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Thread: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

  1. #1

    True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    I listened to an NPR interview with a French pianist recently. She said she believed, "music is the most direct path to the spiritual world." This struck me as, more or less, an absolute statement. I am inclined to conclude that music simply "works" for this pianist.

    I would pose the following question to the forum:

    Does the medium of photography, likewise, provide a "path" to the spiritual world?

    The interview really stimulated my thinking. Is it true that music possesses unique power to the exclusion of other media?

    Robert McClure

  2. #2
    All metric sizes to 24x30 Ole Tjugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    To other musicians, yes.

    To the tone-deaf, no. not at all.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 1999

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    I don't know about direct paths to spiritual worlds but... One way in which music is different from other media is that it was never saddled with the burden of representation or record-making. The visual arts certainly shouldered that and it took a long while to shake themselves free of that (perhaps self-imposed) burden. Any move away from representation alwys caused something of a furore - you don't have to look at abstraction, even impressionism was reviled quite a bit in it's day. Even after media like photography appeared on the scene, painting continued in its representational tradition for a long while. It could be argued that without photography, painting would have never been able to hake off the shackles of representation. Music, in contrast, never HAD to repreent something. There were certainly composers who looked to representation for inspiration but as a medium, music was always free to be more abstract and explore ideas related to structure, form, timing, and relationships between such things. Cheers, DJ

  4. #4
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    I think of Walter Pater's famous line,
    "All art aspires to the condition of music."

    And I think there's truth to it. Music is the one art form that is fundamentally abstract (it is pure form, and represents only itself), and at the same time universally powerful. All cultures have music. Usually it's at the core of their profoundest rites and rituals. We can explain its power rationally, but the explanations are rarely satisfying.

    Whether or not this phenomenon is spiritual probably depends on your disposition toward whole idea of spirituality. But if music isn't a path to it, then it's hard to imagine what could be.

    For me the best of the visual and verbal arts are the ones that come closest to music's deep well of power.
    Last edited by paulr; 16-Oct-2006 at 07:34.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2001

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    I think EW said it best: "Whenever I hear a Bach Fugue in my work, I know I have arrived."

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    I have long been aware that some music is a shunt to my soul. It bypasses my brain and goes directly to my tear glands. Not often, but it can and does occasionally happen that way. Since I'm not a musician I've tasked myself with producing photos that will have that effect on some viewers. I didn't say I'm anywhere near reaching that goal, but never-the-less........that is my goal in picture making.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    Hmmmmm. Music certainly can be a path, but I'm thinking perhaps things like music, art, nature etc...are more indirect paths---kind of like airline "hubs" such as Denver, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas---in other words it requires you to get "there" before you get to where you need to be. Maybe a more direct spiritual path would be driving through your neighborhood at night in pea soup fog, where you can barely make out the road you're driving on yet trusting it to take you home.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    This is Swann's impression of a piece of music...

    "The year before, at an evening party, he had heard a piece of music played
    on the piano and violin. At first he had appreciated only the material
    quality of the sounds which those instruments secreted. And it had been a
    source of keen pleasure when, below the narrow ribbon of the violin-part,
    delicate, unyielding, substantial and governing the whole, he had suddenly
    perceived, where it was trying to surge upwards in a flowing tide of
    sound, the mass of the piano-part, multiform, coherent, level, and
    breaking everywhere in melody like the deep blue tumult of the sea,
    silvered and charmed into a minor key by the moonlight. But at a given
    moment, without being able to distinguish any clear outline, or to give a
    name to what was pleasing him, suddenly enraptured, he had tried to
    collect, to treasure in his memory the phrase or harmony--he knew not
    which--that had just been played, and had opened and expanded his soul,
    just as the fragrance of certain roses, wafted upon the moist air of
    evening, has the power of dilating our nostrils. Perhaps it was owing to
    his own ignorance of music that he had been able to receive so confused an
    impression, one of those that are, notwithstanding, our only purely
    musical impressions, limited in their extent, entirely original, and
    irreducible into any other kind. An impression of this order, vanishing in
    an instant, is, so to speak, an impression _sine materia_. Presumably the
    notes which we hear at such moments tend to spread out before our eyes,
    over surfaces greater or smaller according to their pitch and volume; to
    trace arabesque designs, to give us the sensation of breath or tenuity,
    stability or caprice. But the notes themselves have vanished before these
    sensations have developed sufficiently to escape submersion under those
    which the following, or even simultaneous notes have already begun to
    awaken in us. And this indefinite perception would continue to smother in
    its molten liquidity the _motifs_ which now and then emerge, barely
    discernible, to plunge again and disappear and drown; recognised only by
    the particular kind of pleasure which they instil, impossible to describe,
    to recollect, to name; ineffable;--if our memory, like a labourer who
    toils at the laying down of firm foundations beneath the tumult of the
    waves, did not, by fashioning for us facsimiles of those fugitive phrases,
    enable us to compare and to contrast them with those that follow. And so,
    hardly had the delicious sensation, which Swann had experienced, died
    away, before his memory had furnished him with an immediate transcript,
    summary, it is true, and provisional, but one on which he had kept his
    eyes fixed while the playing continued, so effectively that, when the same
    impression suddenly returned, it was no longer uncapturable. He was able
    to picture to himself its extent, its symmetrical arrangement, its
    notation, the strength of its expression; he had before him that definite
    object which was no longer pure music, but rather design, architecture,
    thought, and which allowed the actual music to be recalled. This time he
    had distinguished, quite clearly, a phrase which emerged for a few moments
    from the waves of sound. It had at once held out to him an invitation to
    partake of intimate pleasures, of whose existence, before hearing it, he
    had never dreamed, into which he felt that nothing but this phrase could
    initiate him; and he had been filled with love for it, as with a new and
    strange desire.

