Thursday, November 10, 2011

Music and Interfaith

The corresponding video can be found at:

11/10/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: logs in on 11/10/2011 12:43 pm (et).
11/10/2011 12:54 pm (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 11/10/2011 12:54 pm (et).
11/10/2011 12:56 pm (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 11/10/2011 12:56 pm (et).
11/10/2011 1:00 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: logs in on 11/10/2011 1:00 pm (et).
11/10/2011 1:00 pm (et) Megan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 11/10/2011 1:00 pm (et).
11/10/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. Let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
11/10/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Music and Interfaith,’ featuring Rev. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of IFC, and Lakshmi Swaminathan, Director of the Natananjali School of Dance who will be performing at IFC's Annual InterFaith Concert.
11/10/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: This chat is in honor of IFC's 32nd Annual InterFaith Concert that takes place Tuesday, November 15, 2012 at 7:30 PM at the Washington National Cathedral. Ticket information is at
11/10/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from ‘soapboxing.’ If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
11/10/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it leads to some issues.
11/10/2011 1:02 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: logs in on 11/10/2011 1:02 pm (et).
11/10/2011 1:04 pm (et) LGomez: private message to Moderator: logs in on 11/10/2011 1:04 pm (et).
11/10/2011 1:05 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Does anyone know why a religion like Islam tends to shy away from music and song in the context of worship while most religions use these artforms as an expression of faith?
11/10/2011 1:06 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I know that sufis have ritual dance but nothing of the sort, nor song nor music in mainstream Islam
11/10/2011 1:07 pm (et) Moderator: We did have a Muslim group perform at our concert last year. They had a wonderful presentation that included drums and chant.
11/10/2011 1:09 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: The Muslim group last year was from Indonesia and shared out of their heart of their tradition, using part of the Islamic Call to Prayer and other sharing from the Islamic tradition.
11/10/2011 1:10 pm (et) myownenigma37: private message to Moderator: logs in on 11/10/2011 1:10 pm (et).
11/10/2011 1:10 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Yes, it seems the call to prayer is about the only thing the Muslim groups have been able to offer consistently. Chanting is not quite the same thing as music and song.
11/10/2011 1:10 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: You talk about music as communication, do you think it is an easier or harder form of communication than normal dialogue?
11/10/2011 1:12 pm (et) Moderator: myownenigma37 said: I know of some Muslim music groups but they are more of the radio genre
11/10/2011 1:12 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I mean some people talk about music as a universal language but it must be harder to exactly convey what is happening as it is open to interpretation?
11/10/2011 1:13 pm (et) Moderator: myownenigma37 said: but one in particular Ilike is an interfaith group, two muslims and one catholic
11/10/2011 1:13 pm (et) Moderator: myownenigma37 said: and they speak mostly on relevant issues in the muslim community
11/10/2011 1:13 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I would observe that music is communication from the right brain (emotions) while dialogue is communication from the left brain (rational). When it comes to faith, I think that the emotions communicate things that rational dialogue can't
11/10/2011 1:13 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: What I love about music is exactly that- it is open to interpretation.
11/10/2011 1:14 pm (et) Moderator: myownenigma37 said: I think it depends on the music and lyrics as to interpretation... as in, are they clear and to the point or are they more artistic and lend to interpretation
11/10/2011 1:14 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I think musical communication is about feeling, not thinking
11/10/2011 1:15 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Somehow I lost most of what I was going to say. The 32nd annual InterFaith Concert will be next Tuesday, Nov. 15th from 7:30 to 9:00 pm at Washington National Cathedral,
Massachusetts Avenue
Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

11/10/2011 1:15 pm (et) Moderator: myownenigma37 said: I think it is both feeling and thinking, when words are present
11/10/2011 1:16 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Bringing the idea of feeling, I think automatically of Rudolf Otto and his idea of the mysterium tremendum. In his eyes the feeling being conveyed is all the same across traditions, do you think that is the case?
11/10/2011 1:16 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: Music without words can also communicate emotions beautifully.
11/10/2011 1:16 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: myownenigma: you do have a point. If it were ONLY about feeling, no words needed
11/10/2011 1:16 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: As to Laura's first question, I'm quite sure the decision not to have song or dance in the Islamic tradition goes back to the sayings of Prophet Muhammad or the revelation to him from the Angel Gabriel.
11/10/2011 1:17 pm (et) Moderator: myownenigma37 said: I agree
11/10/2011 1:17 pm (et) Moderator: myownenigma37 said: Clark, can you elaborate?
11/10/2011 1:17 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: We have had the Islamic Call to Prayer at nearly every concert. We have also often had a recitation/chanting of a passage of the Qur'an.
