Posts Tagged 'orthodox music symposium at indiana university'

The St. John of Damascus Society

I have been making random references to something called “The St. John of Damascus Society” for a few months now, and I can finally say something a bit more concrete.

The really short version is that in the planning for the Orthodox Music Symposium at Indiana University, it became apparent that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for there to be a group that had administrative and financial independence from the church for purposes of putting together such things. We were piggybacking onto the parish for our tax-exempt status, and that nearly cost us a couple of our major supporters; plus, it would just be cleaner if we were able to have our own checkbook. The initial idea was something like a “Friends of Music at All Saints” or “All Saints Music Boosters”, and I went to Hal Sabbagh, a longtime chanter at and founding member of All Saints, to see what he thought. He was supportive of the idea, and was willing to help out however he could.

We incorporated as a non-profit in the state of Indiana last July; the next step was tax-exempt status, which meant assembling a board. Our Advisory Board consists of all of the presenters for the Symposium — John Michael Boyer, Alexander Khalil, Kurt Sander, Richard Toensing — as well as Matthew Arndt, an old friend of mine, one of the cantors at St. Raphael of Brooklyn Church in Iowa City and music theory professor at University of Iowa (as well as a former student of Richard Toensing’s). Our Executive Board consists of: Hal Sabbagh, president; Vicki Pappas, national chair of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians, vice-president; Laura Willms and Brian Rogers, two more very supportive cantors at All Saints, are secretary and treasurer, respectively; rounding out the Executive Board are Franklin Hess, coordinator of the Modern Greek program at Indiana University, and Patrick Michelson, the newly-hired (as of the 2011-12 academic year) Russian Orthodoxy specialist in IU’s Religious Studies department.

All of these people gave generously of their time, effort, and advice. By November we had everything we needed to assemble our application for federal tax-exempt status, and that went in the mail on 14 November.

As Hal found out over the phone with the IRS two days ago, our application for federal tax-exempt status was granted on Monday of this week, and we will be receiving a letter within the next couple of weeks with our number. So, time to get serious.

The St. John of Damascus Society, with everybody who is involved, has developed its scope significantly beyond being All Saints’ music boosters. The basic idea is to promote the idea of excellence in traditional forms of Orthodox music as good outreach — that singing well and singing prayerfully not only do not constitute a dichotomy, but it can serve as a powerful witness to those around us. We have a number of ideas about things we want to do locally, regionally, and nationally, and while we’ve waited for tax-exempt status to be sewn up before we went public with anything, I can tell you you’ll be hearing more very soon, including ways you can be involved.

We hope to have a website up shortly; in the meantime, if you’re interested in the St. John of Damascus Society based on this little teaser, would you mind filling out this form? That’ll make it really easy for us to get announcements to you as we make them. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Thanks very much, and I will have more to say very soon!


An itinerary and a couple of labors of love

I’ve got three things to pass along, and I suppose I should relate them in order of interest from least to greatest. Otherwise, you’ll just read the first item and skip the rest.

First — I’m going to be mildly peripatetic in the coming months. 9-12 February I will be in New Jersey to participate in the Georges Florovsky Patristic Symposium, and then 12-15 February I will be in Boston to spend a few days at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. 2-4 March I will be in Emmaus, PA to give a presentation on church music as part of a Lenten retreat at St. Paul Orthodox Church. Then, looking ahead a bit farther, 24-26 May I will be participating in the North American Patristics Society (NAPS) annual meeting in Chicago. I realize that maybe I’m up to three regular readers (counting my parakeet), but if you happen to be anywhere near any of those places when I’m there, by all means let me know. I had the odd experience at the Antiochian Sacred Music Institute last summer of meeting a couple of people who said upon meeting me, “Oh! I read your blog,” and then I also met this gentleman at the Byzantine Studies conference this last October (although neither of us realized whom the other was until after we were both back home). Anyway, I won’t look at you funny or hiss at you if you introduce yourself, promise.

Second — my first peer-reviewed article, “Sensory Experience and the Women Martyrs of Najran”, has been accepted by The Journal of Early Christian Studies. It’s been an interesting road with this project; five years ago, during my initial year of being a non-matriculated continuing student, I took my first graduate seminar, a course on the Middle East in late antiquity, taught by the professor who would later become my advisor. It was my first exposure to scholars like Peter Brown and Susan Ashbrook Harvey and so on, and was a significant broadening of my horizons. The student makeup of the class was very telling; it was a History course that had no History students in it but rather three Religious Studies kids and me.

