ok...first blog entry...
Tea is good today, weather isn't...oh well
Today's musings are about the journey (one of my students is always after me about overuse of the term/image...but it works for me, and I think for many people). I just had a major birthday on the weekend: 51 ...I know 50 is a major milestone, but I think 51 is exciting, because it feels like a fresh start, the 2nd half of the game, and I've told my family I plan on living to be 100, so I really am just getting going on the next chapter. Anyway, milestones cause reflection on what's behind, and I am so grateful for what's behind because it has formed me in so many ways, and because I've had the chance to be involved in so many other people's journey as well. God is good!
Where is my particular journey going at the moment, though? What's ahead? I'm getting into the research and prep for a senior level course next spring which I haven't taught for several years now: Christian Spirituality in 20th Century Composers.
I attended a conference in London, UK, in February this year on the subject of Spirituality in New Music and it was exhilarating. When I was a young(er) composer in undergraduate studies (Univ. of Western Ontario, London, Ont) I had some terrific musicians as profs, but so many of them had little use for my spirituality...those days were the tail end of a pretty intense scientific modernism, when spirituality was viewed in serious academic circles as quaint, irrelevant, and naive. My, how things have changed! Composers like Arvo Part, John Tavener, Henryk Gorecki, James MacMillan (the list goes on...) are at the forefront of the world of serious new music--their orchestral and choral music is played everywhere, and it is overtly spiritual in content and intent.
That is precisely where my course is going to start: given an understanding of Christian spirituality, how is music overtly spiritual in content or intent...and I'm not just talking about the obvious aspect of text. Anyone can set a sacred text to music. But this doesn't necessarily mean the composer is spiritual or has a spiritual intent, or is concerned for the spiritual content of the music itself. I am more specifically interested in how a spiritually minded composer approaches the expression of his/her own particular spirituality in a piece of music...how does it affect his/her approach to the musical materals themselves (melodic/harmonic material, formal structures, time etc). Fun stuff!!
There are, of course, numerous good books to guide the journey through this philosophical/aesthetic territory...more about them in another blog perhaps. For now, I'll just say it's great to be away from the busy schedule of meetings and classes so that I can devote some serious and concentrated time for research...that's what my summer is like, and that's why I love the rhythm of the professor's life! Sometimes (teaching classes and working in meetings) I journey alongside others in very close company...and other times (summer) the journey takes me away for some preparation and re-creative time, so I can re-engage with energy, enthusiasm, and in this case, I hope, something new to say and teach!
How's your journey...and what are you reading?