A Q&A with Dr. Dirk von der Horst

Editor’s Note: In anticipation of our upcoming Oct 20, 2021 webinar with Dr. Dirk von der Horst Perry Kea posed the questions below to Dr. von der Horst to give us a glimpse into “Relation, Transience, and Injustice: Three Themes for Theology with Music.

Dr. Dirk von der Horst, you describe yourself as a theologian who works with music.  Can you say what that means for you?

Music, like language, is a means of making meaning.  To do theology with music is to pay careful attention to how music's meanings add to, shape, reform, clarify, or otherwise contribute to the theological task of discerning and making meaning in the world.

Who are some of the theologians who have shaped your own theology?

One of the most significant theologians for my perspective is Carter Heyward, a lesbian Episcopal priest who developed a definition of God as "our power in mutual relation."  Aside from Heyward, I would say Rosemary Radford Ruether, H. Richard Niebuhr, and Juan Luis Segundo have been the most formative.

Would you say just a bit about the three themes you will cover in your Westar presentation: relation, transience, and injustice?

The three themes of the talk - relation, transience, and injustice - all interrelate as aspects of Heyward's theological proposals.  If God is "our power in mutual relation," God is fully implicated in the changes and processes of relating to one another and is broken by patterns of unjust relations.  I will be exploring a well-known piece of music, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, as well as the disco version of it, Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven," through these three lenses.

What kinds of music do you most enjoy?

I grew up listening to and playing classical music, with a special fondness for 20th-century avant-garde music, such as Arnold Schoenberg, Pierre Boulez, and John Cage.  Late in college, I began to develop a particular love for seventeenth-century music and pursued a music history degree focusing on the seventeenth century.  Recently, I have had an unexpected connection with Country Music.

Thank you so much for your time.  We’re looking forward to our October 20th webinar with you!

Dirk von der Horst is Instructor of Religious Studies at Mount St. Mary's University, Los Angeles. He holds a doctorate in Theology, Ethics, and Culture from Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of Jonathan's Loves, David's Laments: Gay Theology, Musical Desires, and Historical Difference and co-editor of Voices of Feminist Liberation: Writings in Celebration of Rosemary Radford Ruether.

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