Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Religion book notes

For seekers today after religious solutions, a few relevant book notes: 'In most Western countries, people no longer like to speak much of "religion" (except at the difficult or symbolic moments of life) ...But the fashionable word is "spirituality," which has come to refer to a countless number of different realities, from relationship with God to simply the meaning one may give to life or to "things," including retreat from the world, the search for inner peace, overcoming the traps of the consumerist society, or even diving voluntarily and deliberately into the world of emotions. The Jewish or Christian origins have faded or simply disappeared and the idea of spirituality now covers almost everything imaginable that could "give a breath of life" or "give meaning."' -p.117

'At the heart of the West, whose rhythms of life and myriad opportunities for diversion may unsettle even the strongest determination, practice may become a mechanical ritual, lifeless and without spirituality. Memory repeats the invocations and prayers, the lips say the words, the body goes through the motions, the hand gives, but the soul is absent. The ritual is not enough: life must be liberated.' -p.121

'[Religious] education['s] first objective is the education of the heart, which links the consciousness with God and should awaken us to an awareness of our responsibilities toward ourselves, our bodies, our relatives, our communities, and the human family at large.' -p.129

'It is impossible to flourish independently without having the spiritual and intellectual means to discover who one is, where one lives, and how to plan one's way of faithfulness. [A religious] message ...is not adequately served by an intellectual hodgepodge ...To educate is to provide the tools that will enable individuals to grow into independence' -p.129

'A scattering of ...teachings, verses learned by heart, and values idealistically passed on do not necessarily forge a personality whose faith is deep, whose consciousness is alert, and whose mind is active and critical.' -p.132

'[S]ome schools continue to serve up an education that pushes children toward the development of two contradictory personalities --one within a school that tries to provide a happy environment and where [religious] teaching and behavior have been inculcated, and the other outside school, where they end up getting lost without knowing how to use ethical references to establish their own ethical guideposts because they have not really been prepared to face life in society and to interact with others in it. Having been given a solid education in an artificial environment, the students are deeply fragile in real life: how many young people live torn between the two, how many feel "bad" or "guilty" because, having received so much knowledge at school, they feel unworthy because of not knowing how to live an integrated everyday life? Whose fault is it? They have often been instructed in the ideal, but they feel so ill educated and ill equipped in the real world.' -p.132

'[T]oo many [religious people] behave rigidly and self-consciously and hide behind copying old models ...to prove their faithfulness to principles. But ...there is a great difference between historical models and universal principles, and today everything is proving that the formalistic imitation of models [from] an age other than one's own is in fact the betrayal of principles. In the area of education, this has serious consequences.' -p.133

'[A] complete education program ...is not only a matter ...of passing on a knowledge of the scriptural sources that will illumine the heart with faith and build the mind for an understanding of self, humankind, and creation, but it also concerns providing a very deep knowledge of the cultural and social environment, of history and human beings; and, more broadly, mastering the general disciplines and sciences that will give [religious people] the means of living at home in their environment. These are the necessary prerequisites for harmony among faith, morality, reason, and life in the world.' -p.133

'What is central ...is to understand the crucial importance of giving a sense of worth: to educate is to give all persons a sense both of their own value and of the value of what they do.' -p.137

The quotations (not for Muslims only) are from Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Tariq Ramadan, 2004.

Copyright (c) 2009 Mark D. Blackwell.

All chords

Recently, I wrote a computer program to generate all the 2048 possible musical chords (from any given root after collapsing transpositions) in any twelve-note, equal-tempered octave system. Each chord's notes transpose into fair consonance by excluding major and minor seconds, minor ninths, and tritones. The above chords completely cover the inversions of the 351 chords, available after collapsing transpositions and inversions. For more background on why 351, see Wikipedia, Necklace (combinatorics).

I provide details on all the chord necklaces and their inversions, including note names. A readable yet concise and rigorous scheme (that I created) was followed to provide a chord name for each inversion. A goal was matching common practice as much as possible. This provides a useful, searchable inversion chart. One might read a chord's description and play it manually, for instance on a piano.

A provided MIDI file of these chords is more consonant when played on a capable electronic piano than by the usual FM (frequency modulation) synthesis: than for instance on a SoundBlaster computer sound card. RealPlayer shows elapsed time; for the QuickTime player, General MIDI synthesis (which may sound better, depending on your sound card) is available at least on PC's by selecting, 'Plug-in Settings/Audio/Default Music Synthesizer.' For listenability, the (MIDI) chord roots are made to descend, alternately by major and minor thirds.

This is better than all the lists previously available of pitch-class (PC) sets because the process of finding and sorting normal forms is more computer-oriented: it is simply the largest binary number of all the (necklace) rotations. Along with this way of numbering notes, leftward from G, it collects similar-sounding PC sets (especially in their '0-inversion' chords) because this collation first looks at sevenths (F# and F) rather than seconds (Ab and A).

Copyright (c) 2009 Mark D. Blackwell.