Anyway, among other things, we read Sebastian Brock and Susan Ashbrook Harvey’s translation of the section of the Second Letter of Simeon of Beth-Arsham that deals with the martyrdoms of the women during the Himyarites’ sack of Najran, and the in-class discussion sparked something for me. Other students were focused on the gory nature of the martyrdom details for their own sake — I specifically remember one person commenting, “I never understood the connection people draw between martyrdom and sadomasochism before now” — but it was clear to me that there was something else governing how those details were conveyed, namely shared liturgical experience. I raised this point, and I still remember the look that I got as clear as day. Needless to say, it didn’t get a lot of traction in class, but when paper topics had to be proposed, I mentioned it to the professor as a possibility. “I can almost guarantee you I won’t buy your argument,” he said. “You’ll have to go a long way for me to see it as at all legitimate.” Well, that’s a challenge, now isn’t it? I wrote the paper, making what I saw as explicit as I could and relating it to known liturgical practices as clearly as I was able. I presented an overview in class, and the professor was quiet for a moment. “You know,” he said, “not only am I convinced, but now I can’t see it any other way. Good for you.”

Later, as I was applying for IU’s Religious Studies graduate program, the paper was used as my writing sample. At the same time, I was alerted to one of the big religious studies journals doing a themed issue on religious violence; I figured, hey, what the heck, if it gets in it can only help the application, and I sent them the paper. I also submitted it to Dorushe, a graduate conference on Syriac studies that was being held at Notre Dame. Well, the outcome of the Religious Studies application was detailed, if somewhat obscurely, here; as far as the paper went, it got into Dorushe, but the response from the journal was a little more ambivalent. The answer was ultimately no, but they included the reviewers’ comments, and said that if I were to revise it they would be willing to look at it again (while making it clear that this was not a “revise and resubmit”). Since at that point I didn’t think I was going to have the chance to go to grad school, publication didn’t really matter anymore, and I shoved the paper and the comments sheet in a drawer. The Dorushe experience was a little weird in some ways (maybe due more to some heightened self-consciousness on my part than anything), but I met some interesting people, and Sidney Griffith, at least, liked the paper, saying, “The way you lay it out, it’s obvious.”

After actually getting in to grad school, I thought to myself a number of times, I should go back and look at those reviewers’ comments, and finally last June I spent a few days thoroughly reworking the paper. I transferred it from Word to Scrivener, I restructured it following the reviewers’ suggestions, and did what was nearly a page one-rewrite so that it reflected better what my scholarly voice (to the extent that I might pretentiously assert the existence of such a thing) actually sounds like these days. Part of this involved reducing block quotes of secondary literature (a bad habit of which I was cured by the wonderful Prof. Sarah Bassett over in Art History, who in the three years that she’s been here has really proven herself to be one of the great, if somewhat unsung, reasons to study Late Antiquity at Indiana University) down to footnotes and paraphrases, and it also involved an overall refinement of the writing style. Don’t worry, I’m still wordy as hell, but I’ve tried to make the wordiness a little more elegant. Also, there’s some additional literature on the Najran incident that’s come out in the intervening five years, and I had to make sure that all got referenced properly. Anyway, once it was done, I opted to not go back to the original publication, instead sending it off to The Journal of Early Christian Studies. In September, I got a note back from the editor telling me that the reviewers’ recommendation was “revise and resubmit”, saying that this was good news and if I took the feedback seriously, there was no reason I couldn’t have a publishable article. By November the revision was re-submitted, and I got word back this last Tuesday that it was in. Now, I have some style adjustments to make before it’s totally done, but at this stage of the game it looks like it will be appearing in the Spring 2013 issue.

So, that first seminar five years ago got me my advisor, my overall area of interest (the interaction of liturgy and history), and my first published article. (Although, while the Najran paper is related conceptually and methodologically to where I think my dissertation is going, it looks like a paper I wrote for a class I took the previous semester, fall of 2006, served as a first stab at the actual dissertation topic. I’ll have more to say after NAPS, I think.) It’s been the gift that’s kept on giving, to say the least.

Okay, on to the final, and most interesting, bit of news.

Third — on or around 26 June 2012, assuming all goes well and without incident, there will be another Barrett on the earth. Yes, be afraid, my genes are propagating, insanity, puns, tendencies towards a prolix approach of oversharing, and all. Thankfully, this child will also be carrying the genes of Flesh of My Flesh, and those characteristics involve practicality, common sense, order, and normality. (To say nothing of great beauty and brilliance.)

