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John Powers (139)

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Seven Songs Meme

Posted to: John Powers (139) by John Powers (139), Thu, 26 Jun 2008 14:38:26 PDT
Edited: Thu, 26 Jun 2008 18:56:18 PDT
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Comments: 5 by 3 members
Viewed: 35 times by 7 members

I have a blog called Bazungu Bucks which I sometimes post to. Mostly I have a blog because I love to read and leave comments on other blogs. It seems like a good idea to play along. But I get stuck about what to write sometimes. Another blogger Daisy tagged me with a blog meme. Generally I react to these blog tagging games rather like chain letters and avoid them. But I was stuck about what to write and this one seemed fun. Play along if you like.

Seven Songs Meme

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring-summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

I listed seven songs at my blog with links to YouTube. I would have embedded the videos, but of my one or two blog readers at least one is in Uganda and Internet speeds do do YouTube and my blog is already too slow to load.

A friend left a comment with seven songs. David Pohl is an artist, illustrator and musician. He is also a treasured friend. He has a great collection of recorded music and generally listens to music as he does his illustration work. He has encyclopedia knowledge of music and he also knows me pretty well. So I eagerly followed his links to seven songs at YouTube.

Of the many great discoveries here at Ned, I'm particularly grateful to Linda Nowakowski for introducing me to Buddhist Economics. The problem of why social science theories always seem so inadequate, or just plan bad, has puzzled me for a long time. So I've been interested in scholars who have tackled the problem head on. Among them is the architect Christopher Alexander. Alexander begins the first book in an important series on Architecture by introducing "The Quality":

There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.

From my instruction in Christianity and a boy something akin to this quality with no name had made me think. I was taught that the answer to what is a sacrament is: An outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace. Even as a boy the words were meaningful, I thought I knew wherefore this grace. But a name for that grace is hard to pin down. So I was really excited when I first read Alexander to see a scholar take seriously this quality. Mostly scholars divide the world into stuff, ever more finely, and then there is form, pattern difference, relationship, etc. which it often seems is merely a background not able to be studied. Some radical materialist proclaim it is all stuff. But how can this quality be stuff?

Linda has been thinking hard about how to tell Buddhist Economics to people in the West and also the opposite side of the coin about how to tell people in the East that the Western ideology of more doesn't lead to happiness. That Linda is engaged in the serious study of economics following the presumption that happiness is important, show she's approaching social science in different way; a way where not all that matters is stuff.

What any of this has to do with seven songs is a bit of a mystery, or as all my stories are, long. But David among his songs linked to Holding Back the Years sung by Jimmy Scott. I had heard of Jimmy Scott, but I'm not sure I ever heard him sing. But hearing the song made me stop whatever else I was doing. I noticed there was a smile on my face. There is a quality in Scott's singing.

I can't name the quality, but his singing reminded me of other great vocalists. I thought of Joao Gilberto, here is an old video singing Desafinado. (I don't speak Portuguese, but the lyrics rendered into English are lovely.) What is the quality I'm responding to? Perhaps it's an expression of vulnerability in both Scott's and Gilberto's singing? I also thought of Shirley Horn. Here she's singing If You Love Me. These songs bring a smile to my face in a particular way.

Alexander in his book The Timeless Way of Building goes on at length about the quality with no name. He ends with something that seems appropriate to what I'm resonating with in these songs:

The quality which has no name includes these simpler sweeter qualities. But it is so ordinary as well, that it somehow reminds us of the passing of our life.

It is a slightly bitter quality.

Please if you want to list some songs you're loving this summertime.

Edit: Fixed link to Desafinado



By Linda Nowakowski (230), Fri, 27 Jun 2008 15:58:34 PDT
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I totally want to scream that TOT is blocking youtube and googlevideo. I pay for high bandwidth and they intentionally block the two identifiable high bandwidth sites....

There is one song that is dominating my life right now...Let it Be.

