A recommendation

Should you be considering joining Orthodox PSALM, a mailing list on Yahoo ostensibly for those interested in Orthodox liturgical music, I’d recommend that you not waste your time. It’s fairly high traffic, and so far, absolutely nothing useful or informative has come into my inbox. It’s also populated by pompous ignorants who “massage” texts, meaning that they create ungrammatical texts, where for example, they only use “thou/thy/thine/thee” to refer to the Deity because they’re too stupid to know that they’re second person singular pronouns, not Deity pronouns. There are people who apparently got a B in that introductory linguistics class they took ten years ago, remember about ten percent of what they learned and misremember half of that, and consider themselves linguists; and there is one particularly pompous woman who graces us with her critique of the Orthodox Study Bible translation, because of course, she knows far more than Orthodox biblical scholars.

If there’s anything that drives me nuts it’s pseudo-intellectuals who have an inflated sense of their own knowledge and want to lecture others.

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One Response to A recommendation

  1. Anonymous for the moment says:

    I used to be a paying member of PSALM, back in the days when they had a pay-for-membership model. I even went to their first (well, only, so far) national conference in Chicago three years ago. It’s an organization with a lot of good intentions behind it, and it’s the kind of thing that really will eventually be useful (one hopes) — a professional/resource-sharing organization for Orthodox church musicians.

    The reality is, unfortunately, a professional/resource-sharing organization doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’re talking about positions that tend to be either unpaid or paid only a token, and when the resources that would be nice to share just plain aren’t organized well or consistently enough to be able to share them in any kind of a systematic way. (The people who *are* paid decently and have a reasonable set of resources generally aren’t in a position where they need such a group.) The idea at the ’06 conference was that we’d do one every couple of years, but last I heard, it will be ’10 at the earliest before they can muster the resources to do another one.

    So, really, what it becomes is a vehicle for commiseration, and the same 10-20 people tend to do the talking. There’s plenty of that to go around if you’re an Orthodox musician, no question about it — my trouble is that a lot of those folks tend to treat Byzantine chant as a crazy uncle best kept locked in the attic, maybe brought out once a year just so that nobody thinks we’ve killed him. There have been discussions on the Yahoo! group where people have seriously suggested that Byzantine chant contributes to parish decline. My experience is that if one is not onboard with the “Slavic music is inherently friendlier to the American ear” trope (which I am not), there’s not going to be much worth one’s time to begin with, and the same things that frustrate you about the current set of discussions frustrate me.

    The leadership of the organization also, in my experience anyway, tends to not respond to feedback and ideas that don’t come from people the board already knows, even in fora that are established ostensibly to collect feedback and ideas from the masses.

    Look at the index of the newsletter here: http://orthodoxpsalm.org/resources/indexbyissue.html The problem starts to be come clear, or at least part of it. Pan-Orthodox? More like Pan-Slavic plus converts, at least in terms of the preponderance of contributors and topics. The main article in the last issue I got bore virtually no resemblance to my reality as a parish choir director, too.

    All of that said, my volume of Fr. Sergei Glagolev’s settings was inscribed by him at the ’06 conference, and Fr. Ephrem Lash was very much worth hearing talk in person.

    PSALM is really good idea. I’m just not sure we’re there yet. If we can ever get to a point where it is the rule that we’re paying choir directors and cantors for at least half-time positions, then we might be there — but if I want a jaw session about uniformity of liturgical translations and “pseudo-Elizabethan vs. yoo-hoo”, I’ll have a beer with a couple of my choristers.

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