    With a slow and rhythmical movement it led him here, there, everywhere,
    towards a state of happiness noble, unintelligible, yet clearly indicated.
    And then, suddenly having reached a certain point from which he was
    prepared to follow it, after pausing for a moment, abruptly it changed its
    direction, and in a fresh movement, more rapid, multiform, melancholy,
    incessant, sweet, it bore him off with it towards a vista of joys
    unknown. Then it vanished. He hoped, with a passionate longing, that he
    might find it again, a third time. And reappear it did, though without
    speaking to him more clearly, bringing him, indeed, a pleasure less
    profound. But when he was once more at home he needed it, he was like a
    man into whose life a woman, whom he has seen for a moment passing by, has
    brought a new form of beauty, which strengthens and enlarges his own power
    of perception, without his knowing even whether he is ever to see her
    again whom he loves already, although he knows nothing of her, not even
    her name.

    Indeed this passion for a phrase of music seemed, in the first few months,
    to be bringing into Swann's life the possibility of a sort of rejuvenation.
    He had so long since ceased to direct his course towards any
    ideal goal, and had confined himself to the pursuit of ephemeral
    satisfactions, that he had come to believe, though without ever formally
    stating his belief even to himself, that he would remain all his life in
    that condition, which death alone could alter. More than this, since his
    mind no longer entertained any lofty ideals, he had ceased to believe in
    (although he could not have expressly denied) their reality. He had grown
    also into the habit of taking refuge in trivial considerations, which
    allowed him to set on one side matters of fundamental importance. Just as
    he had never stopped to ask himself whether he would not have done better
    by not going into society, knowing very well that if he had accepted an
    invitation he must put in an appearance, and that afterwards, if he did
    not actually call, he must at least leave cards upon his hostess; so in
    his conversation he took care never to express with any warmth a personal
    opinion about a thing, but instead would supply facts and details which
    had a value of a sort in themselves, and excused him from shewing how much
    he really knew. He would be extremely precise about the recipe for a dish,
    the dates of a painter's birth and death, and the titles of his works.
    Sometimes, in spite of himself, he would let himself go so far as to utter
    a criticism of a work of art, or of some one's interpretation of life, but
    then he would cloak his words in a tone of irony, as though he did not
    altogether associate himself with what he was saying. But now, like a
    confirmed invalid whom, all of a sudden, a change of air and surroundings,
    or a new course of treatment, or, as sometimes happens, an organic change
    in himself, spontaneous and unaccountable, seems to have so far recovered
    from his malady that he begins to envisage the possibility, hitherto
    beyond all hope, of starting to lead--and better late than never--a wholly
    different life, Swann found in himself, in the memory of the phrase that
    he had heard, in certain other sonatas which he had made people play over
    to him, to see whether he might not, perhaps, discover his phrase among
    them, the presence of one of those invisible realities in which he had
    ceased to believe, but to which, as though the music had had upon the
    moral barrenness from which he was suffering a sort of recreative
    influence, he was conscious once again of a desire, almost, indeed, of the
    power to consecrate his life. But, never having managed to find out whose
    work it was that he had heard played that evening, he had been unable to
    procure a copy, and finally had forgotten the quest. He had indeed, in the
    course of the next few days, encountered several of the people who had
    been at the party with him, and had questioned them; but most of them had
    either arrived after or left before the piece was played; some had indeed
    been in the house, but had gone into another room to talk, and those who
    had stayed to listen had no clearer impression than the rest. As for his
    hosts, they knew that it was a recently published work which the musicians
    whom they had engaged for the evening had asked to be allowed to play;
    but, as these last were now on tour somewhere, Swann could learn nothing
    further. He had, of course, a number of musical friends, but, vividly as
    he could recall the exquisite and inexpressible pleasure which the little
    phrase had given him, and could see, still, before his eyes the forms that
    it had traced in outline, he was quite incapable of humming over to them
    the air. And so, at last, he ceased to think of it.

    But to-night, at Mme. Verdurin's, scarcely had the little pianist begun to
    play when, suddenly, after a high note held on through two whole bars,
    Swann saw it approaching, stealing forth from underneath that resonance,
    which was prolonged and stretched out over it, like a curtain of sound, to
    veil the mystery of its birth--and recognised, secret, whispering,
    articulate, the airy and fragrant phrase that he had loved. And it was so
    peculiarly itself, it had so personal a charm, which nothing else could
    have replaced, that Swann felt as though he had met, in a friend's
    drawing-room, a woman whom he had seen and admired, once, in the street,
    and had despaired of ever seeing her again. Finally the phrase withdrew
    and vanished, pointing, directing, diligent among the wandering currents
    of its fragrance, leaving upon Swann's features a reflection of its smile.
    But now, at last, he could ask the name of his fair unknown (and was told
    that it was the _andante_ movement of Vinteuil's sonata for the piano and
    violin), he held it safe, could have it again to himself, at home, as
    often as he would, could study its language and acquire its secret."

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Portland, OR

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    In India, some yogis use what's called a Lhya Tal. It's tuned to base resonance of the universe. When used correctly, a yogi can follow the sound to the point where the mind is dissolved. Completely.

    But the use of this musical instrument is rare. Meditation is the more common route to what we in the West might call the "spirit world".
    Last edited by Christopher Perez; 16-Oct-2006 at 09:57.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    San Francisco

    Re: True? "Music is most direct path to spiritual world!?"

    There is no spiritual world, and consequently no paths to it. Music can help you do the right-brain thing, though.


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