It came up because the English class for our first years that is being taught right now by the University of Hawaii students in the room next to my office is learning to sing this song. My first response after hearing it 500 times one afternoon was to write new words for it. "....Ajarn Brendan comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, read your book...etc"

However, that song is too persistent. It keeps going over and over again in my mind. "Let it Be."

Words of wisdom indeed. How often I can not let it be and instead beat a dead horse to my own detriment. And then I see a different side of "Let it be."

A complacency. A refusal to accept responsibility. Or is that my rational brain building up false arguments to support my actions?

Just like that song going around and around in my head, too often I get into these endless dances with words, cause, effect, what came first the chicken or the egg? When in the long run, none of those words matter. (or do they?)

John, you are not the only person who runs on and doesn't know when to stop. I probably shouldn't have started! ;-)


By John Powers (139), Fri, 27 Jun 2008 18:17:54 PDT
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The use of YouTube is a kind of a line in the sand on so many levels. It is fun for music, amazing really what's there, but that presents all sorts of copyright issues yet to be resolved. LOL there's no doubt that people want an easy way to share their enjoyment of music on line, but we've yet to invent good ways yet.

I did have to go to listen to your song at YouTube and what I saw there was the song from the movie Across the Universe. I've got to see the movie. This song juxtaposed a family with two teenage girls who have just lost their father in Vietnam with a black boy killed in riots in Detroit. The boy sings a cappella then joined by a black church choir and soloist. Oh my, very moving.

Ha, ha, speaking of copyright, I wanted to see if there was a link to a The New Yorker Piece by Andrea Lee. It's not online, I think because she's coming out with a book of essays dealing with the states of the US of A. This piece was a set of vignettes of Lee's growing up in Pennsylvania.

She relates a story from her 5th grade at Lansdowne Friends School. Her class is to recite the 19th Psalm in the meeting house. It's so beautifully told, let me just copy a snippet:

The beams of the meetinghouse ring with the echoes of our debacle, and we wither under the sidelong smirks of the sixth grade. Still, after a minute, a curious transformation occurs. One by one, we are able to look up at the faces of the elders, which are not severe and condemning, nor yet smiling with the kind of amused indulgence with which grownups greet endearing childish mishaps. Nor do they display any desire to make this a character-building experience. Those old faces are simply present: alert; regarding us and the rest of the hall with a boundless, patient comprehension that raises us to their own dignified level. We let silence flow back. And, gradually, something becomes clear: a kind of radiant indifference to words, mistaken or correct. What the elders, the Friends, pass on to us this morning is an inkling of how strong silence is. Essential; eternal. But common, in the best sense. Always there, if we can only listen for it. Inside or outside meeting.

By Jon Alexander (52), Tue, 16 Feb 2010 16:52:47 PST
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Wonderful songs, John -- thanks! I'll post my seven when I have a moment.


By John Powers (139), Tue, 16 Feb 2010 21:24:01 PST
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Wow I had totally forgotten about this. What is the quality in music? Is of course a question there's never an answer to. YouTube makes easy a sort of game I play sometimes of watching and listening to a bunch of covers of a particular song. Sometimes it's stunning how different musicians capture a song.

Calice is one of my favorite songs, but I must admit that part of that maybe my romantic notions of what the song meant to people in Brazil at a particular place in time.

It's funny online who will talk back to you. The Classical composer Thomas Obbo Lee engaged me. He has an interesting personal story. He was born in Beijing and then when he was a child his family moved to Hong Kong then to Brazil when he was a teenager. As young as he was he played Jazz flute with some prominent Brazilian musicians including Chico Buarque. Lee was disparaging folk music in our conversation and I argued in counter that Calice is a brilliant song. I thought since he knew Buarque he would agree, but he exclaimed "That song is boring!"

I still believe that quality in inherent in things like songs, but it may be that our appreciation is "in the eye of the beholder."


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