Rejoicing of the Law - The Burden of Freedom
The festival Musica Sacra Maastricht is to take place in Maastricht from Thursday 15 through Sunday, 18 September 2011. The theme of the 29th edition of this versatile arts festival will be the Rejoicing of the Law. Historical locations in the city centre of Maastricht – and the unique location of the Sint Benedictusberg in Vaals – serve as the setting for many concerts and performances, all related to the linking theme of the festival.
We enjoy harping about freedom and we want as little as possible to do with interferences and limitations in that respect. The French Revolution linked the cry for freedom to demands for equality and brotherhood and with that, subjected that freedom to limits. Liberals in the Netherlands believed and believe the limits of freedom are determined by democratic functioning. The youngest political movement, which uses freedom as the only principle in its name, is most in favour of harsher punishments. Can freedom exist on its own? As a concept, God’s free nature is a romantic misconception, as any biologist will endorse. The margins of food, reproduction and survival are simply too narrow. The unconditional freedom, as proclaimed in the sixties, did not bring what was expected of it. It was ultimately experienced as impeding and aggravating. And there are more examples in which freedom is at the risk of yielding precisely the opposite. Or as Jonathan Franzen recently curtly put it: ‘Freedom is a pain in the ass.’
It is striking that the uninhibited play of children – and what can be freer than that? – naturally goes hand in hand with the application of strict rules. They sometimes come about as the play unfolds. And he who breaks the rules, is excluded from the game. Soccer without rules of play is inconceivable. And so it becomes all the more fascinating when the rules are pushed to the limit. A flagrant violation is immediately met with a yellow or red card. Composers and writers are often more successful in their intention when they conform to stringent provisions that they have established beforehand as the rules of play. Which monumental results did not come about thanks to this method of working? Bach’s Art of the Fugue and Musical Offering are only two examples. Freedom, evidently, is not done justice unless in a situation of restraint. This does not mean that freedom is then no longer freedom.
This insight is not new. It has been repeatedly argued and lived both within and outside the Christian tradition. It was and is demonstrated in the lives of conventuals across the entire world. The Jewish tradition recognises the celebration of the Rejoicing of the Law, which is celebrated annually, not because of the limiting provisions as imposed by the Torah, but because of the fertility and germinative power worded therein. The right laws alleviate not only the burden of an all too dissolute and therefore paralysing freedom, but are precisely, mirabele dictu, what stand at the basis of developing freedom. The apostle Paul speaks of ‘the perfect law that brings freedom.’ It should be evident that not every law is perfect. Musica Sacra Maastricht 2011 raises the matter of the delicate and complex balance between law and freedom, between limitation and development and it does so on the pretext of: The Rejoicing of the Law – The Burden of Freedom.
The programming committee