The Joy of Renaissance Music: Palestrina’s “Pope Marcellus” Mass

It’s another school year, which means another year going through the history of Western music in Pre-AP Music Appreciation.  This week we’re diving into Renaissance music, after spending last week covering the music of the Middle Ages.

Contrary to popular belief, the Middle Ages were not a period of depressing darkness, but rather a lively age.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be a peasant pushing an ox cart full of dung, but that peasant knew his place in the universe, in the sense that he knew he was part of an ordered cosmos with God at both its head and its center.

More on that another time, but I mention it to note that the Renaissance would not have been possible without that long age of faith in the Middle Ages.  Still, the Renaissance Period—variably dated, but starting roughly sometime in the fifteenth century, and extending to the seventeenth century—was a period of increased interest in the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, especially the human realism depicted in the art of those great civilizations, both a continuation of and a departure from the Middle Ages.

It also saw the declining influence of the Catholic Church in Europe, especially in the wake of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.  As Protestantism and other social forces broke the Church’s monopoly on education and its dominance over art and music, Catholicism mounted a Counter-Reformation, aimed at both reducing the influence of Protestantism and reforming real abuses within the Roman Church.

That effort, naturally, involved revisions to music.  Catholic priests denounced the increasingly theatrical nature of church music, decrying it as distracting from the simple message of the Gospel and the sacred Latin text, instead serving as gaudy entertainment for Mass goers.  Much like the megachurch arena rock concerts of today, services had become garish and maudlin, a reflection of the corruption within the Church.

It was in this context that Giovanni Pieluigi da Palestrina composed his greatest works.  According to Roger Kamien in Music: An Appreciation (the eighth brief edition, which I use with my students), Palestrina composed some 104 masses and 450 other sacred works, and his music became, essentially, the gold standard of church music until modern times (“masses” in the musical context are works built around five sung prayers, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, not to be confused with the Catholic service).

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Decline, Part I: Afghanistan

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Events of the past few years give one the distinct sense that the United States—and, indeed, Western Civilization—is in a steady decline.  As I wrote in an old post:

We’re no longer the Roman Republic, but we’re not the Roman Empire in the 5th century, either.  We’re more like the Roman Empire in the 2nd or 3rd centuries:  coasting along on the remnants of a functioning system, with a play-acting Congress shadowing the motions of republicanism.

We’re in what might be called the “decadent” phase of our existence:  past generations forged a nation from their sweat and blood; their successors solidified and consolidated on those gains, creating a powerful economy and culture, and winning major wars; their successors are currently coasting along on the fruits of their ancestors’ efforts.  But a culture, a nation, a civilization can only coast for so long before it loses all momentum entirely.

The recent unpleasantness in Afghanistan is a stark illustration of our current decadence—and our blind arrogance.  We believed we could plant a functioning democratic republic in a land that has been war-torn and riddled with autocratic warlords since time immemorial with an investment of twenty years of blood and treasure.  Instead, we botched a pull-out, abandoning American citizens and military equipment in the process, allowing the Taliban to seize control of the entire country in a leisurely weekend.

Ironically, The Pretender Biden was probably the perfect patsy for American withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was about nineteen years overdue.  Every administration has known we needed to get the heck out of a place known as “The Graveyard of Empires,” but no one wanted the bad optics of a withdrawal.  Biden is so senile and mentally foggy that he probably still doesn’t realize what he did, and certainly doesn’t feel any shame about abandoning Americans to the Taliban.

But even given our incompetent, mentally hobbled executive, the withdrawal from Afghanistan—quite necessary, I think—was botched so terribly, it condemns the entire US government and our military leadership.  Any ten-year old could have said, “Yeah, get all the weapons and people out first, then withdraw the last of the American troops.”  Instead, we did the exact opposite.  Ripping off the Band-Aid and getting out of Afghanistan was necessary, but did we have to rip the skin clean off the arm?

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Supporting Friends Friday: Nebraska Energy Observer

Well, it was inevitable—after dedicating an extremely popular edition of Supporting Friends Friday to the irreplaceable Audre Myers, I had to dedicate one to the man and the website that gave her an outlet:  Neo and Nebraska Energy Observer.

I’m not sure how I discovered Nebraska Energy Observer, but I suspect it involved Neo leaving a comment on one of my posts a couple of years ago.  I’m generally suspicious of unknown commenters, as the Internet is full of trolls interested in harassing right-wing bloggers, but I quickly figured out that Neo was one of the good guys.

