IDArts is pleased to welcome to our community opera singer and chorister Mike Dodaro. Mike has degrees in English literature and theology, including a BA in English from the University of Washington and MA in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. A church cantor and choir member, he has also sung leading roles with northwest regional opera companies and worked for several seasons as a regular chorister with Seattle Opera Association. He is the editor of The Sacred in the Opera Discussion Forum and published in First Things Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life and The New Oxford Review.Writing documentation for computer programmers keeps him from running after the next operatic engagement, but he still sings: To Julia, by Robert Herrick/ musical setting by Roger Quilter
As you will soon find out, Mike not only enjoys singing, but he loves to study and think about the philosophical, theological and cultural significance of the music he sings (another one of those guys who enjoys using both sides of his brain). He will be a regular contributor here at IDArts sharing some of his insights on classical music in general, and opera in particular. We asked Mike to introduce himself by sharing a few thoughts about intelligent design and music:
“In school I had a good start in the sciences, but my head was turned by a number of distractions. Music was always among them. Fortunately I went to college when education in the liberal arts included an introduction to what used to be considered the standard repertoire in music. The first time I heard Mozart, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I had learned to sing in church, so getting through the choir audition at the University of Oregon wasn’t difficult. But who would have thought the odd Viennese composer with his powdered wig had written music that could send me into orbit? Mozart was an unexpected gift from…
Well, I was a Christian. I assumed there was divine elegance somewhere in the universe, so yes, Mozart’s music, especially his liturgical works are, in a sense, gifts from God, but I hadn’t imagined the return address of the sender would be included. The choir was warming up for a performance the first time I heard the overtone series in a big major chord. I was stunned. This harmony was infinite and reflected some magnificence at the source of everything.
Art can be many things, but for centuries it was intended to convey the truth about human existence and the cosmos. Now we often think of art as self expression. Many works of contemporary art are cries of despair or rage. Deconstructionist critics advertise themselves as liberators from the old culture of oppression based on religion, race, gender, or class. Feminist critics will tell you that listening to Beethoven is like being abused by a man. It’s no accident that an era that generally doesn’t acknowledge design in the universe finds little to celebrate in art and music created by artists who believed in both design and the designer.
When you’ve heard the ring of truth, a lot of modern art seems to be simply a reflection of a nihilistic point of view. In many ways music has saved me from contemporary culture that disregards design in the universe and in human nature. In my musical studies I found evidence of design in every chord progression and in the clear moral conflicts of operatic dramas. The materialistic premises that are programmed into us in the present era dissolved in the presence of art emanating from design, purpose and order.
Science includes many marvels, but these marvels are based on discovered order in nature that can be controlled only through understanding of the form and relationships that exist. I make a living as a computer programmer. The logic that I find in Mozart works just as well in an entity relationship model used to persist and rematerialize data. The science that now seems a threat to the old understanding of the world could not exist in absence of the cultures of the past. Everything we now take for granted is built on the work of our predecessors. Christians, Jews, and Muslims in earlier centuries expected to find lawful order in nature because they believed in a God who spoke the rationally comprehensible order into existence.
If you have read this far in my introduction, you may be interested in more of what I’ve discovered in the music of the past. Musicologists approach music through its structure. I’m a singer, so most of my effort has gone into vocal study and understanding drama on the operatic stage. I have some observations that I’ll be discussing in this forum. I say discussing because, though I’ve begun with a monologue, I’d like to get your opinions as we proceed. Some of the old landmarks in this musical culture are overgrown after generations of neglect, but the most important works of literature have often been used in operatic plots. The Faust legend has been with us for many centuries. Evidently bartering with Satan is of some interest in every era as evidenced by the recent box office hit movie Ghost Rider. The tale of Faust has been set to music by many composers. We’ll begin with Gounod’s version and listen to some excerpts. If I can’t convince you of the importance of this music for time and eternity, maybe while listening to it you will hear for yourself.”