11/10/2011 1:19 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I've been to Sikh temples and heard their kirtan singing quite often. Naturally, it is in a language I do not speak so I do not understand the words, but i still appreciate the sound and rythmn - very meditative. perhaps thinking about the meaning of the words (interpreting) would actually detract from the value that comes from feelings generated by music
11/10/2011 1:20 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: More recently an imam on our Board has encouraged us to have a greater variety of presentation from the Islamic community.
11/10/2011 1:21 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: and he was the one who arranged for the Indonesian group to participate last year for the second time.
11/10/2011 1:21 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: That seems to point to something that is indescrible. I mean maybe being unable to condense 'music' to just words speaks to the idea that there is something even greater that can not be put into words
11/10/2011 1:22 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: It seems to be a belief that is widespread among traditions, so each is expressing a similar concept at a concert such as the one Tuesday
11/10/2011 1:22 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: One year, perhaps two, we have had a modern Islamic group chant the Call to Prayer in succession from three different places in the sanctuary we were in, as if we were hearing it from three neighboring village mosques! It was beautiful!
11/10/2011 1:24 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: 'the Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao'
11/10/2011 1:24 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: The underlying concept in some of our dances is to reach God. So the content can be devotional and when we perform before an audience, the emotions present in our dance is perceived and enjoyed by the audience.
11/10/2011 1:25 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Still, the question lingers - why does Islam not have more music and song as part of its expression of faith (in contrast, there are thousands of hymns and praise and folk songs associated with Judaism and Christianity and other religions)
11/10/2011 1:26 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I understand why Islam does not have visual artistic representation (beyond abstract design and caligraphy), but I've never heard or read anything about why no music/song
11/10/2011 1:28 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Music is such an integral part of liturgy as well, I don't really remember who said it or to what exactly the context was but someone once said that a man who sings prays twice
11/10/2011 1:28 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Laura, I wish we had a knowledgable Muslim on this week who could quote from the Qur'an and/or Hadith why there is no music or song in Islamic worship. There is, as you no doubt know, singing and dancing in Islamic culture such as a wedding ceremony, but not in the mainstream Muslim religious services.
11/10/2011 1:28 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Lakshmi, Hindu dance is actually storytelling, isn't it? Sort of like Hawiian dance?
11/10/2011 1:29 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: That is just one aspect of our dance but yes, a very important aspect.
11/10/2011 1:30 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Clark, has there been much Christian liturgical dance at past concerts?
11/10/2011 1:30 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Clark, would you explain the unity/diversity distinction you made? Where is the unity you see and where is the diversity? (I mean perhaps beyond the superficial visual aspects)
11/10/2011 1:30 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: Since this dance form originated in the temples and was performed as an offering to the deities, most of the songs are usually in praise of a Hindu God or Goddess and describes them, as well as stories associated with them.
11/10/2011 1:31 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Storytelling is such an important part of diverse faith traditions. It is an essential part of passing on the faith to our children, for example. Illiterate Christians, for example, learned key stories of their faith from carvings in stone on crosses or in icons from Ethiopia, etc. etc.
11/10/2011 1:32 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So what would you say your dancers are conveying, the story of the god/goddess, their devotion, or something else?
11/10/2011 1:33 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Also Clark, what would you say contributes to the success of the concert? You said it was on its 32nd year right?
11/10/2011 1:34 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: Both- they convey the story through their movements and facial expressions, but unless they dance with devotion, the intensity of the emotions underlying these dances will not be communicated to the audience.
11/10/2011 1:35 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I have to suspect that the IFC annual concert is the longest, continually running IFC event, as well as drawing the highest number of people in attendance. I guess that a lot more people enjoy the performance than they might enjoy the more intellectually challenging dialogues
11/10/2011 1:35 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan:
11/10/2011 1:35 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Each year, Susan, we experience diverse faith communities sharing out of the heart of their tradition and we experience the unity of our traditions shared through our combined choir in anthems at beginning and end of the concert. We're in for a real treat on Tuesday night!
11/10/2011 1:36 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Why does it seem that this year's concert has significantly fewer faith communities involved in the performances?
11/10/2011 1:37 pm (et) Moderator: Megan said: How many faith communities does the concert normally have?
11/10/2011 1:37 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Our Board of Directors decided 2 1/2 years ago that the concert would be 90 minutes long and feature just five of our member faith communities. It had grown to 2 1/4 hours (on a weeknight!) with all of our faith traditions participating.
11/10/2011 1:38 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do you think music adds something you can't get in the dialogues?
11/10/2011 1:38 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: We'll have narrators from the traditions who participated last year and will participate next year.
11/10/2011 1:39 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I agree with you Laura that it seems to attract more people because it is not a theological discussion, but are they getting something that is not available in the dialogues/
11/10/2011 1:39 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I would agree that keeping the time down (on a weekday evening especially) is a good idea.
