The music of science and religion

Even apart from its religious relevance, music gives us not just sensuous pleasure but something much deeper that is hard to define. Our encounters with the great composers of both past and present sharpen our sensibilities and enable us to transcend our own limitations, living our lives with greater meaning.

Devotional songs, hymns and repetitive musical chants are a common denominator in many religious practices. Whether through instrument or song, through chant or the beating of the drums, musical sounds have been used since time immemorial to facilitate the individual's efforts to transcend his or her finite existence and achieve a sense of mystical union with the Great Spirit, the Universal or the Divine. The Bible describes Jericho's walls falling at the sound of military horns. Moses instituted an annual musical event involving the blowing of trumpets as a prelude to the worship of his God. The Chinese speak of their ancestral singers changing the seasons and creating fire or water through music. Hindus speak of specific ancient mantras to manipulate specific natural phenomena. In Europe, the music of numerous Western composers like Bach is known to have been largely spiritually inspired. Vedic chanting and Gregorian chanting are classic examples of the role of music in religion. The most striking repetitive chanting rituals include the Holy Mary chant, the Buddhist chants and the Hindu Mantras such as the Hare Krishna Mantra and the Gayatri Mantra.

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