Nineveh 90: Mark Nowakowski’s Amazing Insights on “Music that Lifts the Soul to God”
One of the leading experts in sacred music, Mr. Mark Nowakowski, offers some great insights into …
“Transforming Our Aesthetic Palate.”
Hello everyone – in response to questions about music use below, I thought as your resident Nineveh composer & music teacher I could share some suggestions. I’ve done something like this before in the context of a life (and for me, career) changing 6 month aesthetic fast/cleanse, and it goes like sorta like this:
The base assumption is that even most dedicated Christians have lives that are too noisy, too suffused in music and media, and lacking in aesthetic discernment. Aesthetic discernment is important because it allows us to develop gates and strongholds to our inner lives, the very gates and strongholds that are antithetical to modern approaches to “entertainment.” In short, we want to grow up spiritually in regards to music and media as well.
So for starters, popular music and popular musical styles (even Christian) should be absolutely out for a time. (The reason I encourage people to even get rid of “popular” styled Christian music is that this music places Christian ideas onto secular forms and styles. After a real aesthetic cleanse, you will be in a better place to discern musical style appropriate to the Christian life, which is ultimately the goal.) It doesn’t matter whether or not you like a certain music or you think it spiritually uplifting: cleansing and discernment begin with silence and denial, which is certainly why Fr. Richard Heilman listed limited music as part of our great shared journey. So style preference and personal taste don’t really matter at this point, at least if we are to place music and media in the same adult spiritual categories that we presumably place the rest of our lives in.
1) 1 (or 2, if you can stand it) music/media silence. Clear the palette, so to speak: you’ll be surprised by what musical sludge your subconscious dredges up in an attempt to fill silence. This includes music in video games, movies, etc. (When I did this, I did 2 weeks of complete media silence. I didn’t even go to busy places like shopping malls, just to get a more monastic like silence in place.)
2) Then 1-2 weeks of Gregorian Chant (eastern chant is fine as well.)
3) Add 2 weeks of polyphony, up through the renaissance era.
4) Then add 2 weeks of the Baroque era.
5) Then 2 of classical
6) Then 2 of romantic era works.
7) Once you arrive in the 20th and 21st centuries, restrict yourself to only sacred works for the duration of this great 90 day journey.
When it is all over, I guarantee that you will come to music, art, and media in an entirely new way, having gained some of the perspective of monastic silence in cultural discernment.
I will be posting some suggesting listening for you all soon, and I hope that you may discover something truly revealing in God’s plan for music and the arts in our lives.