A couple of interesting stories about monks chanting…

[Here’s a story from a Benedictine monastery worth pondering:]

…chanting was curtailed in the mid-1960s as part of the modernisation efforts associated with the Second Vatican Council. The results could not have been more disastrous. The monks had been able to thrive on only about four hours sleep per night, provided they  were allowed to chant. Now they found themselves listless and exhausted, easily irritated, and susceptible to disease. Several doctors were called in, but none was able to alleviate the distress of the monastic community. Relief came finally, but only when Alfred Tomatis convinced the Abbot to reinstate chanting. As he recalled: ‘I was called in by the Abbot in February, and I found that 70 of the 90 monks were slumping in their cells like wet dishrags… I reintroduced chanting immediately. By November, almost all of them had gone back to their normal activities, that is their prayers, their few hours of sleep, and the legendary Benedictine work schedule.’ The decisive factor, it seems, had been a simple matter of sound.

– Ted Gioia, Healing Songs (2006), quoted in I. McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

[and this reminded me of a recent interview with actors from the French movie Of Gods and Men about how they were affected by the many hours of singing as they rehearsed for the film:]

…the actors were progressively transformed by the words and the musical tonality of these songs. Above all, they started to become a community. During the press conference in Cannes, Lambert Wilson expressed it clearly: “Through songs that elevate and unite us, we became brothers”.

The singing scenes also helped give rhythm to the story. They first allow us to see and hear the monastic community during its most frequent and regular activity: the seven daily offices, in other words, four hours of singing a day. “To chant psalms”, confides actor Olivier Rabourdin “is to breathe together, to share the Breath of Life”.

– Henry Quinson, “Monastic Songs”

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