The greatest challenge of our digital age has been the way we have let technology separate us from experience. Nowhere is this felt more strongly than in creative endeavours. We can now experience music, art, and even architecture, in the comfort of our own home through streaming services, internet, virtual reality, and artiﬁcial intelligence. This has created a new sense of isolation and alienation, whereby we can appreciate the aesthetic qualities of a creative work, but often forget its function.
Music has become one of the most easily commodiﬁed and monetised of the arts as digital platforms give access to millions of songs at the click of a button. Although technology in itself is a wondrous innovation, and has helped democratise access to music, we must not let it limit the immense power of music. Music has the ability to narrate stories, give form to the most complex emotions and ideas, overcome linguistic and cultural barriers, and bring people together. But in order for it to do that music must be restored to its rightful place in our public and private social spaces.
The engagement of audiences with live music and real spaces is one of the great creative and social challenges of our time. Musicians need to reclaim our cultural spaces and help people connect once more. Our cultural heritage, no matter the form it manifests itself in, is not a static phenomenon but part of a continuous web of stories and values that deﬁne us as human beings. We must not allow that web to be destroyed by proﬁt or ideologies.
We need to experience once more the joy of live music bringing our cultural heritage back to life. No recording will ever replace the experience of listening to Tallis’ Spem in Alium or Gabrieli’s polychoral motets in a church with voices resonating across the architectural space. Watching an opera being streamed on the big screen is convenient, but it cannot replace the social interaction of being physically present. And the sweet lament of a bagpipe played on a digital device with noise-cancelling headphones will never move the listener the way it does when played on a lonely Galician hill at sunset with the birds’ evensong as accompaniment.
It is here that Christianity must reclaim its position as a promoter of creative beauty, for in doing so it will acknowledge the creative power of the Divine. The Church is already a guardian of immense cultural wealth, but that heritage has to be not only preserved, but also nurtured and extended. We must see beyond the monetary value of our heritage, for the minute we put a price on heritage, we devalue it. It is our duty as humans to nurture our heritage in its totality and make it accessible to all. It is our duty as Christians to make sure that that heritage is an expression of sincere spiritual experience.