chapter  8
6 Pages

Negotiating Musical Transcendence

ByJeremy S. Begbie

This chapter begins with a consideration of 'freedom' in musical performance practice. It explores how religious instrumental music can be understood in a time when both musicians and audiences have less affinity with the traditions from which the music emerges. All liturgical connections are ignored: the musicians do not sing in the name of the community coram deo but are viewed as standing over and against the listeners, who are demoted to an audience that in most cases is looking more for an aesthetic experience than a religious one. This consideration places the problem of religious music within contemporary secular concert practice into the realm of philosophy of music. Olivier Messiaen did not call his music religious in any general sense but referred to it as theological. Indeed, his music is the clearest example of the paradox of religious music in a secular culture.