Category Archives: Philosophy

A Double Take on Neal Morse’s Solo Gratia

Solo Gratia

 

Progrock artist Neal Morse has just released his latest solo album, Solo Gratia, and it has elicited varying reactions from your Spirit of Cecilia editors. Here is a friendly dialogue about Morse’s new opus between SoC’s Editor-In-Chief Brad Birzer, and Arts Editor Tad Wert

 

Tad: Brad, you know what a big fan I am of Neal Morse’s work, and I was excited to listen to the new album of his last week. One thing you can say about him: he’s never boring or predictable! When I first heard he was working on a new album to be called Solo Gratia, I immediately wondered if it was going to be a sequel to his 2007 Solo Scriptura. It turns out the answer is, “Yes and no”. 

 

Musically, it begins with a reference to a theme from Scriptura, and there are several other musical references throughout (“In the name of God, you must die”, etc.). However, instead of continuing to chronicle Martin Luther and the Reformation, in Gratia Morse decided to go back to the very beginning of the church: the conversion of St. Paul! That was a big surprise for me, and a welcome one.

 

Brad: Thank you so much, Tad.  I always love talking with you.  One of the finest evenings of my life was when you, Dedra, and I attended Morsefest together.  Morse is exceptional at every level, and no one performs live better than he does.  I’m a huge fan of Morse’s work, and I’m pretty sure I have everything (even the fan releases) that the man has released.

 

That said, I’m never quite sure how to take some of Morse’s more explicitly religious albums.  Of course, in one sense, everything since Snow has been religious.  The distinction for Morse’s work is not which is religious and which isn’t, but, rather, which is blatantly religious, and which is only merely religious.  Sola Gratia, of course, is blatantly religious.  Overall, I like the album, but I was struck by two things.  

 

First–and, of course, this isn’t my album, so Morse has every right to make the album he wants to make–I wanted an album about St. Paul.  That is, I thought what are the last three songs of Sola Gratia would make up the content of the album as a whole.  I’m not really that interested in following Saul through his sordid exploits when he was persecuting Christians.  The album, in this way, reminds me of a Stephen Lawhead novel, Patrick.  I wanted a novel about St. Patrick, instead, the first 95% of the novel was about what a wretch the guy was before his conversion.

 

Second, I find Sola Gratia–even for Morse–way too heavy.  I have nothing against heavy when it comes to music, and much prog demands a certain amount of heaviness.  But, Sola Gratia’s heaviness seems, to me, to just be some unmitigated anger.  Again, I suppose the anger fits when it comes to Saul, but I really don’t want an album about Saul.

 

I do, however, hunger for an album about St. Paul.  Can you imagine!  A double CD about the teachings of Paul, to Corinth and beyond!

 

Tad: Brad, I hear you! I think my favorite Morse albums are One (solo) and The Grand Experiment (Neal Morse Band), neither of which are “blatantly religious”. After a few listens of Solo Gratia, I think Sola Scriptura is heavier overall, but In The Name Of The Lord and Building A Wall are pretty crushing. In his notes to the album, he mentions how getting a Telecaster guitar really had an effect on the sound.

 

I also hear the anger, and I suppose that is Neal putting himself into the shoes of Saul the persecutor of Christians. I think he balances Saul’s anger nicely with St. Stephen’s faith and martyrdom. Seemingly Sincere, Saul’s ruminations on Stephen’s unwavering faith and love, is one of my favorite tracks. Now I Can See/The Great Commission is the other. That said, there really aren’t any melodies in this set that immediately grab me like Neal’s compositions usually do. It may take some more listens to sink in.

 

To your point about wanting the album to begin with the last three songs, I think conversion stories are very important to Neal. He’s put out two albums that deal with just his own conversion! By spending so much time on the anger and hatred of Saul towards the early Church, he is emphasizing how miraculous his transformation into St. Paul was. 

 

This was recorded during the lockdown, and I wonder how it would have turned out if Mike Portnoy and Randy George could have been with him in his studio while they were bouncing ideas off of each other.

Here’s my takeaway: Solo Gratia is not Neal’s finest album, but it’s not his worst, not by a long shot. It’s a solid effort that I hope sets the stage for more concept albums based on St. Paul and other founders of the Church.

