Gabriel’s Oboe–Nella Fantasia

October 24, 2009

Tonight I attended a concert of the Utah Premiere Brass, as part of the annual BYU OcTUBAfest. The concert featured several pieces arranged for tuba or euphonium solo with the accompaniment of the British-style brass band.

The piece I enjoyed the most was titled “Gabriel’s Oboe,” a song written by Ennio Morricone for the film The Mission. The arrangement they performed featured Brenden McQuay on the tuba, playing a transcription of the oboe part. The song was beautifully arranged and featured well the lovely, full brass sound for which UPB is so well-known.

In researching the origin of the song after leaving the concert I discovered a vocal version entitled “Nella Fantasia“. It features a beautiful Italian text which conveys a longing for a world of peace and mutual understanding. The lyrics are so intriguing, both in the Italian and in the English transcription, that I find it fitting to reproduce it here in both languages:

Nella fantasia io vedo un mondo giusto,
Li tutti vivono in pace e in onestà.
Io sogno d’anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien’ d’umanità in fondo l’anima.

Nella fantasia io vedo un mondo chiaro,
Li anche la notte è meno oscura.
Io sogno d’anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien’ d’umanità.

Nella fantasia esiste un vento caldo,
Che soffia sulle città, come amico.
Io sogno d’anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien’ d’umanità in fondo l’anima.

In my fantasy I see a just world,
Where everyone lives in peace and in honesty.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that fly,
Full of humanity in the depths of the spirit.

In my fantasy I see a bright world,
Where each night there is less darkness.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that fly,
Full of humanity.

In my fantasy exists a warm wind,
That breathes into the city, like a friend.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that fly,
Full of humanity in the depths of the spirit.

Below is a recording of Paul Potts singing Nella Fantasia:


Lean on My Ample Arm

October 17, 2009

This hymn text by Theodore E. Curtis from the 1985 LDS hymnal has grown in significance for me over the last few days, as I have personally witnessed the “ample arm” of the Lord extended to me.

Lean on My Ample Arm

Lean on my ample arm,
O thou depressed!
And I will bid the storm
Cease in thy breast.
Whate’er thy lot may be
On life’s complaining sea,
If thou wilt come to me,
Thou shalt have rest.

Lift up thy tearful eyes,
Sad heart, to me;
I am the sacrifice
Offered for thee.
In me thy pain shall cease,
In me is thy release,
In me thou shalt have peace

–Theodore E. Curtis

The storm in the breast, the depression, the difficulties of one’s lot on life’s complaining sea–all these can be soothed by the Savior’s rest as we come to Him in humility. After all, Christ is the One who could and did take upon Himself our sins and infirmities (see Alma 7:11-13).

In Christ we can have peace, both in the storms of this life and in the eternities.

Professional journalism and the advent of Craigslist

October 16, 2009

Last week I listened to a Stack Overflow podcast in which Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood discussed the effects (intended or otherwise) that Craigslist has had on professional journalism.

Joel contends that Craig Newmark has, in effect, stolen classified advertising from the newspaper industry and made it something freely available to everyone. Advertising is the method newspapers use to fund professional journalism. But if people can advertise their stuff for free on the internet and reach a wide audience, they have no financial motivation to pay money to a newspaper to publish their ad in print. Instead, people are taking the money they would have spent on advertising and putting it to back into their businesses or their own wallets.

Professional journalism is something that keeps citizens informed and keeps governments transparent (or at least tries to). While it sounds like an appealing alternative to professional journalism, citizen journalism simply doesn’t work. Bloggers link to each other, tweeters retweet things they like. But amateurs simply don’t have the financial motivation that a professional has to do original research and report objectively. Citizen journalists simply aren’t doing justice to journalism. Their work is useful and relevant, but it just can’t replace professional journalism.

The net effect of Newmark’s decision not to charge for his service is that he’s taking all that advertising revenue out of the pockets of the newspapers and putting it back into the hands of the citizens or businesses, who do with it as they please. That means that a large sum of money is being taken away from an entity that performs a public service essential to a vibrant democracy and freedom of speech.

Newmark says he doesn’t know what he’d do with all that money. But Joel suggests that if Newmark doesn’t want the money, he should put it to use for some public good. After all, that’s where the money would have gone in the first place: the public good of investigative, professional journalism.

Friendship, Part II

October 9, 2009

NOTE: This is the second in a series on friendship. View the first post here.

Let’s consider some of the practical implications of friendship.

