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:
My family and I recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. We made much of our time, but part of the joy of discovery was taking extra time when the opportunity arose. We may have missed the National Archives, but we went to the National Gallery twice—and even then just got to enjoy two wings of one building. We learned to savor, deeply, fewer things.
Music is such an obvious element of life that we may take its existence for granted. It’s not that we don’t think about music; perhaps it’s that we think about it too much—but in the wrong ways. We treat music as a commodity, a means of fitting in with peers, a vehicle for “worship,” cultural enrichment, filler noise in the car, a way to pump up a pep rally or a workout or to set a mood. While all of these examples may have appropriate uses, the fact remains that we seldom think about music as music.