25 Mar 2019

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Joined: 19/08/16
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Music and the Ineffable
Posted: Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:01 pm

Okay, leaving aside shamanism, maybe it’s worthwhile having a free flowing discussion about music’s ability to cause us to react to things that are unknowable I’ll begin personally, as an example, with the understanding that if this devolves into tomato-throwing, I’m wearing a red shirt. :-)

I am not conventionally religious. My Universe does not require a God to have set it in motion or to keep the clock ticking But if it turns out one is there, I’m not going to freak out – no harm, no foul. That probably makes me a rationalist. I tend to put stock in what science can “prove” (to the extent it can prove anything), and find attempts to make “sciences” out of studies that depend on human behavior (the so-called social sciences) admirable but misguided. And then there are the arts, which seem to have an ability to tell us things that cannot be systematically codified.

So why, despite my manifold disagreements with the Catholic liturgy, do I find listening to Missa Solemnis cathartic enough that I consider it to be perhaps the greatest piece of music ever written? Why does listening to an intense performance of the Opus 111 piano sonata leave me drained? (In his liner notes, pianist Andrew Rangell says its ends with “a silence unlike any ever heard before.”)

Music clearly has an ability to speak to ineffable things, to leave us in a state that seems unreachable any other way (except perhaps by Eastern meditation). This, I think may have been what the Shamanism discussion was trying to aim for before it was derailed.

Whether it’s worthy of discussion or not, I don’t know.

cheers --

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