The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Friday, July 21, 2006

Lessons Music Can Teach Theology


Uri Caine's talent [involves] seeing connections where others see distance.

-Jeremy Eichler, cited in Tango: the Art History of Love, by Robert F. Thompson, p. 204

This is how Thompson opens his chapter on Astor Piazzolla, the great Argentine composer who fused tango with everything from jazz to the music of Bela Bartok. Where tango traditionalists saw sacrilege to old venerable forms, Piazzolla saw the spirit behind those forms, which were themselves collisions between various musical sources that made criollo music. For Piazzolla, to quote Jaroslav Pelikan, traditionalism was the dead religion of the living, while tradition is the living religion of the dead. That is how he did tango. And that is why, on the corner of Nueve de Julio and Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, his image towers over the those who pass by the heart of the Argentine Republic, playing his bandoneon standing, rather than seated (another innovation).

We can get so caught up in forms and labels that we miss the true principals of what we believe. I have seen it over and over again, from left-wing Marxists to semi-fascistic Roman Catholic traditionalists: traditonal form is everything, there has to be a continuous war against innovators who try and take us out of our militant stance. It is always about "us and them"; and in the end, who cares what "they" think since they think differently.

What I am now trying to do is to figure out, if someone thinks differently, WHY do they think that way? Again, as our music critic above says, it is about seeing bridges where others see only wide canyons.

Does this mean giving up what we think, becoming soft and mushy headed? Another anecdote from the Southern Cone: a former friend in seminary, now a musician, told me that the training of a tango musician involves learning to play perfectly with the metronome. And after years of doing this, and being sure that he has mastered this, he takes it, throws it out the window, and plays however he pleases. It is not enough to be caught up in formulas. The Baltimore Catechism is fine if you have mastered it. But if you truly have mastered it, at one point, you have to throw it out the window and realize that things may not be as simple as it says. You will, however, never get to the point that you say it's wrong: that would be simply becoming a heretic, and we have enough of those running around. You will, however, be humble enough to admit that what you know is not even a drop in the great bucket of Divine Truth. And that will make you humble, less quick to label, and in the end, more Christian.

1 Comments:

At 3:19 PM, Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...

"And after years of doing this, and being sure that he has mastered this, he takes it, throws it out the window, and plays however he pleases. It is not enough to be caught up in formulas."

That is how art is too!

 

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