Rock/Soul/Prog, Spring 2008

Secular vs. Religious Art

February 27th, 2008 by · 2 Comments

This is not so much about secular VERSUS Religious Art, but the blurring of the two in visual art and music. Gospel music is defined as religious, it deals specifically with themes of God, the praise and worship of. It is characterized by strong, emotional vocals, as well as interaction with the audience.

Soul music uses the vocal stylings of Gospel; but focuses on secular subjects; sinful things like women, gambling etc. In Gospel music there is an undeniably perverse sexuality within the music. That sexual undertone is evident in Sam Cooke’s ‘Hem of His Garment.’ Cooke sings it with his characteristic crooner voice, it is full of emotion but tight with constraint. It is very smooth with soul melisma lilting key notes; a kind of teasing by Cooke on the audience. Yet, the lyrics of the song are quite interesting, a woman is determined to touch the hem of Christ’s garment, to heal her sickness- her sickness, however, seems more to be her obsession with touching Christ’s cloak.

Gospel’s affect on it’s listeners is really what sets it apart from other musical styles. It requires full and undivided attention and participation; whole-hearted belief that comes into fruition with fainting and visions, collapsing with the holy spirit. Soul music, evinces the exact same reaction, however, the passion and beauty is directed at something far too earthly to be good. It is directed at sin; at women, the bottle, it leads you AWAY from God and all his Glory. When Sam Cooke ‘crossed over’ he symbolically traded in his halo for a pair of devil horns; his voice that used to be that of the angels is now the demonic come-hithers of Satan.

The sexuality that is in Soul music was alway present, it was under the guise of ‘God’ of worship, and praise. Really all that passion, the desire was always hidden deep underneath the lyrics professing the greatness of God. As visual evidence of the relationship between secular sexuality and religion, Dr. C showed us the image of Bernini’s ‘Ecstasy of St. Theresa. Quite literally St. Theresa is in a moment of sexual ecstasy. The moment is supposedly depicting a ‘transfiguring coma’ the sleep of God where a glimpse of glory is received. It is probably not accidental however, that the arrow of the angel is directed toward the genitalia of St. Theresa- or that pleasure and pain are depicted upon her face.

In art, paintings and sculpture that is, the blurring of Religion and the secular was quite common by the time Bernini (Baroque Period 17th Century) sculpted. In the Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary has been one of the most secularized figures, as well as sexualized. As early as the Gothic Period Mary began appearing as an earthly queen- rather than the humble virgin. She is depicted wearing golden Crowns, expensive fabrics, resting upon a great golden throne with the Christ child an after-thought upon her knee. For example: Giotto’s ‘Virgin and Child Enthroned’ 1310. Though there are angels surrounding her, there is still a quite earthly throne surrounding her, complete with new innovations in the realm of perspective and depth.

Evidence for secular and religious blurring abounds as the Renaissance blooms out of Florence, the desire is to make religion relateable and identifiable to the common man; to reiterate God’s influence on your life; that what you have is due to His good will and you owe Him, or the Church that is… I digress, as a way to modernize the Virgin Mary artists depicted her in contemporary clothes with contemporary ideals of beauty; correspondingly the background of the works is a scene familiar to the viewer, of modern dress and actions and environment; for example, Fra Filippo Lippi’s ‘Virgin and Child’ 1452. Often, the patron of the painting appears, as if they too, had witnessed the birth of Christ!

Original post by rachellh7

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Secular vs. Religious Art-Download Music // Mar 3rd 2008 at 6:33 pm

    […] Lee Hartsfeld wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThis is not so much about secular VERSUS Religious Art, but the blurring of the two in visual art and music. Gospel music is defined as religious, it deals specifically with themes of God, the praise and worship of. … […]

  • Secular vs. Religious Art-music // Mar 5th 2008 at 9:49 pm

    […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThis is not so much about secular VERSUS Religious Art, but the blurring of the two in visual art and music. Gospel music is defined as religious, it deals specifically with themes of God, the praise and worship of. … […]