Stopping the Wheel: Music, Time and Spiritual Experience in Sofia Gubaidulina’s Hommage à T. S. Eliot

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2023

12:00 p.m. - 13:00 p.m.


As a consequence of the French Revolution, time began to be experienced with greater intensity. The static view of the world gives way to a dynamism that will lead to an unknown vertigo. How could this new anxiety be mitigated? In 1799, Ludwig Tieck published, posthumously, Wackenroder’s last writing. In this collection there is a very short story, « Ein wunderbares morgenländisches Märchen von einem nackten Heiligen », which summarizes the core of the romantic conception: the only medium to transcend the real world is music. Music is considered as redemption, awakening, and remedy against the invincible suffering of the world, whose torment is expressed above all as time. This idea has been immensely influential, as it exposes with unusual depth not only the privileged relationship between music and time, but also the need to stop the wheel of time to generate the cathartic experience. And one of those musicians fascinated by time and spirituality is Sofia Gubaidulina, who went so far as to declare that “the main objective of a work of art is, in my opinion, the transformation of time”. 

In this communication, we will explore the mechanisms and strategies that the composer uses to create a shocking spiritual experience inspired by the work of another creator captivated by time: T. S. Eliot. Not in vain, Gubaidulina chooses fragments of Eliot’s Four Quartets, a work strongly influenced by the Indian epic-mythological text, the Mahābhārata, whose particular doctrine on temporality dominates the work. This immersion in the poetic-musical ensemble of Eliot-Gubaidulina will allow us to reflect, by way of conclusion, on the differences between the sacred and the spiritual.

Carlos Gutiérrez Cajaraville

Carlos Gutiérrez Cajaraville is Assistant Professor of Music at Musicology Department, University of Valladolid (Spain). His research focuses on musical emotions, with particular attention to melancholy, throughout history. His work ranges widely in terms of repertories, historical periods and methodological approaches, falling at the intersection of musicology, aesthetics, and history.

Valentín Benavides

Valentín Benavides is a choir conductor, composer, and Associate Lecturer in Musicology at the University of Valladolid (Spain). He has received several international composition awards, such as the XXIV “Cristóbal Halffter” Prize. His research focuses mainly on the presence of the past in contemporary music, specifically on the survival of musical gestures conveying some emotional meaning throughout history.