“MUSIC is a crucial medium enabling us to encounter the transcendent and the numinous,” Ivor Moody writes in his introduction to Songs for the Soul. While affirming the part played culturally by specifically sacred and religious music, Moody builds his book of reflections around six popular songs. These are songs “embedded in our culture” which “may just contain hints and clues which can move us from the transitory to the eternal”.
He devotes one chapter each to “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” as performed by Nina Simone, “True Colours” by Eva Cassidy, “Message in a Bottle” by the Police, “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, and “Let it Be” by the Beatles.
Moody describes these songs as “‘pegs’ upon which to hang some thoughts”, “vehicles for me to think about the themes presented in this book”. The theme suggested by each song elicits a meditation on the nature of God in relation to our human experience. Thus the Nina Simone essay discusses finding truth in a world of misunderstanding; the “Let it Be” meditation reflects on maternal wisdom, with its ability to seek God’s “answer” even in the darkest hours.
Moody developed these reflections during his time as Chaplain at Anglia Ruskin University. Two chapters began as Good Friday meditations delivered at Chelmsford Cathedral, where he is now Vice Dean. They are full of scriptural illumination: for example, Moody believes that “our God may be a shy and lonely God,” who sends out his “message in a bottle” through a burning bush, a still small voice, the isolation of Gethsemane.
Readers seeking rigorous theological engagement with works of popular music will look, for instance, to Steve Stockman on U2, David Dark on Radiohead, or Ian Bradley on musical theatre. But the thoughtful material here offers excellent resources for a Lent series or retreat material — or for conversations in college refectories or street-corner cafes.
The Revd John Davies is Rector of the Cam Vale Benefice, in the diocese of Bath & Wells.
Songs for the Soul
Rejoice Publications £7.99