Messiaen’s Quartet For the End of Time

Perhaps not quite strictly law and religion-related, but my son Thomas and I went to a concert of Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” this afternoon.  Messiaen is a wonderful 20th century French composer who created the quartet in 1941 as a POW in a German camp.  Messiaen met a clarinettist, a violinist, and a cellist in the camp; the only guy who had his instrument was the clarinettist, but they managed to get hold of the other instruments and debut the piece in the prison. 

The quartet, in 8 movements, is deeply informed by Messiaen’s abiding Catholicism.  It is “for the end of time” in two senses.  Messiaen takes the Book of Revelation as his inspiration.  His point of departure is Chapter 10, where the seventh angel descends and announces that “time shall be no longer” — the end of Time as the end of past and future and the beginning of eternity.  Messiaen’s time signatures are also iconoclastic in the piece; in fact, sometimes there is no definite rhythm at all (I don’t understand how the players were able to be in unison), and it was in this sense too that Messiaen wanted to convey the end of the usual 3/4 and 4/4 measured time in Western classical music.  Time is characterized throughout the piece as sad and weary, to be contrasted with the lively music of heaven.  The piece was challenging, but just great. 

Then, Thomas and I came home to watch our Patriots lose, as Time expired.  — MOD

November 17: “What’s So Special About Religious Freedom?”

I’ve recently become aware (thanks to Rick Garnett’s and Mark’s respective posts) of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, which I’ve blogrolled in our links.  It looks like a terrific resource.

On November 17, the Berkley Center will hold a conference titled, “What’s So Special About Religious Freedom?” which features a debate between Michael McConnell and Noah Feldman, as well as various other discussions.  — MOD


This story asks whether the current political tradewinds exhibit an anti-Catholic “bias” and I think it circles around a fairly sensible answer.  The reflection is occasioned by some of the events that we have been discussing at CLR Forum. 

Usually when people use the term “bias,” they mean some sort of totally irrational judgment which is also unfair and perhaps even unintelligible.  But if this is the meaning of “bias,” it does not seem to me to apply in this context.  We are living in an age when (some of) the beliefs and moral views of the Catholic Church are being (or, perhaps better, have been) rejected, but the reasons for the rejection generally do not strike me as irrational or unfair, let alone unintelligible.  Just as the reasons adduced by Catholics for the positions that they hold are not irrational or unintelligible, so too are the opposed reasons not “biased” in this way.  In fact, it sometimes seems to me that the epithet “bias!” slips a little too easily from the mouths of the warring camps, as a rapidly economical way to delegitimize the much more difficult and entrenched problem of genuinely intractable disagreement.  — MOD