Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pickstock Speaks

It is my great pleasure to be the managing editor of Sacred Music, a job for which I'm absurdly unqualified but they keep me because I do the work I suppose (isn't this the way it often works?). I'm fortunate to be surrounded by actual experts such as the editor William Mahrt, who has saved me from stupid errors more times than I can count. In any case, I love putting together the issues and staying on top of all the latest development in sacred music.

And yet nothing had prepared me for the submission we received two days ago. It is from the famed liturgist and philosopher Catherine Pickstock of Cambridge, author of After Writing: The Liturgical Consummation of Philsophy, and the main influence on Aidan Nichols' Looking at the Liturgy. She is responsible for having taken liturgical studies to new heights in our time.

In any case, out of nowhere Professor Pickstock sent in an essay called "God and Meaning in Music: Messiaen, Deleuze, and the Musico-Theological Critique of Modernism and Postmodernism." After reading the draft, I was in a state of complete delirium. I sent it to a friend, who breathlessly called it the most important article on sacred music in 100 years.

Really, I can see the point. The thesis in a nutshell is that without God, music is arbitrary and meaningless in a philosophical sense. In other words, she does for sacred music in this piece what she had previously done for liturgical studies: press us into a higher understanding of what it is that what we do is all about. I feel very confident that this piece is going to make a huge difference.

I wish I could blog it now but I will just as soon as I can. It appears in the Winter issue, forthcoming.

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