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Director, Dave Frank School of Jazz
Speaking from a Christian perspective however, I can't accept that these spiritual experiences she claimed to have had were the 'residual energy' or the 'posthumous visitation from a former musical genius'. The Bible makes it clear that when a person dies, put simply, while their body remains on earth, their spirit is no longer on earth. This why, while I agree that Rosemary Brown herself believed that she had had some sort of spiritual experiences, I don't accept that they were the ghosts of former composers - that simply wouldn't be possible!
The immediate criticism to what I just said will be, "Well, you're just being closed-minded". Well, for a brief moment, take the Christian perspective out of the equation. Rosemary Brown's convictions still don't hold up to closer logical scrutiny but instread, leave many unanswered questions:
1. Rosemary claimed that the musical geniuses with whom she claimed to interact either "pushed her hands", dictated music or sang the music to her. Given the accomplishment of these composers as composers and musicians, how could someone who claimed to have a limited musical training actually transcribe music she could not possibly have played? From a educational perspective, the playing and reading always precedes the written development. If Rosemary Brown was an "unaccomplished musician", implying her limited playing ability, how could she ever record more advanced and elaborate genres and styles?
2. There has been some criticism about the actual musical ability of Rosemary Brown which also beckons some closer examination. Her "level" of musicality is inconsistently defined. It ranges from no training, to limited training, to her being raised in a musical household. Had she a very musical exposure from childhood, no doubt, she would have encountered these pieces. Why these inconsistencies? Did she REALLY suffer from a strange case of amnesia? Did she REALLY forget that she had advanced musical skills?
3. Let's go to the other extreme and take, for a moment, that she was in fact an accomplished musician. Some critics of her pieces consider her transcriptions to be reworkings and not fresh compositions. These sorts of criticisms seem to suggest that Rosemary improvised the pieces. Speaking from personal experience, improvising develops out of exposure to a range of composers, their words and those pieces belong to other genres. Depending, though not always, on what you play and enjoy most when you play, will undoubtedly impact the style towards which you will lean while improvising. This is why a someone who wishes to be a good improviser ought to expose him/herself to a range of genres.
4. Given the social restrictions placed upon women living during the Victorian period, could her bold claims have been some construed attempt to place her in some sort of prominence when the social climate at the time would have prohibited her from doing so under normal circumstances?
By whatever means she managed to produce these pieces, it is still a very impressive feat. Did Liszt, to name only one, have some last minute trinkets to share with the living that he didn't have time to share or that he simply forgot to share while he himself was alive? "But the pieces she recorded are in the same style as....!" Does that mean we jump of the "paranormal bus" and sensationalise something that we can not prove or test?
Re spirits being 'no longer on earth' - I'm 'no longer in the kitchen'. Doesn't mean I can't talk to Long-Suffering Eric who IS in the kitchen, and communicate with him. I have seen incontrovertible evidence (well, I was satisfied!) of communication from beyond death, so I believe it to be possible. However, whether the notoriously short-tempered Ludwig would have chosen a middle aged housewife from Balham with minimal musical ability as his amanuensis is debatable!
Well tbh, Gill, I think you're taking a simplistic view on it. I have strong views about mediums and what they do, undoubtedly influenced by my faith, however how do they know what they are talking to? How can a medium tell that it is really that person (which, again I don't credit) and not an imitating/ copycat spirit? Mediums are certainly getting info from somewhere with detail that no one on earth could provide - that is evidence of spiritual activity but beyond that, we can't be certain of much more. Just because XXXX XXXXX says that he is talking to your Great Grandmother doesn't mean to say that he's hearing messages from your Great Grandmother - messages from "the spirit world" don't come with a disclaimer or fraud protection claus that authenticates any given message from a medium. So why do we believe it? Because some stranger on a TV show says so? I've known people who have gone to fortune-tellers and hear about who they're going to marry and how many children they're going to have and, in the fullness of time, the outcome couldn't have been more wrong! So, at best, it's unreliable info.
I do believe that spiritual activity is real but it's also an evasive and undefined area, even for those who think they're in control. But just because it exists does not automatically suppose that every strange, mysterious or inexplicable act such as that in the case of Rosemary Brown ought to be bundled in with "the paranormal". Her case could easily be explained away, even without the point I wrongly made about sexual prejudice in society when she was alive.
what about Saul and the Witch of Endor? The Bible does not make it clear whether it was actually the ghost of Samuel, a charlatan or a demon.
Also, in the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah stood next to Jesus. Now, whether they were allowed special dispensation to come out of heaven, whether their spirits were on the earth and were drawn to Jesus, or whether it was simply a vision for the disciples is unclear in scripture.
Also, there are passages in the Bible which point to no afterlife until judgement, and passages that point to the soul living on no matter what.
I'm not trying to prove you wrong, (believe me I'm not), but I'm saying that sometimes the teachings of the church, or a particular branch of the church might seem clear when scripture isn't.
The question is, is it possible for the dead to contact us? Well, I guess we simply do not know the answer to that, even if we study it in scripture, for who knows how God orchestrates the world of spirit (if there is indeed a world of spirit - by that I mean, even from a Christian perspective, the dead may remain unconscious) except for God? Just a thought.
They accepted the Apocrypha, which is why the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion amongst others have it included in the bible between the testaments. Luther disagreed that it should be considered scripture, possibly because it wasn't considered scripture by the Jews, and also that in all of the old testament references in the new, there are no references to the apocrypha, apparently.
The gnostic gospels, Thomas, Mary Magdelen, and many others that were never included, are very interesting. They don't necessarily contradict what is in the biblical gospels, but I think they weren't included because they showed a more human side to Jesus, when the bible is showing a more supernatural side. Of course, it's always down to faith what one decides about Jesus.
The music of Rosemary Brown, anyway, is an interesting case. It is perhaps a very well constructed hoax. Perhaps she DID have musical ability, perhaps someone else was writing for her and they shared profits of TV appearances? Perhaps she really was channelling. I have a small book on her, with the bias that it's all genuine. I'd like to read more from the hoax point of view. It's all pretty compelling stuff.