“50 American Sacred Songs”

If your congregation is going to webcast your worship services, you obviously have to be careful of copyright issues. Music, especially, can cause problems: those who hold rights to music can be especially aggressive at enforcing their copyright.

This is further complicated by the fact that more than one person or entity may hold the copyright to a piece of music you wish to webcast, e.g., there may be one copyright on the music and another copyright on the arrangement, and still a third copyright on the lyrics.

Furthermore, you can’t trust the attributions in hymnals. For example, “How Can I Keep from Singing” is widely credited as an old Quaker hymn when it was composed by Robert Lowry in 1869; some of the arrangements published in hymnals are not by Lowry but are copyrighted; and the verse beginning “When tyrants tremble sick, with fear” is attributed to “Traditional” when it is copyright 1950 by Doris Plenn.

And it’s not just webcasts that cause copyright problems. By law, you cannot photocopy any copyrighted tunes, texts, or arrangements (no, not even for an insert in an order of service); nor can you project them onto a screen during a worship service.

So I decided to come up with fifty or so hymns, spiritual songs, chants, etc., that can be safely used without worrying about copyright issues. The tunes, texts, and arrangements either are in the public domain — either that, or they are my arrangements of text or arrangement to which I hold copyright but which I freely permit nonprofit organizations to perform, webcast, record, or project during services.

Update, October, 2016: The project was getting out of hand, so I decided to limit it to American sacred songs, generally with American texts, tunes, and arrangements (though in a few cases I’m including a little bit of English material).

I chose to retain the copyright for two reasons: first, so someone else can’t slap their copyright on my work and profit from it (and yes, Virginia, it has been done); and second, because Creative Commons did not offer exactly the kind of license I wanted. Note that I also retain copyright of the typesetting for all public domain material.

I had another powerful motivation for producing this collection: it should be quite useful for small congregations and house churches that cannot afford to purchase expensive hymnals. A small congregation with a tiny budget can photocopy as many copies as they want; they can project these sacred songs, record them or webcast them, and the congregation can do it for little or no money.

One caveat: I did not research international copyrights. Those who live in the European Union or elsewhere may find that material that is in the public domain in the United States is still protected by copyright in their jurisdiction.

Over the next year or so, I will be posting draft versions of sacred songs from this collection. You are welcome to use them in your congregation — and if you do, I’d love to hear from you if you liked it, or if you ran into any problems.

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Type Greek

Every once in a while, I need to type something in ancient Greek. Sure, it’s easy to type Greek letters on most computers, using the Symbol font or equaivalent — but getting the diacriticals right, that’s a real problem. There are rough breathing and smooth breathing marks; and there are oxia (acute), varia (grave), and perispomeni (circumflex) accent marks; and a few other little odds and ends. You can find free ancient Greek fonts (e.g., Brill ancient Greek font), but then you have to change your keyboard settings; not something I want to do when I only need to type in ancient Greek once a year or so.

Then I found this great Web site, TypeGreek. You can learn their simple system for typing accents in about 4 seconds. Then just cut and paste the text into your favorite word processor. And if you can’t get the font to work in your word processor, or if you want to use it on the Web, do a screenshot and insert the image into the document:

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 6.14.29 PM

How easy is that?

Obligatory election post

The creators of the Political Compass Web site assert that it is not enough to know whether a political leader is on the left or right; we also need to determine if they are authoritarian or libertarian.

Consider the economic scale first: Those on the far left believe it is best to manage the economy for the greater good of all; the further to the left, the more they believe in managing the economy. By contrast, those on the right believe to a greater or lesser degree in the power of the free market. Now consider the social scale: Those who take an authoritarian position believe that the state is more important than the individual. By contrast, those who take a libertarian view believe in the supreme value of the individual. Both scales are of equal importance.

