Music and Spirituality

Often we think of the arts, especially the fine arts, when we think of creative living or a creative career. However, just as a point to ponder I would like to remind you of the implications and inclusiveness of one of Urantia’s philosophical counter-parts to moronitamota we learn on the mansion worlds:

Only a poet can discern poetry in the commonplace prose of routine existence. [Paper 48:7.22, page 557:6]

So in effect we can all live artistically as we all have different gifts.My gift of inherited aptitude is however, in the fine arts, namely music. Serious (or art) music is tangibly creative in that there is an end product that lives beyond the mortal life of the creator, that is, the composer, improviser or recording artist.

I would like to play an excerpt now from a work composed by one of Urantia’s most well-known and influential classical composers, Ludwig van Beethoven. Perhaps of interest and relevance here are the planetary angels of progress who, and I quote Assist those mortal artists who possess inherent endowments, and who also possess Adjusters or special and previous experience. Dare I conjecture Beethoven was one such mortal? You decide as we listen to the slow movement from his seventh symphony.

Track 1- 2ndMovt. Of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in A major

Beethoven, and other genii, would go to a cathedral and perform on the organ for an enthralled crowd, this being the most stupendously powerful instrument available in those days. It was the equivalent of us going to a rock concert. At these events they often played spontaneously, composing on the spot as it were. This was known as extemporising.

We have a modern equivalent – Improvisation – found in, and defining, jazz music. The following is an introduction to a jazz standard, played by one of our planet’s most inspiring and adept saxophonists, Michael Brecker. I believe he may still be alive today, although he was suffering from leukaemia the last time I heard of him.

Before I play this track, I thought that you might be interested in this quote from the Celestial Artisans paper: Section 8 – Mortal Aspirations and Morontia Achievements:

Although celestial artisans do not personally work on material planets, such as Urantia, they do come, from time to time, from the headquarters of the systemto proffer help to the naturally gifted individuals of the mortal races.[Paper 44:8.1, page 507:6]

Interestingly, The Urantia Book favours heredity over nurture but it does perplex me that throughout the discussion of musical achievement, no mention is made of parental coaching, little of special school tutors and so forth. Such factors are surely important and of great benefit.

Track 2 – Michael Brecker – tenor saxophonist

Unfortunately, a long-time reader of The Urantia Bookand friend of many of us, Colin Hemmingsen of Wellington, wasn’t able to be with us today as he is travelling overseas as we speak. He is a marvellous saxophonist and as an educator in jazz he teaches that when improvising we use the superconscious part of the mind. He purported that that was where the higher processes of thinking and creating occur. A quote from Paper 110: Relation of Adjusters to Individual Mortals: …the revelations of the Adjuster appear through the realms of the superconscious. [Paper 110:4.3, page 1207:3]

I remember Colin’s Creative Music School in 1976 and being a little puzzled by the term ‘superconscious’. He was ‘whetting our appetites for the reception of truth’ and little did I know that he had derived this concept from The Urantia Book.

Here is an example of jazz-rock fusion music current in the early 80’s, which got me hooked by appealing to my intellectual and musical nature. The band is called ‘Weather Report’ and what also alerted my interest in the most prolific of the band’s writers, Joe Zawinul, was a piece he called Havona. The following tune however is called Birdland, named after a famous jazz club.

Track 3 – Weather Report – Byrdland

The music I have played so far belongs to what is so-called classical music and jazz music. They are both genres of ‘art music’ or ‘serious music’, as opposed to popular or folk music.Here is another more simple excerpt of contemporary classical music written by Phillip Glass. The classical composer writes out the notes for the musician to interpret, as opposed to letting him have the liberty of choosing his own notes.

However, there is a transcendental aspect to interpreting a composition in that one must try to get into the mind of the composer and perhaps his/her thought adjuster.

Track 4- Philip Glass – Opening track from Glassworks

Let us look at some musical history then: Following is a quote from paper 44: The Celestial Artisans, section 1: the Celestial Musicians:

Appreciation of music on Urantia is both physical and spiritual; and your human musicians have done much to elevate musical taste from the barbarous monotony of your early ancestors to the higher levels of sound appreciation. The majority of Urantia mortals react to music so largely with the material muscles and so slightly with the mind and spirit; but there has been a steady improvement for more than thirty-five thousand years. [Paper 44:1.12, page 500:3]

As a musician, schooled in the history of Western music, I find the last claim bewildering. Perhaps the melodies, if there were any, were passed down from generation to generation aurally…and they simply just sang, clapped and beat drums. I actually don’t know but you would think that that was time enough to create supernal music by now, equal to the compositions of the mansion worlds.What I do know is that the earliest extant example of notation was found in Iraq (or Sumer as it was called then) in 2000B.C.E on a cuneiform tablet. It has quite specific instructions, even using a diatonic scale. This scale is the DO-RE-MI we know so well, thanks to Bach and the Sound of Music.

Could we all try to sing that scale?

Ok, I am now going to sing a pentatonic scale. This scale emerges all over Urantia amongst all peoples. For example children sing: Na-nah na-nah-nah, using these notes. The Hungarian composer Bartok enjoyed creating using this scale; add one note and you have got the blues scale…in fact the Chinese are still using the pentatonic scale in just about all of their music.

