30 December 2008

2008 Year-end

1] Put Me on Your iPod
2] Sing My Anthem
3] Take My Course
4] Year-End Reflection: From Narcissus to Jesus
5] New Year's Eve Program Notes: The Heart of Fugue

Though I may be overpacking this epistle, I remain committed to the policy (now a decade old) of sending to my entire mailing list only twice each year. I aim to have your first reaction, each time receiving this, be one of curiosity. The most time-dependent item here is my annual New Years Rockport Eve recital, which will be (same as last year's) 8:00-8:45 and 9:00-9:45 at the First Baptist Church, corner of Main & Broadway in Rockport, MA. Details on this year's program "The Heart of Fugue" are found below and information about the entire evening may be found at http://newyearsrockporteve.com.

Put Me on Your iPod

All six of my CDs are now available through my site as high quality MP3 downloads. They are encoded at 256 kbps VBR (variable bit rate), which is the same quality used for Amazon.com MP3 downloads. (While this makes for a larger file size than those sold at iTunes, the audio is noticeably superior). Each album sells for $7.50. Once you reach the page to download the files, however, all the albums are available — where you are welcome to download albums you didn't pay for, try them out, and then go back and pay for what you expect to continue enjoying. Start at http://jeffrysteele.com/cds-mp3s.html.

Sing my anthem

Toward the end of last Summer [which readers of my previous newsletter will recall I spent at Camp Calumet in NH] I wrote a SATB anthem for choir to a text from St. John's Gospel, "Children of the Light." Though our performance of it in the final liturgy there was under-rehearsed, it was well-received. I invite those of you who may direct or sing in choirs (or any singing ensemble) to consider programming it. Download the score for free at http://jeffrysteele.com/servicemusic.html, where you will also find my Missa Nova (previously done at Calumet). This was notated, by the way, in Apple Logic, rather than my usual Finale.

Take My Course. . .

. . . please! My experience last year teaching the "Rock'n'Roll and American Society (1945-1980)" course at MassBay Community College got me energized to develop a new course targeted to non-music majors. The result is "Learning from the Great Songwriters (1963-2007)", which I submitted to the Tufts Experimental College. I may as well have "brought coals to Newcastle", given that they already have a lot of music courses and were only accepting 16% of the courses submitted in all fields. Perhaps you know of another institution that would be interested in offering it. Click here for a description and a sample handout.

Year-End Reflection: From Narcissus to Jesus

Living in a retired trailer at Calumet all last Summer was a lesson insimplicity (How many things do we really need in our lives?), in collectivity (What do I need my own bathroom for?), in service (What are the actual needs of those around me, regardless of what I am professionally trained to offer them?) and in worship (What is the best use of people's time together? How should we respond to the natural beauty around us?), among other things. If this sounds monastic, that may relate to my just having read The Mountain of Silence (Markides) about Eastern Orthodoxy on Cyprus. In an effort to face today's and tomorrow's economic challenges, Monica and I have made several changes to cut back on expenses. We have a young woman living with us from Nigeria (finishing Seminary) who pitches in on housework and driving of Noah in exchange for room and board. We cleared out our finished basement for rental. This required resolving pet coexistence issues that had been holding us hostage. We do basically everything out of the kitchen now — meaning that whatever we've cluttered up the kitchen table with has to be cleared so we can sit down for a meal. I give lessons at my mother's house, which means I see more of her. Not a lot of work has come through this year for me — I still have Fridays with my wonderful Lynn choral students — but I'm not lacking things to do. Monica having two jobs in music ministry, she needs a lot of my logistic, as well as musical, support. These are among the adaptations we all must implement when there's less money to go around; the cats have to live with the dog; resources are shared; our material world contracts.

How little we can imagine as to what God has in store for us. If someone had come to me in my younger years to say that after a dozen years of guitar teaching I was going to want to move on to something more dynamic and challenging but that specific preparations would be necessary to secure that work, I would probably not have heeded the advice and felt that I knew better. Likewise, if someone had told me that I would by this time have attained a wonderful marriage that puts God first, I'd have shaken my head incredulously — what on earth does thatmean? Perhaps God prioritized that which I wanted most, and saw to my "schooling" like a Dickens benefactor. I'm still trying to understand what God wants me to do next with my gifts . . . perhaps there's something unique coming my way with the reconfiguration of our society. Now that my older step-son has joined the Air Force (this surprisingly positive development could be the topic of a whole other newsletter) and the younger one is considering a move to the West Coast with his father (it's yet to be seen what sort of development this is), we can start considering more options for ourselves. If you know of a position that might be suited to me, even far from Gloucester, we may be willing to make the move.

An opinion piece in the New York Times (Sonja Lyubomirsky, "Why We're Still Happy", 12/26) concludes that "We care more about social comparison, status and rank than about the absolute value of our bank accounts or reputations." If we see others going down around us, we're OK going down too. But when our lot, our career, whatever, pales next to someone else's we're discontent. This must be Narcissus, or logismoi(thought forms) the Eastern monks keep at bay through prayer (specifically, the Prayer of Jesus). Has the American Way — or its progeny, the Global Economy — given the dishonest practices that have long germinated in "enterprise", finally proved itself unsustainable? As ominous as it may appear, I am excited for the potential the Economic Downturn shows for addressing deep cultural dysfunctions — to bring us further down the path from ego fulfillment to the common good. In the meantime, "I feel like I owe it to someone" (D. Crosby, "Almost Cut My Hair") to maintain my guitar chops and present a challenging recital from time to time. . .

Program Notes: "The Heart of Fugue"

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