The Trusty Servant May 2016 No.121

The TRUSTY SERVANT NO.121 M AY 2 0 1 6 The Headmaster writes: A Parting Word: ‘When you ain’t got nothin’/ You got nothin’ to lose’, sang Bob Dylan. When I first heard those words (I was about 16), they felt dangerous and radical. They also seemed utterly true. When I finally heard the song ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, I was captivated by the powerful honesty of the singer’s voice. Dylan claimed me at that time; he seemed to be a pilgrim completely alive to the world. At a time in my life when my capacity to feel far outstripped my abilities to understand and articulate, his songs and his voice not only spoke to me; in a way it spoke for me. Like many of my friends, I became a disciple. The songs spoke of hope: Oh the fishes will laugh As they swim out of the path And the seagulls they’ll be smiling. And the rocks on the sand Will proudly stand, The hour that the ship comes in. (from ‘When the ship comes in’). been a cathedral chorister, I now realise that my first real religious experience came through this music. I had a sense that through Dylan’s songs I was able to catch some refracted ray of truth – something universal that can be hinted at only in great works of art. Dylan had the voice of the prophet, the musical poet who sang, like Isaiah, of the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of the men of his age. ‘Surely they are my people,’ writes Isaiah, ‘and they rebel and know affliction and grief.’ It’s as if Isaiah and Dylan had caught the haunting tune of the human story. To listen seriously to music, and to perform it, are among our most potent ways of learning what it is to live with the divine. In listening and following, we are stretched and deepened, physically challenged as players, imaginatively challenged as listeners. The time we give They talked of love: Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm, When the rivers freeze and summer ends, Please see if she’s wearing a coat so warm, To keep her from the howlin’ winds. (from ‘Girl from the North Country’). In retrospect, although I was brought up a conventional Anglican, indeed had 1 up for listening to music is given back to us as a time in which we have become more human, more real, even when we can’t say what we have learned, only that we have changed. I still listen to Dylan from time to time, and he is still singing in his 60s with that strange, cracked voice. I heard him in Italy one summer a few years back. As life has gone on I have moved more into the world of classical music, the flip-side of Dylan’s modernism. Modern classical music presents a counter-cultural challenge to the mindless anti-religious spirit of our age. The boundless vision of composers through the ages points to the realisation of ourselves as something greater than we are. This is why lovers of music, ordinary people, believers and sceptics, refer to it as the most spiritual of the arts. Many of the major modern composers in the last hundred years were