GNL number 31


the GOOD NEWS lately

a report of doings at meeting  #31, Sunday, February 7, 2010
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


When I hear music, I fear no danger, I am invulnerable, I see no foe.
I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.
—–Henry David Thoreau

Music is the sound of universal laws promulgated.

Music is perpetual, and only the hearing is intermittent.


Erynne’s first thoughts on today’s topic, MUSIC in Our Lives, had to do with her travels.  She recalled when she was in El Salvador years ago, being surprised that the people seemed to have no music; we speculated that they had been traumatized by their recent history, and hoped they have re-found music, with its healing power.  Another, personal experience with no music she felt had worked in her favor, when she did many years of road trips without a car radio, so she had to listen to her own thoughts, perhaps as she said, healthier for her at the time than radio’s music.  She also recalled the frequent pleasure living in the city, of going to the opera with a friend who was a basso profundo himself.  And she heartily recommended another joy: the youtube video of a Baby Dancing to Beyonce!

Chris grew up in a musical environment: her dad a music teacher for 30 years, her mom always a pianist, music in the house, music in church. She herself studied music, and for a year at the Crane Music School in Potsdam, where she experienced the thrill of her life, a week of working with Robert Shaw and the Chorale.  She recalled musical markers at key moments, as after a difficult season in her life, the Home To Myself song, which you can find in AFTERWORDS. She also showed her precious old manual for matching music and keys, and read a great assortment of quotes;  these too in AW.

Jack cited his nextdoor neighbor Mary as his musical benefactor, because she had initiated the grand idea of getting him tuned into WMHT radio-music almost round the clock.  This he admitted was not yet working perfectly and might need some adjustments (Ann was going to look into this), but the effort had yielded some good unexpected outcomes, like mysteriously expanded services for both of them!   (He also noted his surprise that music he’d recently heard on TV accompanying Olympic iceskaters was of the jarring, crashing variety instead of the smooth, lyrical kind.)

Adair described herself and her daughter as not musical, while her son was quite gifted and skilled in music. She then told us about two nonfiction books she’d been reading—the first was Musicophilia, by neurologist Oliver Sacks, with its fascinating  tales of music and the brain—including his astonishment to see the image of his own brain lighting up when listening to music he loved, then darkening with some he didn’t.  The second, Panic in Level 4, by Richard Preston, is a collection of stories about serious science (e.g., one involving two brilliant brothers who operated complementarily as one mind), from which she recalled the relation between music and mathematics, and the idea that the universe is all vibrations, in other words, music.   She had a 6-wordie, and later added a complement to it. (See AW)    At the end, she also suggested we all might well consider what music we would want played at our memorial service, and what if dying or in a coma.

Ann remembered a childhood with music at home and in school—the Carl Sandburg songbag, and traditional songs like The Erie Canal, and Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill, and a beautiful one from 3rd grade that spoke to her love of nature even then. (Words to A Green Cathedral in AW).  She recalled her Dad’s fondness for the music of Charles Ives, which after many hearings she finally got comfortable with.  And her own perfect pitch, but resistance to learning to play music in a technical, mathematical way, as math was anathema to her. She admits to still playing the recorder, not for audience, but for herself.

Nancy said she could hardly do this topic because music means so much to her. She had loved music forever, and recalled some moments from childhood: in kindergarten, when the college choir director visiting the class played lovely classical music and invited her to “conduct”. And in 5th grade, when her teacher let her play her Nutcracker Suite/swing version records after lunch and everybody danced!  And as a kid, listening late each night in bed to jazz from WGN in Chicago. And wanting always as a kid, to play piano or something, but it was not affordable, so much later, the houseful of her own kids was also full of music, and a piano.  She played just 4 of many cd tracks for us, music of heart-stopping beauty to her:  Albeniz’ Cordoba, with pianist Artur Rubenstein, Prokofiev’s Aubade from Romeo and Juliet, with harpist Nancy Allen, a traditional wedding song by the Bulgarian Women’s Voices, and finally Peggy Spencer-Behrendt’s piano duet with some chickadees on her Shawangunk Nature Preserve in Herkimer County, that a story in itself.

…to be continued.

We agreed on closing to direct our offering today
to the work of Doctors Without Borders.


Music is an outburst of the soul.
—–Frederick Delius


Sunday, February 14, 2010 (1030), at Jack’s.  The topic continues—MUSIC in our lives (We just like Music a lot)

—And Sue will be bringing our friend Alison from the House of Flowers, and we can hear from her too!—


from Chris: 

  • If a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music.
    –Gustav Mahler
  • Music was my refuge.  I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
    –Maya Angelou, in Gather Together in My Name
  • Life can’t be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years.
    –William F. Buckley, Jr.
  • You can’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh and go slow.
    –Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket
  • A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges.
    –Benny Green
  • I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else.
    –Lily Tomlin

    I wake up and see
    The light of the day
    Shining on me
    Make my own time
    It’s mine to spend
    Think to myself
    My own best friend
    It’s not so bad all alone
    Comin’ home to myself again
    Now I understand
    Whatever I feel is whoever I am
    Watching my life and how it’s grown
    Looking on back to friends I’ve known
    It’s not so bad all alone
    Coming home to myself again
    It’s not so bad to get lost in my tears
    And to laugh and to cry for the years gone by
    Oh my, oh my,
    Now somehow I know
    I’ve come a long way
    Got a long way to go
    But something inside
    Keeps making me strong
    And in the bad times
    I’ll get along
    ‘Cause it’s not so bad all alone
    Comin’ home to myself again
    I’m Comin’ home.
    —–Melissa Manchester

from Adair:


  • Music is universal, loved by all.
  • Perhaps the Universe is all music.

from Ann:

I learned this song in 3rd grade music class and it just seemed to encompass the natural world’s wonder and spirituality. Since then the particular religious overtones don’t suit me, but the serenity and peace still speak to me all these years later:


I know a green cathedral,
a hallowed forest shrine.

Where trees in love join hands above

to arch your prayer and mine.

Within its cool depths sacred,

the priestly cedar sighs.

And the fir and pine lift arms divine

unto the clear blue skies.

In my dear green cathedral

there is a quiet seat.

And choir loft in branched croft

where songs of birds hymn sweet.

And I like to think at evening

when the stars its arches light.

That my Lord and God treads its hallowed sod

in the cool, calm peace of night.

—–Written by Carl Hahn, arranged by Gordon Johnstone




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