Saturday, June 28, 2008

Private Passions of the Archbishop of Canterbury

You still have a few hours to listen to the music choices of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, interviewed by Michael Berkeley on Radio 3's Private Passions.

Update: Kate Chisholm also listened in for the Spectator and opines that the program produced a fascinating discussion between Williams and Berkeley about the inevitable conflict between belief and artistic expression. How can you reconcile the constraints of faith, the belief in God, and all the rules and boundaries that implies, with the imperative to question, to probe, to explore that is the essential driving force behind all creative endeavour?


So how does he resolve the conflict between being an artist and a believer?

Williams hesitated. ‘Faith,’ he began, ‘is not a mechanical, unquestioning obedience to something.’ Before going on to explain, ‘It’s almost thinking, well, here’s a structure, a vision, which gives me so much freedom I can test the boundaries as much as I like and somehow something is going to hold me up...Things are dissolving, the words aren’t holding up, and yet I can push the boundaries because there is...a voice.’

She continues:
Williams in conversation is like a poet, shaping and moulding words as if he were a potter with a lump of clay. Every sentence is qualified by the next, nothing is concrete; meaning fluidly segues from one thing into another. It’s all very well if you have the brain and hard drive of someone like him; not so easy for the rest of us, who need more help if we are to hold on to faith when in extremis. There’s a wonderful cerebral quality to Williams’s thinking; a daring to confront the abyss within, the darkest of human truths. And yet there was something also a bit dispiriting about listening to this conversation.

Perhaps it was because there was so little light relief, no admittance of the absurd and banal with which most of our daily lives are occupied. For sentimental music, Dr Williams chose Schumann’s piano concerto. An emotionally Romantic work, and yet still one step removed from the ephemeral laughter and tears which help us to get through the daily vicissitudes, the everyday crises which punctuate our lives.

1 comment:

Simon Barrow said...

Ah rats, I missed this. I often listen to 'Private Passions', too. A kind of grown-up version of 'Desert Island Discs'. Well, more focussed on the music, at any rate.

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