The following essay is a sketch akin to how a painter might begin her own work. She prepares the canvas and then, perhaps tentatively, she begins to sketch her inspiration onto the canvas. Similarly, this essay is the beginning of a theological composition. These are phrases, riffs, from which I hope will emerge in time a full composition, an eschatological aesthetic of music.
The essay will be in four parts. In the first part I will develop an eschatological theology focusing on the work of Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar and baptist theologian James William McClendon. Von Balthasar is well known for his theological aesthetics and we all owe a debt to him in this regard. It is also true, however, that there are aspects to his theology with which a baptist audience may struggle. To ameliorate those specific concerns and take the conversation into baptist waters, I will move from von Balthasar to McClendon who develops a four-fold "portrait" of eschatology. What I hope to demonstrate is that they are both grasping for an understanding of the eschatological as the fruit of human engagement with the divine specifically through contemplation and the lived existence of the faithful, in short: aesthetics. Apocalypse, revelation, and eschatology, which are interrelated theological concepts, will all be addressed and situated alongside ethnomusicological scholarship to develop a eschatological aesthetic of music. From this foundation I will demonstrate three possible applications of such an aesthetic.
Thus, the second part of the essay is titled "The Power Pop Eschatology of U2", focusing on the lyrics of specific songs and the 360° Tour, specifically to demonstrate the eschatological sensibilities they employ in lyrical development. The third part of the essay will focus on the "here-but-not-yet" quality of musical improvisation. Situated on Bobby McFerrin's understanding of vocal improvisation and "Singing In the Dark." The fourth and final section moves from improvisation into composition where lyrics and music are intertwined to express a specific eschatological aesthetic. I will discuss my own arrangement of "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" and "Humbly I Adore Thee" and how I composed the arrangement in such a way as to express an eschatological aesthetic.