A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Category Archives: Music

The Young Geek, Mocked by His Crush, Fantasizes About Future World Domination, When He'll Have Cyborg Raping Powers

Jonathan Coulton is “a musician, a singer-songwriter and an internet superstar.” He wrote a sweet, goopy song called Code Monkey that I like, as well as a song about the Mandelbrot set. But he also wrote a song called “The Future Soon.” It it, the protagonist sings:

Last week I left a note on Laura’s desk
It said I love you signed anonymous friend
Turns out she’s smarter than I thought she was
She knows I wrote it, now the whole class does too

But I know that I’ll forget the look of pity in her face
When I’m living in my solar dome on a platform in space.

Ok; this is garden variety young geek fantasy; perhaps even socially and emotionally useful, in that it might propel him to greater things:

I’ll probably be some kind of scientist
Building inventions in my space lab in space
I’ll end world hunger I’ll make dolphins speak

But then the fantasy turns, and he’s training a ‘warrior robot race’ and becoming a cyborg himself. And regarding Laura:

I’ll see her standing by the monorail
She’ll look the same except for bionic eyes
She lost the real ones in the robot wars
I’ll say I’m sorry, she’ll say it’s not your fault
Or is it?
And she eyes me suspiciously
Hearing the whir of the servos inside
She will scream and try to run
But there’s nowhere she can hide
When a crazy cyborg wants to make you his robot bride

This is “beyond creepy,” as a friend wrote.

I guess I just want to go on record to say that, as much as I music by and about my fellow geeks in general, and Coulton in particular, this song is “beyond creepy” in its male misogynist revenge fantasy. In many ways, [male] geeks really are taking over power, and you know, like geek hero Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility. The least we can do (and it is not very much) is to disavow rape fantasy songs.


Midwest convention

Darrell Swarens has posted a video of the Chicago Sacred Harp Singers’ Midwest Convention, held over the weekend. The video shows James Eldridge leading Panting for Heaven. It shows his skill and composure at leading despite his young age. It also shows the beautiful setting of Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago. The discerning and knowing eye will see lots of midwest and nationwide Sacred Harp worthies around the square.

Thanks, Darrell!

Update: Martha Beverley’s pictures of the convention are now available.

Two small occasional works

This has been a delightful weekend. On Saturday, I attended the Golden Gate Sacred Harp singing in San Francisco (with a nice Après-chant at Philip’s house, nicely described by Linda, who also has pictures of the singing). In the morning today, Jeff Shrager took me to see redwoods and banana slugs and tidepools, capped by some nice bluegrass music at a cafe. Worship at Sojourners was also good.

Back in Michigan, I missed some cool things happening. Bess hosted an Earth Day parade for our neighborhood, with lots of bikes and kids and people dressing up like something they admired in nature (Bess went as a maple tree). Some 60 people came; I wish I could have been there. Or perhaps at Sam Sommers and Beth Hall’s house blessing in Elkhart that I was disappointed to miss.

Anyway, I wrote two small occasional works for this weekend. One was the opening prayer for the Golden Gate singing; the other a text to sing to a new tune by Thomas Malone that he composed for Sam and Beth’s house blessing. First, the text for the tune (in “Common Meter,” so you can sing it to Amazing Grace or the Gilligan’s Island theme song). It helps to remember that Sam and Beth’s last names:

Home Blessing

The halls we build seem grand and strong
And sturdy in our sight;
Eternal eyes can see them fall
Swift as a summer’s night.

So, gracious Lord, we ask Thou grant
Our homes be built on praise,
And guide us to Thy boundless halls
And ceaseless summer days.

And here’s the prayer, with footnotes, even, since it’s a bit of a pastiche:


When you laid earth’s foundation the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy [1]. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise [2]. The very stones would cry out should forget our voices [3].

We have neither the innocence of babes nor subtlety of angels to praise you as you deserve. What we do have is this time and this place and these voices.

So, in the singing of our spiritual songs, let us sing with a soul flying away to you; help us not give over the struggle till we feel ourselves come into a holy symphony with the saints [4] who with the angels and babes and stones and stars shout out your perfect praise.

I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith [5]. Amen.

