids will be gone altogether, and another will be gone two mornings, and Michael will still be napping twice a day. Until then, I’m just trying to get done what I have to get done.

To keep myself honest, I’m going to report in periodically–probably mostly via 7 Quick Takes. Hold me accountable, people. And if you’re one of my local readers, come hear me play when the time comes. It’ll be sometime next spring.

Program (tentative; also not the most ambitious ever, considering I’ve performed two of these before, and another is high school level. But hey, it’s a place to start):

Carl Reinecke: Sonata “Undine”

Paul Hindemith: Acht Stucke

Maurice Ravel: Piece en forme de Habanera

Ernest Bloch: Suite Modale

Pierre Sancan: Sonatine

Published in: on August 5, 2013 at 8:25 am  Comments (6)  
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Alive Again

Michael and I went to the Newman Center for Mass last night. That wasn’t how the day was supposed to be. I was supposed to be at 10:00 Mass across town, with the choir and my husband. I was supposed to conduct an a cappella piece and sing harmony on the psalm. But Nicholas’ illness peaked in the night, capping off three days of whining and bloody noses with a night of fever and four hours’ solid dry hacking. At three a.m. I said blearily, “He can’t go to church tomorrow. I’ll have to go later, before my meeting.”

So there I sat at five p.m., in the section beside the choir, at my old stomping grounds. As accustomed as I am to the constant jostling for position, it was disorienting to sit alone (well, alone until the baby woke up). But restful, too.

Although this was the Sunday evening liturgy I directed for one short year as a newlywed, the parish repertoire has moved on. I knew very little of it, but I learned, enjoying the sound of a contemporary ensemble that is most of what I would like ours to be, leading a willing assembly actively engaged. (Can I just say…wow.)

There’s something special about that church, and although I love my parish and the community to which I have dedicated the last twelve years, somehow whenever I walk into the building where I met my husband and where I married him, it feels like coming home. So much of my growing-up-in-faith happened within those walls, and sitting there, the memories seemed to leap up in greeting.

There were evening choir practices and prayer circle in the cry room, and the heartfelt hug and prayer of a wonderful woman who could see that something was troubling me in those early months of my anxiety, even though I didn’t have the courage to tell her what it was. There were Sunday morning prayers before Mass, twenty people crowded into a music storage room not wide enough for two to pass each other. There was the day after our wedding, when I stood up to ask for  volunteers for my Life Teen music ensemble. It was the first time I ever referred to myself as “Kate Basi,” and the whole assembly, which had seen us grow together for four years, applauded.

Photo by Niccola Caranti, via Flickr

There were earlier memories than that, even. I remember sitting with my parents on a Saturday evening in the days when the church was arranged “in the round,” and the slanting rays of the evening sun blinded, the light searing my soul, flaying it open. It flayed open again last night as I watched my fourth baby stare, mesmerized, at the warmth glowing on polished wood.

I was awake to the holy last night in a way I haven’t been for a long time. And it was beautiful.

Published in: on April 23, 2012 at 6:59 am  Comments (3)  
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Playing at St. Paul’s in London

Photo by roger4336, via Flickr

I don’t talk much about music on the blog, which is actually rather odd, considering how saturated my life has always been with the practice and study of music. So today I hope you’ll bear with me as I share a musical story that came to mind while Christian and I were watching National Treasure 2 the other night.

My senior year of high school, I worked tons of close shifts at Taco Bell to save the money to go on a three-week European tour with the U. S. Collegiate Wind Band.

We played concerts almost every day: in the Amsterdam zoo, in a park in Paris (where I had a halting conversation in French with a lovely old man), as part of a German kinderfest, in Salzburg standing beside Mozart’s piano, in Gothic churches and places I can’t even remember. One of the last concerts–perhaps the very last–was at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the church where Charles and Diana were married.

Our big show piece was a band arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Lots of finger work for the woodwinds, with a really big brass finale. And the brass section could not seem to cut off with the conductor. They’d been scolded for it many times over the course of the tour.

Taken during this very piece...the flutist at far left is me.

St. Paul’s was a disorienting space to play in. Flute players like live rooms–they make us sound good–but that day I learned there’s such a thing as too much reverb. It also didn’t help that there was a lot of crowd noise: groups on tours and other individual tourists chatting it up. (The famous houses of prayer in Europe, by and large, are not prayerful at all.) It was hard to hear the sections farthest away from me at all, much less play in concert with them. The simpler pieces weren’t so bad, but that fugue was something else to keep together. I just had to shut off my ears and watch the conductor’s hands.

