From Another World

Some music sounds as if it beckons from another world. Roger Scruton mentions it somewhere, and he’s right. Think of Bruckner’s 4th symphony or Brahms’ 2nd piano concerto. Listen to those first sounds and you’ll hear what he’s talking about.

And in a way, everything Bach ever wrote sounds that way. It comes from otherwhere. At least I thought so on Sunday when the prelude was a movement from the trio sonatas and the offertory a fugue. It is a sound that welcomes you into a place that is not of this world. It suggests the sacred because the sacred is not common, and it reminds you that you are coming from one place into another. Almost anything by Bach will do that.

It is music that beckons from otherwhere, and yet it is music that from the heart that longs for the transcendent also causes it to leap with cordial consent. I think that is because in that music from otherwhere the Platonical subject can hear the sound of home. Perhaps because I told our organist that, that the sound of Bach is always the sound of home, the idea was in his head and he played it back to me; but I’d like to think it is there to begin with. It is a remote call, reminded me of my exile and pilgrimage, and because it did that it was both a remote and a familiar call.

Here’s a bit of what helps me. Roger Scruton’s Gifford Lectures can be read in a book called The Face of God, or you can listen to him lecturing live here. The quality of his voice in the last lecture is an interesting thing in and of itself. The first lectures have a time of question and answer which also shed light on things. Of course, the substance is noumenal, simply noumenal. And it is the kind of thing you need several washes of exposure to just to profit from rightly. They are not lectures for the lazy, but they are worth the attention.


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