Thursday, 4 July 2013

Can we quote words in music without owning the statement?

I don't believe in God and I have difficulty understanding faith, particularly the acceptance of solutions to seemingly intractable problems of human nature and mortality.

I don't propose answers or seek here, with little knowledge of theology, to criticise.

On the contrary, I envy the religious the reassurance they get from an ability to immerse in devotion and the commitment to renegotiation of faith and deity that religious folk have shown me.

The question I ask is this: is it irresponsible, insulting or sacrilegious to search for the sacred or the numinous through music without personal commitment to a given faith?

As a composer I seek authentic expression of confusing, conflicted experience and perception.

A search for commonality of experience and expression between devotees - something fundamental to us all regardless of faith.

Are not artistic expression of confused wonder at the commingled beauty and horror of life and the expression in devotional song of hope for transcendence, very similar responses to the question of mortality?

In seeking to explore some essence of devotion, I composed a digital "plunderphonic", convolving song from many faiths, which began with a Christian chant - Credo in Unum Deo - I Believe In One God.

I was attempting to explore both the beauty of the singers' expression of their faith and to find expression for my own fear of God, of faith, of eternalness, exterior omnipotence, of the incomprehensible plan of God or Gods who can have allowed the earthly condition of Man.

Is quotation of the words "Credo in Unum Deo" an act of theft, or disregard, or insult, without owning the statement?

Is this artistically irresponsible, like Seamus Heaney's famously explained fear in "Nero, Chekhov's Cognac and a Knocker" that singing without a moral right to sing is fundamentally to abandon the rules that govern socially engaged artistic expression?

"Credo" did not make conscious reference to other musical approaches.

It was not a composition that answered (at least I was not aware of doing it) other composers' work.

It was a spontaneous and unplanned improvisational collage which took around four days of complete absorption in the material to realise the quarter of an hour that it takes to hear.

There are things I would change now, but there it is - a record of a short exploration, like a diary in sound of encounters with strangers and my attempt to structure their own, often highly structured but now fragmented expressions of very specific devotion, into a picture of their words, voices, ideas perceived from outside their perception.

Like a photographic record of the people one met on a journey, this composition tries to order the images captured into an abstracted narrative of the mind through these places, dark as they seem to me, though which I know to be filled with light, the essence of existence, for the voices captured.

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