Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The year before my lovely singing voice of a wife returned to Nelson, the village that had raised her, dragging me in her wake, there was functioning on Baker Street a coffee house known as The Trivium. The Trivium was the name given in the Middle Ages to the group of studies we are now inclined to call the Humanities, more or less, as it comprised grammar, logic, and rhetoric. This last we today call literature, thanks to Gutenberg and the invention of cheap printing. In medieval times, books were scarce, and  manuscripts took time to copy, so oral learning was big. One of the founders of the Trivium, so I was told, was a philosophy teacher at our little university - the reason I came to Nelson - thus the supposedly arcane title of the facility. I use the word 'arcane' because I am very much aware that I have joined battle both with and against the journalists, of every medium, and I am very much aware that journalists generally are professionally hooped on their view of themselves as "modern". Thus their first reaction to any intelligence escaping from anything earlier than, the latest, the nineteenth century, is suspect as being inferior to the latest bafflegab from those functioning in the public eye after World War One, thus 'arcane'.
They - the journalists - therefore incline to suspect all sorts of things that might make them wiser than they are, and are incredibly hide bound to their own childish rationalism, as ridiculously rooted, say, as any idiot of a British lord of the Age of Enlightenment, that is, the eighteenth century.
But the simple fact is that in the middle ages the subject of music was much more scientifically taught than it is now, as I have been at pains to point out in earlier posts of the Ranger. All the teachers were smarter: they knew music was a branch of mathematics, and music itself was, along with arithmetic, astronomy, and geometry, a member of the Quadrivium, the other part of basic education. Or perhaps they weren't actually smarter, it was just that their students would have lynched them had they ever been so thick as to insist on some of the methods that are standard now, in both pedagogy and testing and certifying. Medieval students were like that: they were easily upset, and walked when suitably provoked. Or lynched. This inclination was only one of the advantages of lacking high school counsellors trained under Sigmund Freud.
I bring this up now, somewhat repeating myself as my few faithful readers will realize, because while I have been manfully getting up my chops in order to put my instrumental hands where my mouth is, a couple of energetic and enterprising lads hitherto unknown to me have been at work creating exactly the kind of entertainment space here in Nelson, on legendary Ward Street, where all of this theory just might be about to be mightily proved. They don't have a name for it yet, and if they thought of calling it the Quadrivium they'd have to go into the publishing business to explain why, given the massive level of illiteracy about these days, but at my experience of the decades of local history, I tend to see it all as part of a grand plan, and, optimist that I have to be, expect great things.
What they do have, I hear along the grapevine, is a certain amount of unwonted hassle from the city fathers, and perhaps not quite the attention from astute investors that they deserve. If I were Bill Gates, or the Mac guys, I'd be there with my checkbook. But I'm neither of these fellows at the moment, so I just play the quiet observe and watch to see what happens, basically juggling the import and application of the divine locutions of the last fifty years.
It struck me as a most unfortunate glitch in the overall plan, back in 64 when Shawn and I arrived in Nelson only to hear that the Trivium had closed. Trouble with a liquor license, and the philosophy teacher had gone elsewhere. Had it all gone forward, we might have set up a regular gig, cut some albums, given the town a little universal dignity. But of course the Almighty has always thought of good music, and especially great music, as a sign of something to celebrate. If there's nothing to celebrate, thanks to the filthy behaviour of an overwhelming fraction of Catholic clergy and religious, and further thanks to the rationalistic idiocy of a self-triumphalist community of journalists, or slovenly police and government agencies, who can sing?
There are psalms which explain this situation. They should be read, and interiorized, because I have a feeling that their Author is up to something.

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