I breathed a sigh of relief as we finished our complicated finger work and slowed down into the big, brassy finish. The conductor gave us the final cutoff…and the brass kept playing. And playing. Irritated, I turned around to glare at them (because flute players are know-it-all busybodies–I can own my instrument’s personality)–and as the brass note went on and on, I was shocked to see every instrument in resting position, even while the full brass sound rang on and on.

Speaking of instrument personalities…if you aren’t a musician, you might think I’m making this up, but it really is true that certain instruments equal certain personality types. I don’t know if the instrument attracts certain personalities or shapes them after the fact, but for example, you can expect flute players to be divas (that’s a kind descriptor, btw), trumpet players to have huge egos (so far I’ve only met one trumpeter who didn’t fit that mold), saxophone players to be very laid back, and bassoonists to have a strong goofy streak.

Musicians, you want to jump in?

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 7:36 am  Comments (9)  
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Word(y) Wednesday

This is too cute to bury in another post.

For those who might be new visitors from the carnival, meet my daughter: wall-demolisher, universal charmer, mommy-mind-reader, a conduit for Heavenly beauty, and now–aspiring flute player…just like Mommy!

Uh, sweetheart, you might need to turn it around.

She is never more excited about Mommy than when I pull out my flute.  But I will never let her touch it, which makes her less than happy. ;)

Good thing Mommy has a flute student who’s less protective of her instrument. Maybe that’s why Miss K. got the hug of the century.

Sunday at church, I went to the piano to cover for Christian so he could go to Communion, and to my horror, amid “Taste and see,” I saw Julianna lifting my, um, let’s just say as-expensive-as-a-used-car flute off its peg. Is it acceptable to leave the congregation hanging in order to save an expensive repair bill? Fortunately, Christian saw as well, and rescued my poor flute from the clutches of my over-eager daughter.

(Sharing today at Angie’s Wordful Wednesday roundup , at You Capture: Fun with I Should Be Folding Laundry, and at 5 Minutes For Special Needs: Special Exposure Wednesday)

Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 4:02 am  Comments (8)  
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Let Everything That Has Breath (or: Beating a Dead Horse)

Just before my alarm went off, 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I had the most amazing dream. We were attending Mass at the Newman Center, and singing the new Mass parts. They were chants, as a matter of fact, but the most gorgeous, melodic chants I’d ever heard, and expanded into gorgeously rich harmony that made the very air hum. And ringed around the exterior of the church stood dozens of people, children and adults, bearing small percussion instruments—agogô, cabasa, güiro, and others I know by sight and sound but for which I know no names. It was a tight ensemble; I looked around and marveled at the way even the children kept the complex rhythms locked to the voices, the joy filling up the space, and my heart lifted up in gratitude not only for the existence of God, but for the power of what He created here on Earth.

It is sometimes suggested that what I describe crosses into irreverence. It is called banal, feel-good, happy-clappy, and so on. People I deeply respect in all other areas use the word “beauty” to mean “high church,” unable (or refusing) to acknowledge that beauty crosses aesthetic lines, finding itself equally at home amid chant, praise bands, contemporary ensembles, solo cantors and classically-trained choirs.

Only in the constant frustration of trying to moderate the online rhetoric do I finally realize how blessed I was to grow up in a small, rural parish where there was little pretension and a great openness to all forms of beauty in music (even though, being a small parish, we were incredibly limited in what we could do). It wasn’t until much later that I realized how strongly so many people equate God with solemn, humorless sternness. I’ve never understood it. Why must reverence equal silence, holiness equal formality? Why do we shush children, try to make them behave (defined as sitting still and being silent, things utterly not in their nature, things which cause them to yell “church is boring” and help them not at all along the road toward understanding what’s going on and becoming active in participation)—why, when Jesus very clearly said “Let the little children come to me” and “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”? Why do we use worship as another venue to drive wedges between people, to separate them into groups that can be labeled “Us” and “Them”?

Don’t get me wrong. You know how I crave silence, how I find God in it. I think the lack of silence in modern life is a real problem, one that people are reluctant to address. And certainly I’m not suggesting that we should abandon the pomp and grandeur of high church. I know, without a doubt, that the ideal held up by the aforementioned people has real power to lift the heart to God, when it’s well done. But so do other forms. Look around the world. God created kangaroos and slugs, mountains and valleys and deserts and oceans, skin in black and white and all variations in between, and inspired people in all of them to create unique forms of beauty. How can we claim that there is only one way to worship the God who created such diversity? When any of us try to set up our own personal preferences (whatever form they take) as the only way or even the best way, we put God in a box.

