As we approach the coming of our special event this Friday, December 9th, the New York Polyphony Holiday Concert at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, we will take a look at an original work that was recently commissioned for and premiered by New York Polyphony this past November.
The work is titled Missa Charles Darwin, composed by American composer Gregory Brown and was set to text edited by New York Polyphony's bass Craig Phillips. You may think this title is counterproductive and contradictory, taking a structural paradigm of the Catholic faith and juxtaposing it with the principle text of evolutionary science. However, the piece seeks to exemplify the creativity and ingenuity of the human spirit, as well as portraying the unique position humans have within our reality.
Even though the composer claims this not to be a political statement, his purpose of exemplifying human language, human's curiosity into reality and its multi-functional viewpoints is certainly a spiritual and poetic one.
Under this light, this work could be considered one of the most important musical works of our time — perhaps not in a purely musical sense, but as a statement of cooperation among seemingly disagreeable mediums, between spiritual understanding and an understanding based on facts.
As humans we question the world, whether regarding the creation and meaning of our existence or to simply understand and grasp the world around us. This work shows that there is beauty in both the spiritual and the scientific and each can assist the other in the collective human effort to grasp and understand reality!
The incorporation of what is traditionally contradictory into a piece of music speaks both of the power of music and also to the undeniable connections between every aspect of human existence. It seems that Missa Charles Darwin is revolutionary in meshing science and faith into the "framework" of a traditionally religious musical structure. Furthermore, the work being transferable to other contexts such as museums or learning institutions makes Brown's composition even more relatable to a wider audience.
A superbly expressed reflection!