11/10/2011 1:39 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: I think so, Susan.
11/10/2011 1:39 pm (et) Moderator: I will proudly say that we did keep the concert to the 90 minutes last year to a huge success!
11/10/2011 1:40 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: In response to Susan's last question, a concert is different than a spoken dialogue and can open us up in ways we might not be ready for in a spoken dialogue.
11/10/2011 1:40 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What do you think that extra something is Lakshmi?
11/10/2011 1:41 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: That's interesting Clark, have you had experience with that (if you feel comfortable to share)?
11/10/2011 1:42 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: When Dean Nathan Baxter came to his first Concert, he wondered to himself if he had done the right thing in hosting the Concert when he was Hindus dancing and singing down the aisle. He sensed Jesus saying to him in response, "Get a hold of yourself, Nathan. This is what heaven will be like!"
11/10/2011 1:42 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I imagine, for starters, simply be a passive audience is easier than being asked to participate in dialogue
11/10/2011 1:42 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: If you asked me to define it, I would find it hard to do so- but music touches my soul in a way that is indescribable. There is a sufi song from a movie called Jodha Akbar, that always moves me intensely as does ...Silent Night.
11/10/2011 1:43 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: in the concert, those in attendence do not have to share, they only listen and soak it in.
11/10/2011 1:45 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: True, but that could also be an obstacle, Laura, I imagine that something so powerful would evoke a desire to respond. Clark, is there any chance for response?
11/10/2011 1:45 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: True enough, Laura, but consistently our participating groups given rave ratings for the event because they have been "in attendance" when they were not actively participating, which is most of the concert.
11/10/2011 1:47 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I was thinking in terms of the passive audience - the thousands of people who buy tickets just to listen - why so many, for so many years, come to this event over and above all other IFC events. Is it just better advertised?
11/10/2011 1:47 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: I think the concert is a beautiful way for people of different faiths to see the various ways, be it through music or dance, that people communicate with God.
11/10/2011 1:48 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Or perhaps it's just become a staple of the DC area events at this time of year?
11/10/2011 1:49 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Opportunities for response vary. For example there will be one or two hymns sung by the congregation and printed in the program. Most people love this because they do not have the opportunity to sing with so many other people. A different kind of response if sharing with someone you met at the concert, perhaps by sitting next to them. A third kind of response would be after the concert -- what you say to others, perhaps persons of different faiths or cultures whom you see in your neighborhood, or store, or PTA or at work. The Concert hopefully opens you to have conversations with persons whom you haven't talked with before.
11/10/2011 1:52 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: The Concert this year will be one of the very first public events in the main sanctuary of the Cathedral after it reopens Saturday from being closed for nearly 3 months because of earthquake damage. A business leader has described the concert as "one of Washington's most inspiring evenings."
11/10/2011 1:53 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Was there any concern that IFC might have to find a different location due to the closing of the Cathedral?
11/10/2011 1:54 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: I sure hope you will join us this Tuesday night at Washington National Cathedral for one of Washington's most inspiring evenings! Get your ticket(s) by going to "" Tickets are just $15 and $30 with a very special price of $7. for students. All will pay on line at "". Students will pick up their ticket(s) the night of the concert after showing their student ID.
11/10/2011 1:55 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Clark, do you personally have a favorite venue for this concert? My favorite is the Shrine - something about both the grandure of the space and the way the sound reverberates there. I find the Catheral space too has too much echo
11/10/2011 1:57 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: The venues that are chosen, do they have a specific significance (besides being a place of worship)?
11/10/2011 1:57 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Laura, I never doubted that our Concert would be in the Cathedral. My only surprise was how long it stayed closed! God bless the Cathedral and its staff and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. After rescheduling to different locations many earlier events after the earthquake, the Cathedral pushed hard to be ready for the consecration of the 9th Episcopal Bishop of Washington this Saturday, Nov. 12th. So while they could not host our combined rehearsal November 8th, they are looking forward to hosting our 32nd InterFaith Concert on Tuesday, Nov. 15th.
11/10/2011 1:59 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Is IFC still just using the same three venues it has used for years (rotating between DC Hebrew Congregation, National Cath, and the Shrine)?
11/10/2011 1:59 pm (et) Moderator: Alright everyone, we have just a minute left, so please finish any thoughts.
11/10/2011 2:00 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: The Concert for years has rotated between the Cathedral, Washington Hebrew Congregation (where it will be next year on Tuesday evening, Nov. 13, 2012) and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where it was last year. These three sites are part of 3 of our founding faith communities -- Protestant, Jewish and Roman Catholic -- and also welcome us every third year.
11/10/2011 2:00 pm (et) Lakshmi Swaminathan: We are really looking forward to the concert and performing in it as well as watching and experiencing the other presentations.
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