Friday, September 30 | 9:00-10:50am

LEWIS + MUSIC | Room 201

The Importance of Music in C.S. Lewis’s Creative Life, Relationships, and Writings
John MacInnis

Music listening and discussion factored regularly in C.S. Lewis’s relationships, and he drew on his love of music to spur his creative endeavors and to prompt his best thinking. For example, throughout his lifelong correspondence with Arthur Greeves, his childhood friend from Belfast, Lewis described concerts in which he heard music by Richard Wagner, and he referred again and again to how they both felt as boys listening to Wagner’s music and studying Arthur Rackham’s illustrations to TheRing.  

Lewis credited his imaginative renaissance, as a young teenager, to the period in which he began collecting gramophone records and when he encountered the words “Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods” paired with Rackham’s illustrations. Later, Lewis pointed to his sudden love for Wager and what he called “Northernness” as a grace; that is, he thought God was calling him back to faith through these old stories and music. Lewis repeatedly sought out opportunities to attend concerts with friends (e.g., Greeves, Barfield, Tolkien, his brother, and others). And, though not a musician himself, Lewis wrote about music, its effects, its power, and its proper reception in some of his most influential works. For example, Lewis outlined good principles for engaging music and all artistic endeavor in his book, An Experiment inCriticism.  

Using historic recordings, this paper will examine the complex influence of music throughout Lewis’s life, in his friendships and in his own creative work. Special attention will be made to Lewis’s love for the music of Richard Wager and his evolving approachto arts criticism culminating in his book, An Experiment inCriticism


John MacInnis is Assistant Professor of Music and Department Co-Chair at Dordt College (Sioux Center, IA) where he teaches Music History and Music Theory. He holds advanced degrees in Musicology (PhD, Florida State University) and Sacred Music. His research interests include the study of music as a liberal art in Antiquity and the Middle Ages as well as the film music of Canadian composer Robert Fleming. As a collaborative keyboardist, Dr. MacInnis performs regularly in chamber music ensembles on piano and organ, and he serves on the Executive Committee of the South Dakota Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Though a native of Nova Scotia, Dr. MacInnis now lives in Iowa with his wife (Vicky) and three children (Saydie, Alistair, and Jesse).

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Myth Descending to Earth: Intersections of Tippett’s Midsummer Marriage and Lewis’s That Hideous Strength 
Elizabeth Abbate

C.S. Lewis and atheist composer Michael Tippett would not necessarily be expected to share interests or subject matter. Yet Lewis’s That Hideous Strength and Tippett’s opera The Midsummer Marriage (he wrote both libretto and music), each conceived in 1940s England, contain similarities that invite a closer look. Both feature a central couple (Mark and Jane/Mark and Jenifer) whose marriage is in jeopardy, a Fisher King who dies or departs once the dark forces of a sterile world have been vanquished, a plot that references Arthurian legend (return of Merlin and the Pendragon/the Tale of Taliesin), and a transformative appearance of pagan deities in the real world (Venus and others/Shiva and Parvati). Further, the opera’s more clearly Jungian developments illuminate equivalent developments in the novel. Each of the protagonists undergoes trials that reveal to them their own light and shadow and allow them to confront their opposite gender—Tippett’s characters by embracing their respective anima and animus, and Jane by learning that to become a Christian she must embrace the masculine that is “above and beyond all things” such that “we are all feminine in relation to it.” And the climactic alchemical union of Mark and Jenifer inside an incandescent lotus bud has its parallel in the novel’s coupling of animals and humans alike when Venus has descended to earth—although Tippett’s music conveys ecstatic cosmic drama, in contrast to Lewis’s humorous tone. Stylistically, Tippett’s use of Renaissance and Baroque phrasing together with modern dissonance has a similar effect to Lewis’s medieval references. Overall, the intersections of these two works help to define the broader intellectual world in which the Inklings worked, suggesting the pervasive influence of such works as Eliot’s Waste Land and Frazer’sGolden Bough, and expanding the framework for analyzing the work of other Inklings, particularly Charles Williams.


Beth Abbate earned a BA at Yale College, an MM in violin performance at the Yale School of Music, and a PhD at Harvard University, with a dissertation on Mahler. She teaches music history at the Boston Conservatory, with courses on Mahler, Webern, Messiaen, and Stravinsky, among others. Her recent papers “Theosophical Images and Influences in Webern’s op. 29” and “Alchemy,Lumen sensibus, and the ‘Eternal Feminine’: Esoteric Elements in Mahler’s Eighth” reflect her interest in music and esotericism. As a violinist, she has performed with numerous groups including the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Boston Baroque, Boston Lyric Opera, and the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra.

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“But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard”: Aslan, Pop Music and Educating the Moral Imagination 
Daryl Ritchot

The influence of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia on popular music has been expressed on different scales. Gospel Lee’s song “Spirit Animal (Aslan)” invokes the series’ central figure to represent the inner strength that we call upon when faced with overwhelming struggles. The 2nd Chapter of Acts’ album The Roar of Love sonically retells The Lion, the Witch and   the Wardrobe. On a larger scale, the Christian power metal band Narnia alludes to the series not only in their name, but throughout their discography. In this essay I will look at the representation of the figure of Aslan within popular music and how introducing these songs into the classroom can help students to better understand this character and his moral teachings.  

To do so I will draw upon theories from musicology, by scholars such as Jacques Attali, Tia DeNora and Simon Frith, that explore how music is integral to everyday life and the creation of identity and ethics—since music pervades our lives, it is a logical tool to use within the classroom. I will draw upon theories of how to harness pop culture in the classroom and on the importance of art to education, to show ways in which this music can be deployed. Furthermore, I will argue that these songs can be a way to overcome the dislike of reading that has become common due to the proliferation of new media technologies and the shortened attention span that has resulted from the spread of the MTV aesthetic. By drawing upon the power of music, teachers can get students interested in Lewis’s novels and nurture their moral imaginations. Ultimately, I will argue that teachers should take a multimodal approach when teaching literature as a way to counteract the effects of the influx of sensory inputs in today’s society. 


Daryl Ritchot is a PhD candidate in the Department of Critical Studies at the University of British Columbia Okanagan where he is studying pop music and visual culture. His research interests include aesthetics, arts education, children’s and young adult literature, science fiction, fantasy literature, pop music, music videos, Bollywood and fandom studies. His dissertation, “Let’s Blast Off to a New Dimension”: Science Fiction and 21st Century Music Videos, will argue that music videos utilizing science fiction aesthetics should not be seen as just ephemeral artefacts of entertainment but as part of a larger discussion on contemporary society.

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