Tolkien Begins the Sequel to “The Hobbit” ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Yet, as much as Tolkien kept the story a Hobbit story, unanticipated persons and scenes and moments inserted themselves into the story, as did Tolkien’s larger legendarium. “The sequel to The Hobbit has now progressed as far as the end of the third chapter,” the author informed Stanley Unwin, however, “stories tend to get out of hand, and this has taken an unpremeditated turn.”[4] Tolkien repeated this news to various letter recipients over the next several months, recognizing that his own children—for whom The Hobbit had been originally written—had aged, and thus too had the storytelling. Somehow the sequel was growing in dark and perplexing ways. The whole story, he feared by October 1938, “was becoming more terrifying than the Hobbit.” Most worrisome, “it may prove quite unsuitable” as it becomes more and more “adult.” Clearly, Tolkien admitted, though never allegorical, the story of the sequel—and its depth and intensity—reflected the “darkness of the present days.”[5] In particular, the Necromancer (that is, Sauron) was playing a much bigger role in the sequel, and he, by his very nature, “is not child’s play.”[6]
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/tolkien-begins-sequel-hobbit-bradley-birzer.html

A Wealth-and-Welfare Reading of Hesiod’s Works and Days

“A conventional economic analysis of the text—that is, one concerned primarily with wealth and welfare—focuses on the many lines devoted to labor, mercantile activity, law, and prudence.  Wealth-and-welfare economists will be drawn to these subjects because they most clearly embody conventional economic concerns with production and distribution, as well as the rules governing these processes.”

https://egnatiavia.blogspot.com/2020/09/a-wealth-and-welfare-reading-of-hesiods.html

Tocqueville and a New Science of Politics ~ The Imaginative Conservative

When we fail to understand the choice that God has given us with democracy—that is, a science to guide, attenuate, and hone democracy—the baser instincts will rise to the fore. “So democracy has been abandoned to its wild instincts; it has grown up like those children, deprived of paternal care, who raise themselves in the streets of our cities, and who know society only by its vices and miseries. We still seemed unaware of its existence, when it took hold of power without warning.”

As such, democracy, thus far, has grown wild and licentious, on the verge of untamable. Though this process is stoppable and alterable, it will take some doing to make it work. As of the 1830s, Tocqueville fears, the material changes of democracy had far outpaced any of the spiritual restraints, customs, traditions, norms, and mores that make a thing good and acceptable, especially when dealing with a way of life. Many critics, understandably, thus see only the ills that democracy brings, failing to note its higher qualities. Habits, especially, have shown throughout history, the propensity to limit the ills of a thing, to make it acceptable to a population and to the stability of society.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/tocqueville-new-science-politics-bradley-birzer.html

On Brad Birzer’s 9/11 Talk

https://spiritofcecilia.com/2020/09/13/19-years-after-9-11/?replytocom=138#respond

Wonderful, Brad. Thanks for sharing your talk with us. Of course, I knew of 9/11 and flight 93 -93 is a mystical number symbolizing courage as it was the Regimental number of the Thin Red Line of Heroes at Balaklava the 93rd Highlanders. Let’s Roll indeed. I like to think in the deep heartland of America there are still brave souls who will say Let’s Roll when big things are at stake. And of course, I know of Gettysburg (I have visited three times in my life the first time in 1961) but never thought or even knew about the connection of Hillsdale to Gettysburg -that is a great particular fact to know and one that shines credit on the heritage of Hillsdale. 9/11 remains strongly in my memory. I used to live in New York City (when I was at NYU) and I had been to the WTC numerous times. In 1993 I bought a Library of America book on the Debates on the Constitution there. It is strange and frightening that all those strong, powerful places were obliterated. Our bodies are fragile vessels but we forget civilization itself is also vulnerable and fragile. Nothing is permanent. Except perhaps the fame of our forefathers so I say NE OBLIVISCARIS….DO NOT FORGET the men who were SAN PEUR (without fear) who fought not for conquest or domination but for liberty.

Some years ago Andrew Roberts was going on a series of talks to promote his book WALKING WITH DESTINY. I asked him how many in total and he said 93. I told him that was a lucky number. He asked why then I said ask Kipling the 93rd were the Thin Red Line of Heroes. He laughed. He understood immediately (he knew my grandfather won the Military Medal at 2nd Ypres while serving with the Argylls and that my grandfather knew Willie Gallacher -the Scottish Communist and Major Ricketts (the man who composed the River Kwai March- Col.Bogey).

So old Highlanders have old memories. 42nd Highlanders (Black Watch) 91st Highlanders (Spain) 93rd Highlanders (India/Russia/South Africa). By the way, Scottish veterans of Balaklava fought at Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg also The 79th Highlanders was a Union Regiment. Of course, the Auld Regiments are part of family and clan history. To some historians, a regimental number is just a number on a map. To those of us who remember it is a story of the Teuchters (the Tough Ones) fighting it out with mire cath (the ancient battle frenzy). When Wallace and Bruce fought we were there. We were there at Guadalcanal, El Alamein, Dunkirk, D-Day, Korea.

