Music for Spiritual Exploration

When I need to be persuaded yet again that reality includes transcendence and the spiritual, I usually turn to music rather than opening the writings of some theologian or other (although those help a lot too!). Here are a few pieces I’d recommend for this purpose…

Peteris Vasks’ Lauda which I was listening to earlier today

Alan Hovhaness’ Symphony “Celestial Gate

Kurt Atterberg’s Symphony No.2, the opening and closing sections of the second movement being, for me, the most inspiring melody of all time

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No.5

James Horner’s score from Deep Impact and of course any of John Williams’ music from Star Wars.

Let me also mention Gustav Holst’s Hymn of Jesus which is not only beautiful music but is fascinating as a very rare instance of the setting to music of an extracanonical Christian text (Hovhaness has done the same with the Odes of Solomon; Joaquin Rodrigo, famous for his Concierto de Aranjuez, has a setting of some Qumran hymns). I played the Holst piece for my “Heresy” class the last time I taught it, not least because this helps students realize that these extracanonical texts had a role in Christian worship for those that valued them.

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