Ancient of Days, by William Blake

 Last week’s musical selection was “The  Heavens are Telling” from Joseph Haydn’s masterpiece, an oratorio called The Creation. There are three parts to the oratorio as a whole. The first part deals with the creation of the heavens and earth, and inanimate things such as light, water, land and plants.The subject of the second part is the creation of the animals.  The third part is a celebration of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

Haydn by Guttenbrunn
Joseph Hadyn, by Ludwig Gettenbrunn, 1791-1792

     The selection we heard last week came from the end of part one.  Today we go back to the beginning, not only the beginning of The Creation, but the beginning of time, the beginning of everything: the Chaos before Creation itself. Haydn’s overture is a musical evocation of that Chaos.

     Interestingly, the Chaos section may not sound quite as chaotic to us as it did to audiences at the end of the eighteenth century, accustomed as most of us are to dissonant, syncopated music. This is nevertheless a powerful musical experience, all the more so when we listen with the Biblical account in mind. The sense of order underlying chaos also makes me think of some of the current ideas in physics.  Consider, for instance, this sentence that I cribbed from the Wikipedia article “Chaos Theory”:

Chaos theory states that within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, interconnectedness, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, and self-organization. 

     We can take both Haydn’s overture, and the discoveries of modern physics, as a reminder that God sees the order underlying the appearance of chaos, always and everywhere.

The clip below features a performance of “Chaos” from Haydn’s The Creation by the Palomar Symphony Orchestra directed by Ellen Weller, with a rather interesting video by Kali Coogan.



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