<< -- 2 -- Gordon Rumson CELESTIAL MUSIC
What then is religious music?
Wilfrid Mellers is vastly well equipped to investigate this question as he
does in Celestial Music? He is a secular humanist (his discussion of Bach's
religiosity from a non-fundamentalist position, earned him an acidic reply
from a narrow minded religious critic in one review), but Mellers is also a
deeply spiritual thinker where spirituality and dogma are not the same
thing. This is very hard for the religious mind to accept. For them
spirituality is religion, which is tradition, text, belief, faith, and
dogma. Sometimes it is a complex system of beliefs, vast in intellectual
scope (St Thomas Aquinas, for example) and other times it is very simple
('One must be washed in the Blood of the Lamb').
Celestial Music? Some Masterpieces of European Religious Music. Wilfrid Mellers © 2002 Boydell and Brewer
Mellers does not fall into this limited, abstraction-challenged position.
He is prepared to say that spirituality manifests itself in many ways, with
different words and ideas at different times and in different places. That
is, spirituality is not religion, though it can be found in religion,
theology, dogma etc.
For this reason Mellers is able to enter into the musical expression of
these 'higher matters' with an open mind. He can sympathize with the
medieval mind, though his mind is not medieval. Mellers can sympathize with
the Romantics sharing some of their doubt, though not their extravagance of
expression. He can critique the modern though he is a modern. Mellers'
traversal of these compositions is actually a tribute to an open mind which
listens, ponders and considers deeply. (The only great religious composer I
think Mellers ignores unjustly is Franz Liszt. I believe this is due to a
true apathy to this composer's output and character. But no one can
sympathize with everything!)
Copyright © 27 April 2003
Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Canada