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The Music of Chopin and the Rule of St Benedict

A Mystical Panorama of Life

Bernard Sawicki

The book defines and describes the relationships between Chopin’s music and one of the oldest but still used monastic rules, the Rule of Saint Benedict. Its goal is to construct bridges between music and spirituality. Since these two realms both refer to human life, the chapters of the book deal with current and existential issues such as beginnings, authority, weakness, interactions, emotions and others. The Rule of Saint Benedict and Chopin’s music appear to belong to the same stylistic category of human culture, characterized by nobleness, moderation and high sensibility. In this way two seemingly incompatible realities reveal their affinity to each other, and the one may explain the other. The book is situated at the boundary of musicology and theology. Its discourse is illustrated by many examples, carefully chosen from Chopin’s music.
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Defining the Area of Similarities


Talking about the most important things carries with it the danger of saying too much. In a sense, this is a necessary evil, of which one needs to constantly remind oneself. This concerns both spiritual matters, and music. Talking about the “inexpressible” is a perpetual temptation and, at the same time, an experience of helplessness. Yet, perhaps, this makes it authentically human, and thus close to our hearts and needs? In this, our main experience is that of humility which, like a golden thread, links all our authentic and sincere strivings, and these become more effective as new questions arise, abundantly emerging from that “little” that we have succeeded in knowing. It is a profound truth about humankind’s existential situation and destiny that we are forever seeking without being satisfied. This corresponds to the mood of St Augustine’s Confessions as well as St Benedict’s advice on making sure that one “really seeketh God”6.

From that space emerge all kinds of possible kinships between the diverse threads of reality. It is both a space of synthesis and encounter. They seek each other and realise themselves most fully in symbols, that is, in areas which have their own specific laws, although they are open to all kinds of connections. Symbols are like the nodes in a network of modules. In them our relationships focus and cross, and different worlds are mutually explained. Our deliberations will follow that trail of symbols. A line of associations marked out in...

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