The A to Z of Spiritual Music: a users guide (concert version)

Flute/Bb Clarinet/Violin/'Cello/vibraphone/Marimba/Harp/Piano

The A to Z of Spiritual music: a user's guide was originally commissioned by the Seymour Group (later named 'The Sonic Arts Ensemble', Sydney) and produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) as an online website project. It exists in a number of iterations: chamber music, choral and music theatre performance.


The A to Z … is a collection of sounds, images, memories and definitions. While not exhaustive, its encyclopedic approach of the full version lists phenomena, concepts underpinning the western spiritual ethos and techniques used by composers and musicians to evoke this ethos.


The A to Z… does not deify music. It catalogues devices and various states associated with meaningfulness and transcendence.  It does not refer to “values” which are more aligned to morality or institutional approaches to spirituality. It treats the spiritual as one’s engagement with life. The ‘spiritual’ in western music is somewhat slippery to define yet, however, it lies at the bottom of many expectations of music. Music is able to address indescribable concepts of soul and spirituality. Concepts such as the sublime and heavenly are easily transferred into sonic structures without the use of words. This translation is done via music and phenomenology: music embodies the meaning and our experience of various spiritual concepts.  An important part of this transfer is the common acceptance of certain sounds in having a symbolic meaning. For example, the use of a pulse to refer to action as can be heard in chase scenes in film. This is the domain of music semiology: the attribution of cultural meanings to various sonic gestures and shapes.

Performance Notes

1. The order presented here is a suggested version, however, other orderings or subsets are possible.

2. Each dictionary definition for each work can be either screen projected as a slide or placed in the concert program notes.

3. The commentaries accompanying each work can be spoken by a speaker or placed in the concert program.

The ABC website version of this work is no longer accessible. The version presented here is a concert version. See choral and  music theatre works for other versions.

R: Resonance

A: Ascent

D: Descent

E: Epiphany

E: Enthusiasm

L: Lingering

J: Joy

S: Soaring

M: Mourning

P: Peace

G: Grace

F: Flight