Well, thank God He won’t stay in that box, that’s all I have to say.

What I experienced in that dream would be hard to achieve this side of Heaven. But it reminds me yet again that the human race, in all its diversity of custom and culture, truly is good.

Today I am grateful for all the things that support the song of the people of God:

hand drums and drumsets

electric guitars and keyboards

pipe organs and glorious trained choirs

chants and Renaissance polyphony (okay, so that last doesn’t support assembly song, but it can still lift our souls)

Handel and Haugen

Pope Gregory and Rich Mullins

for the inSpiration that touches all artists, whether they choose to make good use of it or not

for the constant renewal of the Church in the gifts of its members

for the constant tension between embracing what is good from contemporary culture and holding on to truth—however imperfectly the balance is held

for online arguments that remind me never to take for granted the blessings I’ve been given

Counting to a thousand with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience

7 Quick Takes, vol. 119

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First out of the box: I am writing a short magazine feature on marital communication and natural family planning. I’d love to have some quotes from some of you NFPers out there on how you think NFP has helped, hurt, or otherwise affected your spousal communication. Email me at kathleenbasi@gmail.com, or just leave a comment!

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For reasons I won’t go into, I’ve been thinking about texts for liturgical music lately. There are “horizontal” texts and “vertical” texts. Horizontal focuses on our relationship as community of believers, although there remains an implicit (and sometimes overt) vertical dimenion. The other is simply directed upward, pure praise and worship. (Now that’s interesting. I didn’t set out to use a term associated with praise bands. Vertical texts generally are associated with traditional hymnody, which is what I meant. But the juxtaposition indicates that the various schools of thought aren’t as far apart as they think they are! Hmmmm.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking that the objections to horizontal texts (the “we” songs: They’ll Know We Are Christians, We Remember, etc.), or on texts that focus on me and my response to God’s call, don’t really hold up. Faith isn’t lived in some cerebral, vertical vacuum. It’s lived out in a messy world. God doesn’t force us to follow him; he offers the choice to live a holy life. How is it inappropriate to sing “I will choose Christ”? Worship is focused on God, yes, but implicit in any worship of God is our response. After all, God doesn’t need us to worship him. Our worship doesn’t make God greater. But it does change us.  If what we do on Sunday doesn’t affect the way we interact with each other the rest of the week, then we’ve missed the point altogether. And horizontal music makes those connections for us. So…in summary, both vertical and horizontal are important.

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The third trimester of my last pregnancy was awful. It got to the point where I couldn’t support my weight on my legs; I walked around the mall one day leaning on the stroller. Finally I realized that it was the result of two C-sections; my core muscles were just weak, and I’d never done anything to strengthen them. So the last year or so, I’ve been doing Pilates and situps and stretches. But that problem in my right thigh reared its ugly head again lately. My massage therapist tells me it’s a result of pelvic tilt. So I decided to do stretches and see if I could ease the pain. So far, it’s helping. Not perfect, but it’s helping. I’m also thinking about posture more.

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Here’s one of those things that a mother “treasures in her heart.” A few days ago, I went out to get Julianna off the bus, and the bus driver–incidentally a woman who loves her job so much that she wears T shirts that are all about being a bus driver, and (even cooler) a bus driver for special kids–shook her head and said to me, “You know your little girl just charms everyone she meets?” Sniff, sniff!

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I’m attending my first writing conference in a few weeks, and so I’m trying to put together a novel pitch. Intimidating, and exciting. I realize I know exactly how to pitch certain of my works–the Advent book and my first novel, for example–but not all of them. I know all the elements, however, and so it’s a matter of arranging them in a pithy sentence or four. And I take comfort remembering that my first novel pitch I played around with for about ten years. :)

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Chicken Soup for the Soul: New MomsI spy, with my little eye… …. … At the grocery store last week, I saw a whole rack of these babies in front of the pharmacy. It was totally awesome to see something with my writing in it featured–without my having to lift one finger to put it there! Anybody need a gift for a new mom? :)

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The sun has cleared the horizon in a gorgeous liquid orange-yellow, throwing a fuzzy glow across the wall opposite me, and my daughter is scooting down the stairs in her jammies and her diaper, which means it’s porbably too late for the toilet. Time to say:

Have a great weekend!

Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 6:46 am  Comments (3)  
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