We had intended for the last couple of years that we would start trying once Megan got back from Germany, and we were told to prepare for it taking awhile. Well, apparently not. By the beginning of November we at least knew informally, and then our first OB appointment was Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, which confirmed matters and indicated we were nine weeks along. We spent most of the drive to our Thanksgiving destination on the phone with my mother and then Megan’s mother and stepmother; my mom got the first call, since she’s the one parent who doesn’t have any grandchildren already, and she burst into tears immediately.

We’ve been telling friends and family ever since, but a couple of things made it desirable that we wait a bit before making it “Facebook public”, as it were. Anyway, here we are, and I suppose it will be a source of reflection in the coming months/years/etc. If you’re on Facebook and want to be kept more or less up-to-date, you can join the group “Fans of Baby Barrett“; there’s not a lot to tell at this point except that we’re choosing to not find out whether it’s a boy or a girl. We’ve got some name ideas, yes, but it’s hardly practical to openly discuss those when you don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, so I’m not going to go there except to say that there are some “legacy names”, as it were, that might make sense, and you know that we’re going to be getting one of these. We’ll see.

By the way, if you happen to be having a baby in or around Bloomington, Indiana, I really can’t recommend Bloomington Area Birth Services (AKA “BABS”) enough. We’re doing their eight-week birthing class (cue Bill Cosby: “Natural childbirth… intellectuals go to class to study how to do this”), and while, I must admit, it’s a little more of the NPR-listening “educated class” culture than I really expected, it’s a lot of excellent information that’s provided very sensitively and accessibly. I kind of surprise myself with my own reactions to some things; it should really be no surprise that “birth culture” a) exists b) is hyper-feminized, but I find a certain kind of stereotypical “maleness” emerging in how I’m processing some of the information, and it is very much out of character for me. It’s probably mostly a reflexive reaction to the explicit hyper-feminization of what’s being presented, which probably has everything to do with me and nothing to do with them, because they really are terrific at what they do. I’m just really not used to what they do. Anyway, I’ll have more to say about this as time goes on, I think.

So, there’s the news. Two different kinds of babies, I guess. There’s a third kind of baby on the way that I hope to be able to talk about more in depth soon, but it’s an outgrowth of some of the musical efforts I’ve had going here the last couple of years. For now, follow this, and I’ll be able to tell all in the next month or so, I think.

Prayers for all of these babies, please, and prayers most of all for Flesh of My Flesh. She’s got to carry our child in her womb and write a dissertation.

Audio from Orthodox Music Symposium now on Ancient Faith Radio

The talks from “We Knew Not If We Were In Heaven Or On Earth: Music, Liturgy, and Beauty in Orthodox Christianity” are now posted on Ancient Faith Radio’s website. Many thanks to John Maddex for making them available through this medium! Also, photos from the event can be viewed here — thanks to Anna Pougas for being the day’s official (more or less) photographer!

Sam Zuckerflynn

My blog has been a touch more unloved in the past few months than I’ve really intended it to be. It’s like a paper diary; you get into a rhythm, then something disrupts that rhythm, and you know it’s going to take longer than usual to say what you want to say about it, so you put it off. Then more things happen while you’re putting it off, which means it’s going to take even longer, so you really have to put it off for a bit longer. Then, eventually, a new rhythm emerges as you fill the time you once spent journaling with other things, and next thing you know you look up and it’s been three months since last you wrote any thing and even longer than that since you did any more than write “Wow, what a day yesterday was, but I don’t have time to write about it right now.”

And, let’s be honest, on a normal day my blog posts are long to begin with. Catching up on several months’ worth of long blog posts is, shall we say, daunting.

In a nutshell, the Orthodox Music Symposium started taking up a lot of my free time about the time I actually realized I could write grants for the thing. By the end of August, school had started up again, and this year I’m a course assistant, so that was also taking up my time. By the middle of September, Megan had left for Germany, which meant that schoolwork, grading, the Symposium, church, trying to keep to a workout schedule and taking care of the house was taking up every waking moment I had.

The Symposium was a blast. The morning before, I got an e-mail from the Order of St. Ignatius saying, sorry this is so late, but a check is in the mail, which meant that we were fully funded before the event happened (if only by a matter of hours) — something I couldn’t say for John Boyer’s first visit a year ago. Anyway, people came, we had fun, everybody gave interesting talks, and I’m starting to take concrete steps towards the next one. The audio will eventually be available on Ancient Faith Radio, and I’ll provide a link here, of course.

In November the History department decided that I had completed a Master’s degree, which was great for all kinds of reasons, not the least being that I’m getting the ratio down — 11 years for a four year degree, and now four years for a two year degree. I may have my Ph. D. (to say nothing of a job) by the time I’m 40.

