Music, Modernity and Meaning

Amidst widespread illiteracy in late-medieval Europe, aesthetic experience was a gateway to the numinous and transcendent. Renaissance humanists’ criticisms of Church musicians unwittingly paved the way for a new age of logocentricism where words, language and doctrine dominated as the fundamental expression of the divine, thus transforming the nature of aesthetic religious expression. But in the modern secularised West increasing levels of biblical and religious illiteracy, and decline in membership of institutional religions, has seen a concurrent increase in the appetite for aesthetic spiritual experiences. We will explore how this search for the numinous, mystical and transcendent interpretation through musical aesthetics has parallels with pre-Reformation spirituality and asks what the implications are for the future of institutional Christian religion in the west.