Music from the spheres


Among the theories once dismissed as "old wives' tales," was the advice that pregnant women should surround themselves with music.

Research now shows that this was not a foolish notion at all. Amniotic fluid is a good conductor, and the unborn baby can hear music very well and responds to harmonic and repetitious sounds. As a born person, I betray a prejudice in suggesting that Mozart is probably the best choice and that Rock music unsettles the bodily humors and reason itself.

The English composer Sir John Tavener has called Mozart "the most sacred composer of the West," and attributes to him a mystical ability to pluck pre-existing music out of the spheres in an "ecstatic act of being." There are moments – paradoxically, most vivid in pieces not meant to be part of a sacred repertoire – such as Zerlina's aria, "Vedrai carino," in Don Giovanni, in which Mozart conveys "the heartbeat of God seen through the eyes of a child."

That divine heartbeat created our own hearts, and when its purest earthly expression, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, approached her cousin, Elizabeth's baby leapt in the womb at the sound of her greeting. Psychologists claim that a baby can remember music first heard in the womb, months after birth. The first and finest music St. John the Baptist ever heard was Mary's Magnificat, and it may not be fanciful to think that he remembered it when his heart stopped beating at his execution.

Born with congenital glaucoma and blind by the age of twelve, the singer Andrea Bocelli recounts how doctors had advised his mother to "abort the child," because he would be born with a disability. But "the young brave wife decided not to abort, and the child was born … Maybe I am partisan, but I can say it was the right choice," says Bocelli.

All earthly music is an attempt to "pluck out of the spheres the sound of the Divine Love that said, "Let there be." "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you …" (Jeremiah 1:5). St. Paul took that music to the nations because he knew that God "from my mother's womb had set me apart" (Galatians: 1:15).

These are not old wives' tales. They are facts, and to deny them is to be unscientific about the soul. What noise there is in our culture is the denial of God's appealing voice. That is why those who would interrupt that voice become aggressive and anxious and cut off reasonable discussion of the sanctity of life. The Immaculate Mother had the world's most perfect pitch, having been conceived free of the original noise of pride. The world today would be worse than noisy; it would not even know the difference between noise and harmony, if Mary had said "no" to the angel instead of "yes."




Father George William Rutler. "Music from the spheres." From the Pastor (July 11, 2010).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.


Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001.

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses – Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2010 Father George W. Rutler

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