Copy and paste

A whole caboodle of tech jargon and functionalities have come and gone in the last 20 or 30 years.  (Anyone else till speak DOS and have to translate “directory” to “folder” in your head when speaking to others?).  The most useful items have come and stayed, I suppose.

I remember a Brother electronic typewriter I owned that had a page’s worth of RAM (and no hard disk storage).  Up to one page of characters could be remembered, copied, & pasted!  What a great functionality that was, and while I used that machine for a year or two, I had no idea what was coming when personal computers with more RAM and a hard disk became more affordable.

Two of the most lasting, and yet probably among the more basic, functions are still the most amazingly helpful in the world of personal computing — 1) search and 2) copy/cut and paste.  

Think what time can be saved by searching.  Now, we even have automatic search functions that check for recently used e-mail addresses and key words in text, saving keystrokes.  But, believe you me, the search engine on a PC, let alone a server-based engine such as Google, is much more powerful than that.  (I think my own cranial search engine is losing power because I don’t need to rely on it as much anymore.)  Just last night, I had forgotten an address, but within 30 seconds, I had it on my White Pages application on my phone.  I hardly need to remember that “again I say, rejoice” is in Philippians or that the wise man built his house at the end of the so-called sermon on the mount.  All these data and more are readily available as a result of the marvelous search function.

Copying (or cutting) and pasting is nearly as ubiquitous.  I paste scripture into a Word document or a PowerPoint for use in a church gathering or devotional message.  I copy and paste a line of music intended for voices alone into a new arrangement for instruments.  Although I save such documents and might refer to them months or years down the road, perhaps modifying and/or lifting some tidbits, the originals are generally fixed and are used but once.  I copy from e-mails into text messages and vice versa.  Because I’m so dependent on this function, I’m annoyed by one app on my phone that will let me select sentences or paragraphs but that doesn’t allow me to cut or copy.    Re-using information through the copy and paste function seems nigh unto essential in my life.

I don’t think I could make it as a preacher (or table-talker or worship leader or pray-er, etc.) who had to “copy and paste” words from one assembly to the next.  (Most would recognize this institutional gathering pattern as multiple “services,” but that is a misuse of the word “service.”) Please see here for more on worship vs. service.)  To me, something has always seemed disingenuous about that.  If I go to the 11:00 gathering, but I know the same things were said and sung at 9:30, I think I would catch myself initially reacting genuinely, and then realizing that mine was not the first crowd to have heard those very words.  Then I would be embarrassed, both for myself and for the preacher, worship leader, announcer, etc.:  it wasn’t the first time things were said, and it seems like a lie to me to present things with the same enthusiasm, giving no hint that they’ve been pasted in from the last “service.”

I recently talked about this with a friend, and her response was, “It’s not about you, though – it’s about the congregation.”  Yes, this is just me, and I’m not trying to legislate for everyone on this point.  It’s a personality thing — I simply have trouble engaging with repeats of things.  My personality is bored by repetition — and particularly repelled by repetition that presents itself as not repeated.

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2 thoughts on “Copy and paste

  1. That sentiment seems somewhat silly to me, Brian. I know that you’re “not trying to legislate for everyone on this point,” but I can’t help but wonder how you reconcile that personality trait with being a conductor. Certainly your ensembles do not prepare and perform only new compositions for their respective world premieres. As a member of an audience, are you not moved when listening to, say, a Brahms composition that was premiered nearly a century and a half earlier? Certainly your ears are not the first to have heard it. Is it then a lie for the musicians and conductor to “present [it] with the same enthusiasm?” What then, of a professional symphony who performs the same program for three nights in a row, or worse yet, a professional musical theatre troupe that performs the same show for a year or more? Are they being disingenuous if they perform each night with enthusiasm? Surely in these situations, especially the latter, the performance would be harmed if the performers made it clear to the audience that this were the seventeen-hundredth performance and they were bored. I am not asking you to recant, I am simply pointing out that it would seem to me your feelings about a repeated assembly are incongruous with being a musician.

    Respectfully,
    Randy Runyan
    Denver, CO

    P.S. All quotations above were copied and pasted.

    • Randy, I suppose you’re right to a fair extent — at least, in the * appearance* of incongruity. I closed this essay with some softness, you may remember, and was by no means attempting to suggest that everyone should think my way on this. (There ARE some things that I would love to legislate for the masses, you know, but I’ll die long before that bill ever makes it through the first vote!) :-)

      The only occasions on which I’ve ever repeated a) the same concert program b) with the same musicians have been forced on me (3-4 performances each of the same Christmas gala program, planning now for the 6th year of this). It rubs me the wrong way, and I find myself having to “act,” more than I’m comfortable with acting, while on the podium.

      My choral colleague has said he’ll leave if he ever can’t tour, repeating the same program night after night. He gets more money than I do, and he takes week-long trips. The few times I’ve toured with ensembles, it’s been 3-5 days, with 6 concerts last year, and I did a different program order every time! It’s just me — I don’t like repetition much. Not incidentally, it has for years baffled me how theatre folks can do the same show for 8 weeks (or months, or years). When I’ve done music theatre, I’ve enjoyed a lot of it but am SO ready for the show to be over when it’s time for that. My personality pushes forward, leading up to a single occasion, and then wants to move on. Of course if a person has a different bent, he should absolutely present it the second time with the same enthusiasm. For some reason, though, I am not of that bent. I can hardly even bear to hear myself make the same important general announcement to one ensemble that I made the previous day with another (with maybe 20 people overlapping). You might call this a character oddity (flaw?), and again, you’re right that there are inconsistencies.

      It’s not really about repeating a Brahms symphony; it’s about repeating the whole kit-n-kaboodle, *the whole program, in the same setting, *in church*.* I’m more sensitive to the content of church gatherings than most, and I am ever resistant to preacher-centrism. Part of the scenario that doesn’t set well with me would be remedied if church gatherings were more corporately shaped, allowing for discussion and some level of spontaneity, although with decorum. I think the model of a church driven by the sermon and will of one person is as ill-advised as it is unauthorized, and I suppose it is that kind of “service” that tends to get under my skin more if repeated, because it’s the words of one man copied & pasted again.

      On the musical side: I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I’m considering doing a “warhorse” again in the same hall with an ensemble of the same name, 4 or 5 years later after the first lot have graduated. My UDel advisor used to recycle some mainstays every 4 years to make sure every student played them, and Doc does the same, sort of, but not as often. I don’t think I’ll ever relive an entire program, though, although I’m likely to include, say, *Lincolnshire Posy* and Adam Gorb on the same program in the future, just as in the program I’m preparing now. Plus, I tend to have a different take on “the arts” in church settings than many believing musicians — I don’t make as much room for (“absolute”) art music in the experience of the gathered church.

      “If everyone’s thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.” – Gen. Geo. S. Patton (I didn’t think I’d ever quote a military man, either!)

      Thanks for your thoughtful commentary! -bc

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