In December, I spent a week in Alaska with my mother and stepfather after Finals, and then spent 1 day in Indianapolis (thank you, East Coast weather disaster) and 10 days in Germany with Die Frau. I got back on 6 January, and then it was off to the races again. This semester, I’m sitting in on first year Syriac again to try to reclaim as much of it as I can (while also working through Thackston’s Introduction to Koranic and Classical Arabic so that I can have another Semitic language with which to coordinate Syriac, as well as potentially another liturgical language I can fake), taking a seminar on early Christian mysticism, another seminar on Herodotus and Thucydides, and grading for the Greek history course that covers the Persian War up to Alexander the Great. Plus there are these things called “Lent,” “Holy Week,” and “Easter.” In addition to all of that, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Urbana-Champaign is having me come out this weekend to do a daylong workshop, next weekend I’m meeting my father and stepmother in Memphis, and then the first weekend in February St. Raphael Orthodox Church in Iowa City is having me sing with them in a fundraiser concert. The choir director there, Lori Branch, is my predecessor’s predecessor here at All Saints, and is also godmother to Matthew Arndt of the music theory faculty at University of Iowa and somebody who’s been my friend since the seventh grade, so I could hardly say no.

Okay, we’ll consider that “caught up.”

Yesterday, I was in a Best Buy (now, why I would use the indefinite article when there’s only one Best Buy in Bloomington is inexplicable to me, but “the Best Buy” seems not quite right, and “Best Buy” by itself appears too abstract, like I was in the Platonic ideal of Best Buys) and I played with an iPad for a few minutes. I have to say, I felt a bit like Ed Dillinger in Tron. I even typed “Request: Access to Master Control Program. User Code: 00-Dillinger. Password: Master.” Alas, it didn’t reply, “Hello, Mr. Dillinger. Thanks for coming back early.”

No, I didn’t buy it. Yet.

Two movies came out between 1982-3 that captivated me: Tron and WarGames. The immediate result of the captivation was an Atari 800XL as a Christmas present in 1983, a fascination with computer graphics, and an appreciation of Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Peter Jurasik, and John Wood that continues to this day.

In 1998, having dropped out of school and searching for a job that would allow me to move back to the Seattle area, thanks to some coaching from an old friend to say nothing of sufficient desperation to say “Yes, of course I can do that” to everything they asked me in the interview, I was fortunate enough to get a contract position as a tester for a major software company. For a number of reasons, I won’t name the company, even though it’s reasonably obvious and it’s not exactly a closely-guarded secret. Suffice it to say that, particularly once the job became full-time a year later, what I had would have been somebody else’s dream job. As a 22 year old kid with no college degree and certainly no higher math or computer science courses, even given the state of the tech industry in 1998, I shouldn’t have been able to get that job, but I did, and I was there until July of 2003, when I quit to go back to school. The company isn’t really “computer guy’s dream job” material anymore, as I understand it; it’s a good upper-middle-class place to work, much as Boeing was for years, but the fabulous cash and prizes that made people equate working there with winning the lottery during much of the ’80s and ’90s were basically gone by the time I showed up — at the very least, guys like me were the first generation who wouldn’t see any of that kind of benefit. In a way, that was lucky — the generation of employees immediately preceding mine were those who had to deal with loans taken out against options that, despite assurances that “the stock always goes up, way up!”, were underwater by 2000.

Part of why I don’t want to name the company is because, I guarantee you, they wouldn’t take me back in a million years, but I also wouldn’t want to go back in a million years. For me, that job was a means to an end, a way to support myself while I prepared for my next step as a singer without waiting tables. The work was okay, and it was cool being able to say that I did what I did, but I wasn’t very good at it, a lot of the internal processes weren’t intuitive to me even if I generally understood the basic logic of testing, and I wasn’t motivated to be constantly doing better at it the way everybody else around me was. I was an outsider in a lot of ways; I wanted a day job that allowed me to pursue a dream, not a lifestyle, and particularly at the time, you were expected to make it your lifestyle. Even if I wasn’t singing, though, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to do that, because the writing was on the wall with respect to the tech bubble and what that meant for the company’s stock within a year of being given the new hire stock option grant. Why kill yourself for alleged millions you know you’ll never see? Well, by the time I left, in the unit I was working in, the motivation was just to keep your job — they knew they had hired people in a tight tech labor market whom they wouldn’t have hired otherwise, and they could afford to be more selective of new employees, as well as threatening to existing employees, in 2003. Part of the motivation to go back to school in the fall of 2003 was because I’d strongly suspected since summer of 2002 that I would need to find a way to quit before I got fired. The young artist programs I auditioned for in fall of 2002 didn’t pan out, and the clock was ticking; finishing my degree as far away from the Pacific Northwest tech industry as I could manage was a really attractive option.

