Joensuu, Finland – In the realm of liturgical music, modernism and the spirituality of the Orthodox Church may seem to be polar opposites, yet a new publication written by the Rev. Ivan Moody suggests otherwise. "Modernism and Orthodox Spirituality in Contemporary Music" explores the worlds of contemporary music and Orthodox Church music, and how these two fields are brought together. Based on Father Moody's research, this occurs more often than most would expect.
"As I researched repertoire over the course of many years, it became clear to me that there was a rich treasury of music that brought modernism and spirituality together in all sorts of interesting ways," said Father Ivan. "Composers from traditionally Orthodox societies such as Greece, Bulgaria, Russian and Serbia have found fruitful artistic meeting points between these two poles, rooting the one and refreshing the other, even in the darkest times of political oppression."
For Orthodox musicians in countries such as Serbia and Bulgaria, their legacy is extensive, yet almost all of it unfamiliar abroad. And while Russia's contribution is much better known, there is still an enormous amount that remains to be performed, recorded and studied outside Russia.
When reflecting on these realities, Father Moody felt it important to draw attention to the contributions from Western European Orthodox, which is why there are separate chapters on Finland, whose Orthodox church music is only just coming to be more widely known, and on the composers Arvo Pärt and John Tavener. "While their music is of course far from unknown, it is remarkable that there has been no significant discussion until now of their work in the context of the conjunction of their spiritual trajectories and their roots in Western contemporary music," said Father Ivan who also serves as the ISOCM Board chair.
With the fall of communism, research opportunities abound throughout Eastern Europe, the predominant historical home of Orthodox music. As those ancient traditions come in contact with modernity, the opportunities for a new creative spirit abound. "More than anything, the music discussed here is enormously vital and relevant," Father Ivan said, adding, "I hope that the book will encourage people who do not know it to seek it out, and that those who are familiar with at least some of it will take away more knowledge of the various contexts of its creation."
Modernism and Orthodox Spirituality in Contemporary Music is a joint publication of the International Society for Orthodox Church Music (ISOCM) and the Serbian Science Academy (SASA) and is available for purchase here.