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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Satan Everywhere
Jon Pareles talks to Bruce Springsteen about God and Springsteen's new album, Devils & Dust. Sayeth Bruce:

"Pete Townshend said that rock music was one of the big spiritual movements of the second half of the 20th century. It is medicinal and it does address your spirit, there's no two ways about it. And it came out of the church. Who were the first frontmen? The preachers!"

Au contraire, respondeth, some years before this mind you, Pope Benedict XVI. As mentioned variously elsewhere, the Artist Formerly Known As Cardinal Ratzinger has spoken often, and at length, about the roll of rock in the life of good Catholic boys and girls.

From his 2001 volume The Spirit of the Liturgy: "Rock... is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe."

From that same essay, the Pope on pop: "On the one hand, there is pop music, which is certainly no longer supported by the people in the ancient sense (populus). It is aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal."

And the Pope on classical: "Modern so-called 'classical" music has maneuvered itself, with some exceptions, into an elitist ghetto, which only specialists may enter -- and even they do so with what may sometimes be mixed feelings."

But, while the Pope has indeed cursed The Beatles and AC/DC (see here), it says here that the new Pope ain't entirely a bad guy: "Reminiscing about his childhood in Bavaria, Cardinal Ratzinger admits that music (especially Mozart) had a major role in his family life. 'Music, after all, has the power to bring people together... Yes, art is elemental. Reason alone as it's expressed in the sciences can't be man's complete answer to reality, and it can't express everything that man can, wants to, and has to express. I think God built this into man.'"

All of which is a long of saying someone needs to e-mail the Pope and ask him what bearing it has on our getting into heaven that we're listening to Springsteen's album right now and, erm, sort of enjoying it.

(In all seriousness there's probably a very interesting compare and contrast to be done between Bruce and the Pope and how each feels about the relationship between music and religion. But this post is already too long. So maybe we'll try getting to that later.)

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