I find myself agreeing often with Barth and Balthasar in their high praise of Mozart’s music. If Mozart’s music cannot be considered to be sublime, surely nothing can. However, I cannot help but feel they are both narrow minded when it comes to music. I wonder how much of their praise of Mozart is based on their approval of the Classical striving for perfection of form? Quite a large part, I am inclined to think.
For myself, if there is anything truly musically sublime, then it is undoubtedly Mozart’s Requiem, and yet I can already hear the dissenters (‘what about Bach/ Beethoven/ Wagner/ Mahler/ *insert any name here*?). And then, to confine the sublime as a musical category to the classical makes an unfair and unnecessary distinction between the ‘classical’ and the ‘popular’. To exclude the popular from a discussion of the sublime is to severely limit to potential and outreach of the sublime. Some only ever have musical experience in the ‘popular’ realm, and that is not to discount such experience from the sublime.
I am still caught up on the Muse lyrics, which I have thought about in relation to the sublime – ‘black holes and revelations’. Why should the music of music not be experienced as sublime. If there was any popular music I had to categorise as ‘sublime’ this might be it.
And yet I feel I have been drawn too far into prescribing what is and is not sublime. Who is to say what I consider to be sublime is definitive. It is not. There are no right and wrong answers to the question of what is sublime. I am tempted to say that this has resonances in religion where a particular happening, for want of an example, say, the singing of hymns, can be integral to one person’s religion, revelatory even, and peripheral to another’s.