(By the way, to this day, when I get the question “What did you test?” and I tell the person what “my” feature of the Major Product Line I worked on was, I’m immediately asked, “Oh, then maybe you can tell me how to turn it off? I hate that silly thing.” All I can say is, don’t blame me. I tried to tell The Powers That Be that users would hate it back in 1999.)

Anyway, I’ve been out of the software world for longer than I was in it, which is strange to me in a lot of ways. In the intervening seven and a half years, Apple overtook Microsoft in market capitalization. Google became the hot, millionaire-making company. Chrome became the browser to watch. iPhones and iPads came out. Facebook happened. Microsoft still puts out the dominant operating system and productivity suite, but that’s kind of along the same lines as Ford making the cars that cops and old people drive — it’s not really what shapes how people on the street think about cars. I remember somewhere around 2000 a friend of mine who was a Microsoft employee telling me, “In ten years, Microsoft is going to be thought of as more of a communications company than a software company.” Yeah, um, no, not so much. That’s what’s happened for Apple, but Microsoft has had to expend too much energy supporting its own weight to be able to innovate in the ways that my friend was anticipating — at the very least, to be able to translate those innovations into products that are compelling in the marketplace. In many ways, if the Justice Department had actually succeeded in breaking up Microsoft, it might truly have been the best thing for them, because they wouldn’t be weighed down as much as they have been for the last decade. They wouldn’t have become IBM, in other words.

I’ve been hearing rumors on one movie site or another since probably 1996 about a sequel to Tron. In 2002, there was a rumor that seemed substantial enough to prompt me to write a letter to Steven Lisberger, the director of the original, trying to pitch myself as a consultant on how to capture the look and feel of of the offices of a modern software company. I got a polite letter back from Disney Studios a couple of months later just saying that no work was at present proceeding on a Tron sequel. In retrospect, I really should have kept on top of that.

I saw Tron: Legacy in IMAX and in 3-D on opening day (the first movie I’ve bothered with IMAX for since Watchmen, and the first of the new batch of 3-D movies I’ve seen), and I’ve seen it once more since. If nothing else, it’s a jaw-dropping visual accomplishment — it is easily one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ll also add my voice to the thousands out there that have praised the Daft Punk score (that clearly had a lot of help from Hans Zimmer, but never mind that now). I have to give Disney credit for the guts they’ve shown making an expensive sequel to a cult property 28 years later. I truly hope that they do the work of building the franchise. I think it’s an idea whose time has finally come, and I loved Tron: Legacy. I get the impression it’s become fashionable among my compatriot geeks to hate the movie, but it seems to me they’ve missed what the movie was doing. The original Tron was really based around a very simple idea, captured in the great Barnard Hughes’ line: “You can remove men… from the system, but we helped create it. And our spirit remains in every program we designed for this computer.” What an interesting idea — that a computer program, even something as simple as a compound interest calculator, retains the impression of its programmer. The religious nature of the idea is obvious — that of creating in one’s own image — and is underscored by Flynn taking on the form of a program, coming down from the user’s world to the computer world, saving the system by “dying,” coming back to life, and ascending back to his own realm.

Still, the understanding of the general public of computers in 1982 was pretty simplistic, and the special effects required to sell the idea left insufficient room, let alone vocabulary, to really mine the depths of the philosophical question. The most glaring question was — were these things alive? Well, maybe.

Tron: Legacy has been criticized for not reflecting the more sophisticated integration of computers into our daily lives into its storyline. Instead, it seems to go out of its way to avoid doing so — the computer world is on a private server that’s separate from the Internet and that hasn’t been touched since 1989. Wouldn’t it be more interesting, some reviewers have suggested, to see the battle between Clu and Flynn played out against the backdrop of the tech boom of the late ’80s and ’90s?

That would be an interesting movie, yes. However, it seems to me that what Tron: Legacy is going for is an exploration of the very question that the original sidesteps — are the programs in the computer world alive? If so, to what extent is that life similar to, and/or different from, human life? By presenting the computer world in Tron: Legacy as something separate from the technological advances in “the real world,” it can be explored more freely — what would happen if the world we saw in the original was just left to develop on its own for two and a half decades? That chip around Sam’s neck at the end will presumably suggest a way that the Grid can be integrated into the worldwide computer network of 2011, and if Kevin Flynn’s consciousness is still in there somewhere, then perhaps we might see him appearing to people on the Web — something like Count Zero. The religious ideas here are also very plain — Clu, like Lucifer (same first three letters!), cannot create new programs, he can only repurpose (“rectify”) or destroy existing ones. He intends to lead an army of repurposed programs into the “real world” — to wage war on heaven, in other words.

