Archive for October 15th, 2011

Most Holy Theotokos of Sign icon by mother Anastasia

Icon by Mother Anastasia

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Cutie to the Rescue

I was in high school from 1967 to 1971. Arguably, these were the most creative years in the history of rock music. In fact, I think that one could make a good case that 1967 was the single most amazing year in rock history. That was the year of Sgt Pepper and “Magical Mystery Tour”, of the Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced” (and later that year “Axis Bold as Love”), the year that the Doors’ first album was released, of Cream’s “Disraeli Gears”, of Dylan’s “John Wesley Hardin”, Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” and “After Bathing at Baxter’s”, and Donovan’s “Gift of a Flower to a Garden”. And there was lots more; it was like something was in the air. And it continued for several more years.

Then, as the 70s began, everything changed. I guess that Led Zeppelin started it, with their power chord driven rock, but lesser bands only succeeded in being heavy and dull. Black Sabbath dragged it down into conscious evil, with the opening chords of their first album.

I always hated this music and the heavy metal that followed, and I only recently learned that the three-chord progression that it featured was long known in the West as “the Devil’s Triad”, and that it was forbidden in the Middle Ages. I don’t know enough about music to follow an explanation of just what that means but I know it when I hear it. It is stifling, dumb and numb and dark.

For a while in the mid 70s, before punk and new wave breathed new life into the genre, it was like a musical wasteland, with the alternatives being disco and this new numb rock. AC/DC, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Guns ‘n Roses; you know the type.

But for a few brief years before that  it seemed like every week someone was releasing an album that had sounds that no one had ever heard before. Listening to music back then was a communal affair, and groups of friends would gather to hear the latest, to listen to it over and over and discuss the lyrics and study the album covers (try that with a CD jewel box).

As good as that music was, I assumed that it would sound as dated and out of touch to my children as my parents’ music sounded to me. (I have since come to appreciate at least some of what my folks like; Duke Ellington, if not Perry Como).

So it was a great surprise when this music did not go away. Apparently some sort of shift occurred in music in that era, for young people are still discovering it and it still sounds good to them. My kids, a few years back, found the Beatles, then went on to listen to Hendrix and other 60s legends. My 14 year old, Patric, is particularly into music. While all three of my older sons are budding guitarists, he is the one who spends the most time practicing, and he is quite good. He started playing ukelele a few years ago, right before it became cool, and switched to guitar a year or so back. He plays way better than I do, and I have been playing since I was a boy. But then, I have little in the way of talent. The children get all their musical gifts from their mother.

But then Patric started listening to a lot of the 70s music that I loathe. He can play the intro the Guns ‘n Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” pretty well, for example. And as a guitarist, he is always on the lookout for virtuosity, and even I admit that a lot of those bands have talented guitarists. I did forbid him from playing the chords to “Smoke on the Water”, which is a Devil’s Triad.

He has also taken a somewhat fanatical liking to the Black Keys. I certainly appreciate their artistry, but I can only take a little of them.

And to be fair, a lot of what he likes is music that I also once liked, but just got sick of: “Dad. I can’t believe that you don’t like ‘Sweet Home Alabama'”

“Actually I liked that song the first 12,000 times I heard it.”

So there has been a little tension. Particularly in the evening, trying to relax with a book, I don’t want to listen to anything heavy at all. And he doesn’t like being told to turn it off.

Into this dilemma came Death Cab for Cutie (the name is from an obscure song by the 60s group Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band). I had heard these guys on the radio and liked them, and my son brought home a couple of their albums from the library last week. Aside from one song, which has the refrain “I will possess your heart” and is as creepy as that implies, the music is all melodic, and the lyrics intelligent. Oh, and the guitarist is excellent.

Thank you Death Cab for Cutie, for restoring harmony to my home.

This is one of their tunes. It isn’t as obscure as what I usually post, as it gets air play around here on stations that play this sort of thing, but it is a great tune, and a nice introduction if you are unfamiliar with the band:

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Today is the feast day of  another of the great saints of October in the Roman calendar, St Teresa of Avila. Many saints wrote dry theological treatises, but others wrote things, that while theologically rich, are full of life and personality. St Teresa is like that: her writings are deeply mystical, but the woman who shines through is also earthy and very witty. A doctor of the Church, St Teresa is one of the brightest lights shining from Carmel. Here is one of her prayers:

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.


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