Culture, Music, Theology

Rudolf Otto on Music’s Ability to Portray the Transcendent

On Bach’s Mass in B Minor:

Its most mystical portion is the ‘Incarnatus’ in the ‘Credo’, and there the effect is due to the faint whispering, lingering sequence in the fugue structure, dying away pianissimo. The held breath and hushed sounds of the passage, its wierd cadences, sinking away in lessened thirds, its pauses and syncopations, and its rise and fall in astonishing semitones, which renders so well the sense of awe-struck wonder–all this serves to express the mysterium by way of intimation, rather than in forthright utterance. And by this means Bach attains his  aim here far better than in the ‘Sanctus’.

Rudolf Otto, John W. Harvey, trans., The Idea of the Holy (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1958), 70.

Where or where can we find theologians that have a grasp of what music is doing after the manner of Otto?

Culture, Music

Psalter 419

I’m not given much to boast about my children. I leave that chore to their mother. Being of masculine persuasion, I somehow have it hardwired into me that such fuss over children inspires insipid people-pleasing on the part of children – a truly nasty habit that goes beyond mere service to the family of God and fellow humans.

Nevertheless, I find myself moved and strangely warmed (I do hope it is not by pride) by the number from the Psalter our middle son, Nathaniel, will be playing upon the cello for offertory on Sunday. I can only pray that the congregation is as moved as I have been just listening to it being practiced.

The arrangement was done by Eric Phelps, cellist. No, please do not confuse him with any conspiracy theorists by the same name. Yes, he has done some playing with Keith Getty, but I suppose you have to pay the rent somehow. If you want to check out his stuff as well as his wife’s stuff (Christa – she plays piano) you may do so here. If you desire to listen, the album this shows up on is “Classical Psalms: 13 Arrangements for Cello and Piano“. The linked text will help you get there. The piece Nathaniel will be playing is featured on track 10.

Now, I must stop my blubbering and get to work. Below is the text for this Psalm.

Psalter 419
Psalm 65 “Forth From Thy Courts, Thy Sacred Dwelling”

Forth from Thy courts, Thy sacred dwelling,
In jubilant accord,
We hear sweet strains of praises swelling,
O Israel’s mighty Lord!
To God, who hears our imploration,
We come to pay our vow,
Soon men from every tribe and nation
Before our God shall bow.

A mighty stream of foul transgression
Prevails from day to day;
But Thou, O God, in great compassion,
Wilt purge my guilt away.
Blest is the man whom Thou hast chosen,
And bringest nigh to Thee,
That in Thy courts, in Thee reposing,
His dwelling place may be.

There, in Thy holy habitation,
Thou wilt Thy saints provide
With every blessing of salvation,
Till all are satisfied.
By awful deeds, so just and mighty,
God saves us from our foe;
To all who walk with Him uprightly
He will salvation show.

From stores on high Thy streams flow over
The hard and arid land;
The fields are sown with corn and clover,
Provided by Thy hand;
The furrows, softened by Thy showers,
Are blest with springing grain.
How great, O God, Thy love and power
Throughout Thy vast domain!

The year is crowned, O Fount of blessing,
With gifts to cheer the land;
Thy goodness fills the earth, expressing
The wonders of Thy hand.
The hills rejoice; the pastures, teeming
With flocks that skip and spring,
The golden grain, in valleys gleaming
All sing to God the King.