The main problem that Tron: Legacy has, as I see it, is that the iconic performance of Jeff Bridges since the original isn’t Preston Tucker (a criminally underrated performance in a criminally underrated movie) but rather The Dude, and The Dude already is not unlike an older Kevin Flynn. So, now that you’ve got Jeff Bridges playing an older Kevin Flynn, parts of it will inevitably come across as Dude-like. Oh well; it’s not Jeff Bridges’ fault that they didn’t make a Tron sequel earlier.

This last week I also occasioned to finally watch The Social Network. Whatever its historical merits may or may not be, it’s a fantastic movie. David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, and the entire cast (including Justin Timberlake! Who knew?) knock it solidly out of the park, and in a lot of ways it’s a very perceptive generational portrait, not entirely dissimilar to David Fincher’s earlier perceptive generational portrait, Fight Club. In fact, one of the things that’s interesting about The Social Network is how it’s a period piece about a generation that would have been very recently influenced by Fight Club. Certainly one can see the Mark Zuckerberg-Eduardo Saverin-Sean Parker triangle as sharing outlines with Fight Club‘s Tyler Durden-Narrator-Marla Singer relationship, although it’s not possible to see a 1:1 relationship. Both Eduardo and Mark have qualities that the other desperately wants, and while Sean Parker certainly functions as a seducer in a lot of ways, the film suggests that he’s the real wannabe of the threesome.

The Social Network is interesting on a personal level for me for two reasons — first, it picks up in fall 2003, almost exactly where I left off in the technology industry. Second, it’s a timeframe and a narrative into which I can easily place myself (I first heard of Facebook probably around fall of 2004). That’s at once interesting and unsettling — interesting because I know where I was at virtually every moment of the film, unsettling because that makes it very easy to compare trajectories and accomplishments.

In a lot of ways, I’d argue that The Social Network and Tron: Legacy are curiously appropriate companion pieces. “Now we’re gonna live online,” Aaron Sorkin has Sean Parker saying in The Social Network, and that’s the very dilemma Kevin Flynn is dealing with by the time his son finds him in Tron: Legacy. Both films are about a software creation that ultimately gets beyond the creator’s control; both depict said software creation effectively freezing the creator at a certain age (the express goal of Facebook, according to the film, is to put the social experience of college, that is to say the social experience of a certain period of youth, online); both offer interesting commentary on the current state of software as a business and the people who run that business. Tron: Legacy gets this part just about exactly right; the ENCOM board meeting is pretty accurate with respect to my experience of those kinds of conversations. Alan Bradley asks what makes the new version of the ENCOM OS 12 different; he is told, “We put a ’12’ on the box,” only to then have Ed Dillinger, Jr. (it’s a very interesting thought to me that Cillian Murphy might be this generation’s David Warner) quickly assert that it is “the most secure operating system” in existence, as though fixing what should have been in place to begin with is actually the same thing as having a feature set that’s compelling for a new release. And, of course, the snafu with the release of OS 12 is intended to evoke Windows 98 bluescreening on Bill Gates at COMDEX.

However, from the point of view of The Social Network, the kind of company that occupies skyscrapers and has “big doors” and even has a “golden master” onsite somewhere is a dinosaur. It’s a business model that has nothing to do with how Zuckerberg has become the youngest billionaire in the world. In fact, the more anybody tries to pin a particular business model to Facebook, the more Zuckerberg claims they don’t get it. The film has him attending a talk on Harvard’s campus by Bill Gates, but he doesn’t come across as exactly inspired by Gates’ reminiscences about what computers were like when he wrote BASIC. He seems to be there more out of disinterested politeness than anything — Bill Gates is yesterday’s news to him. He could have sold an earlier invention to Microsoft and he didn’t — the film explicitly has Zuckerberg awkwardly shrug rather than explain this, but we’re left with the impression that he just didn’t want the old folks in charge of his ideas. Sean Parker is his idol, the guy who lost billions of dollars but still brought down the recording industry as we know it. Maybe Gates can be seen as Flynn in Tron: Legacy — an aging creator who cannot leave his own creation. Flynn’s discovery of the isomorphs may well have had the potential to change the world, but as Zuckerberg might see it, no one would care without somebody like him to make them “cool”.

