Music as the reflection of the cosmos as it has been created by God – for centuries this idea was at the core of any composition in the Christian world. The order of the seven known celestial bodies – moon, sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – was reflected by the seven tones to be used in music, while the use of chords, metres and intervals was strictly regulated to avoid anything that would contradict the celestial order. Most composers up to the Italian Claudio Monteverdi would respect this.
In less than a week Christians all over the world celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Saviour. Looking back at the year that is almost over, I have no doubt this planet of ours needs to be saved more urgently than ever. The climate is heating up, we continue to pollute our environment, wars are raging in the Middle East, the threat of war on the Korean peninsula is real, while Africa, its epidemics, its poverty, its exploitation by local dictators, well Africa is almost forgotten. The question is: Can that planet of ours be saved from ourselves by ourselves?
The Vatican and its many secrets – we didn’t need Dan Brown, author of the bestseller “The Da Vinci Code”, to lift the veil that hid what the Papal State wanted to remain unknown. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did it before. While he stayed in Rome in 1770 he heard Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere”, which is performed annually during the Holy Week by the Papal choir. He memorised the ornamented sections, kept secret up to then, copied them to paper and had them published through a middleman, the organist, composer and music scholar Charles Burney.
I remember a sunny day more than twenty years ago in Scotland. It was warm, I felt the sunbeams on my skin and the sea breeze in my hair. I stood in awe in front of the east tower of the Cathedral of St Andrews. It was built in 1158 and became the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland. After the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century, it was abandoned and fell into ruin. The wall facing east is splendid. The perimeter of what once was the nave is still visible just like the position of the strong pillars that supported the massive roof. What a grandiose building it must have been!