Sunday, June 24, 2012

“Do” is NOT a Female Deer (Fortnight: Day 04)

Oh, if you ain't got the do re mi, folks,
You ain't got the do re mi,
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas,
Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
California is a garden of Eden,
A paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi...

The above is the chorus of a song by Woody Guthrie entitled "Do Re Mi" written during the Great Depression, about migrants from Oklahoma and neighboring states, who moved to California in search of a better life, and away from the dust bowl storms of the 1930s. It is also a Catholic invention. Jeffrey Tucker explains:

In his pedagogy, [an 11th century Benedictine monk named Guido d'Arezzo] adapted an existing song to illustrate the scale: Ut Queant Laxis, a hymn to St John the Baptist, who was then considered the patron saint of singers. On the first syllable of each ascending note, the words were Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol – the very foundation of music pedagogy to this day: do, re, mi, etc...

We're not putting you on, folks. From the Gregorian calendar to double-digit accounting,* the Catholic Church invented damn near everything worth admiring about Western civilization, including a rendition of the chant featured on our first video clip. On the other hand, She is probably not responsible for the second clip. In any case, the latter owes a lot to the former, which really DOES have the "do-re-mi."

Today, the Church in both the East and the West celebrates the Birth of John the Baptist. In the traditional form of the Roman Rite, this is a feast of the first class, which supersedes the Fourth Sunday of Pentecost.** It was John who condemned Herod for marrying Herodias, the former wife of his own brother, which was a violation of Mosaic law. Feeling threatened by a reminder of the common faith of the people, Herod had John arrested, and was later tricked into having him beheaded. The celebration of this feast during our Fortnight for Freedom could be a warning of days ahead, don't you think?

Or don't you?

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* "K.H." writes to inform me that the proper term is not double-digit accounting, but "double-entry bookkeeping." I don't know what either one is, I just write the stuff.

** Even so, the orations for the season are still included in the Mass, along with those of the feast.

(The above is adapted from an earlier entry in March of 2009. Some things never get old ...)

1 comment:

Gail Finke said...

You can see the poem, and a diagram of how the chant scale worked, in this post: