Mercury is retrograde, but friends, we’re in luck: It’s another column by Tim Goeglein!
The blare of rap music has probably dulled our summer senses to the beautiful. A church friend once said to me, almost wistfully, “I sometimes think the culture of our country is ill. Where is beauty?” It was a poignant question.
Yes, yes it is. I regret to say, however, that from this promising opening — which swerves into a tantalizing paragraph of rue and regret for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — Tim bogs down in a defense of the recently deceased composer Gian Carlo Menotti:
He had high and immutable standards. His life showed that, as Flannery O’Connor said, sometimes you have to push back against the culture as hard as it pushes against you. That is, as a talented young artist with standards, he had to be willing to make his contribution whether there was anyone waiting to give him an award for excellence or not. The public loved and relished his music; the critics, ever in search of “the new,” did not approve.
Yes, I see how winning the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle Award in the same year might lead a man to think the critics had it in for him:
Menotti’s operas – there are 25 – achieved a high degree of popularity, for which he was punished with condescension. He was deemed too old-fashioned. In fact, in 1971, Menotti wrote a letter to the New York Times in which he said, “I hardly know of another artist who has been more consistently damned by critics … The insults that most of my operas had to endure through the years.”
Menotti himself had to endure the insult of a Kennedy Center Honor in 1984.
But if you can stick with it, Tim delivers:
Despite the criticism, he never surrendered the role of beauty. We can now hear one of his strongest expressions of it in his masterpiece, Missa: O Pulchritudo, released on a recording for the first time earlier this year. My first reaction upon hearing it was: What kind of cultural prejudice kept this remarkable piece on ice for 25 years?
This may be the most beautiful music Menotti composed. Beauty is actually its theme, and one of the most tender passages is thus: “O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You.” The piece was dedicated to God, echoing Bach’s credo “soli Deo Gloria,” dedicating every piece of music he ever wrote to the glory of God.
So now we see what kind of cultural prejudice: Menotti was too religious. Critics hate that.
One hopes and prays that Menotti gained a similar reception, though he seems to have had a modest understanding of himself.
Despite his persecution by the MSM.
He once said, “I do not know my own worth – I’m not Bach, but I like to think I’m not Offenbach either!” Very clever, very humbling. Indeed, Offenbach could not have written a Mass like Menotti’s. Beauty wins out in the end; excellence lasts. Why? Because God is beautiful, and he embodies an excellence and radiance pre-eminent that brings a glimpse of the eternal into our temporal lives.
Take that, Lennon and McCartney!
ADDED: If he wanted the approval of critics, he could have just come out of the closet. You know how liberal critics love a queer.
derwood said on July 5, 2007 at 11:14 am
Fort Wayne native Timothy S. Goeglein is a special assistant to President Bush in the White House.
What exactly does a “special” assistant do?
nancy said on July 5, 2007 at 11:18 am
He works for Rove’s office, as a liaison to the religious right, basically. He was the designated White House mourner at Jerry Falwell’s funeral.
Dave said on July 5, 2007 at 11:42 am
Whenever anyone says I heard from a church friend, my BS radar goes on full alert.
alex said on July 5, 2007 at 12:59 pm
“What kind of cultural prejudice kept this remarkable piece on ice for 25 years?”
The same kind of cultural prejudice that keeps you and your boss in the White House, Tim. God, guns and NASCAR.
As for your artistic tastes, you sound an awful lot like Adolf Hitler did, only more unabashedly effete.
Peter said on July 5, 2007 at 3:42 pm
Alex – take back that Hitler comment! If the nutjobs at Cheney Inc. pick up on that the next thing you know they’ll redo the Degenerative Art exhibit!
Kim said on July 5, 2007 at 9:50 pm
Confession: I clicked on the link and read the first graf and all I want to know is where the f is the subject-verb agreement?
To wit: “One of the true delights of summertime is area, regional, statewide and national music festivals.”
One doesn’t equal plural. I, a woman known for her calm, may need blood pressure medication if I read past the first graf.
Kim said on July 5, 2007 at 10:01 pm
OK, so I armed myself with a full glass of Malbec and plowed through the piece. Oh. My. God. What a bullshitter! Good writers always have the voice where the dialogue sounds authentic. Can you imagine his church conversation?
Last Sunday as I was departing church here’s the conversation I had:
Church treasurer: The bishop will be here next week.
Me: Do you think he’ll wear the mitre — you know, that pope hat thingy?
CT: Let’s ask the priest!
CT (to priest): What do you suppose the bishop will wear next week?