My initial perception was that Neo was obsessed with English history, and I figured his blog was largely dedicated to the “special relationship” between the United States and our erstwhile mother country.  That relationship is, indeed, an important focus of Nebraska Energy Observer (though you’d never guess it from the title), but the blog covers a wide range of topics (including, of course, reflections on the life of an electrical lineman in Nebraska).

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Let’s Get Biblical: Elijah and the 7000

It’s easy to get discouraged in the face of all the insanity and absurdity of the wokesters, who aren’t just unwashed Antifa thugs picking fights in the streets.  Woke-ism, Cultural Marxism, CRT, progressivism, etc.—whatever name we give it, the ideology dominates our institutions, our ruling class, and our popular culture.

In the face of such totality, it’s little wonder that conservatives and traditionalists grow pessimistic about the future.  Despair is seductive, and misery loves company.

As Christians, however, despair is profoundly sinful.  When we give into despair—into hopelessness—we are denying God’s Sovereignty, His Power and His Plan to guide us through the present storm.

During my pastor’s sermon this past Sunday, he mentioned in passing the passages from 1 Kings 19 in which Elijah curls up under a broom tree and prays for death.  Despite defeating the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel in the previous chapter, Elijah despairs, for he knows that Jezebel has put a price on his head—and he feels utterly alone.

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Major Loot

In 2014, Hobby Lobby purchased a tablet containing an excerpt from the Epic of Gilgamesh, perhaps the oldest epic work of literature in Western Civilization.  The tablet is 3500-years old, and Hobby Lobby won the tablet in a Christie’s auction, paying $1.6 million for it.  Hobby Lobby displayed the tablet in its Museum of the Bible, which houses a number of rare and ancient artifacts.

Now, Hobby Lobby has forfeited the tablet to the US Department of Justice due to it shady provenance.  It seems that the original seller falsified a letter of provenance to show that the tablet had entered the United States before laws against importing rare artifacts were enacted.

To make matters worse, Christie’s apparently knew that the letter was questionable, but withheld that information.

Unfortunately, that means Hobby Lobby took one on the chin financially.  I’m not sure what the fate of the original smuggler is, but I imagine he’s long gone and living the sweet life.

The bigger question, though, is what should be done with such artifacts?  Current US policy seems to be to return them to their country of origin.  While that might seem to the be simplest policy, is it really best for the preservation of the artifacts—and our cultural heritage?

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TBT: Phone it in Friday XI: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part IV: Liberty in the Age of The Virus

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone on Milo’s rollicking Telegram chat, in which we were trying to figure out the name of a short story involving people living in underground cells, communicating only via the Internet.  I had a feeling I had written about it before, but could not remember the name of the story.

Turns out it was E.M. Forster’s novella “The Machine Stops,” originally published in 1909, and I wrote about it in this catch-all post from the early days of The Age of The Virus (so early, in fact, I was not capitalizing the first “the” in that moniker, which I have texted so much, my last phone auto-predicted “The Age of The Virus”).  I compared the story to Kipling’s “The Mother Hive”–a story that apparently is assigned regularly in India, because pageviews for it always seem to coincide with large numbers of site visitors from the subcontinent.

But I digress.  The story sounded eerily like what our elites asked us to do during The Age of The Virus:  stay home, get fat, consume mindless entertainment, and don’t socialize.  Granted, some of us could go outside and plant gardens (I still got fat, though), but the messaging was not “become more self-sufficient so we can mitigate disaster” but “buy more stuff and don’t do anything fun.”  It was depressing to me how many people embraced this line of reasoning, turning government-mandated sloth into some kind of perverted virtue.

I appreciated the break that The Age of The Virus afforded us, but it came with the severe curtailment of liberty—and Americans ate it up!  Instead of people boldly throwing ravers and partying down, laughing at our elites, we instead retreated into our hovels, shuddering in the dark.  When I did through a big Halloween bash, it was a massive success—because, I suppose, people had finally had it.

I guess that’s the silver lining.  With that, here’s 3 April 2020’s “Phone it in Friday XI: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part IV: Liberty in the Age of The Virus” (perhaps the longest title of any blog post ever):

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Lazy Sunday CXXII: MAGAWeek2020 Posts

In my enthusiasm to for the animal kingdom a couple of weeks ago, I neglected to kickoff MAGAWeek2021 with a Lazy Sunday retrospective of MAGAWeek2020 posts.