Another quote from The Urantia Book:

Forever, music will remain the universal language of men, angels and spirits.[Paper 44:1.15, page 500:6]

Perhaps our early scales are like baby talk compared to what will come.

Getting back to our history then, in Mesopotamia (otherwise known as the Ancient Near East) where I believe the Garden of Eden was located, they found a tablet dated circa 1250 B.C.E. It has notation that indicate the names of the strings of a lyre, to be used in a piece of music. That is interesting to me because I often wondered where Jesus procured an instrument to play on.

In Jesus’ fourteenth year (CE 8), because of the improved economic condition of the Nazareth family….Jesus was permitted to resume these music lessons; he was very fond of playing the harp.[Paper 126:1.6, page 1387:6]

Getting to more familiar and recent territory, it seems that the Occident was less advanced. Our earliest written notation was created by the monks circa 950 C.E. the Middle Ages. The music that was sung has been called Gregorian Chant, named after Pope Gregory the 1st (reigning in the 6th century) and as you will hear the music is monophonic, that is, a single line and performed in unison. It is more advanced than the Didgeredoo’s efforts to entertain using a single note!…the phrasing is beautiful and in a church acoustic, the voices would reverberate – floating upwards to heaven, as it were. Also, the attitude and sentiment are religious, the following chant being called “Come, creator, spirit”. Track 5 – Gregorian Chant sung by Cistercian monks

Have you noticed that the earliest forms of western music were created and sung by men? I haven’t researched this, and would have thought the nuns could have been just as creative, but very little is ever heard of women composers of liturgical music, which is where our art music began. Interestingly though it was Christian churches that first included women’s voices in the choirs for large and small scale choral works – cantatas and oratorios.

Many of you will be familiar with this next piece of religious music. I wonder if anyone can name the composer and this chorus?

Track 6 – Handel’s Messiah – Hallelujah Chorus

Just out of interest….The Messiah was commissioned by a Dublin charity wanting a piece to use at a benefit concert. The first performance was in April 13, 1742. Over 400 pounds were raised, enough to free 142 men from debtor’s prison.

Moving into the last few centuries, I am fascinated by Gospel music, in particular the genre of Black Gospel music, first created by slaves and continuing to this day in various forms. If you listen to the next few tracks you can see their religious purpose of giving hope and worshiping, although some are more obviously religious than others. Here are three songs, the first sung by a blues artist called Keb Mo, the second, Paul Simon and Phoebe Snow and the last one by Take 6.

Track 7 – Keb Mo – Hand It Over Track 8 – Paul Simon – Gone at Last
Track 9 – Take Six – Something Within Me

Leaving the joyous hand-clapping, toe tapping music of the gospel singers let us for a minute consider this quote that compares morontian music to human music:

There are over one hundred thousand different modes of sound, color, and energy manipulation, techniques analogous to the human employment of musical instruments.[Paper 44:1.10, page 500:1]

Igor Stravinsky composed this work using the big orchestras that still existed just before WW1. It is pagan in portrayal – in fact it is ballet music for a ritual where a virgin dances herself to death – The Rite of Spring – hardly supernal in content but you can hear such diversity of rhythmic pulse and variety of timbres (tone colours) that in complexity it is fascinating to me. Some critics have even called the music sexy! I played this work in the early 80’s with the NZSO and we had four bassoonists and two contrabassoonists, a quantity unheard of as a rule and similar configurations were used throughout the orchestra. Of course, many musicians were killed in the major wars so such works were never written again.

Track 10 – Igor Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring

This is truly serious music but such music would not survive without some government support. In fact, only 2% of listeners in New Zealand listen to the concert program on the radio, our art music station. Take note as I quote from paper 111, The Adjuster and the Soul:

Any civilization is in jeopardy when three quarters of its youth enter materialistic professions and devote themselves to the pursuit of the sensory activities or the outer world. Civilization is in danger when youth neglect to interest themselves in ethics, sociology, eugenics, philosophy, the fine arts, religion and cosmology.[Paper 111:4.4, page 1220:3]

I feel gratified that I have a gift in music and was trained well but perhaps I limit my understanding to definitions created by mortals and apparently I don’t even have the senses to appreciate what comes next! I always imagined that Harmony and I quote, it is the speech of Havona would sound like the track I will now play. However, perhaps I don’t really comprehend the realm where harmony, the music of the seven levels of melodious association, is the one universal code of spirit communication.[Paper 44:1.11, page 500:2] Let us listen again to Take 6:

Track 11 – Take Six – Come Unto Me

Before I play the last track I leave you with this quote:

But be not discouraged; someday a real musician may appear on Urantia, and whole peoples will be enthralled by the magnificent strains of his melodies. One such human being could forever change the course of a whole nation, even the entire civilized world. It is literally true “melody has power a whole world to transform”.[Paper 44:1.15, page 500:6]

Here is a not very PC Luther Vandross singing a song called Religion: Track 12m – Luther Vandross – Religion