Bernard Łukasz Sawicki OSB

Published On


Page Range

pp. 209–232


  • English

Print Length

24 pages

10. The Concept of ‘Atmosphere’ as a Bridge between Music and Spirituality

The notion of atmosphere adds a new dimension to metaphors and symbols attempting to describe both musical and spiritual experience. Speaking of atmosphere, the discourse on music or spirituality itself moves from the purely descriptive sphere into the realm of experience, shedding new light on its specificity and effects. Consequently, one can speak of a reinterpretation of such key concepts for spirituality and theology as the body, incarnation, transformation (conversion). Music can help to understand and express them better.
In this chapter, the above theses will be presented according to the following scheme: 1) A general outline of the philosophical and aesthetic significance of the concept of 'atmosphere'; 2) A presentation of the potential 'dimensions of atmosphere' in music (tonality, the event of performance, the context of listening to the music, the role of the title and the biography of the composer or performer); 3) A presentation of the potential 'dimensions' of spirituality (prayer and its context, celebration, the eloquence and expression of texts, encounter); 4) A demonstration of the common 'atmospheric' elements of music and spirituality: the experience of perception, moving, touching, the presence of the Other, encounter. One cannot deny that the concept of atmosphere functions best in the spirituality of religions based on personal contact with God. If so, it is not merely descriptive but can have a practical dimension, stimulating both the musical or spiritual experience as well as facilitating its interpretation by opening it up, through synesthesia, to the sensations and language of other arts.


Bernard Łukasz Sawicki

Associate Professor in Theology at Pontificio Ateneo Sant'Anselmo

Bernard Łukasz Sawicki OSB is Associate Professor in Theology at the Pontifical University of Saint Anselm in Rome. His publications include The Concept of the Absurd and its Theological Reception in Christian Monasticism (2005), W chorale jest wszystko [In Gregorian Chant Is All] (2014), and The Music of Chopin and the Rule of Saint Benedict (2014).