The composer John Tavener died last weekend – a man whose conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy meant a great deal for his composing. Over at The Curator, Brian Gillikin briefly considered the composer’s legacy:
Tavener’s Orthodoxy was almost too Orthodox, as he flung himself fully into its mysticism and the Eastern liturgy, both of which became the primary source of all the music he wrote up to his death. His detractors point both to Tavener’s inability to compose far away from his beloved Church and to his ‘failing away’ in recent years when he began integrating other religious traditions into his music, especially Hindu and Buddhist. And rightfully so, but wrongly judged: Tavener wrote music, much like Olivier Messiaen and Arvo Pärt, with the understanding that Christian truth can be found in all things, seeing no contradiction in simultaneously holding tightly to his Church and freely exploring the world.
Being a composer (and I commit this fallacy willingly as I myself am a composer), Tavener was likely unable or unwilling to separate his inner and outer worlds, or even see them as separable. His image was reflected in his musical creations, putting him at risk of being misunderstood or too understood, and he seemed unhindered by this and kept writing music until near his death. All that is left of Tavener is memory and music. Through listening we can get glimpses of who he was and, if we listen closely and well enough, a glimpse of the truths that Tavener hoped for in life and now has in death.
The New York Times also ran an obituary in which they called him a “composer with an eye on God.” Rest in peace.