You might be a music theory geek if . . .

Now these are funny…

1) your favorite pickup line is, “What’s your favorite augmented sixth chord?”
2) your second favorite pickup line is, “Would you like to raise my leading tone?”
3) you have ever told a joke with a punchline of: because it was polyphonic!
4) you only sing tunes that make good fugal subjects.
5) you dream in four parts.
6) those “parasitic” dissonances make you queasy, especially when left unresolved.
7) you can look at a piece by Bach and say, “You know, I think he could have gotten a better effect this way . …”
8) you can answer your phone with a tonal or a real answer.
9) you like to deceive your friends and loved ones with deceptive cadences.
10) you only drink fifths, and then you laugh at the pun.
11) you feel the need to end Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony with a picardy third.
12) instead of counting sheep, you count sequences.
13) you find free counterpoint too liberal.
14) you wonder what a Danish sixth would sound like.
15) the Corelli Clash gives you goosebumps.
16) you have ever quoted Walter Piston.
17) you can hear an enharmonic modulation coming a mile away.
18) you like to march to the rhythms of Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du printemps.”
19) your license plate says: T351.
20) you have ever tried to do a Schenkerian analysis on “Three Blind Mice.”
21) you have ever tried to do a Schenkerian analysis on John Cage’s 4’33”.
22) you have ever pondered on what an augmented seventh chord would sound like.
23) bass motion by ascending thirds or a sequential pattern with roots in ascending fifths immediately strikes you as “belabored.”
24) you lament the decline of serialism.
25) you know what the ninth overtone of the harmonic series is off the top of your head.
26) you can name ten of Palestrina’s contemporaries.
27) you enjoy the tang of a tritone whenever you can.
28) you have ever found a typographical error in a score by Berio, Stockhausen, or Boulez.
29) you have ever heard a wrong note in a performance of a composition by Berio, Stockhausen, or Boulez.
30) you have ever played through your music as if the fingering markings were figured bass symbols.
31) when you’re feeling prankish, you will transpose Mozart arias to locrian mode.
32) you keep a notebook of useful diminutions.
33) you have composed variations on a theme by Anton Webern.
34) you have trained your dog to jump through a flaming circle of fifths.
35) you have ever used the word “fortspinnung” in polite conversation.
36) you suspiciously check all the music you hear for dangling sevenths.
37) you feel cheated by evaded cadences.
38) you liked differential calculus because it reminded you of set theory.
39) every now and then you like to kick back and play something in hypophrygian mode.
40) you wonder why there aren’t more types of seventh chords.
41) you wish you had twelve fingers.
42) you like polytonal music because, hey, the more keys the merrier.
43) you abbreviate your shopping list using figured bass.
44) you always make sure to invert your counterpoint, just in case.
45) you know dirty acronyms for the order of sharps.
46) you consider all music written between 1750 and 1920 to be “rather elementary.”
47) you memorize dates and times by what they would sound like in set theory.
48) you can not only identify any one of Bach’s 371 Harmonized Chorales by ear, but you also know what age it is on in the Riemenschneider edition and how many suspensions it has in the first seven bars.
49) you long for the good old days of movable G-clefs.
50) you got more than half of the jokes in this list.

Don’t Call Me a Fundamentalist

The Southern Baptist Convention will be holding its annual meeting in North Carolina June 13-14 this year. They will be electing a new president this year, and there is a push (largely through blogs and other internet forums) by many younger pastors to elect someone not in the ‘inner circle’.
The tradition has been for the SBC president to be a pastor of a mega-church (8,000-15,000 + members), have a large number of baptisms in the last year (since that is the only true measure of whether a church is functioning properly), and be someone willing to make more rules for everyone to follow. There is a grassroots campaign to elect someone who is willing to make changes in rules that no longer have the same meaning, someone who is, at the very least, sympathetic to the growing Reformed movement in the SBC, someone who is willing to focus only on the essentials. The Old Guard is doing it’s best to try and discredit those who embrace the use of blogs to let people know what is really going on.

Wade Burleson, a Southern Baptist pastor in Oklahoma who is at the center of the SBC blog controversy, wrote a post recently entitled I Believe in the Fundamentals But Don’t Call Me a Fundamentalist on his blog. He includes this ditty, crediting it to Chuck Swindoll:

Believe as I believe no more, no less;
That I am right (and no one else) confess.
Feel as I feel, think only as I think;
Eat what I eat, and drink what I drink
Look as I look, do always as I do;
And then and only then I’ll fellowship with you.

He ends his post with this comment: “God save the SBC from Fundamentalism.”

Where are the Christians?

The House voted Tuesday to further choke off the flow of U.S. aid to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority, drawing the displeasure of the Bush administration and dividing the pro-Israel lobbying community.

The measure, approved 361-37, would cut off aid to non-governmental groups working in the West Bank and Gaza except for health programs and would deny visas to members of the Palestinian Authority. It also would ban contacts with Hamas because of its classification as a terrorist organization and limit the president’s authority to waive the aid bans.

The White House, which has already cut off funds for the Hamas-led government until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist and renounces acts of terrorism, criticized the bill as unneeded and overreaching in its restrictions.

