Better Than It Sounds

I know nothing about contemporary classical music, so you probably shouldn’t pay too much attention to this post. I can’t help mentioning, though, a notice I received about an upcoming concert in NYC, “Freedom’s Ransom,” which seems meant in part as a tribute to religious freedom. The concert will feature a performance of “A Carnival of Miracles,” a work by composer Richard Einhorn:

The overall theme of “A Carnival of Miracles” is different kinds of freedoms: religious, scientific, artistic, cultural, sexual, and political.  Its texts are taken from numerous sources, and range from the 4th century through the 20th.  They include such unlikely sources as an ancient text from a Nag Hammadi codex; a U.S. Supreme Court decision; the Marquis de Sade; the first female U.S. Presidential Candidate Victoria Woodhull; Beethoven; Galileo; and a Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet.

Well, yes, those are rather unlikely. I looked up the text for “A Carnival of Miracles,” which you can find here. To invoke “religious freedom,” the composer has chosen a Gnostic text that reads, in part:

I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband,
and he is my son . . .

I am shame and boldness
I am shameless, I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
Hear me.

Well, the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause opinions aren’t always so lucid, either.

Update: Pussy Riot Gets Two Years

An update on a story we’ve been following. A Russian court today convicted  three members of Pussy Riot, a punk band that stormed the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral last winter to perform a “punk prayer” to protest Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, of criminal hooliganism and sentenced them to two years in prison. By Western standards, it’s a harsh and disproportionate sentence. By way of comparison, when members of a group called ACT-UP disrupted a Mass at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1989, they received only misdemeanor convictions and no jail time. Similarly, in June, a New York court convicted Occupy Wall Street protesters of trespassing on property owned by Trinity Church; again, only misdemeanor convictions and no jail time.

But Russia is different. Before we get all sanctimonious about how much better we are in the West, though, it’s worth reflecting on a couple of things. First, as I’ve written before, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour has a sad history. The Communists dynamited the first version of the cathedral as part of an anti-Christian campaign in the 1930s, and Christians remain very sensitive about it. Notwithstanding the politicization and corruption in the Russian Orthodox Read more

Antrim, “Routes and Realms: The Power of Place in the Early Islamic World”

This August, Oxford University Press will publish Routes and Realms: The Power of Place in the Early Islamic World by Zayde Antrim (Trinity College). The publisher’s description follows.

Routes and Realms explores the ways in which Muslims expressed attachment to land from the ninth through the eleventh centuries, the earliest period of intensive written production in Arabic. In this groundbreaking first book, Zayde Antrim develops a “discourse of place,” a framework for approaching formal texts devoted to the representation of territory across genres. The discourse of place included such varied works as topographical histories, literary anthologies, religious treatises, world geographies, poetry, travel literature, and maps.

 By closely reading and analyzing these works, Antrim argues that their authors imagined plots of land primarily as homes, cities, and regions and associated them with a range of claims to religious and political authority. She contends that these are evidence of the powerful ways in which the geographical imagination was tapped to declare loyalty and invoke belonging in the early Islamic world, reinforcing the importance of the earliest regional mapping tradition in the Islamic world.

Routes and Realms challenges a widespread tendency to underestimate the importance of territory and to over-emphasize the importance of religion and family to notions of community and belonging among Muslims and Arabs, both in the past and today.

Karp, “The Politics of Jewish Commerce”

This October, Cambridge University Press will publish The Politics of Jewish Commerce by Jonathan Karp (State University of New York, Binghamton). The publisher’s description follows.

This study demonstrates the centrality of economic rationales to debates on Jews’ status in Italy, Britain, France, and Germany during the course of two centuries. It delineates the common motifs that informed these discussions. It thus provides the first overview of the political-economic dimensions of the Jewish emancipation literature of this period viewed against the backdrop of broader controversies within European society over the effects of commerce on inherited political values and institutions.