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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Traditionalism in the Arts


The following was peviously posted on the old Traditionalists.org addenda page.

The celebrated British composer Sir John Tavener is now arguably the leading interpreter of Traditionalism in the arts today. An Eastern Orthodox Christian, Tavener has described Frithjof Schuon as he "in whose mystical presence I live." Tavener's journey to Traditionalism was a long one. He first came to fame in 1968, when his The Whale was performed as the inaugural concert of the London Sinfonietta, and then released by the Beatles under their own "Apple" label. It featured "the then highly fashionable collage, pre-recorded tape, amplified percussion and a chorus using loudhailers." Tavener converted to Russian Orthodoxy in 1977, and for many years his musical work then followed Russian Orthodox themes and inspirations. Finally, at the end of the 1990s, he turned to Schuon and Traditionalism.

Tavener's recent work reflects Traditionalist influences. The use of Jewish, Christian and Islamic texts in his Lament for Jerusalem (2002) reflects his conviction that there is a "transcendent unity of all religions," that "the same essential Truths lies hidden beneath the forms of all great traditions." The use of Hindu texts in his Ikon of Eros (2000), as well as works of the Church Fathers, echoes the place of Hinduism in the first Traditionalist attempts to recover the perennial philosophy. The use of the music of American Indians in Tavener's Hymn of Dawn (2002) suggests Schuon's influence.

Tavener's The Veil of the Temple, "a seven-hour spiritual journey punctuated by 150-plus magnificent choristers, moving recitations, incense and candles, and the mesmerizing sounds of a Tibetan horn, Indian harmonium, duduk, brass choirs, and temple bowls," had its US premiere at the Lincoln Center in New York in 2004, and Tavener's Schuon Lieder (settings of nineteen poems by Schuon) were performed at a festival in Chicago.

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