Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Monk, the Friar, and the Grandson

Like so many working musicians, my oldest grandson plays by ear. He doesn't read music, and up to now he hasn't felt any real need or desire to read music. It's not that he's illiterate: quite the contrary. He's done some time in post-secondary in Vancouver, and back when he was in junior high, or middle school as they call it now, he borrowed my Tanqueray to study the capital vices and got himself an A for his little essay on the subject. He has a great affection for life, for people and other aspects of reality, not the least of which is the reality of the sounds of rhythm, melody, and harmony as they are found in the music that he listens to, plays and sings, or writes. Or records.
He has in fact recently won an award for a song he wrote and recorded.
Up to this point, he is not, of course, unique, except, perhaps, for the Tanqueray, which makes him not only unique among a lot of musicians but also among a lot of modern clergy and religious. (Tanqueray, the good Sulpician, was not a saint, nor by experience a veteran of the spiritual mansions, but he's a good place to start if you really want to find out what makes the universe hum. And also a nice bit of litmus paper for testing the reading habits of priests, especially if they happen to claim they're qualified to teach ascetic and mystical theology.)
But now James is unique, because he has come to stay with his grandparents and the incomparable Tremblay for a few weeks, doing some finishing work around the yard and soaking up Grandpa's research conclusions. Nice timing, as the true application of Guido d'Arrezo's genius finally works its divinely given wisdom through the researcher's brain. And fingers. And heart. And voice.
You know the young. On the road from Vancouver all night - a ride with a friend to Kelowna, then the bus to Nelson - so no sleep, but still game for a session that would have choked every conservatory, seminary, or university music faculty head in the world. It covered a lot of ground, for all that he was running on empty, and concluded with "How to Become Carlos Montoya in One Easy Lesson."
This was not before he went to bed, but before he went off into the town to find his sister and or friends. Bed, actually a brief stop on the couch on the porch, came at the end of the day. Ah, the younga people, as our beloved Kootenay Doukhobours call them and their almost endless energy.
As Ireneaus' sense of timing would have it, I had only a day or two before taken my recent application of Guido to the guitar as applied to J.S. Bach's first invention. Right, you morons, I was reading the bass clef, and turning every little passage into a solfa exercise. Showed James a bit of this, and he registered his classic grin. He's never had any use for that bastardization of the staff what goes with guitar guides that pretend to teach you how to read, and now he will find out why.
Later on, MT and I went on our first huckleberry hunt of the season. My little story in Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine sat well as I refined my technique with the berry scoop and the road through the woods above the town gleamed like a Monet from Arcadia. How we need art to make the best of nature.
Also in the midst of these adventures, there was the second dinner with our new bishop, the Capuchin, and a certain amount of discussion on the role of Saint Francis of Assisi, the former troubadour, and his role in bringing the immense heritage of the chant of the French Church into the universal liturgy. At present, it seems as if the Capuchins do not consider themselves equal to the Benedictines regarding a universal responsibility to teach the world the glories and common sense of the principles of chant. I doubt that Saint Francis is totally pleased with this situation, and said so, if only because until some good son of Saint Benedict can prove me wrong, I have to believe the order has failed theory class. And holds Aristotle, Aquinas, and Guido in contempt. As I said before, I've seen the evidence from Collegeville.
I never really knew about Francis' huge part in the Church's music until very recently. But the new knowledge does much to explain my private vow of poverty that followed my reading of Jorgenson's "Life", back at the end of the 50s, and further sheds light on its ultimate destination.
The Church has not a little guilt in the accumulated ignorance, and had better start waking up to the fact. It is well known that even God has limits to His patience.

1 comment:

Southview said...

Not that long ago your passion was considered by the Church, and the uppermost on high, the workings of the "Dark Lord", and I ain't talkin bout "DARTH VADER".