Spirituality in the Music of Edmund Rubbra

Cradduck, Lucinda (2019). Spirituality in the Music of Edmund Rubbra. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e658


Edmund Rubbra’s music has frequently been described as spiritual, religious, contemplative or mystical by commentators, usually linking such descriptions to his mid-life conversion to Roman Catholicism and to his interest in Eastern thought. The title of this thesis sums up these qualities under the label ‘spirituality’, a term chosen deliberately for its potential to embrace a range of meanings. The aim of the thesis is twofold: to examine the various strands in Rubbra’s life that contribute to his spirituality, positioning them both biographically and within the context of contemporaneous English culture; and to show, through detailed analysis coupled with an interpretative stance, how these aspects of his spirituality are reflected in his music. The study is structured thematically, chapters dealing in turn with Rubbra’s youthful involvement with Theosophy; his work with dancers during the early years of his career, which can be shown to have a spiritual dimension; his lifelong interest in Eastern religions and philosophies; and his spiritual response to nature. The final two chapters consider two themes with a more Christian emphasis: Rubbra’s enthusiasm for Teilhard de Chardin’s writings, which seek to reconcile Christian faith with scientific evolutionary theory, and his fascination with the figure of Christ himself. By taking a broad and nuanced view of Rubbra’s spirituality, and by subjecting the music itself to close analytical scrutiny, the thesis presents a more multi-faceted view of Rubbra’s life and music than is available in the existing literature and contributes towards a scholarly re-evaluation of Rubbra’s place within twentieth-century British music.

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