The old saying used to be, “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out,” but in the case of modern-day soccer, it may be something like, “I went to a vuvuzela concert and a soccer match broke out.” Such is the word proffered by today’s Onion in its trademark, almost-believable tone, that “spontaneous high-caliber soccer games have thus far plagued every orchestral vuvuzela performance of the season.”

Pope Benedict XVI is known to have the highest form of discerning taste in music, which means intellectual jousting about the literally monotonous vuvuzelas may be inevitable during the pope’s upcoming visit to Britain. But if Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols has his way, vuvuzelas may go the way of liturgical dance when the pope arrives:

“I have had enough of them already,” says the Archbishop of Westminster. “I hope they stay in South Africa. Personally, I think the football would be more enjoyable without this constant cacophony.”

He is concerned that some people have got into the habit of using the plastic horns during the World Cup in South Africa and might not be able to resist using them when Pope Benedict XVI, pictured, addresses crowds in Britain. The pope is due to arrive in September for a state visit when he will meet the Queen and beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman.


But does Pope Benedict really care about the crowds’ penchant for vuvuzelas? We might look to Benedict’s The Spirit of the Liturgy , where we find mention of the perennial choice between Apollo and Dionysus—the sober, rational Apollo of liturgical music versus soccer’s patently Dionysian horns:
The writings of Plato and Aristotle on music show that the Greek world in their time was faced with a choice between two kinds of worship, two different images of God and man. Now what this choice came down to concretely was a choice between two fundamental types of music. On the one hand, there is the music that Plato ascribes, in line with mythology, to Apollo, the god of light and reason. This is the music that draws senses into spirit and so brings man to wholeness. It does not abolish the senses, but inserts them into the unity of this creature that is man. It elevates the spirit precisely by wedding it to the senses, and it elevates the senses by uniting them with the spirit. Thus this kind of music is an expression of man’s special place in the general structure of being. But then there is the music that Plato ascribes to Marsyas, which we might describe, in terms of cultic history, as “Dionysian.” It drags man into the intoxication of the senses, crushes rationality, and subjects the spirit to the senses.

Articles by Kevin Staley-Joyce

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