Priest (big smile here): I imagine he’ll wear what he usually wears, which is whatever he wants.
Me: Awwww, no pope hat?
Priest: Probably not, but he may wear the puffy shirt.
CT: That Seinfeld episode was one of the funniest ever.
… and so forth.
But I am Episcopalian, not some fundamentalist whatever.
I do so love the gay angle, though, which would be Totally Fine if only this guy were Cheney’s father (as he is way too old to be the son).
nancy said on July 6, 2007 at 8:23 am
Tim is a Missouri Synod Lutheran, very big in the Fort, and frequently indistinguishable from Baptist/Pentecostal/nondenominational fundies. The Lutherans have less rock ‘n’ roll in their souls and think the Reformation happened five minutes ago. I’ve long suspected their confirmation ritual involves the insertion of a giant log up the butt, but I could be wrong about that.
michaelG said on July 6, 2007 at 8:51 am
Kim, what’s a good malbec? I’ve tried several and haven’t been overly impressed.
Jason said on July 6, 2007 at 9:03 am
What a powerful and moving column. It really strikes at the heart of the issues that people in Fort Wayne are worrying about every day — namely, opera’s legacy.
You know what’s killing newspapers? Not bloated wastes of column-inches like that. No, it’s Google. Damn Google!
Seriously, the editor who commissioned that drivel ought to call each of the subscribers and personally apologize.
harry near indy said on July 6, 2007 at 9:07 am
goeglein is an alumnus of indiana university.
so am i.
with this in mind, i’m halfway tempted to quit the iu alumni association just to put distance between me and this pretentious ass. (and i joined only after the iu trustees fired bob knight.)
odds are 2-1 he’ll never — never — write for publication anything about how some businesses will screw up quality for profit.
Marcia said on July 6, 2007 at 9:37 am
Confirmed Missouri Synod Lutheran here. Pls to discontinue speculating as to whether or not I have a giant log up the butt. Thx.
nancy said on July 6, 2007 at 9:43 am
Perhaps, for girls, something the size of a pencil is used. Whatever, glad you got rid of yours, M.
Julie Robinson said on July 6, 2007 at 10:53 am
I grew up Missouri Synod but had a real problem when my confirmation pastor informed us only MSers would be in heaven. Even as a 7th grader, it was a major disconnect. And then there was the issue of women not being ordained. Now I’m ELCA, which I believe is what Garrison Keillor refers to as “the happy Lutherans”. Not a lot of rock and roll in our soul, but I did get people clapping along last week during a hymn.
Marcia, I bet you don’t live in Fort Wayne or you’d be ELCA. Most MSers who move from other parts of the country are truly mystified by the local branch, and they end up at our church.
True story: there used to be a Lutheran elementary bus system here. One of the MS Pastors tried to kick our school’s kids off on the grounds they shouldn’t be mixing. Because, you know, 10 year olds talk a lot of theology on the school bus.
Marcia said on July 6, 2007 at 11:14 am
I don’t live in Ft. Wayne, and besides, I’m no longer a Lutheran of any sort.
nancy said on July 6, 2007 at 11:33 am
My maternal grandfather’s family were all MS Lutherans, and they bore absolutely no resemblance to the ones in the Fort. I’ve heard more than a few stories like yours, Julie, from people who arrived in the Fort’s MS churches from outside, looked around and said, what the-?, left and switched to ELCA. I don’t know why Indiana’s are a breed apart.
For instance: I once thought no one outside of Baptists, nondenominational fundies and certain Pentecostal sects were Biblical literalists, and yet you can find lots of MS Lutherans in Fort Wayne who believe the world was created in seven days, that the Garden of Eden existed and had a census of two and that it all fell apart when Eve ate the apple. I don’t know if that’s church doctrine, but they were comfortable believing it in that church.
Marcia said on July 6, 2007 at 2:40 pm
Wait a minute–the world wasn’t created in seven days?
Kim said on July 6, 2007 at 5:11 pm
I grew up in suburban Chicago as an MS Lutheran, which I now refer to as Catholic without the saints but with ALL the guilt and us v. them rules.
I, and the guy in the youth group who used to come dressed as Alice Cooper, resisted the log insertion. Well, resisted it until the pastor threatened us with excommunication (before confirmation, no less) and hell and my mom freaked out, probably because she thought that meant she was hellbound by association.
Malbec — I really like the Pascual Toso 2005. It’s $8-9.
brian stouder said on July 6, 2007 at 8:29 pm
Wait a minute–the world wasn’t created in seven days?
No no no – SIX days; the 7th day would have been double time, and was therefore a dayoff