This entry into the blogosphere is neither nostalgic nor all that spiritual. These words may not even provoke thought.
I merely want to recognize the passing of the year 2011 with a couple of “huh –who?” or “attaboy” utterances about music and musicians, and then I’ll finish with an “OK, thanks, but at this point, I’m done wid ya.”
First, heading back 300 years … the year 1711 brought to us no one particularly notable in music history … ever heard of William Boyce and Ignaz Holzbauer? Didn’t think so. ‘Nuff said.
1811 was a bit more significant in giving birth to the inimitable, if flagrantly megalomaniacal, Franz Liszt. Liszt was quite a composer, an even more prolific transcriber and arranger … and, by all reports, an ostentatious “rock star” of a solo piano performer. Not my cup of tea, but he does deserve recognition, historically speaking. Liszt actually merited the epithet “artist” — unlike 94% of the pop stars who reappropriate the label today. Another dude by the name of Ferdinand Hiller, who was the dedicatee of Schumann’s terrific piano concerto and of a couple of Chopin’s works, was also a product of 1811.
Around the birth years of my grandparents, 1911 gave us Gian Carlo Menotti (of the plenteous supply of homosexually acting, talented composers of the last couple of centuries); and Alan Hovhaness, an interesting and also talented, if quirked-out, composer. More significant in my personal, vocational life was the creation, in 1911, of Holst’s Second Suite in F for Military Band. A landmark work, along with its predecessor of 1909, and a work that has provided much pleasure. Thanks, Gustav.
And now, back a few hundred years. The passing of 2011 moves us to mark the 400-year-old publishing of the Authorized Version of the Bible, commonly known as the King James Version, in 1611. That this version was authorized by a human should give us pause re: its conception; that it was authorized by a king should arouse bona fide suspicion.
It’s my distinct impression that the KJV was, for approximately 350 years, the only well circulated, “complete” Bible.¹ (The ASV existed for another half-century but wasn’t much of a competitor in terms of market share, despite being a fine translation for its time.) That was more or less fine for 1611-1950, and I am grateful that more and more people had Bibles available during those days. Clearly, the KJV was a blessing in its time.
However, at this juncture, we must pay our respects and allow the KJV to pass with a dignity that matches the richness of some of its language. For poetically or aesthetically oriented purposes, or for sake of academic study of the literature of the 16th and 17th centuries, it is fine to use the KJV. For the sake of understanding God’s messages in our day, it is no longer fine to give credence to the KJV. We now have infinitely better scholarship to bring us more communicative, more accurate versions of what was originally scribed. Today’s versions are not all worthy, but just about any one of them has a better chance, in 2011, of communicating something God wanted said than the KJV has. Those old soldiers of the scriptures, the giving-away Gideons, need to learn this truth, and so do the rest of us.
Thank you, KJV, for shewing thyself unto humans who have sought the Almighty for lo, these scores of years. Prithee, though, as 2011 flees, may thine arcane gists and thine obsolete phrasings take flight on wings of reason and spirit. Thy stilted language no longer serves the purposes of the Kingdom of God. We beseech thee, in good faith: takest thou thy leave, with alacrity!
Good riddance, KJV. May another, more worthy than thou, haste to take thy place.
¹ Biblical canon is a much more complicated question than “complete Bible,” but for sake of this abbreviated blog, I’ll leave it at that.