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Music as a metaphor for the spiritual

J. W. N. Sullivan wrote a small but profound book about the relationship between spirituality and music. Beethoven: His Spiritual Development was so important to me as an adolescent that I had two copies, one for home reading, one for on the go. Recently, I tried to reread this wonderful essay, which is available for free at , but found I had moved on to a different place, though I wasn’t quite sure what that place was. This past week I discovered it in Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas.

A Beethoven acolyte since the age of 11 or 12, I was certainly familiar with these works, which make up the canon of Western classical piano music, and then some. The plays of Shakespeare, the piano sonatas of Beethoven: you don’t really need much more. However, attending a complete performance of the cycle over the course of seven evenings this past week, I encountered more than Beethoven. I came face to face with the spiritual struggle and awakening that accompanies each human on the journey from birth to the grave.

The accomplished pianist Stephan Möller, in his commentary after intermission during the last concert, put it so well. Beethoven’s sonatas, especially his last sonatas, and even more especially his very last sonata, move us (in my paraphrase) from a place of profound stillness to life itself and then back to the silence from which it came. There is nothing more to say. It is perfect.

Music is magic. But it also is a spiritual pathway. It can, but doesn’t have to, have anything to do with religion. It is a metaphor for life. But more, as Möller pointed out, it is life itself.

(The complete Beethoven piano sonata cycle was presented by the Downtown Concert Series of Freehold, N.J., in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, in May 2015. A two-part review appears at my classical music blog, )



Posted on Monday, May 25, 2015 at 07:43AM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

Dr. Pratap addresses Medical Yoga 2015 in Philadelphia

Dr. Pratap addresses Medical Yoga 2015, the annual conference of the Yoga Research Society, at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pa. More details on this conference will be forthcoming at this site.

Posted on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 07:27PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References

The Lilac Thief

I came across my chapbook, The Lilac Thief, from a few years back. Including it here in a downloable PDF. It contains songs and poems, including "Perfect Spring," from the early years of this century. Hope you enjoy reading and keep writing your own songs and poems until the end of time.

Posted on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 06:57PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References

The Chan (Zen) Drawings of H.D.Thoreau

Look for the article, "The Chan (Zen) Drawings of H.D.Thoreau" by Linda Brown Holt in Qi Journal this year (summer edition).

Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 08:07PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

on Beethoven's Birthday...

Such' ihn über'm Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muss er wohnen!

Brothers, above the canopy of stars
must dwell a loving father.
Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, o world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

(words by Schiller, music, the Ode to Joy by Beethoven)
Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 06:49PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | Comments2 Comments