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The Music of Creation

02 November 2006


Fortress Press £11.99


CT Bookshop £10.90

Analogies with music help us understand the sciences, says Jeremy Craddock

IT’S ODD that a series on science and theology includes a book about music — particularly if we agree with Jeremy Begbie (in Theology, Music and Time) that the "sound patterns of music do not normally ‘refer’ beyond themselves . . . to the world of specific objects, events, ideas". Of course, music affects our mood (try singing hymns to the wrong tunes), but it can do more: its structure provides us with analogies that we can use to discuss other disciplines. Kant thought its very imprecision made it universal.

This beautifully presented book uses music to discuss creation. As we would expect from Peacocke, that does not mean creationism, or "intelligent design", but evolution. Thus: "The panorama of the cosmos that the natural sciences have now unveiled for us is one of greater splendour, evocative of yet more awe, than anything that any human generation has ever before been privileged to experience."

Music creates its own time; and creation did not occur in a pre-existing time: time in our universe was created with the Big Bang. Musical time is not a clock ticking; neither is ours, for we experience it in different ways. Music provides tension and resolution; and evolution depends on death’s producing change. We may be helped to face our death by musical analogies.

Music is not only sound: silence may speak to us of our waiting on God, and of God’s waiting for us. Jazz provides a parallel of our living in a Christian tradition, in which we develop skills and understanding, while learning to create new ways of expressing it.

A CD accompanies the book — a better idea, in this context, than slices of printed scores. Sadly, bands begin and end too abruptly, distracting from, rather than enhancing, a good text.

The Revd Jeremy Craddock was formerly a forensic scientist.

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