Barnard Hughes has another great line in the original Tron: “The computers and the programs will start thinking, and the people will stop.” The Social Network seems to argue that as long as a sense of connection with other people is sufficiently simulated, then we users won’t necessarily see this as a bad thing, and it’ll be fun. Tron: Legacy suggests that this idea is actually what will ultimately isolate us as individuals from everybody else, rather than connect us. We’ll be very comfortable prisoners, as Flynn is, but we’ll be prisoners nonetheless.

Orthodox Music Symposium at Indiana University — “We knew not if we were in heaven or on earth…”: Music, Liturgy, and Beauty in Orthodox Christianity

Given that there are two performing members of Cappella Romana on the panel, as well as two composers whom CR has performed, CR was nice enough to include a notice about the Symposium in their current e-newsletter (thank you, Mark!). For those readers clicking through to my blog for information (and anybody else who is finding this site looking for Symposium details), here’s the scoop:

All Saints Orthodox Church and The Early Music Institute of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music present:

The Musical Heritage of the Orthodox Church

“We knew not if we were in heaven or on earth…”: Music, liturgy, and beauty in Orthodox Christianity

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Sweeney Hall (Simon Music Center 015)

Lecture recitals and panel discussion featuring:


  • 8:00am: Hall opens
  • 8:30am: Brief introductory remarks
  • 9:00: Boyer
  • 10:00: Khalil
  • 11:00-11:30: Break
  • 11:30: Sander
  • 12:30: Toensing
  • 1:30: Panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Vicki Pappas, National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians National Chairman

Download a poster here. Download a press release here.

This program has been made possible by a matching grant from the Indiana Humanities Council, in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional co-sponsors include:

For any additional information, please e-mail me at rrbarret (AT) or call me at (812) 219-0286.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Orthodox Music Symposium at Indiana University a recipient of grant from the National Form of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians

I just found out this evening that we are the recipient of a grant from the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians. As with all the other organizations that have been generous in supporting us, I’m incredibly grateful, but it is wonderful to see our little event, intended to represent a cross-section of musical heritages of the Orthodox world, be supported across jurisdictional lines. Dr. Vicki Pappas, National Chairman of the National Forum, cited this as a factor in the award letter:

The members felt that while it was unusual for us to support an individual parish and one not within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s jurisdiction, we also felt that your plans were cross-jurisdictional and served to highlight and benefit Orthodox church musicians in general to a very high degree.

In a way, the National Forum grant application is what got this going in the first place. Originally I had just planned on having John Boyer and Kurt Sander, and then I helped another organization write a National Forum grant proposal. While I was writing it, I realized — “Hey! I could apply for one of these too! And actually, if I expanded the slate of speakers, I’d have a better proposal!” So I checked with Alexander Khalil and Dr. Toensing to see if they were up for it — they were, and I submitted the application. After that, I got to thinking — “You know, I have a finished grant proposal sitting on my hard drive that I might be able to tailor for other organizations.” So, I started looking around to see what else might be out there, and — well, things happened from there.

All of this is to say, I’m really thrilled that the grant proposal that started the ball rolling to begin with bore fruit in the end. Thank you very much, Dr. Pappas and the National Forum!

Orthodox Music Symposium at Indiana University recipient of Humanities Initiative Grant from the Indiana Humanities Council

Between school, the symposium, and Flesh of My Flesh being on her yearlong adventure in Germany, my life has been pretty much consumed on all fronts as of late, but I found out some fantastic news tonight that I wanted to make sure was disseminated as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

The symposium has been awarded a $2,000 Humanities Initiative Grant from the Indiana Humanities Council. I found out about this particular funding opportunity back in July, and as the deadline was 2 August I had to assemble the application very quickly (not to mention while I was in the middle of Kurt Sander’s recording project), but Prof. Rosemarie McGerr, the director of IU’s Medieval Studies Institute, and Mark Trotter, the Assistant Director and Outreach Coordinator for IU’s Russian and East European Institute, were very helpful and generous with their time, and provided wonderful letters of support for the proposal. After I hit “send” in the Starbucks in NKU’s student union building, there was nothing but to keep working on other sponsorship possibilities, and hold my breath.

In many ways I am less excited about the financial support than I am thrilled that the merit of what we’re putting together is being visibly acknowledged. I look at this as a huge step forward in terms of forging a relationship between All Saints and the university where together we can put together events that cultivate interest in Orthodox Christianity and raise awareness that All Saints exists in the first place. This is an academic event, yes, and it seems to me that there is much that an Orthodox parish in a college town should be able to offer in terms of intellectual and cultural interest, but it is also as a form of outreach to the campus. This is a way of being able to say, “Come and see.” Or, in this case, “Come and hear.”