What are the deepest desires underlying friendship? You want to love someone, and, in turn, be loved. You want someone you can trust and talk to. You want to help this other human being progress. Indeed, seeing the progress he makes as a result of the influence you have had on him is incredibly rewarding.

But friendship is give-and-take, so to speak. It can’t be one-sided. As such, it takes a lot of effort.

The other day I noticed a train of thought I experienced. It is much easier for me to overlook the faults and foibles of a friend than an enemy. While I may be quick to criticize an enemy (even if not verbally), I tend to be much more patient with my friends. And in such an important relationship, this usually tends to be a good thing. It leads to deep, abiding love despite imperfection. After all, my friends have to put up with a lot of my idiosyncrasies and mistakes. Why shouldn’t I be patient with theirs?

Friendship requires a deep level of trust, which (naturally) takes a long time to develop. Trusting someone could be a rather dangerous thing. Many examples in history illustrate this danger. For example, Julius Caesar is betrayed by his associate Marcus Brutus; Jesus is betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his twelve closest friends; Lehonti in the Book of Mormon is poisoned by Amalickiah, a man who had professed to have his best interest at heart.

I would trust my best friend with anything I have, from the dark secrets of my inner self to my passwords or bank card. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have given him all those things, but the trust exists that I would be comfortable doing it, were it to be necessary. This places me in a very vulnerable situation. Should he betray me, I could lose everything. But the value and benefit of the friendship outweighs that risk.

That is, of course, a very objective way of looking at it. Rarely is emotion absent from analysis of important human relationships. When I’m with my friend, I’m not worried about whether he might betray me at some future time. We trust each other, and the emotion of love breaks down the obscuring walls of objectivity.

While there are great risks, there are great benefits to be had in a friendship. I see this as a manifestation of the age-old principle of the necessity of “opposition in all things,” as Book of Mormon writer Lehi phrases it, or as a relative of Newton’s Third Law that there can be no reaction without an instigating action.

Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize?

October 9, 2009

Now, I don’t usually write about politics, but this is an intriguing subject.

Are we awarding Nobel Peace Prizes on credit now? As cited in this article, the committee awarding the prize had a two-fold motivation: to praise the change in focus Obama has had on the world’s political outlook and to point out some of his initiatives “that have yet to bear fruit.” This sounds like the vice that keeps crashing the stock market.

Obama had only been president for two weeks before the nomination deadline of 1 February this year.

Thorbjørn Jagland, chariman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee since 2009, is quoted here as saying this: “You have to remember that the world has been in a pretty dangerous phase. And anybody who can contribute to getting the world out of this situation deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.”

While America does stand at the forefront of these issues (and Obama ostensibly stands at the head of American foreign policy), there are many political figures in the world who can potentially “contribute to getting the world out of this situation.” Shall we start awarding multiple Peace Prizes for all those people, too?

At the same time, I have no intention of criticizing Obama. I think he’s doing the best he can, and he’s accomplished some laudable things in the short months he’s already been president.

I only wonder a bit about the Nobel Peace Prize committee…

Friendship, Part I

October 3, 2009

I’ve been pondering lately about the value of friendship: What defines it, what makes it different from other, shallower relationships.

In this part, I’ll address some of the spiritual aspects of friendship.

There are a few passages in the Bible that illustrate friendship. The example that most stands out to me is David and Jonathan in 1 and 2 Samuel. Other references to and maxims about friendship can be found in the Writings (e.g., Proverbs, Psalms).

This July, while I was in the Netherlands, I read several passages in Proverbs and composed a poem based on them. It expresses well the feelings I have toward my friends.

A Faithful Friend

Thy reproach, O friend, is faithful.
What have I to do with the flattery of mine enemies?
They are as naught to me.

The gifts thou hast given me
Endear thy soul to me
And arouse my deepest gratitude.

Though calamity rage and my brother be far,
Thou dost stand close; thou lendest thy strength
To succor me.

What is thy counsel but sweetness to me
That rejoiceth my heart
And sharpeneth my countenance?

Thy counsel, thy strength, thy gifts—
My heart doth soar in thanksgiving to my Maker
For His gift—a faithful friend.

Based on Proverbs 19:6; 27:6, 9, 10, and 17

The counsel, advice, even rebuke of my friends is always done in love. Because I feel that love and know that their intention is to help me become a better person, I accept it gladly. My friends have given me gifts of many types. Most often it was simply spending time with me or giving of themselves in some simple way to help me. They have stood by me in the good times and in the hard times.

Indeed, supportive friends have helped me become the person I am today. They have helped me develop spiritually in the way that was best for me. It has been especially rewarding to reunite with them after we’ve been separated for two years all over the world.