“Heroes’ blood and tears bid us hold our ancient glory of free lands and of bold lands HIGHLANDS and LOWLAND ye ancient and ye free lands. Faith that dare not lie but would die for home and kithland….”.. Our splendid ancient heritage is something we shall never forget. We are not ashamed to have pride of name and descent. We face firmly towards the future and never forget the past. We contribute our measure of courage and character to the American melting pot.

19 Years After 9/11

September 11, 2020

19 Years Later, We Still Remember

Brad Birzer

Today, we celebrate—and remember, as we promised we would never forget—the 19th anniversary of the tragic events; that is, the brutal attack on American lives, on American rights, and on American soil led by a fundamentalist terrorist.

19 is an odd number, and yet an important number.  As I give this talk, I’ve been at this college 21 years.  My oldest son, Nathaniel, is a senior and 21 years old.  My oldest daughter, Gretchen, is 19 years old and a sophomore.  

19 years, indeed, has been a lifetime for many of you standing here.

Not atypically, I was teaching back-to-back Western Heritage courses the morning of the attacks.  One 8:00 section, one 9:30 section.  We were most likely on Pericles or Socrates. In between the two, a flustered student told me about the events in New York, but, of course, everything was confused.  Later that morning, my wife, Dedra, and I ran into President Arnn in the old Ethen Allen Room—who informed us quite rightly that Hillsdale would continue the day in class, as it’s exactly what the terrorists would NOT want.  

I’m sure no one in this crowd is shocked by Dr. Arnn’s strength of character.

2,977 Americans died on 9/11.  Lives were silenced, then; and, by executive order, the skies were silenced.  On that day, there were victims, there were first responders, there were heroes; all were American.

My favorite story—one that never ceases to get to me—is about one of the passengers on Flight 93: Tom Burnett—a 38-year old Wall Street Banker, father of three girls, husband to a beautiful wife, and a devout Christian.  This man, a former college football player for St. John’s College in Minnesota, a lover of business as well as of ancient Greek philosophy, helped two other courageous American men drive a jet airliner into rural Pennsylvania soil on a clear September morning, 2001.  “We’re all going to die, but three of us are going to do something about it.  I love you honey.”  These were his last words to his wife on his cell phone.

Liberty and sacrifice.  I was teaching that in Western Heritage that morning, and I was witnessing it all around us.

And, here we stand at Central Hall, September 11, 2020.  Right there, is our moment to men who died on Pennsylvania soil.  

Indeed, numerous Hillsdale men sacrificed their lives at the Battle of Gettysburg (in and around a little Lutheran town).  The 24th Michigan on July 1; the 4th Michigan on July 2.  Each day, Hillsdale College men sacrificed themselves for something greater than each of them.  They sacrificed for each other, for the college, for the republic.  They sacrificed for us.

Liberty and sacrifice—these words, these themes, keep coming back to me and, I hope, to all of us.

And, I am reminded of one of the greatest of republican martyrs, Marcus Tullius Cicero, murdered by his executive in 43BC.  He wrote, profoundly,

“Before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers.  But the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colours, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines.  For what is now left of the ‘ancient customs’ one which he said ‘the republic of Rome’ was ‘founded firm’?  They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practiced, but are already unknown.  

And what shall I say of the men?  For the loss of our customs is due to our lack of men, and for this great evil we must not only give an account, but must even defend ourselves in every way possible, as if we were accused of capital crime.  For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the name of republic, but have long since lost its essence” [Cicero, The Republic, Book 5, Section 1]

As we live in a season of confusion, I wonder if we could write this not just of 43BC but of 2020AD.

And, yet, no matter what, the sacrifices remain. . . the voices are not silent. . . the sky is not silent.

Let us remember—those voices silenced on 9/11.  Let us remember the victims.  Let us remember the first responders.  Let us remember the heroes.  Americans all.  And, let us be like Cicero.  Let us be like the 4th and the 24th Michigan regiments.  Let us be like Tom Burnett.

May our colors never fade, may our voices never cease, may our skies rage: liberty and sacrifice.

God bless, America.

[I had the grand privilege of giving this talk to the Hillsdale College community at noon on September 11, 2020.]

