The Emotional Life of Art & Artists: part 3

I mention two things here. One is that the retreat is two-thirds filled. If you'd like to join Jeremy Begbie, Latifah Phillips, myself and a host of great folks, please do register now. The second thing is that I've included below an excerpt from Jeremy's essay, "Faithful Feelings: Music and Emotion in Worship," which you could find in the collection, Resonant Witness: Conversations Between Music and Theology. I imagine he will reference some of this work along with other work he's done on the relation between emotion and the arts. For my part, I'll be addressing the qualities of emotional health which we'd like to cultivate in our lives as artists. Trust me: the whole thing will be anything but boring.

To read further about this retreat, and how it is linked to the two previous retreats, which focused on the physical world and the nature of the imagination, please see here (part 1) and here (part 2). I've also included a few extra bits after the excerpt from Jeremy's essay. Again, to register please go here.

Faithful Feelings : Music and Emotion in Worship
The power of music to engage our emotional life is proverbial. David’s lyre soothes Saul; “The Star-Spangled Banner” brings a tear to the eye of the patriotic marine; the fifteen-year-old finds solace from a broken heart in a moody ballad. A psychologist observes: “Some sort of emotional experience is probably the main reason behind most people’s engagement with music.” Although this cannot be said of all music worldwide (the functions of music are multiple and highly diverse), it does seem true of a good deal of music in globalized Western society.

And yet music’s emotional power is probably its single most controversial feature. Philosophers, psychologists and music theorists vigorously debate just how it affects our emotions. Many in the Christian church have feared its ability to “get inside” us, not least in worship. Many are anxious that music all too easily turns into a device of manipulation, a tool of moral harm, all the more dangerous because it can work its charms without our being aware of it. Others insist such worries are overplayed, betraying an exaggerated suspicion of anything not amenable to rational control.

In this essay, I want to ask: what is it about musical sounds and the way they operate such that they become emotionally significant and valuable to us? And what can we learn from this theologically, with regard to music in worship? We will first offer some general comments about emotion, and set these in the light of a trinitarian theology of worship. Then we explore the emotional power of musical sounds, and go on to situate our findings in the context of this same theology. We will see that certain capacities of music are singularly appropriate for carrying and advancing certain key dimensions of worship. We will also discover that our theology of worship is itself enriched in the process: theology throws light on music, and music throws light on theology....

See here for details.


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