Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Addressing the Deeper Spiritual Values

Can classical music augment social action and change?

An essay at the Atlantic suggests that it has and will with such concerts as the one at the Kennedy Center on May 22nd, when the Choral Arts Society of Washington and the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra present the world premiere of Seven Songs for Planet Earth by Finnish composer Olli Kortekangas.

The Artistic Director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington, says, "Our mantra is two-fold: celebrating the past and embracing the future. It's a permanent philosophical commitment to the ongoing presence of classical music in our lives, and why we carry forth the tradition of this category of music. Classical music addresses the deeper spiritual values of our existence and strives to encapsulate our culture in the highest possible way."

In choosing a theme for the commission, the director said, "We never seriously contemplated anything other than something that celebrates our Earthly home. It's a subject that's absolutely universal and unifying. There are many political views about the Earth, but no one disputes the fact that in some way, shape, or form we have to take care of our home."

The concert is a work in seven movements. Symphonic choruses are based on texts, and four of the movements are poems by acclaimed poet Wendell Berry.

"Any work of art," says Mr. Kortekangas, "whether it's realistic, abstract, or even conceptual, is an act in itself, more than doing nothing, and can serve as an example, can stir the listeners' imagination, evoke emotions."

Consider Wendell Berry's poem, The Peace of Wild Things':

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Or the following lines which are a part of the world premiere composition:

Sowing the seed, my hand is one with the earth.

Wanting the seed to grow, my mind is one with the light.

Hoeing the crop, my hands are one with the rain.

Having cared for the plants, my mind is one with the air.

Hungry and trusting, my mind is one with the earth.

Eating the fruit, my body is one with the earth.