Pagan Music Project: Risky Material From the Forbidden Library
Learn how Classical Music harbors subliminal and not-so subliminal Pagan messages.
Recently, someone asked me a question about my music: Do I touch the Gods through my music?
I gave the answer that I channel energy through my music. I create with my music. Thinking about it now, I am realizing just how many ways music is communicative and useful to me in my spirituality, and I think I answered for a question that I interpreted in only a certain way. I thought I was being asked about touching the Gods through a performance, and responded with the experience of the origination of Vivienne in the world premiere of Nightsong. Through the author's words and the composers' (there were two composers) music, I channeled energy to create a character. The reality of Vivienne was "indoubitable."...
Considering the articles I've read lately about whether or not pop culture icons and fluffy bunnies are appropriate idols for worship, and whether or not to bow to them, I'd like to address the reverence I feel for Classical music and the composers of that art. At the beginning of May, I sang in a concert of music by Beethoven. This concert may have changed my life. Towards peace.
Another confession: Instead of attacking De Occulta Philosophia, I'm going for the throat on Marsilio Ficino.
A few years ago, I came across a book called "Music in Renaissance Magic" by Gary Tomlinson. He focuses on the magic of a man named Marsilio Ficino, who was a priest and the doctor of Lorenzo de Medici. Ficino is somewhat contemporary to Agrippa in the way that they both translated documents from Greek into Latin, and then proceeded to create their own synthesis of learning from those experiences.
Ficino stood out to Tomlinson because he wrote magical music. None of that music exists; it has all been lost to time, as Ficino's De vita libri tres has been out of my reach through library (another long story) and is too expensive to purchase. Until now.
I am at a complete loss for what to write about. I didn't write anything in March and I'm a guilty guilter who guilts. True story. I've got 4 drafts, plenty of stock material on the old secret webpage, and here I am posting at night where no one will see my genius.
I realize that blogs are places where people bring their fears and opinions out into the open, not just studies, so I hope this one's a bit of both.
I am deathly afraid of contemplating the significance of Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia in terms of music and music theory. I know that there are solid free resources on the net that I can relatively trust and cross-reference. I have a book here at home, a sourcebook on Music and Magic, of some amazing excerpts from some of the earliest literature available, translated into modern English by an Occult-positive music professor. There is a man teaching at Yale who has studied the effects of Occult philosophy on one of the Italian Renaissance's greatest composers. Yet a third man has delved into the Occult-ed-ness of Arnold Schoenberg, the early 20th century MASTER. (He's really more of a god, but maybe we'll get into that later.)...
So, I'm pagan, I'm a classical singer, and on this blog I've detailed a couple of ways that those things work together.
Problem is, how does a classical singer get their start? By singing in churches. Yea. Today I went to a church, willingly, to sing music there and try to get my start.
I listened to the sermons and readings and looked at the sculptures on the altar, and I thought to myself, "Wow. I've learned so much about abrahamic religions since the last time I've been in church, I could tell you where these customs come from, and even what parts of this ritual are roman.." et cetera et cetera. The layout of the church reminds me of the reconstructed Parthenon in Nashville, complete with gold-leafed sculpture of the Goddess. The altar facing the sculpture would have been outside in Rome, rather than inside, and the people would gather for public rites on the steps rather than inside....
I just had a thought-vampire stories involve a woman falling in love with a competent, but dangerous, man. Dracula came out in 1897, when the women's movement was strong, soon to result in women's suffrage. Vampire stories often involve a woman giving up her independence and competency to be with a man. She's hypnotized, can't look away, and he by turn, wants her lifeblood-that which keeps her alive and functioning. Is this a perspective on the rights of women? Is it possible that there is fear that a man will take a woman's right to live away from her? If not by force, than by stealth? That even so, a woman's nature isn't strong enough to resist? Are vampire stories in general just reinforcements of patristic ideas?
