Carmen universitatis : a theological study of music and measure
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In every era and every culture, human beings have made music. Moreover, in most cultures---certainly through most of Christian history-music has played an important role in worship and religious ritual. But why should music of all things, be a universal feature of human culture? And why should this particular activity be so regularly paired with religion? Theologians and philosophers have proposed one answer or another to these questions. In the first part of the thesis, we consider Schleiermacher's Christmas Eve dialogue. I conclude that the dialogue suggests a deep affinity between religion and music, because (1) both have essentially to do with feeling, not knowing; (2) both involve us at the level of the spontaneous and pre-conceptual, rather than at the level of the reflective and analytical; and (3) both give voice to the universal, rather than the particular. Interestingly enough, other theologians have proposed an explanation which nearly inverts the one found in Christmas Eve. This "Pythagorean" tradition locates the power of music, not in our spontaneous inward experience, but in the rational, mathematical and structural truths in which music participates. Music is prized as a source of knowledge, and is thought to possess a mathematical complexity which invites analysis. I find that both proposals have some ground for their claims, but that both present serious difficulties as well-in their description of music, in their characterizations of the Christian religion, and in the categories and oppositions they employ. In the middle section of the thesis, I begin to construct a more adequate account of music, drawing in particular on the fields of psychomusicology and the philosophy of music. Drawing on philosopher Mark Johnson, I argue that distinctive conceptual categories are made available to us through the embodied experience of music. These categories may then be metaphorically extended across a whole range of thought and experience. In the third part of the thesis, I bring this analysis back into more explicit dialogue with theology, through a study of St. Augustine's De Musica. De Musica provides an alternative to locating the power of music in either feeling-not-knowing, or in knowingnot- feeling. Music is described as scientia bene modulandi-the knowledge of maintaining right measure, proportion and relationship. Drawing upon our earlier analysis, I argue that music depends upon holding together many different elements in a differentiated unity. Music arises from and gives voice to the perichoretic, "polyphonic" nature of reality and of our own humanity. I consider why this sort of experience should be conducive to worship or religious ritual, and offer a theological analysis of some of the distinctive categories music may open up to our experience.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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