Does Western Music Need Religion to Flourish?

March 2 2015

Most orchestral music composed since 1950, writes Oliver Rudland, pales in comparison with that of the previous 100 years. Even popular music, after its mid-century heyday, seems to be in decline. Why? Rudland has an answer:

On closer inspection, it is not hard to see the idée fixe that unites the vast array of varied talent [active between 1850 and 1950]: nationalism. To varying degrees of explicitness, whether through the deliberate inclusion of folk elements, or simply a general overarching style suggestive of national sentiment, [the great composers of this period] would quite happily have thought of themselves not just as composers but as French, Russian, Hungarian, English, German, Finnish, Norwegian, Italian, or Czech composers. . . . [A] good deal of what these composers set out to accomplish was driven by a passion for the language, history, customs, traditions, institutions, and, perhaps most prominently, the countryside of their native lands.

This surge of nationalist output, produced during the long 19th century, was an obvious accompaniment to the growth of the nation state itself. However, there is another, deeper set of convictions which the classical composers held in common, and upon which the nation states of Europe themselves were predicated: Christianity.

Even in opera, a seemingly secular arena, Christianity commonly frames the moral dilemmas of the characters on stage. . . . [I]n fact, I would go as far so to argue that there is a sense in which Western music is Christian. . . . Something of the wisdom of the Gospels and the Psalms shines out of the harmonies of Western music—which is that crucial balance between judgment and compassion—and this is why, even on the operatic stage, a Christian moral logic so naturally and fittingly flows forth from the voices of the characters and the machinations of their plots.

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Read more at Standpoint

More about: Arts & Culture, Christianity, Classical music, Music, Nationalism, Religion

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy