So I’ve got this crazy idea. I have 3 papers (which I know isn’t enough) all around the same theme–composing, contemplation, and how it relates to the aesthetic experience. What about using them as the start of a book? I have no idea who’d touch them, not falling squarely in any one discipline, and I fall into the Boretz/Randall/Rahn/Barkin camp of music theory, which has always been counter-cultural. Am I nuts that someone, somewhere would want to read it, much less publish it?

As a composer and as one who aspires to live according to the Rule of St. Benedict, it’s frustrating to read book after book about things relating to composition that’s only the surface. What I love about their theory is that there’s so much more to it than formalism. So here’s what’s going to be the preface. Not done yet, though.


Suscipe me secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam. Et non confundas me ab exspectatione mea.

As I stood in the foyer of the guest area of the Trappist monastery (inside being preferable to the Iowa winter), I had to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. At the time I was far from an observant Catholic–my honors class during my first year of college was studying the Rule of St. Benedict as a type of community, the capstone involving two days at New Melleray Abbey. Instead of being presented as a living tradition the way the monks–and countless others–lived it, the Rule was taught in the class as some medieval relic. I anticipated hating the entire two days, but was shocked to hear that faint whisper spoken of every day during Matins: “Hodie, si vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra.” The monks’ way of life was strange, yet there was some part of it that felt completely natural.

Four years later, I got off the plane at LAX, stumbled off the shuttle in Burbank, and after an hour’s ride found myself at another enclosure, that of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, again wondering what I’d gotten myself into. Beyond my wildest hopes, I’d been accepted for my Master’s in composition, never dreaming that people who wrote music actually existed, much less that I’d have the opportunity to become one of them.

Finally several years later, the symbolism of the warrant from my doctoral exams (ink barely dry) wasn’t lost: instead of my signing my profession document, the community I hoped to join signed it. In a sense, it was their promise to support me in my vocation, as the whole process was my promise to endure in it. Feeling as if I’d come out from under a pall, I began my novitiate.


~ by Jen on April 30, 2007.

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