Mother of All Melismata

This is the opening of Bach’s cantata for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (BWV 132). The video shows Bach’s own score. I love that it takes up to ten measures to sing the word Bahn—that’s like 85 notes. The road that John the Baptist comes to prepare seems to be a long and bumpy one.

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Digital Polygraph and Analog Letters

00000154Thomas Jefferson used a contraption called a polygraph duplicator to make copies of the many letters he wrote—as he wrote them. He could then file and store these copies as record of his correspondence. He called the device “the finest invention of the present age.” He also said that a record of one’s correspondence “form the only full and genuine journal of his life.” In fact, these letters provide much of the information we have about Thomas Jefferson, his life and thought.

But most people don’t write letters these days. For almost 20 years now, email has been widely in use. And free long distance and text messaging have made long-distance communication quicker and cheaper.  But what about a permanent record of your correspondence? Where is the “genuine journal” of our lives?

Most email clients now enable you to save every email you send and receive. But that wasn’t the case when we started using it. Remember AOL? Remember your old work or school email accounts? What about the messages you had to delete back when your mailboxes reached capacity? What about all the messages downloaded from POP servers and stored locally on your old computer, wherever that is? I just looked in my email folders, and the oldest received email in my archive is from 2000. My oldest sent email saved is from 2010.

I began using email in 1996. During that school year I was a senior in high school and Sara was a freshman in college. At the beginning of the year, letters were our main form of communication. During the year, email became a convenient way to stay in touch without having to wait days for a letter in the mail.

Today, I don’t know if I could find our emails from that year (unless I printed them out). I still have all the letters. And there are others—including the letter my godfather wrote to me on the day of my baptism.

Realizing the permanence of letters like this, in the past few years I began writing actual, handwritten letters to several of my family, friends, and other acquaintances. I had to work on cleaning up my handwriting, which was a problem in the past. (But I would take a sloppily-written letter any day! In my stash of old stuff I have a check written out to me by my grandmother in the last year of her life. Her penmanship was not nearly as beautiful as I hear it once was, but it’s her writing, and that’s precious to me—and it’s just a check.) I found some good monarch-sized stationery, but any piece of paper that can travel from one writing surface to its recipient’s mailbox and hands will work just fine. Sitting down at the end of a day and writing a letter is quite relaxing and enjoyable for me. I like to turn off the tech and work at my desk with pen and paper. I have to admit that it would be better were I to also receive letters in return.

But what about copies? I do not have access to a Jefferson-style polygraph duplicator, but even my old-school tendencies can make good use of good technology. After I write a letter, I use the Evernote app on my phone to snap a picture, which makes the photo available on my computer or any of my devices. Evernote can even recognize handwritten text and use that for searching through your notes. And perhaps, that in-the-cloud database will serve as a long-term record of my outgoing correspondence. Perhaps.

I suspect that the original letters will outlast the digital copies. Time will tell. That’s okay, because it’s time that will make any letters that we actually write and keep into a true and genuine journal of our lives.

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My writing and study desk at home–it’s not usually so clean. I use this slant board which one of my members made for me.

Here’s a few links to get you started. Leave a comment, send an email, or write me a letter if you want to know more.

 

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Wenn kömmst du? Ich komme.

This is the week that I listen to Bach’s Cantata 140 “Wachet auf” in preparation for the last Sunday in the church year. There are so many things that I love about this cantata and the hymn on which it is based.  Here’s just one.

There are two soprano-bass arias. As Bach tends to do, the bass is the Vox Christi, the voice of Christ, and the soprano is the voice of the Christian soul (or perhaps the church). In the first of these, it is the bride who asks the bridegroom “when are you coming?” His response is “I’m coming.” Then she sings, “Come, Jesus.” Again, he replies, “I’m coming.”

Isn’t that just the way it is with Jesus and his bride? She keeps on asking, because life in this world—waiting for him—is hard, and she wants nothing more than to see him and be with him, and because she loves him.