It’s also a demonstration that support is out there for projects like this, and that All Saints doesn’t have to be the little church in the middle of nowhere that everybody ignores. I’m supposed to write letters to Indiana’s congressional delegation so that they know this is happening, since this is ultimately federal money. Yes, there is an Orthodox church in Bloomington, and even our congressmen know it!

By the way, if you aren’t able to attend the symposium but still want to support us in some way, please get in touch with me. Even with the IHC grant, there are still plenty of opportunities to be involved from afar. Drop me a line at rrbarret (AT)

I guess this is technically publicity for the symposium, so that means I have to include this text: This program has been made possible through a matching grant from the Indiana Humanities Council in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

An update on the IU Orthodox Music Symposium

Some additional details on the Orthodox Music Symposium being held on the Indiana University campus:

  • The event will be titled, “The Musical Heritage of the Orthodox Church: Music, Liturgy, and Beauty in Orthodox Christianity”.
  • It will be in Sweeney Hall (Simon Center 015) at the IU Jacobs School of Music.
  • A tentative schedule is as follows:
    • 8am: Hall opens
    • 8:00-8:30: Continental breakfast (incentive to come early!)
    • 8:30-8:50: Introductory remarks
    • 9:00-9:50: Lecture recital #1 (we haven’t yet determined the speaker order)
    • 10:00-10:50: Lecture recital #2
    • 11:00-11:30: Break
    • 11:30-12:20: Lecture recital #3
    • 12:30-1:20: Lecture recital #4
    • 1:30-2:30: Panel discussion and Q&A

I also pleased to announce some additional sponsorships:

There are some additional irons in the fire where support is concerned that I hope to be able to announce in the near future. In the meantime, I can also say that one organization in particular, while feeling it was too late to get involved this time around, said that they would be very interested in supporting future projects like this, and asked what I might be thinking about. I told them something I had in mind, and they nodded vigorously and said, “Yes, that’s exactly the kind of thing we want to get behind.” So, we’ll see what happens. I am hopeful that the outcome of this development will also be positive with respect to these kinds of events.

In the meantime, if you want more information or are interested in supporting the Symposium, please contact me at rrbarret (AT) or call me at (812) 219-0286.

SAVE THE DATE: Orthodox Music Symposium at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

I am pleased to announce that, with the co-sponsorship of All Saints Orthodox Church, of the Early Music Institute at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, the IU Medieval Studies Institute, and the IU Russian and East European Institute, as well as support from Bloomingfoods, the IU Bloomington campus will host a daylong symposium on Orthodox music on Saturday, 16 October 2010. Details are still being finalized, but the program will include lecture recitals and a panel discussion from the following slate of speakers and performers:

  • John Michael Boyer, Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco. Mr. Boyer is also Protopsaltis and Director of Liturgy for Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Sacramento, CA, principal singer and arranger for Cappella Romana, and Director of the St. John Koukouzelis Institute for Liturgical Arts. Mr. Boyer previously gave a weekend workshop on Byzantine chant at All Saints Orthodox Church in January of this year.
  • Alexander Khalil, PhD, psaltis at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in San Diego, CA, and postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Riverside. Dr. Khalil’s recent dissertation explores the aural aspects of the chant tradition of the last remaining chanters of the church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey. He has contributed as a cantor to recent efforts of both Cappella Romana and the Mount Lebanon Choir, and has taught at workshops for the Koukouzelis Institute.
  • Kurt Sander, DM, Associate Professor and Department Chair at Northern Kentucky University. Dr. Sander is a composer of many liturgical works in the traditional Slavic style, and his research interests include the history and aesthetics of Orthodox liturgical music, the cross disciplinary relationships between theology and Orthodox iconography with music composition, and the work of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.
  • Richard Toensing, DM, Professor Emeritus at University of Colorado at Boulder. As a composer, Dr. Toensing has received many distinguished honors for his work, having been a Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of a commission from the National Endowment for the Arts. Dr. Toensing’s composition Kontakion for the Nativity of Christ, as well as his cycle of Orthodox Christmas carols, were recently recorded and performed by Cappella Romana.
All events will be free and open to the public.
More details will be announced as they solidify, but mark your calendars! For more information, or if you wish to help support the project, please contact me by e-mail at rrbarret (AT)
Watch this space!

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