We can put these two axes together in a Cartesian coordinate system to make the “Political Compass,” where the x axis ranges from leftists (negative numbers) to rightists (positive numbers, and the y axis ranges from libertarians (negative numbers) to authoritarians (positive numbers). In this scheme, Stalin would feel at home in the upper left quadrant, which is where you’ll find those who advocate for state-controlled collectivism. Gandhi would feel at home in the lower left quadrant, with voluntary regional collectivism. Pinochet would be happy in the upper right quadrant, with overwhelming state support for the free market. Ron Paul, with his support of libertarian social ideals and the free market, falls in the lower right quadrant. And the Political Compass Web site has a quiz you can take to determine where you yourself fall along the two axes; I scored -9.6 on the economic scale, and -7.6 on the social scale, placing me in the same quadrant as Gandhi.

As much as I like the Political Compass system, I don’t think four quadrants accurately capture the way I perceive political leaders. Therefore, I like to map the Alignment System from role-playing games onto the Political Compass.

The Alignment System describes a creature or character in a role-playing game along two axes: good vs. evil, and chaotic vs. lawful. The chaotic/lawful axis maps neatly onto the libertarian/authoritarian axis of the political compass. The good/evil axis does not map so neatly. But from my perspective, the current political environment privileges either the free market or individual persons; we are given a choice between making a profit, or protecting individual persons. In the Alignment System, “Good characters and creatures protect innocent life” (link), so I choose to map the good/evil axis of the Alignment System onto the left/right axis of the Political Compass, with good corresponding to leftist.


The beauty of the Alignment System is that it offers a nuance that does not appear in the Political Compass: there is a middle ground, named Neutral, in both axes. This gives nine possible orientations, as seen on the chart below: Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Good, Neutral, Neutral Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, and Chaotic Evil. Considered in terms of positive attributes, along the Lawful/Chaotic axis, Lawful equates with honorable; Neutral equates with practical; and Chaotic equates with independent. Along the Good/Evil axis, Good equates with humane; Neutral equates with realistic; and Evil equates with determined (link). All this helps me better understand why I feel left out of the current U.S. presidential race: there are no Chaotic Good (independent and humane) characters running for president.

Considered in terms of the Alignment System, Bernie is probably the best overall choice because he is a Neutral character, both practical and realistic: “…neutral characters … see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes” (link). Fair enough; but because I am a Chaotic Good character myself, I am turned off by Sanders’ claim that he is Chaotic Good when he is so obviously Neutral. If he would just admit that he is Neutral — a moderate Keynesian who is neither authoritarian nor libertarian — I could see my way to supporting him. Of course Lawful Evil characters dominate U.S. political discourse, and so Sanders will never be allowed to claim his true identity as Neutral; he will always be cast as Chaotic Good because that’s how the Lawful Evil characters perceive him.

Now both Hillary and Donnie are both in the authoritarian right quadrant of the Political Compass; i.e., they are both Lawful Evil, or in terms of positive attributes, they are honorable and determined: “Lawful evil creatures consider their alignment to be the best because it combines honor with a dedicated self-interest” (link). The only real difference between the two is that Donnie is significantly more authoritarian. However, since I am Chaotic Good, I am never going to feel comfortable with either one of them.

If you look back at previous U.S. presidential elections, as charted on the Political Compass Web site (2012, 2008, 2004), you will see that Barack Obama started out as Neutral, but after one term in office became Lawful Evil; and George W. Bush was of course Lawful Evil. The Political Compass Web site did not exist during the Bill Clinton years, but given that Hillary Clinton holds positions similar to his, it seems likely to me that Bill was also Lawful Evil. There is little doubt in my mind that Ronald Reagan was Lawful Evil, and so was George H. W. Bush. Thus we have had Lawful Evil presidents in the U.S. since at least 1980.

You know, that could explain a great deal….

Nest building

On my dinner break this evening, I made a quick visit to Baylands Nature Preserve, where Cliff Swallows are building nests along the wall of the small building that controls the outflow from Casey Forebay into the flood control basin.


Yesterday, I watched as swallows flew down to get a bill-full of mud in the forebay, then up to the building where they clung to the wall with their feet while placing the mud on the growing nest. They worked for about twenty minutes then stopped, presumably to let the mud dry: you could see the layer of wet mud sitting on top of the previously dried mud.

This evening the swallows were again picking up mud and placing it on the nests. The nest have not increased all that much in size since yesterday; this appears to be a fairly slow process.