A tourist visiting the famous cathedral at Chartres might be surprised to discover an enormous labyrinth embedded in the thirteenth-century floor. Why is it there? In this fascinating book Craig Wright explores the complex symbolism of the labyrinth in architecture, religious thought, music, and dance from the Middle Ages to the present.
The mazes incorporated into church floors and illustrating religious books were symbolic of an epic journey through this sinful world to salvation. A savior figure typically led the way along this harrowing spiritual path. Wright looks at other meanings of the maze as well, from religious dancing on church labyrinths to pagan maze rituals outside the church. He demonstrates that the theme inherent in spiritual mazes is also present in medieval song, in the Armed Man Masses of the Renaissance, and in compositions of the Enlightenment, including the works of J. S. Bach. But the thread that binds the maze to the church, to music, and to dance also ties it to the therapeutic labyrinth that proliferates today. For as this richly interdisciplinary history reveals, the maze of the "new age" spiritualists also traces its lineage to the ancient myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. While the hero of the maze may change from one culture to the next, the symbol endures.
The Maze and the Warrior is quite a book. The author wears his great learning with great lightness… He has fashioned this book for general readers rather than musicologists and musicians.
Wright’s maze is the labyrinth. His warrior is Theseus, Christ, the Christian soldier, l’homme armé, the pilgrim, or the lover, who enters the labyrinth to meet a challenge at its center and continues through the unicursal path to a victorious exit. In direct and engaging prose, this book traces the two symbols from their first appearance in literature and architecture, through their interpretations in theology, to the ceremonies, games, and performances they inspired… It is a work of major consequence… Wright’s book invites no less than a new appraisal of the history and historiography of Western music, one more cognizant of myth, belief, and symbol as generative forces in human creativity.
The book is a fascinating exploration of a neglected aspect of medieval religious culture which opens up multiple aspects of that culture through the author’s virtuoso power to unfold layer after layer of meaning from what might originally seem an innocuous symbol.
This book is a fascinating look at a subject that, while simple in concept, is intricate in the tapestry of ideas it combines. Wright weaves a fascinating tale of scholarly inquiry by examining the maze or labyrinth from the Middle Ages to the present in Western art, architecture, music, dance, and religious thought. The journey of the maze is from sin to salvation; the savior figure that leads us is the warrior and spiritual seeker… His particular emphasis on music is refreshing and enlivens readers’ understanding of the whole sensory experience of the Christian church. Most important, this work is a joy to read and reflect on.
This is an excellent book, by one of our leading musicologists. The Maze and the Warrior is a grand work, full of erudition, speculation, wisdom. It is a remarkable fusion of mystical and mythic interests with traditional humanistic disciplines.
Wright supplies deep grounding for today’s renewed interest in mazes. His cumulative description of the playful/serious historical mind fascinated by mazes, whether in poetry, gardens, churches, or music, contains some delightful surprises.
A book of immense erudition. At virtually every turn the reader finds information of considerable interest not only for music historians but also for art historians, liturgists, church historians, and even the modern social historian. Wright makes the traversal of his maze a particularly enjoyable and illuminating experience.
- 368 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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