Have you ever wondered who the high priestess of Artemis was? it was Atalanta; a virgin huntress who could outrun just about everyone she met and protected the MEN she was with! According to Theoi.com, Atalanta was also a cross-dresser and her story carries overtones of transgendered and homosexual identity.
Now that I've given a brief synopsis of the Afternoon of a Faun and you've no doubt listened to or watched the video, I'd like to detour for a moment into a discussion about what makes music "Pagan or Not Pagan."
What would make a certain kind of music Pagan or not Pagan? There are two things that can be considered when it comes to subject matter in music: Textual references (such as lyrics, song titles, and instructions within the score) and secondly, the intent of the composer (as expressed through historical research of that composer and his or her colleagues). Of those two things, it is now to determine whether or not the evidence suggests that the intention of the composer could have been to disseminate his or her ideas about Paganism, or to capitalize on a popular trend.
Toward that purpose, it is necessary to discover what it means for something or someone to 'be Pagan.' The following is definition and instruction in the basic philosophy, morals, values, and theories which Pagans in general find themselves traversing on any given subject. For the purpose of this work, 'Pagan' should be construed to mean pre-Abrahamic European Indigenous religion. "Abrahamic" constitutes Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and their influences on various aspects of daily life. European Indigeny is the concept of the original religions of Europe as practiced before Abrahamic traditions were spread. *
This is a topic that I've been struggling with writing about, and I think I've figured out a set of criteria, with the help of the Choir of Asphodel, as to what makes a particular type of music "Pagan". What I am trying to do here is define music from a "Pagan-centric" point of view, mostly as an exercise and a jumping-off point from which to describe just one way to view Pagan music. I define "Pagan" as specifically European Indigeny as it has survived (or been recast, depending on the situation) past the fall of the Roman Empire. Naturally, the viewpoint of this kind of Paganism is not going to be without its lacunae, in which case, surviving folk traditions and historical artifacts can fill in the contextual lapses.
First and foremost, we have music that is 'by Pagans, for Pagans,' meaning, essentially, that pagans who are musicians (or vice versa) have written music for the audience of other Pagans with subject matter that directly includes deities, myths, and daily-life references specific to Pagans. Secondly, we have "Pagan-friendly" music; music on the subject of nature, spirituality, and mysticism that is religiously non-specific yet the lyrics or title or end purpose of the song support ideals that are embraced by Pagans. There is "Non-Pagan" music; music of other religions or traditions that either speaks to that non-pagan tradition, or that simply has nothing to do with Pagan morals, ideals, standpoint, deities, mythos, or daily life. And lastly, there is 'Secular' music; music which speaks to the rhythms and activities of daily life and has no relationship with religious identity whatsoever.
Music that is 'By Pagans, For Pagans" is an obvious category for the above mentioned reasons. The next category, "Pagan-Friendly" music, consists of music that is appreciated and ubiquitously sought after by Pagans for its content while neatly avoiding a "Pagan" public persona. Loreena McKennitt and Jethro Tull are examples of this kind of artist, with Loreena McKennitt writing about Pagan sensibilities and stories in a medieval-celtic oevre, and Jethro Tull, a rock band with a lead flute, crossing the line into direct pagan referencing with their song "Beltane." Neither artist has a distinctly "Pagan" public image, however, through their music they talk directly about things that are Pagan-i.e., Beltane being a Pagan holiday.
"Non-Pagan" music is not too difficult to define, but it can be a thorny one if the right words aren't chosen. This category approaches 'otherness' from a Pagan perspective, and that 'otherness' is most often derived from the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. This often presents a catch-22, since a large number of Pagans today were raised in an Abrahamic religion and converted to Paganism at some point in their lives, and associate negativity and bad feelings with said origin religion. Hence, this category covers music from the religions that are considered to oppose Paganism, and would be distinctly concerned with music of the Abrahamic religions. Why not call this section "Abrahamic Religious Music?" Partially because I am working with the concept from a 'Pagan-Centric' standpoint, and partially due to the desire of many Pagans to completely abort the Abrahamic religions of the world in favor of Paganism. A good example of music in this situation would be "What if God Was One of Us?" by Joan Osborne. In this song, we have an excellent theory presented, with lyrics that define the role of God in everyday life and takes that as seriously as it can go. It's a song that many people relate to, but could potentially create tension if played at a Pagan gathering if the words weren't changed to reflect Pagan Gods and Goddesses, and couldn't easily be altered that way.
