The Polyphonic Mind

In just a few minutes the second in a series of lectures on Philosophy and Music will begin at Catholic University in Washington, DC. The first was a fantastic discussion of Kierkegaard’s writings on the figure of Don Juan/ Don Giovanni.

I’ve been attending the Philosophy School’s fall lecture series for over a decade, whenever possible. One of the great things about it is the down-to- earth tone of the q and a discussion. These tremendously learned, extensively published professors put complex ideas into simple terms and everyday language.

Everyone who has worked in parish music knows how hard it is to speak about sacred music on everyday terms so that everyone concerned can understand. I feel that much of the miscommunication about sacred music derives from precisely this difficulty of verbally articulating about musical thoughts and feelings.

Just one of many reasons I’m excited about this series!

2 Replies to “The Polyphonic Mind”

  1. This sounds like an excellent series, Kathy. Would you care to share what you took away from Friday's session on The Polyphonic Mind?

  2. My takeaway from a lecture isn't usually straightforward enough to share. To my ears, lectures are like symphonies of ideas.

    One interesting motif in this musical lecture was St. Thomas Aquinas. Bishop Odo of Paris allowed early polyphony in the new Cathedral of Notre Dame, not long before St. Thomas came to Paris to study.

    An important question raised in the lecture was whether human beings can truly hear many sounds at one time. I would say no for myself, as I tend to hear music vertically and immediately reduce polyphony to chords. Is this different for others? I don't know. The lecturer said that for St. Thomas, humans can only hear one thing at a time, but God and the angels can truly hear the many voices of polyphony.

Comments are closed.