The Flower Kings Announce Islands

THE FLOWER KINGS – release first single/video from new double album ‘Islands’!Photo: Lilian ForsbergOn October 30th, 2020 progressive rockers THE FLOWER KINGS will release their new double album “Islands” on InsideOutMusic, just a year after the group’s much celebrated “Waiting For Miracles”. With ‘Broken’, the group now presents a first track from this opus and the band has the following to say about the track:
 
“Howdy people – how is life on your islands and in your isolation? Good news is – there is music – and even better –  there is NEW music from THE FLOWER KINGS. Here is ‘Broken’ –  first song from our new double album/triple LP !! ‘Broken’ is a song about addiction, stress and confusion – Not a typical song  for the album, because the album has no ‘typical’ style –  it is just a wild ride of  styles and influences. We’re super excited about you to hear ALL of it, but here is a first glimpse of the progressive smorgasbord. There is more waiting. Get your pre-orders going!  Much love from Jonas – Mirkko – Zach – Hasse & Roine!”
 
Watch the video for ‘Broken’ here: https://youtu.be/z3vktAkbeREThe 92 minutes long “Islands” features artwork by legend Roger Dean (Yes, Asia, Gentle Giant, Greenslade, Uriah Heep) and all trademark sounds and melodies, the band is renowned for. From vintage keys to epic guitar solos, from odd drum patterns to symphonic elements, THE FLOWER KINGS present a dynamic and complex record that is bold, bombastic and beautiful.
 
“Islands” is now available as massive Limited 3LP & 2CD box set with slipcase and 180 gram vinyl housed in one gatefold, one single sleeve; as Limited Edition 2CD Digipak and Digital Album.
Presales are available now!
https://theflowerkings.lnk.to/IslandsID
 
Strictly limited coloured vinyl editions are available from these outlets:
100x orange
200x creamy white
www.insideoutshop.de
 
200x transparent light blue
www.justforkicks.deDisc One (49:40)
1 – Racing With Blinders On 4:24
2 – From The Ground 4.02
3 – Black Swan 5:53
4 – Morning News 4:01
5 – Broken 6:38
6 – Goodbye Outrage 2:19
7 – Journeyman 1:43
8 – Tangerine 3:51
9 – Solaris 9:10
10 – Heart Of The Valley 4:18
11- Man In A Two Peace Suit 3:21
 
Disc Two (43:01)
1 – All I Need Is Love 5:48
2 – A New Species 5:45
3 – Northern Lights 5:43
4 – Hidden Angles 0:50
5 – Serpentine 3:52
6 – Looking For Answers 4:30
7 –Telescope 4:41
8 – Fool’s Gold 3:11
9 – Between Hope & Fear 4:29
10 – Islands 4:12
 

Line-Up:
Roine Stolt – Vocal, Ukulele, Guitars, Additional Keyboards
Hasse Fröberg – Vocal & Acoustic Guitar
Jonas Reingold – Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Zach Kamins – Pianos, Organ, Synthesizers, Mellotron, Orchestrations
Mirko DeMaio – Drums, Percussion
Guest: Rob Townsend – Soprano Saxophone
 THE FLOWER KINGS online:
https://www.roinestolt.com/
http://www.facebook.com/TheFlowerKings
https://www.instagram.com/roinestolt8112/
https://www.facebook.com/pale.rider.127

INSIDEOUT MUSIC online:
www.insideoutmusic.com
www.insideoutmusic.store

www.youtube.com/InsideOutMusicTV
www.facebook.com/InsideOutMusic
www.twitter.com/InsideOutUSA
http://spotify.com/progrockessentials

Ezekiel 33 DRB

1And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say to them: When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man, one of their meanest, and make him a watchman over them: 3And he see the sword coming upon the land, and sound the trumpet, and tell the people: 4Then he that heareth the sound of the trumpet, whosoever he be, and doth not look to himself, if the sword come, and cut him off: his blood shall be upon his own head. 5He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not look to himself, his blood shall be upon him: but if he look to himself, he shall save his life. 6And if the watchman see the sword coming, and sound not the trumpet: and the people look not to themselves, and the sword come, and cut off a soul from among them: he indeed is taken away in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at the hand of the watchman.
— Read on biblehub.com/drb/ezekiel/33.htm

Nock and Nisbet on Society and State ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Both Nisbet and Nock find this sad state of affairs very human, but also very counter to the American tradition of strong societies that take care of alcoholism, crime, homelessness, and mental illness. In its expanded role, the State becomes a kind of Nanny, a mothering hen. Further, as the State grows, it reshapes the rules of society, giving itself the advantage in all conflicts with parts (or wholes) of the population. As Nock understood it in the 1930s, and Nisbet in the 1960s, the State desired—whether it openly admitted this or not—to assume all power over society and thus render society—and its myriads of conflicting authorities (in and through which the human person found freedom)—obsolete in the long run. Indeed, the State wanted to take the place of the Church as the only glue that holds all together. This was just as true, both Nock and Nisbet feared, in collectivist societies, whether they called themselves republican, fascist, or communist.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/nock-nisbet-society-state-bradley-birzer.html