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The Sound of God

  06/07/10 00:24, by , Categories: BFMN Exclusive, Monday Morning Musical Musings, Paul Bourgeois , Tags: carl sagan, chant, church, cosmos, gregorian, music, religion, universe
Paul Bourgeois

Carl Sagan said on Cosmos that the Universe came into existence billions and billions of years ago. Hydrogen atoms were formed, gathered into stars where the heavy elements were created; those stars exploded and spread their matter throughout the Universe. Planets were formed and we evolved on one of those planets, and we end up thinking about the creation of the Universe. So, basically, what we are is the Universe thinking about itself. Maybe that means there is something bigger than just us, some purpose to life, something transcendent about consciousness. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

I’m terrified of dying. I want to believe that there is some part of my conscious identity which won’t blink out of existence when I die. Maybe there is some cosmic catalog of consciousness which remembers us all after we’re gone and allows us to continue on in some way. And, being musically minded, I kind of think music might be the answer.

Chant

I don’t understand Latin. That means I can imagine what I want when I listen to Gregorian chants with their tremendous harmonies. The Roman Catholic Church was a big institution with lots of money and they built these huge cathedrals with perfect acoustics. Religion designed with music in mind. They hired experts to do just that, to trigger their emotions and overwhelm people with hugeness and mystery. Or perhaps I am being cynical.

The huge Gregorian harmonies are overwhelming. Beat has been left behind for these huge interweaving melodic constructions. That makes sense. Beat has to do with the body. It’s physical. It’s dance music. And you have lots of Medieval and Renaissance examples of really great dance party tunes. But harmony and melody are transcendent. They have to do with the mind and soul. If you could somehow divide the soul from the body, if only for a moment…

Sometimes I need that. It’s like touching knowledge of the Universe, if only for an instant, and if I am lucky, finding some sort of self knowledge in that. Of course, it all depends on your basic philosophy about the body and soul, the immaterial and material. Some people believe there is the material world and the world of the soul, or God, and you can divide the two up. Sometimes people even go so far as to say the material world is purely evil and the immaterial world is purely good. That belief was the basis for one of the biggest massacres in the medieval world. But you will be happy to know we have had some much bigger massacres since then.

How is that for fear of death to inspire spiritual feelings in people.

In Genesis it says that God breathed the soul into man. What does this have to do with music? The soul as breath. The body as beat. Our world as both. Music as a merging of the two. Life and soul and God being here and now and don’t worry about an unknowable future so much.

So where and how do I get my God fix?

The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos from the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silas in Spain are the real deal. They put out an album of Gregorian Chants in 1994 and subsequent albums. Some say they are not the best, and I have heard others, but they are certainly the best marketed, distributed by Angel Records with an album cover that makes me think they have boards hidden under their robes and are about to jump up and start skateboarding at any moment. I am being unfair. It is just that I have a problem with pop, especially when it comes to something like this. The advertisement somehow diminished the music, especially when the music is so beautiful. And I don’t understand a word of it, which is probably best, because it is the mood, the reverence, which overwhelms you.

Chantmania

Ok. For some comparison, some good-natured sacreligiousness, The Benzedrine Monks of Santo Domonico (somewhere in LA, I think) put a gregorian twist on tunes like “We are the Monkees,” “Losing My Religion,” and “We Will Rock You.” I mean, musically it is magnificent, I think, If you can get past the cheesyness from their album Chantmania.

As far as album covers go, I have more faith in the guy with the Stratocaster, because you know he’s not taking this hype seriously. I don’t know much about this album or the musicians, but I do know it was put out by Rhino Records. But, brother, I would NOT want to be sued by the Roman Catholic Church.

Ok. I will tell you something freaky.  I keep all my music on my computer, Chant and Chantmania together.  Well, I have been listening to both albums together, so they both know each other exists. There must have been some psychic conflict and the Benedictine Monks won, because Chantmania has just self-destructed on my hard drive. Honest.

As for the music, though, keep an open mind, because you need a mix. It’s a big world and a big life. After a few chants get out and dance.

This entry was posted by and is filed under BFMN Exclusive, Monday Morning Musical Musings, Paul Bourgeois. Tags: carl sagan, chant, church, cosmos, gregorian, music, religion, universe

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