Robert R. Reilly: The Music of the Spheres, or The Metaphysics of Music
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Robert R. Reilly is both lucid and illuminating, a joy to read. His embrace of the “Music of the Spheres” with its focus upon numerical order as fundamental to both music and the health of society is welcome as is his recognition of a co-existing transcendence of this order implied by Clement of Alexandria. The “New Song” of Christ means a transcendence of “what is” in a continued and endless pursuit of “what should be”, a pursuit that leads beyond all immanence to the transcendental God. Transcendence is indeed imaged in immanence but the image is subject to time and space. It must continually change.
But the nature of the change is a vital question. For Hegel and then Marx the change meant the demeaning or annihilation of the past and its arbitrary replacement. For fundamentalists the change means a return to an image that is deemed an absolute. For the wise change means a movement from a partially irrelevant image of transcendence to a more relevant one, an image of transcendence that emanates from a productive tension between the true values of both the past and the present. These true values are experienced as attractions even when both past and present understand them only inadequately. It is the challenge both to the composer of music and to the politician to bring the opposing attractions into a productive tension that is creative, life-generating in the new “Now”. Iconic here is the man-woman relationship, opposites that unite creatively. Iconic also are the weddings of poetry and music in Beethoven and above all in the still poorly understood art created in the years 1822-1828 by Franz Schubert.