“The issue is not Hamas,” said Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina, a critic of the bill. “The issue is rather the bill’s ban on aid to all non-governmental groups, private groups and organizations, many of whom are diametrically opposed to Hamas’s philosophy.”

I can’t believe this bill was even considered, much less passed by such a resounding majority in the house. To cut off all money to private groups trying to make a difference is completely illogical. It is impossible for me to follow their reasoning. They disagree with Hamas, ignore the fact that they were put into power primarily because of their humanitarian work, and decide the best way to provoke change is to try and make their lives worse.

Where are the christian groups protesting this bill? Oh, I know. They are busy claiming that “they” are going to make Mother’s and Father’s day cards disappear (Richard Land).

David Wilcox makes breakfast

Singer/songwriter David Wilcox has a new CD out. He posted the following on his website,

I am so looking forward to you hearing my new CD called Airstream which I have just started recording. No, wait.
Oh yeah, and there’s also this other new CD called VISTA that comes out today that some of you may not have heard yet, so let’s talk shall we?

As your musical doctor, I recommend that you immediately get the CD and immerse your heart in the sounds. It’s also good for your mind to memorize all the lyrics, and then we can start this conversation in depth, rather than at the beginning. Why wait for the healing to begin? Haven’t you been hurting long enough? The music carries the right medicine. For example, although it may not be obvious that the second half of the second verse of the song COMING ALIVE is about sex, it most certainly is. It was obvious at the moment of conception that this union was profoundly different than anything before. Could I have somehow known that Nance and I had started the life of our child? It was a place in time where there was an opening into forever. I didn’t have the language for it, but I felt it at the time, deep and strong. But the song isn’t about sex.

That verse, the song, the whole CD VISTA seems to be about coming alive in the big sense of it. I see that now. I never know what a new CD is about until after it’s done. I don’t see what I’m going through until I look back on the songs and realize there’s a pattern to what I’ve been writing about. So this past while for me has been about learning to be very much alive and awake. Some of the songs on VISTA came to me before I was really able to sing them with conviction. I guess my life wasn’t there yet. But now I’m learning some of what these songs have been teaching me about taking my stand and daring to live, and now I can sing them from experience and they feel true. I wish I could tell you about it, but words don’t do it. They can’t. It’s like if you tried to bring a bright piece of coral home from your dive trip to the island. It was bright and alive when it was down deep in the ocean, but when it sits on your coffee table it turns grey and dead as cement. Words emersed in spirit soon dry out and die just as dead. But if you let the music lead you back there and take you below the surface, the sun shimmers through the waves and somehow reflects in living color that shines in your heart. Music dares us to dive in where life is deep.

Do I ask too much from music? I don’t think so. All my life I have believed in what a good song promises: It wakes a sleepy heart like the smell of breakfast cooking so that we hunger for a life of love and true adventure. I made breakfast for you and I hope you like it.

David Wilcox

N. T. Wright on Da Vinci Code

N. T. Wright, an Anglican Bishop and a leading British New Testament scholar, for whom I have a lot of respect, gave a lecture last year at Seattle Pacific University entitled Decoding the Da Vinci Code. I just came across a transcript of it recently, and found his introduction interesting. He explores the reasons as to why people are so susceptible to believing stories like Da Vinci Code and Left Behind, articulating it much better than I have.

Telling Fact from Fiction
It is a well-known feature of today’s culture that some people can’t tell fact from fiction. Stories abound of people who believe the characters in soap operas to be real, including tales of thousands of baby clothes being sent to radio stations after one of the fictitious characters has given birth, and of actors being attacked in the street by people angry about the bad behavior of their screen character. Within a would-be Christian subculture the same thing becomes sinister, as when millions who read the Left Behind series really do believe not only in the “rapture” as a central element of their theology but in the sociopolitical ideologies powerfully reinforced by that series. In a sense, Dan Brown represents the mirror image of LaHaye and Jenkins, reproducing in fictionalized form some of the myths of the postmodern world as LaHaye and Jenkins reproduce in fictionalized form some of the myths of the fundamentalist right.

You can read his full essay here.

More Enlightenment from Robertson

Pat Robertson continues to dazzle all of us with his logic and foresight.

“If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms,” Robertson said May 8th on his 700 Club. Yesterday, he added, “there well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest.”

Robertson said the revelations about this year’s weather came to him during his annual personal prayer retreat in January.

Agreeing with Falwell

I agreed with Jerry Falwell recently. I think this is the first time that has happened.

Let’s see… It wasn’t about this:

“AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh’s charioteers.”

Nor this:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.” (speaking of 9/11)

Oh, here it is:

Alan Wisdom, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, stated this week, “Churches should be reluctant to attach the name of the Gospel of Christ to contemporary political agendas that lack a clear scriptural mandate and consensus among the faithful.”

I think those are very wise words.

He made that last statement in his e-mail newsletter on 2/10/06 after a group of Evangelicals issued a statement (concerning global warming) he didn’t like.

It sounds like great advice to me, Jerry. You should try following it sometime.

Left Behind: Da Vinci Code

The movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code hits theatres next week, and the buzz surrounding it is increasing. I’m reminded of another fiction series that has received a huge response, Left Behind. They have a numer of things in common.
~ They both take theories that are not well known in the mainstream, and popularize them through fiction.
~ They both elicit strong responses. DVC has been referred to as “blasphemy on steroids”, and Anne Lamott referred to Left Behind as “hard-core right-wing paranoid anti-Semitic homophobic misogynistic propaganda —not to put to fine a point on it.”

One of the main differences between DVC and Left Behind is that the theories advanced in DVC are around 2000 years old, while those behind Left Behind are only around 150 years old.
It would be interesting to see the results of a poll on how many people believe what they read in DVC, and how many believe what is in Left Behind.

Barbara Nicolosi, over at Church of the Masses first proposed the idea of an “othercott” on March 16th. The idea is to see another movie, in this case Over the Hedge instead of DVC. Her idea is gaining momentum, with many in the evangelical and catholic church embracing it. Her blog post was reprinted on Christianity Today’s websites and countless other blogs where it has generated much discussion.

I have a couple of problems with Barb’s suggestion. In the first place, it’s hard to take someone seriously who thinks King Kong was given a lot of publicity to try and distract from “our movie”, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She has proven by now, through her blind and unwavering support for Narnia and her deer-in-the-headlights response to Da Vinci Code, that she isn’t really concerned with offering balanced critiques of art, only with broadcasting her opinion and woe be to those who disagree with her.

Secondly, Barb declares that we vote at the theatres with our money, and if we go see it opening week it will encourage and reward the makers of DVC. Many have said that if you are going to see it, just don’t go opening weekend. The problem with that is if you go see it the second week, that will help them keep it in theatres a third week, and so on. If you wait to buy it on DVD, you are “helping to fund their next blasphemous movie” and still rewarding them. The only logical end to that argument is to go hide in your basement until the whole thing blows over.
I have said in the past that the rhetoric and actions she is using and proposing go against many of her other arguments, but I don’t think you’ll find that true. It seems she changes her philosophy as each new movie comes along.

I would suggest setting up a satirical website at, but there’s already one there. Except I don’t think they mean it as satire. Check out their page on suggestions page for response to the film. Number 5 is Post a pithy message on your church’s road sign. Some of their suggestions are Da Vinci Code – A Code Without a Clue; The Da Vinci Code: Bigotry Goes Mainstream; and Da Vinci Code– Code Book for Slander.

One of the points DVC brings to attention is the fact of how little most people know about the history of Christianity. If people are spurred into studying church history, researching the canonization of scripture, etc., then a good thing will have come out of this controversy. I hope people would do the same with Left Behind.

Music to Check Out

The newest CD from singer/songwriter Jewel released last week with one of the best titles I’ve heard in a long time, Goodbye Alice in Wonderland. It’s the first new album release I’ve bought in a while.

Jewel has said she wanted to make these songs as personal as her first record, Pieces of You (which has sold over 12 Million copies in the U.S.). She recorded a couple tracks with some of the team who worked on Pieces of You, but then decided instead to work with Rob Cavallo, producer of Green Day and the Goo Goo Dolls. The resulting collection rocks more than her first CD’s, in places, but also allows for a couple of more acoustic tracks. I’ve been playing it five or six times a day since I got it. At the moment, my favorite tracks are the title track, Good Day, and Stephenville, TX.

Jewel published a book of poetry (A Night Without Armor) several years ago, and her love for poetry is reflected in these lyrics. Some verses are spoken, with maybe the last line sung, to give inflection impossible in singing. For instance, in Stephenville, TX she breaks into a t.v. announcer voice and gives a humoristic (and lamentably accurate) summary of today’s culture:

we all read magazines for the latest ways to behave * so hey why not follow me * the blond bombshell deity ~*~ i’ll sell you neat ideas * without big words * and a little bit of cleavage * to wash it all down

In Good Day (one of my favorites) she sings:

i say to myself, self * why are you awake again? * it’s one a.m. * standin’ with the fridge wide open, starin’ * such a sight, florescent light – the stars are bright – might make a wish * if I believed in that shit * but as it is I might watch t.v. * cause it’s nice to see people can be * more messed up than me

If you liked Jewel’s earlier albums, you’ll probably like this effort. I enjoy listening to someone not afraid to write creative lyrics, since these kind of albums aren’t heard that often in mainstream music, or especially in CCM.

You can hear two of her new songs, along with Hands and Who Will Save Your Soul over at Stripped Music.

Hymns and Hats

I spent a couple days the end of last month in a studio here in Nashville with some friends, the Miller sisters, who were recording their second string quartet CD of hymns. They made their recording debut two years ago, for which I wrote two arrangements (listen to Like a River Glorious).

This time they were able to work with Grammy-nominated arranger Don Hart, recording more than 15 songs in about 4 days. I’m looking forward to hearing the final mixes from these sessions. I met the Millers at a music camp in 2000, and it’s been neat to watch their progress through the years.

To learn more about them, go to I’ll post more information about their CD when it releases.

Megan (Miller) Goff, Krista Miller, Therese Miller, Leah Miller.