Received wisdom

Norrington’s genius is not really for persuading.  It’s for provoking, and for liberating us from the dead weight of received “wisdom.”

-Richard Morrison, BBC Music Magazine

Sir Roger Norrington is a conductor whose unconventional musical interpretations have informed the art-music world.  Morrison’s entire article on this musical iconoclast was fair and equally informative.

Far from mere questions of period sensitivity and strict interpretation of questionable tempo markings in composers’ scores, though, a more significant question is begged in my longing heart:  Will a “provoker” arise among Christians to liberate us all in the same vein? 

I am usually discouraged, but only rarely surprised anymore, by the influence that received “church wisdom” seems to have among otherwise thinking people.  Since the Apostle Paul was already writing needed correctives in the middle of the first century, it stands to reason that later theological developments were likely to have moved further from the original intent.  This natural presupposition causes me to look curiously and cautiously, not adoringly or subserviently, at the writings of “church fathers” and at the practices of believing communities in the 2nd, 4th, and 16th centuries, etc.

Although we must learn from later history (in which God did not inspire as He did in the earliest days), we dare not worship it.


2 thoughts on “Received wisdom

  1. Eugene Golden 09/30/2017 / 7:12 pm

    I agree totally with the article of Richard Morrison “For classical music to survive, we need to shout about its benefits” described in BBC Music Magazine, September 2017 issue, to which I subscribe. I am the Executive/Artistic Director of The Music Guild, Los Angeles’ oldest (73 years) chamber music nonprofit organization in Los Angeles. I am doing what Mr. Morrison urges be done…presenting classical chamber music to Alzheimer residents, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other severely disordered veterans, autistic children and the Braille Institute residents and supply free pianos to the Veterans Hospital without government support. I would like to obtain copies of Creative Health and Rethinking Relationhips, The benefits are as described by Mr Morrison. (See


    • Brian Casey 10/01/2017 / 6:17 am

      Congratulations on good charitable work in music. Such was not the emphasis of this post, nor have I any other acquaintance with the writing of Richard Morrison, whose quote I employed to extend to another purpose. Still, I’m glad to know just a bit about your work.


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