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.
The idea of the interconnectedness of various disciplines, and the Quadrivium itself, hinges on the necessity and reality of there being an intentional order in the cosmos. If there is no order, then laws of nature, discoverability, and knowledge become chance, capricious, and subjective. If there is no intentionality, then happenstance, luck, and coincidence replaces an almighty but personal God who is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
My sophomore year at the University of Alabama included my first introduction to Music History. Yes, the first introduction—music appreciation or history was not part of my K-12 education. The first of the college music history classes included the Greeks through the medieval period and on to the Classical period. The overall purpose of music history, as far as I could tell, was to get as quickly as possible to the development of the symphony and beyond, to the instrumental music that is most commonly performed. It’s called the Common Practice Period for a reason.
With the resurgence of classical education, the disciplines of the trivium are commonly mentioned and discussed in articles, conferences, school literature, and curriculum. Less common, however, is discussion of the quadrivium and how it applies to education. Unfortunately, it has lagged behind despite the fact that together these seven disciplines make up the seven liberal arts that were intended to cultivate liberated or free people.