More than meets the ear.
by Dave Skipper
This is a summary version of the original article Symbolism and Noise.
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Abstraction and Symbolism
- Embracing the abstractness of noise music can be an attempt to escape meaning in music, or an attempt to uncover deeper meaning than may be apparent in other forms of music.
- Abstraction involves either de-symbolising or re-symbolising sound and music.
- To de-symbolise is to actively strip away meaning from sound, or to deliberately disconnect noise from cultural confines, or to disassociate noise from value-laden leanings.
- To re-symbolise is to find or express or give fresh meaning, value, direction, focus, and purpose to noise/sound.
- Neutral art, like pure abstraction, is impossible: our values and perspectives on the world inevitably shape our art.
Creation as Symbol
- Art is always a symbol of the artist.
- Likewise, the universe unavoidably reflects the character and demonstrates the artistry of God the Creator.
- The creation cannot be removed and abstracted from its Creator without distorting and diminishing its full identity and reality and meaning.
- “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
- Reality is richer and deeper than ‘just’ the physical, objective ‘stuff’ that surrounds us and that we are made of.
- Everything is at root symbolic.
- Creation finds its fuller and deeper meaning and reality precisely in its symbolic nature.
- How do we interpret the symbolism of creation correctly, without compromising or ignoring the place and value of created things in their non-symbolic dimensions?
- The Bible is full of examples of how the creation reveals God’s invisible qualities.
Biblical Symbolism is not a Code
- Creational symbols and creational realities are both necessary – neither are exhaustive in the kind of truth that they hold.
- The richness of image-bearing truth-revelation shouldn’t be simplified into a code with literal one-to-one equivalency.
- The key to understanding the symbol is the association that it bears, through connotation, experience, or explanation. This association is meaningful exactly because the symbol carries something in itself of those characteristics.
Biblical Symbolism is Crucial
- There is harmony between God’s ‘two books’: the Bible and the creation.
- If God is only revealed in the Bible and not in his creation, then the Bible is reduced to a book of spiritual ideas and private ethics.
- If God is only revealed in his creation and not in the Bible then he is essentially unknowable beyond our own imagination and theories.
- Noise can enhance my appreciation of God’s character, and God’s character deepens my appreciation of noise music.
Biblical Symbolism is Clear
- The Bible builds up specific word pictures and associations of created things with God’s attributes, human behaviour, and spiritual truths of all kinds.
- The Bible’s various literary styles need to be given close attention.
- The Bible needs to be interpreted and understood on its own terms, in reference to itself.
- Presupposition: the Bible is inspired by God, internally consistent, reliable, and true.
- Symbolism in the Bible never teaches anything new about God that isn’t explained and described clearly elsewhere in the Bible.
Biblical Symbolism is Cosmic
- The Bible’s symbolism gives us some concrete starting-points and principles for learning about God from the world around us.
- Examples of symbolism in the Bible are representative but not exhaustive.
- The Bible provides the necessary tools for exploring symbolic connections in nature and art.
- Creation doesn’t merely reveal things about God, but God reveals himself in the creation.
Noise as Symbol?
- If God created everything, then noise belongs to him.
- If creation reveals God, then that includes noise.
- Noise itself is addressed many times in the Bible.
- One of my main questions: How does noise reveal God?
- Noise doesn’t only reveal or reflect who God is, but noise in its very particular characteristics and potentialities can only even exist because of who God is.
- Noise automatically means simply because of its God-given place and potential within His creation.
How to Read the World
- In order to read the world aright we must first read the Bible aright, as it is God’s Word to us.
- And observing and understanding the world around us then gives us further insight into the Bible.
- This creates a positive feedback loop.
- The Bible helps us to read the world through the powerful (and empowering) richness of its diverse literary styles and devices and structures.
- Untangling universal principles of symbolism from cultural specifics is complex.
- Yet timeless truths must be embodied in real people and in the real world.
- Abstracted truth loses all relevance and power.
- Studying the Bible is primarily a spiritual activity, not an intellectual exercise.
- The Holy Spirit of God guides us into all truth.
- Noise enriches theology and theology informs noise.
- Creation is the context in which creatures interact with their Creator.
- Art, music, and noise have their role to play in enhancing our relationship with God.