His response is always the same. His word and promise never change. But it’s comforting to hear his promise from his voice.

And the amazing thing about this piece of music—it makes me cling to the voice of Christ all the more.

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Organ Symposium

About a month ago, Hannah and Andrew each played a piece of music in an Organ Symposium here in El Paso, when several organists from around the area get together and play a piece or two for each other. Here is a video of the end of Hannah’s piece, just after she had been playing on two manuals, and after changing pistons midway through the song. I love that we’re able to give them the opportunity to try and experience things just like this.

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Grandpa’s Razor

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This morning I shaved with a new razor. But not really new. It is a safety razor which belonged to my grandfather, Andrew Linkert. It was made in 1970 by Gillette.

I have been wetshaving using a double-edge safety razor for around eight years now. What made me think of looking for one of Grandpa’s razors was actually Dr. T. David Gordon, author of Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns (great book, btw). He was speaking at worship conference about our modern notion that what is new is better, and how new isn’t always that much of an improvement. He gave the example of shaving with his father’s (or grandfather’s) straight razor, which he said gives a better shave than the disposable blades available today, lasts longer, better for the environment, and so on. And being able to hand it down to another generation is a feature, too.

I didn’t expect that it would still be around—Grandpa’s been gone 15 years—but my Aunt Martha found it and sent it to me. After a little soap, water, and elbow grease, it looks almost like new. It certainly works just fine. The blades I have fit perfectly—which cost less than 25¢ apiece. It’s not as heavy as the Merkur I have, but that will just take getting used to.

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Great Works

C. S. Lewis once wrote

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”

and

“The sure mark of an unliterate man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work.…Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty, or thirty times during the course of their life.”

Here is a list of books that I’ve read several times and repeatedly find their way onto my reading stack. I’ve excluded the books that are a constant part of my reading and studying, namely, the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord.

In no particular order…

  1. To Serve Them All My Days (R. F. Delderfield)
  2. Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness (Harold Senkbeil)
  3. The Hammer of God (Bo Giertz)
  4. The Theology of the Cross (Daniel Deutschlander)
  5. Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass (Gary Paulsen)
  6. Handbook of Consolations (Johann Gerhard)
  7. The Spirituality of the Cross (Gene Edward Veith)
  8. The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel (C. F.W Walther)
  9. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion (Martin Chemnitz)

 

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Experiment House Head

I laughed out loud when I came to this passage tonight as I was reading to Lydia:

After that, the Head’s friends saw that she was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found out she wasn’t much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after.
—C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

 

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Friends in the Hymnal

2014-03-19 12.31.16When I was a kid, I used to page through the hymnal in church—often while sitting with my mom during choir practices. I remember looking for hymns written by men named Johann. It was noteworthy, then, when I came across a hymn whose text and tune were both written by men who shared a name with me. Until I was older, I had never met anyone else who had the same name I did. But I had friends in the hymnal. And as I have grown older, I have realized that I share much more with these men than a name.

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Advent Preaching by Cantata

By the end of December, I will have prepared and delivered fifteen sermons or devotions for services during this month. These are for our Sunday Divine Service, as well as Matins and Vespers services for Advent and Christmas.

But in the midst of a month of near constant preparation to preach, a preacher needs a few sermons, too. I have been able to find those in the church cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. I have become particularly attached to two cantatas for Advent, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Savior of the Nations, Come) BWV 61 and Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn! BWV 132. The librettos for these works, one by Erdmann Neumeister (God’s Own Child I Gladly Say it) and the other by Salomo Franck are just incredible.

Both cantatas are on volume 7 of the collection of church cantatas by the Bach Collegium Japan. I highly recommend these recordings of all of Bach’s cantatas. [If I can figure it out, I’ll add a widget to this post that will allow you to preview this album.]

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Of Course

It is, of course, by Jesus’ command that I was baptized.

–Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ

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