Creative Fires and Nights of the Soul
This is one of those weeks where What I’m Listening To made me think about things. I’ve been endlessly listening to Ola Gjeilo’s Luminous Night of the Soul. Before we hear the piece (it’ll be at the end, as usual, I promise), let’s look at the lyrics. It’s actually a setting of a poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri. Here’s a section:
You give the potter the feel of the clay;
You give the actor the right part to play;
You give the author a story to tell;
You are the prayer in the sound of a bell.
Praise to all lovers who feel your desire!
Praise to all music which soars to inspire!
Praise to the wonders of Thy artistry
Our Divine Spirit, all glory to Thee.
Art in praise of art. How wonderful is that?
It’s neat because this piece is a sequel to one I’ve featured before: Dark Night of the Soul.
One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.
It seems to me that a lot of our art—a lot of our creative urgent longings—come from one of three places. Luminous nights, dark nights, and rent-is-due nights. And I think all artists go through all three at some point.
Rent-is-due nights are easy. Those are the projects where you are being offered good cash monies, and you need cash monies, so you agree to do it. You work hard (you’re a professional, after all), you find something in the project to like (hopefully), and then you collect your cash monies and go on your merry way. Everyone has rent-is-due nights. Even my beloved pre-Raphaelites (looking at you, John Everett Millais).
Nights of the soul are about transcendence. Both luminous and dark, those nights are simultaneously absolutely about the artist and not about them at all. They’re absolutely about the artist because they’re nights of the soul: you’re transmuting a very deep and real part of yourself into the work. And they’re not about you at all. It’s about something bigger than you. Not to fall into woo-mysticism, but I do think that art strikes a chord greater than itself. Call it a resonance in the universe if you want.
Luminous nights are just that—luminous, creating with exultation and joy and wonder.
Dark nights—speaking only for myself, that’s when the pain and heartache and grief becomes beauty.
But I do think that these two artistic drives—creating from joy and creating from grief—are mirror images of each other. I think that there is a sort of exultation when pain becomes something beautiful. I think dark nights of the soul ultimately transcend themselves into light.
I like this idea: that darkness and light eventually hit a point where they start looking a lot like each other, something more and greater than either of them.
Which would probably explain why Gjeilo’s piece quotes its predecessor rather spectacularly.😉
Until next time,
What I’m Listening to This Week
Well, here it is: “Luminous Night of the Soul,” by Ola Gjeilo. The piano and string quartet aren’t just accompaniment here; they participate in the dialogue as much as the choir does.
Favourite moments: the exultant joy at 5:20. And the moment we start musically quoting “Dark Night” at 6:43.