A Sacred Triumph

From altmuslim:


Composed by a famous convert to Orthodox Christianity, inspired by a Sufi sage, commissioned by the future head of the Church of England and performed in a Roman Catholic cathedral, The Beautiful Names is a testament to Tavener's confident spiritual universalism, his willingness to have his faith enriched by other traditions. The political impact of this exploration isn't lost on him. He hopes the piece will, "contribute a little to an inward healing of the appalling strife that permeates the modern world." For Tavener this is an act of devotion, of drawing close to God unashamedly, of turning to religious tradition for solace precisely at the time when religious practice is increasingly maligned and deemed anachronistic. The Beautiful Names is a bold musical rebuff to the narrow-mindedness of fundamentalist bigots (Muslim and Christian) and secular fanatics (like Dawkins and Hitchens) alike. Neither would be too pleased with his accomplishment.

The Beautiful Names is a challenging work. It doesn't easily fall on the ear and it doesn't immediately make the listener feel comfortable. It demands that we be involved, pay attention to each name as it is recited and to notice that no two names are the same in their musical quality. As Tavener himself points out, there is almost no repetition in the entire work. It is a contemporary piece that has a traditional sensibility: it requires patience and needs to be experienced at its own pace - slowly as it unfolds. "The Beautiful Names came to me as a vision. I contemplated the meaning of each of the Names as well as the sacred sound of the Arabic, and the music appeared to me spontaneously, neither chaotic nor random," says Tavener.


The Beautiful Names is a timeless plea for tolerance that is grounded in spiritual reflection and musical imagination. Composers write for posterity. I hope future generations will remember (perhaps stumble upon) this work and see it not just as a piece of music shaped and bounded by the current debates over the presence of Islam and Muslim in Europe, but as a testament to religious devotion that transcends the discrete bounds of any single faith.


From the remarks:

Dear Mr. Malik,

Can I now expect the Ave Maria to be sung in the holy mosque in Mecca in the same spirit of appreciation?


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