"Secular" music is music that talks generally of love, life, happiness, going to the movies; in other words, 'Secular' music in this context refers to everyday life without religious referencing. The stumbling block in this category is the occasional "my God" or "Oh God" in the ejaculative. Does the reference to "God" count as an Abrahamic influence and therefore negate the neutrality of the song by indicating belief in divinity, or is it acceptable due to its ubiquitous usage making it nearly neutral in and of itself? This is a question best answered on a case-by-case basis per song and with the artist's compositional intent and other works in mind. "Tribute" by the band Tenacious D is a good example of this: they use "Good God" and "God lovin'" as an ejaculative to express frustration that they could not remember the song that they had played in a competition with "a shiny demon." Can this song be construed to be amongst the Abrahamic religious songs? It doesn't praise God or speak of any of God's stories, words, actions, or attributes, and demons can be found in many cultures across the world that are non-Abrahamic, and the intention of the lyrics clearly expresses that the song is about a song, not about a deity. Clearly, "Tribute" by Tenacious D is in the 'Secular' category, and further shows that in the end, the intention of the composer plays a very important role in determining whether a song is "secular," "Pagan-friendly," or "Non-Pagan."
This all having been said, other religious identities and their music will be only minimally cited. That is because Ethnomusicology has a good handle on that topic for the most part and it isn't part of the definition of European indigeny that I spoke of earlier. Even though music of the world does have an effect on Pagan music and the religions of the world have representations in Pagan practices, there are others who have written about these subjects in more detail than I can possibly go into. Suffice it to say that here I have written what categories Music represents itself in as it is seen from a Pagan perspective. While these categories are nascent at the moment, they will grow and change with time to include more and more information and criteria for assessing, analyzing, and judging Pagan music and will grow to include further standards by which we can do this.
Those of us who are deeply in love with classical music are already aware of the hot male sexuality that pervades these pieces. Is this a sexuality pure and untainted, as though man were meant to hunt for woman, or is it forcibly imposed because he came upon them asleep?
Hi folks! My name is Candice Larrivee, my internet handle is Amarfa, and I am a music nerd. I am working my way through college to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Music, with a concentration in Voice. Music school is hard work, and I was having trouble trying to integrate a daily prayer routine into my hectic schedule of full time work and full time college. I came up with a way to include my spirituality in a way that wouldn't sacrifice my school work. I decided to approach music history from the point of view of a Pagan, and I have found so much that I want to share with the world!
First, though, I've got to say that I'll be speaking from a technical point of view; this blog is, after all, in the Pagan Studies category here on PaganSquare. Second, I think academia should be written in an accessible style with humorous metaphor that gets the point across by being simultaneously entertaining and factual. Third, I'm in the process of developing a website that when it goes live, it will be groundbreaking in its approach and what it encompasses: that Classical Music is more Pagan than anyone truly realizes at this point in time, and this blog will be a shameless plug and shameless resource when that happens.
So, what is "Risky Material: Pagan Music Project," and why was it named that way? Risky Material was originally the title for an Honors Project that I wanted to work on. While the project fell by the wayside, my interest in it never waned. Truth be told, my ideas are too big for a 50 page paper. I want to trace the evolution of Pagan Music from the earliest archaeological finds up into the modern day, in a scholarly hunt for interesting facts, but through Classical Music. It was named "Risky Material" because I know and expect the findings of the project to be against the grain of academic trend, and I know and expect that the word "Pagan" will undoubtedly relegate my research to a 'fringe' category....