[1] After Job 38:4,7.
[2] Matthew 26:16. On the title page of William Billings’s New England Psalm-Singer, the first book composed of music written in America.
[3] After Luke 19:40
[4] After Cotton Mather (from The Accomplished Singer, quoted in the biography William Billings of Boston, by David P McCay and Richard Crawford).
[5] After Hebrews 12:2

Why sing Sacred Harp? redux

Maggie Leonard, responding to Linda’s statement about singing Sacred Harp that I quoted recently:

That says it all. I’m not a doctrinal Christian. I tried for years to accept the doctrinal view of Jesus, but couldn’t when I searched my soul. However, this music rises beyond doctrine and summons the spirit that moved among the apostles after Jesus’ passing. That spirit moves through us like water when we sing, cleansing and purifying. It’s like getting baptized over and again with sound. . . . It’s like we’re all stepping together into an inexhaustible font of joy, and the only way to get there is together. I know that’s what Jesus intended. I’m so grateful I’ve found it! I’ve told both my sisters that I’m going to do everything in my power to get their babies into the tradition when they’re young.

People find this to be powerful stuff.

Why sing Sacred Harp?

Linda does as good a job as anything I’ve read to describe why one sings Sacred Harp music:

Sometimes I need to shout down my fear, sometimes I need to voice praise and thanks, other times I need to join my dead. Right now, what I need most is a sweet song that makes me feel held by God.

The All-California Sacred Harp Convention this past weekend was all these things.

National Save Darfur Tour: Hip Hop Benefit Concert at MSU

News article Concert info – look under music

n the Student Assembly meeting of the Associated Students of MSU, held Nov. 30, the Assembly agreed to vote for a bill that will create on-campus education activities to help encourage students’ action against the genocide in Darfur.

The activities have been planned by the MSU Chapter of worldwide student network “Students Taking Action Now: Darfur.”

“I am confident that the voting process will favor support for the ASMSU and S.T.A.N.D. partnership,” said Mark Fitzgerald, director of Communication & Marketing of ASMSU.

S.T.A.N.D. is a student-based anti-genocide coalition that is composed of over 600 high school and college chapters dedicated to eradicating genocide, specifically the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

(Good luck, Mark!)


Earworm comic
(made with commix beta 1.0; commix art by Fay Ryu).

Gymanfa Ganu

Last night, i attended the annual Gymanfa Ganu (/gI’manfa ‘ganI/ at Salem Presbyterian Church in Venedocia, Ohio with good friend Samuel Sommers. A gymanfa is a Welsh hymn sing; Sam is a fellow Sacred Harp singer with relatives at Salem, and it was great fun talking with him to and from Venedocia. The singing itself was interestingly different from Sacred Harp singing. We sat in parts, but we had a director (Trevor Williams) who would instruct us and even stop us if he wanted to correct or encourage certain things. There was some special music, most of it sung in Welsh, and we sang a few hymns in Welsh (I was glad I had studied up a bit on Welsh pronunciation–it’s not as hard as it looks). We sang a couple of tunes I haven’t sung in a very long time, including “Rachie” and “Huddersfield,” which I remember from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship days as “Who is on the Lord’s Side?” and  “Great God of Wonders,” respectively.

Perhaps my father’s father’s mother’s family–the Griffiths, immigrants from Wales, would be glad to know I sang Cym Rhonddha.

The Parting Hand

Here’s something very Sacred Harp: The Parting Hand, a site to record songs you’d like sung and other remembrances made at your own funeral. It’s a quick site Annie Grieshop and I put together over the past few days in our spare time.

The Parting Hand” is the tune most frequently sung at the end of a Sacred Harp convention.

My Christian friends, in bonds of love,
Whose hearts in sweetest union join,
Your friendship’s like a drawing band,
Yet we must take the parting hand.
Your company’s sweet, your union dear,
Your words delightful to my ear;
Yet when I see that we must part
You draw like chords around my heart.

(One of the interesting things about Sacred Harp singing is how these words resonate even with non- or ex-Christian singers).

Abraham Lincoln visits Kalamazoo

150 years ago (on August 27, 1856), Abraham Lincoln made his only visit to Michigan; he spoke in Kalamazoo’s downtown park as part of a rally for John C. Fremont, the first Republican nominee for President. There are a number of events taking place in Kalamazoo this weekend, sponsored, in part, by our local state senator (a Republican, natch, and against whom my brother-in-law Sandy Lipsey is running this fall).

I attended one session today, an informative talk by Weldon Petz on “The Musical Note In Lincoln’s Life,” basically a talk connecting anything musical with Lincoln. Lincoln played the harmonica and Jew’s harp; enjoyed both ministrel shows and the opera; probably sang out of the Missouri Harmony (pictured here in its modern revision); liked both “Dixie” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic;” and has been a popular subject of music for a long time.

One thing I learned was that it was common to publish “songsters,” or small song books, for the presidential campaign, for example this digitized copy of the 1864 Republican Songster of Lincoln’s second campaign, which includes songs as well as the Republican platform (“Resolved, That the foreign immigration which in the past has added so much to the wealth and development of resources and increase of power to this nation–the asylum of the oppressed of all nations–should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy.”)