After the staff meeting I walked over to the Sem to return some music I had borrowed. I found ZH talking with KR in her office. They were chatting about various things, AH’s potential job (in Pittsburgh!) and how Z would transition from his if she gets it. Also Z’s book that’s out now (got my copy on Monday…too bad I can’t read it without glasses.)
Then K starts to pick our brains about plans for next years conference. It’s Hugo Distler’s anniversary year (born 1908) and the plan is to theme the conference on Distler. PW had had some questions about maybe including some sessions on Bonhoeffer and K wanted to know what we thought of it. Then PW came back from a meeting and we sat around and talked about it with him. We looked at the piece he wants to use as the closing piece neither Z nor I knew off. It’s called “Dance of Death” and it’s FABULOUS. Spoken dialog between different architypal characters and Death (president, bishop, farmer, merchant, child.) Each of the dialogs is strongly “law”; Death comes for all and demands that each dance with him. But the choral responses are pure gospel and proclaim that salvation comes through faith which comes by grace alone. That nothing any of those characters did or could have done would have been enough to stay Death. Only grace will overcome it.
And the music, (although we couldn’t hear it I looked at it) is quintessential Distler. Modern yet ancient. I told PW that part of one of the workshops or the introduction of the piece has to be an explanation of how the music exegetes the text and proclaims the gospel. Z countered that he questions whether the music can proclaim gospel if the audience (congregation) is musically uneducated (as society tends to be today) and the musical references/allusions are lost on them. I countered that with the idea that the metaphysics/spiritual nature of the music can proclaim that without the intellect being involved, albeit not as effectively.
It was one of those conversations we used to get into while Z and I were still students. It was deeply theological, intelligent, creative and challenging. The kind of conversation where you need to “fire on all cylinders” or you can’t keep up.
Both Z and I left the conversation feeling energized. And grateful for the opportunity to still be able to have those kinds of conversations.