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Thursday, 26 June 2003

Music as invocation of spirit and soul

The music I play tends to reflect the mood I am in that day, and whether I am listening attentively or doing something else at the same time.

Today, I have been working and writing whilst listening to music, so the day has veered away from music that demands to be listened to and invades the consciousness. Most of the music I have played today has been classical. As I write this I am listening to 'Svyati' which is an album of the music of John Tavener played by the cello player Steven Isserlis.

This brings me to the title of today's entry. John Tavener is one of a few composers who has the ability to turn the experience of music into moments of epiphany, the invocation of spirit. His music, whether listened to intently or whirring away quietly in the background, can give the sense of being close to something ethereal.

Spirit is brought forth by the music of Tavener, and Arvo Pärt, as well as Gorecki.

What about soul?

I'm jumping ahead here - are you clear what I mean by the distinction between spirit and soul? Spirit is the reaching up to heights, to the airy climbs of the heavenly and heady. Whilst soul is the plumbing of depths, searching into the murky and moist feelings. Whose music brings us to this?

I mentioned the 'B's the other day, and I think some of them are in there in the soul of things. So, Bartok at his most passionate can bring us to soul. Bach, in the complexity of Goldberg Variations or The Art of the Fugue can bring us right into the soul of things.

The piece of music which brings the agonies of soul more than any other is probably Fauré's Requiem. Blistering harmonies and searing incisive moments.

Of course, the feelings I have described are not the exclusive preserve of classical music. I could do a similar visitation for jazz, contemporary music etc.

Oh, and the feel will be different for each of us - but then that is the subjective experience of listening to music. Whilst I find 'Kid A' by Radiohead an example of soul you may feel differently. Does it matter? Of course not - we all have valid experiences of music. Love it or hate it, the key thing is to evoke a response of some sort.

Some people hate Captain Beefheart, but surely that is better than just feeling plain indifferent to something.

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