Having just returned from Austin, TX and the 2017 CiRCE conference on Memory, I am continuing to reflect on the joy of that gathering. Several of the speakers mentioned that being there was a “taste of heaven.” I agree for several reasons. (This applies to not only the CiRCE Conference but other retreats, gatherings, and conferences.)
In an earlier post, I talked about how melody is one of the primary elements of music that enables a listener to better grasp and appreciate a piece of music. Rhythm is the other element that helps to structure music and is half of what defines music. Music is taking dominion over sound in time. With either strict or non-strict rhythmic forms, music places sound in time.
I’ve slowly made a discovery over time. Modern and post-modern artists can often make a great show of why they create art and the substance of it—ideally things that promote sales and highlight the uniqueness of the work. However, when you get to popular creativity, a little more of the true heart and motivation emerges.
One of the organizing factors in all of music is the melody. If music is sound organized in time (or rather the taking of dominion over sound and time), then melody is one way to help interpret or understand a piece of music. In her book The Anatomy of Melody: Exploring the Single Line of Song, Alice Parker states an apology for melody in her forward:
The idea of consonance reaches far beyond the idea of pleasant sounds or music. To be sure, consonance in music can be readily expressed and comprehended—partly because we have an innate sense of what accord or agreement should be. However, consonance, or harmoniousness, is a principle that pertains to much of life: health, relationships, society, and spiritual life.
I contend that as the Enlightenment progressed, education moved farther away from teaching the Liberal Arts (Trivium and Quadrivium). This change in emphasis skewed perspectives, ideologies, theology, culture, and the arts into new directions and trajectories that continue to inform how society thinks. In addition, the change in aesthetics from the medieval period to a modern sensibility reflects broader changes in how we view the cosmos and what we think about divine order.
In my previous post, I discussed the Great Dance as a concept and as a repeated literary element. This cosmic choreography is at the heart of the order in creation and begins to convey the beautiful complexity of number in relationship moving in space and time (the totality of the Quadrivium). Before we tackle some of the applications of the Dance, we need to first consider what is means for us to be a part of the Dance—in humility and submission.
One of my favorite scenes in the film The Fisher King occurs in Grand Central Station. Perry, one of the lead characters, has lost his hold on reality through trauma, but he has snatches of sanity mostly centered around his love for Lydia—a plain-looking, ordinary girl whom he has not actually met. He knows her routines, and waits for her to show up at the terminal on her way home from work.
Chiaroscuro is a term from art that means “light-dark”—a technique of using strong tonal contrasts to represent forms in painting. Think about Rembrandt’s works and his use of distinctive areas of darkness and radiant light. The light appears all the brighter because of its juxtaposition with darkness.
In a previous post on the foundations of music appreciation, I began to consider the idea that music goes beyond our sense of preference and actually is indicative of the created order. This implies several significant points that should be listed and/or repeated: