As a follow up on the chat I had with Max in the Hifi Corner and a friendly suggestion to move the conversation to the Music Corner, I'd like to share the following experience with you.
It was a long time ago that I visited the city of Fulda in Germany and its very old St. Michael's Church. This church has an interesting Crypt and a young guy was studying some weird music there on the small organ. I recognized the composer of the music and checked out which piece it was. It was Apparition de l'Eglise Eternelle by Messiaen.
I studied the work in my first year and never really got the piece of music and its composer. The teacher I had did explain the theory of Messiaens modes, but given the quite conservative nature of the organ class, the theological / esthetical dimention remained closed for me. I do remember that I mentioned / questioned the teacher that the Messiaens modes could be an explaination for the construction of a music, but to me it sounded like a delirium. Offended eyes by some young fellows. How could I say that?
But I never really got Messiaen.
So, on Sunday 11/2 the theme in the mass was 'sustainability' (I'm part of a quite open / liberal / non-dogmatic church community) - therefore I programmed 'Apparition de l'Eglise Eternelle' as musica sub communione. For those amongst us who don't know what it is: when the people near the end of the service go to the altar to receive bread and wine to commemorate Crist, the organist plays a piece of suitable music.
I have played the music as good as I could and really enjoyed it. You need to understand that the music goes really, really loud. There is no listening, the music is imposed on the people.
After the service, I got to know what happened in the church. Some people were really upset that I played such a piece of music. Others said (while looking very angry) that it should have been played in a concert hall, not a church. Others were ignoring me. One elder lady was still shaking. Another one has held her hands before her ears during the piece of music. One guy went home, I got an email from him that he was deeply touched and did not want to cry in the church. Few other people were 'elevated' by the music. Two people mentioned the word 'extasis'. Just a random reflection of comments which I got. What a stunning polarisation!
I will not go into the construction of the music here and how brilliant the composition is, but I finally understand this piece of music and in a wider scope the compositions of Messiaen. By performing the piece in the place where it should be performed - a church during service / communion, it came alive.
I do think that 20th century music is reliant rather on the experience to the listener than the performance itself. I mean, I can like Bach's or Mozarts music as is, and it does not need to go in my soul or inner-self. But for 20th century music it must go deeper, it cannot stay superficial. That is not a strange observation in my opinion. Delirium was not a strangely chosen word ...