The second of my four part series on music and typology was published over on the Theopolis Institute yesterday (see part 1 here).
Music’s revelation of the potential goodness and beauty of transience and finitude can offer helpful new ways of conceiving of creation. Using the conceptual metaphors of music and song to think of creation can alert us to such things as the radical contingency of the world and its creatures, its complete dependence upon the continuing creative work of Spirit and Word of God, the delight of the Creator, and the calling of the creation to participate in this music in the echoing forth of joyful praise.
This brings into focus elements of creation that are less clear when we think of creation as if it were the construction of solid objects that endure through the homogeneous medium of time, or are subjected to its cruel ravages. Time is not just something that happens to us, but is integral to what we are. Thinking in such a manner teaches us to remember and appreciate our own finitude and to value and reflect more closely upon the changing seasons of our lives. Silence, the face over which the spirit of music hovers, reminds us of our enduring relationship to nothingness, as those who have been brought forth from it by God’s creative voice.
Read the rest here.
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
I read this and also Part1 with great interest but I am finding it difficult to get my head around it!
My thoughts on this still are in embryo despite the fact that I first started thinking about music and time when, at the age of 14, I made as bold as to try to play several compositions by Chopin on the piano.
On the theme of finitude I can see that individual musical notes, bars, movements and whole symphonies have a beginning and an end, and that the dynamics of some musical compositions are such that rests/silences play a significant part in the performance of these compositions. Yet music also seems to have eternal value – I hesitate to describe this as ‘eternal life’ or ‘eternal spirit’. I mentioned Chopin earlier – it struck me several times when I was fourteen that Chopin’s compositions had outlived him for several decades (though I realised that music did not actually ‘live’!) and I felt that in some way I was somehow connected to the composer through playing his compositions. I was not a Christian then but I thought that Chopin’s genius was an amazing gift and that its source was something bigger than him and bigger than any of us. I am a Christian now, but I can’t say that I’m much further forward with that thought!
In the same way as I thought that Chopin’s compositions ‘outlived’ him, I was also struck by the way art and literature also ‘outlived’ their composers. In my appreciation of music, art and literature I became aware of myself as a finite being who was also mysteriously connected to an eternity that reached out into both past and future. As I mentioned earlier, my thoughts on this are still in embryo! In the meantime, I cling to the scriptures, pray, follow my calling as a musician at church as best I can…and read fascinating articles such as yours. Thank you.
I have had a host of musical terms coming into my mind but I will just mention one for now – ‘encore’. With some things we don’t want them to end…
I meant ‘centuries’, not ‘decades’ …
I would love to see this stuff (I’d quote passages, but I find myself quoting all of them) in conversation with Agamben’s reading of St. Paul. Particularly, Agamben argues that the stretching forward toward resolution and subsequent resolution characteristic of rhymed poetry is a specifically Pauline way of living in time (arguing this mostly regarding St. Paul’s understanding of time, but tying in rhyme as a coda). For instance, the destruction of Jerusalem could be seen as an anticipatory rhyme for the end of time.
It would be very interesting to do a musical analysis along similar lines to see if there are Pauline musical structures–though tonal music is a very late comer compared to rhyme, emerging just as Christianity’s influence was lagging, and so there wouldn’t be so strong a historic case.
Though, Agamben’s point seems to be stronger than Begbie’s. Begbie is still doing theology, based off a musical metaphor. Agamben, on the other hand, seems to suggest that to listen to a rhymed poem is to, for a time, to live Christianly in time (or rather, in a Pauline manner). It would be interesting to develop those sorts of insights to examine how listening to particular sorts music or poetry trains our bodies to live a Christian relationship to time.