Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A born-again nincompoop

My choir's latest venture is – among other things – Howard Goodall's Eternal Light. So of late I've been browsing on YouTube for recordings. And, posted as a Comment after one, was this:

I can't say I'm sure exactly what having a problem with something involves. but here are a few issues that occur to me:
  1. 'theological issue' (l.1)
    This is self-important twaddle
  2. 'Goodall writing' (l.1) 
    erm, he didn't. There are disputes about who did  but Goodall is out of the frame – he wasn't even born when it first appeared in print (1938).
  3. 'It ends with...' (l.1)
    The words in question come much earlier too
    ,{Oops  – I misremembered.}
  4. 'statement' (l.2)
    It's not, it's an imperative, although I have to admit that it is followed by a statement.
  5. 'I understand' (l.2)
    If he'd closed the quote, I'd have had a chance of understanding too.
  6. '...the nuance' (l.3)
    The mind boggles. He has misunderstood so much that the nature of this nuance is a matter of some interest.
  7. 'portray' (l.3)
    This should win some sort of prize for oddness of collocation. How, I wonder, does one portray a nuance? Perhaps he's confused nuance with nuage, so that when writing that it 'fails miserably' he's suggesting that Goodall is no good at drawing clouds...
  8. 'Jesus' (l.3)
    What? Who said anything about him? I think maybe he's confused it with that source of so much error, Holy Scripture. For the record, Jesus didn't have a grave. He had a tomb, (Sceptics would point out that it's easier to 'rise from the dead' if you're entombed rather than interred.)
  9. 'PLEASE' (l.4)
    Lord deliver us from posturing like this! To whom is it addressed, for Heaven's sake? Does he have some psychotic fantasy of being forced by Someone to act against his will, so that he has to beg '...allow me to sing?' No doubt he hears voices too, poor chap. 
  10. 'Most discerning christians [sic]...'  (l.5)
    While not being one myself, I know quite a few discerning Christians, none of whom would 'have a problem' with that (though they might wish that I hadn't put the boot in quite so hard – they'll forgive me though; that's what they do, after all!)
  11. 'SHOULD' (l.5)
    In the words of Oliver Cromwell
    I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
But amid this detailed stuff  I'm in danger of missing the general point: this is a work of ART. If Goodall had written the text, he'd have been perfectly free to write anything that produced the musical effect he wanted. And while we're on the subject of oft-misinterpreted authoritative texts, didn't the Founding Fathers have something to say about this sort of freedom?


Update 2014.10.02.22:45  –  retraction in the colour of shame.

Update 2014.  –  added this PS
Well, that was better out than in. But to remove the aftertaste of bile, here's a bit of levity –  a letter I've just sent to Faber Music (publishers of the piece). I imagine it won't get past the triage exercised by the unpaid intern who no doubt monitors the mailbox.

My choir is singing this piece next month, and I'd like to report a typo that you could perhaps correct if there's a reprint.

In bar 3 of Factum est silentium the text has 'et vidi septem illos angelos' and the number is repeated correctly elsewhere. After the fourth angel has blown his trumpet, the mortals wonder what terrible things will happen at the sounds of the trumpets of the remaining 'trium illorum angelorum'. There's little doubt that the number is septem.

But in bar 6 it has 'Et septum angeli' as though St Jerome had a benign form of Tourette's Syndrome: 'And partittion angels...'!

All the recorded versions I have heard repeat this error, and I regret that my own choir will follow suit: a rogue  u in a quaver at this speed isn't worth spending precious rehearsal time on. But I'd like somebody to get it right sometime. ['I have to believe...']
PS And in case anyone says 'This isn't Classical Latin. What does he know?', the answer is 'Quite a lot'. I studied Vulgar Latin (precisely the Right Sort of Latin, as the text comes from the Vulgate) at Cambridge (at the time, coincidentally, that Tom Faber was a Fellow of my college).
† This will certainly go over the head (between the legs?) of the intern. It's a reference to the text of the movement that follows Factum est silentium.

Update 2017.06.07.15:00  –  Removed old footer .

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