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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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Feelings, or emotions, are understood here in the classical sense, as the internal motions of our spirit, and something which often escapes our control. They are often an expression of some contradiction hidden within us, which paradoxically acquires the characteristics of a dynamism impossible to ignore. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to give an unequivocal answer to the question about its origin and its causes. This is because here we brush against our “other self”, our second nature, one which most frequently surprises ourselves and, if not simply embarrassing, might perhaps be even shameful. Psychology, or psychoanalysis, try to describe feelings in a variety of ways, attempting to find out how far they reflect the attitudes which we suppress and how far they are part of our nature. The matter of their identity and character is also a question about pain, fear, joy, envy, i.e., the states of our psyche which colour and determine our everyday reality to the greatest degree. They are something which we can examine as if from the outside, which we can try to control, evaluate, perhaps even shape. When we live through them, we experience very strongly our limitedness and fragility – or, simply, the truth about our human condition.

Chopin, as an artist, must undoubtedly have been particularly susceptible to feelings. His music, but perhaps also his personality, not only “fed” off them, but must have allowed them to be displayed, to become their expression. However, it would be...

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