Occasionally, you read something that stays with you, that continues to influence your thinking, that crystallizes an issue or fact. The so-called “seminal essay.”
For me, “Gothic Pillars and Blue Notes: Art as a Reflection of the Conflict of Religions” by Quentin Faulkner has been one of these. Originally published in The American Organist in 1998, this three-part essay is available at the digital archive of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Go find it and read it.
One quote: “Whatever a society’s actual religion is – whatever mixture of adherence to revealed and codified religious doctrine and practice, or to human personalities and ideologies, or to superstition, or to human selfishness – that religion will be faithfully embodied in its culture and its art. To the degree and at the rate the religion changes, so will its accompanying culture and art.”
In 2000, I was lucky enough to hear Faulkner on this topic at a conference at St. Johns University. I’ll never forget the two opening slides. The first was a sloppy liturgy in an ugly modern church. The second showed the highly-choreographed opening of a major college football game. There was no mistaking what really mattered in contemporary American culture. Obviously, this was an attention-getting ploy. Well, you’ll just have to take my word that it only got better from there.
At the time, I was just considering “re-involving” myself in sacred music. Now, it seems that hardly a day goes by without some aspect of Faulkner’s essay coming to mind. Check it out!