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Presentations | Touching The Spirit

Voice of the Soul, Music of the Heart

Presentations

Note: Any material listed in the following presentations, books, articles and other materials can be adapted to a lecture, seminar, workshop or retreat format, and a specified time frame.

Karl Rahner on Ethics and Interfaith Dialogue,” Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Religion and Conflict, Assumption University. Windsor, ON, November 28,  2013.

In the light of his vision of the universality of grace, his expanded view of love of neighbour, his conviction of the dignity of all human beings and the uniqueness of each person, Karl Rahner develops a theological ethics, which provides foundations for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

1) For Karl Rahner, the central experience is that of the meaningfulness of human life, (and implicitly in its Source) The fundamental positive response is a basic trust in that meaningfulness. Interfaith dialogue involves the attempt mutually to uncover and articulate the shared experience of life and meaning, beneath the possibly different interpretations

2) This underlying attitude is lived out in response to the basic value of human beings according to one’s conscience, both at the interpersonal and societal level. It is a love that seeks and includes, but goes beyond justice and peace. Here dialogue with other religions and worldviews includes dialogue on human nature, personhood, and freedom, along with striving together for justice, peace, and the recognition of human dignity and rights.

3) The third level is the articulation in concepts, images, and words, of this underlying attitude that is lived out in all dimensions of life. Here there are both commonalities and significant differences between Christianity and other religions and worldviews in interpretation and language. What is important here is a respectful dialogue in which people speak from their own perspectives, both with conviction and with an openness to be enriched and developed in their own articulation by this conversation.

A Musician’s Journey: Teaching to and from Our Inner Voice.” Canadian Federation of Music Teachers Convention. Halifax, NS, July 2013.

“Music inspires.” The word “inspire,” from its Latin roots, literally means “to breath or put spirit into.” Certainly including, but reaching beyond all the technical requirements for voice production and singing as well as playing instruments, is the spirit of the composer that >inspires@ the composition, the spirit of the singer or instrumentalist who must attempt to embody that spirit as well as his or her own spirit, and the spirit of the audience who receives the music.

T. S. Eliot advises us that the artist must learn to perfect his or her technique so that when they have something to say, they will not betray it. Musicianship most certainly requires perfected technique.

Inspired musicianship must go further. It  both calls for and calls forth a knowing that is a feeling of the music deeply from within rather than a knowing that remains only on the surface. Modern technology, however, and its tools of communication are profoundly affecting our level of knowledge and personal interaction, impelling us to be more superficial, isolated, and less truly relational. This change may have an impact on how we learn and perform music. When we speak of knowing a piece of music in today=s world, we may be more conscious of the technical exercise that is performed with mechanical rightness rather than the  knowing that comes with deeper inner awareness, which we may call experiential knowing.

In this paper, we will look at the notion of spirit and inspiration, and the elements beyond technique that are essential in the creation of vocal and instrumental music that arises from the inner spirit of the musician and is able to reach the spirit or soul of an audience. These essential elements include enhanced self-awareness, the capacity to be in touch with the whole range of feelings, an understanding of the text or musical phrases, a capacity for silence (the canvas upon which music is composed, according to Leopold Stokowski) and for listening to one=s inner or authentic voice, and a respect for the audience who receives the gift of our music. We shall consider how these more internal elements may be given expression within the technical aspects of singing or playing, and indeed Ainspire@ this technique. Through this expression, we may come to recognize music at once as a gift received and as a call to honour, cherish, and share that gift.

When, as music teachers, we make the journey to get in touch with and make music from the spirit within, we may then be able to encourage our students to realize and experience music not merely as an extracurricular activity but rather as a metaphor for lifelong learning. In his famous poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats, reflecting on the silence of the vase, comments that Aheard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter,@ and concludes: A>Beauty is truth, truth beauty,= B that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.@ When music making and music listening become a continual process of getting in touch with our deepest, most authentic self, and  the music of persons and nature around us, we too are able to express that inner truth in the most beautiful way possible.

Karl Rahner on Interfaith Dialogue and Peace.” Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Religion and Conflict, Assumption University. Windsor, ON, November 2012.

Thomas Merton on Non-Violence.” Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Religion and Conflict, Assumption University. Windsor, ON, November 2011.

The Power of Music to Build Community.” Festival 500, Academic Symposium. St. John’s NL, July 2011.

The Arts and the Quest for Meaning,” Conference of Canadian Centre for Arts and Learning. Winnipeg, MN, December 2010.

Steal Away Home: The Spirituals as Voice of Hope.” Festival 500, Academic Symposium. St. John’s NL, July 2009.

Music: The Voice of Memory.” Festival 500, Academic Symposium. St. John’s NL, July 2007.

The Spirituality of the Music of the Underground Railroad.” John Brown Seminar,
Spirituality and Vocal Music.” Festival 500, Academic Symposium. St. John’s NL, July 2005.

Tending the Heart … Towards Forgiveness, Healing, and Wholeness.” Glen Abbey United Church. Oakville, ON, April 2005.

Balm on Gilead: Words and Music of the Spirituals.” University of Windsor School of Music, Windsor, ON, Winter 2004.

Behind the Music of the Underground Railroad,” Lecture and Concert. John Brown Seminar, Chatham Kent Black Historical Society. Chatham, ON, May 2004.

The Music of Taizé: Implications for Music Teachers.” Chatham-Kent Branch, Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association. Chatham, ON, April 2004.

Spirituality and Human Worth: An Exploratory Perspective.” Conference of the Gebser Society. Santa Fe, NM, Spring, 2003. Published in Integrative Explorations: Journal of Culture and Consciousness, Vol. 7-8, 2003.