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The Song That I Am

On the Mystery of Music
Élisabeth-Paule Labat; Translated and introduced by Erik Varden

ISBN: 9780879070601, MW040P
Details: 160 pgs , 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Publication Date: 04/02/2014


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The Song That I Am: On the Mystery of Music is a short but full-to-the-brim essay on the decisive role that great music (whether Bach, Tavener, or Gregorian chant) ought to play in the spiritual life. With admirable restraint Éllisabeth-Paule Labat shares her interior experience of music and thus continually opens up fresh vistas through worlds of sound and spirit. With her uncanny gift of language, Labat precisely describes soundings and yearnings of the soul that many of us glimpse fleetingly. Because "only the lover sings" (St. Augustine), her final illumination is that the experience of profound music ought to transform us into the beauty that we hear.

Élisabeth-Paule Labat, OSB (1897-1975) was born in Tarbes, France. After the Great War, she moved to Paris and studied at the Schola Cantorum. A brilliant pianist and composer, Labat also studied Gregorian chant. In 1922 she entered the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Michel de Kergonan in Brittany and took Élisabeth as her religious name. Labat is also author of Presence of God (Paulist Press).

"This book will be of interest to serious students of the theology of music and of the role of liturgical music. We should be grateful that it is finally available in English."
Anglican Theological Review

A remarkable . . . deeply Christian meditation on the liberating power of music. Labat's essay engages profoundly but also humbly with the transformative power of music that, assisted by grace, opens us to the call of beauty. Indeed, Labat's essay presents a discerning account of the experience of beauty especially as achieved through listening to and performing music and a theologically well-grounded account of the Christian significance of beauty in the contemplative life.
Michael C. Jordan, Editor, Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

A short but rich and complex book. . . . [W]e are listening to someone who is at once a professional musician by training and a Benedictine nun. . . . A significant book, and I warmly recommend it.
Christopher Francis, Latin Liturgy

"A breathtaking surge of inspired (and learned) exploration, triggered by the sound of a violin playing Mozart during an evening walk in wartime—pithy, challenging, and quite fascinating, carrying us, through music, towards `not something, but Someone.'"
Jennifer Smith, Professor at the Royal College of Music, London