Gerardus van der Leeuw

Anonymous woodcut. Dancing Peasants (16th C.). Staatsbibliotek, Berlin

Whoever writes about religion and art comes into contact with two sorts of people: Christians of the most varied stamp, and connoisseurs of art. Both are rather difficult to get along with. —Gerardus van der Leeuw Stay awhile with Gerardus van der Leeuw (1890-1950). His lyrical and provocative analysis of consonance—and distance—between beauty and holiness is indispensable for any lover of the subject. There was no one better prepared than he—poet, theologian, philosopher, historian of religion—to write a theology of art or discuss the problems of a theological aesthetics. Continue Reading
Luca della Robbia. Cantoria, detail (1399-1400). Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

A person who is passionately fond of music may quite well be a perverted person—but I should find it hard to believe this of anyone who thirsted for Gregorian chanting. —Simone Weil Is there any such thing as a distinctly sacred sound? Can any single sound summon us to the divine? Does any particular one convey the essence of holiness? Lead to the depths? In absolute terms, no. Sacred sounds are as various as the cultures and the instruments that produce them: a ram’s horn, a kettle drum, trumpet, or sitar. Continue Reading
Chords and Discord

Today we hear conga drums, trap sets, bongos, and other drums played not in the style of Monteverdi processions, or Masses by Haydn or Mozart. Instead we hear them just as we would hear them in a bar or dance hall. They are used just as they are in the secular world: to keep a beat, to make the music groovy, to inspire us to kind of do a bit of a dance. That’s the association of percussion we have in our culture.
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