Well, better late than never.  Here’s all the goodness from MAGAWeek2020, which went pretty heavy on the first couple of decades of the twentieth century.  Even my post on a contemporary figure, Tucker Carlson, had some Progressive Era ties:  The Tuck is a big fan of Theodore Roosevelt, who enjoyed two separate posts last year.

Remember, these posts are available in full if subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for as little as $1 a month.  I’ve included links to the preview posts here on the blog, as well as the direct links to the full posts on my SubscribeStar page.

With that said, enjoy!

  • #MAGAWeek2020: Theodore Roosevelt, Part I” (post on SubscribeStar) – This first post on Theodore Roosevelt details his early life:  his childhood illness and his strenuous efforts to overcome it; the death of his mother and wife one the same day; his move to the Dakotas; and his command of the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.
  • #MAGAWeek2020: Theodore Roosevelt, Part II” (post on SubscribeStar) – This second post on TR examines his presidency in greater detail.  TR was a trailblazing president of the Progressive Era, and while some of his notions would rankle conservatives today (as they did at the time), he was, perhaps, the greatest populist president since Andrew Jackson.
  • #MAGAWeek2020: The Tuck” (post on SubscribeStar) – Speaking of populists, this profile celebrates the elitist who wants leaders to care about the people they govern.  Tucker Carlson is the only major voice in the mainstream media who advocates for an American First, pro-nationalist, pro-populist message.  He’s not the only such voice, but he’s the only one currently with the legitimacy of the mainstream press behind him—even as the National Security Agency is spying on him!  But, as I always say, you can’t cuck The Tuck!
  • #MAGAWeek2020: Calvin Coolidge” (post on SubscribeStar) – Calvin Coolidge has enjoyed a bit of a revival in recent years as a stand-in for the tax reform debate.  In many ways, he was the antithesis to Theodore Roosevelt’s gutsy, activist style of leadership.  Coolidge took the role of president seriously, chiefly the idea that he was merely presiding over the country, not lurching into towards reform.  His steady, quiet, hands-off leadership allowed the country to flourish, and he holds the distinction of being the only president to shrink the size of the federal budget by the time he left office.

Well, now you’re all caught up.  Lots of good stuff to read—and just for $1 a month!  You can’t beat that, eh?

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Lazy Sunday CXXI: MAGAWeek2021 Posts

Last week was MAGAWeek2021, a week dedicated to the men, women, ideas, events, and things that, in their own way, MADE AMERICA GREATMAGAWeek2021 posts were SubscribeStar exclusives.  If you want to read the full posts, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for as little as $1 a month.

In case you missed any of these posts, no worries!  You can catch up on them now with this edition of Lazy Sunday.  Here’s all the greatness in one convenient post:

So, with all that goodness, why haven’t you subscribed yet?  Hmmmmm?

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Tip The Portly Politico:  Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

***NOTEThis link is NOT a subscription to my SubscribeStar Page; it is for a one-time donation/tip via PayPal. To subscribe to my SubscribeStar page, use this URL:   https://subscribestar.com/the-portly-politico***

MAGAWeek2021: Washington’s Miraculous Escape from New York City

This week is MAGAWeek2021, my celebration of the men, women, and ideas that MADE AMERICA GREAT!  Starting Monday, 5 July 2021 and running through today (Friday, 9 July 2021), this year’s MAGAWeek2021 posts will be SubscribeStar exclusives.  If you want to read the full posts, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for as little as $1 a month.  You’ll also get access to exclusive content every Saturday.

On Wednesday of this MAGAWeek2021 I wrote about the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, a key early victory for the Americans in our Revolution that protected coastal South Carolina from British occupation for four years, diverting the Redcoats to the North.  An unfortunate side effect of that victory was the increased concentration of British troops in and ships off the coast of New York.

Soon, General George Washington and the Continental Army found themselves besieged in Brooklyn Heights, New York.  The British General Howe had Washington’s forces surrounded and outgunned.  Facing total annihilation—or, even worse, surrender of the Continental Army just six weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Washington made the decision to evacuate his men across the East River onto Manhattan Island on the night of 28 August 1776.

At daybreak, only about half of the Continental Army had made it across.  Defeat seemed imminent, even after the daring river crossings in the dead of night.

But then, something miraculous happened.

To read the rest of today’s MAGAWeek2021 post, head to my SubscribeStar page and subscribe for $1 a month or more!