A Jesuit priest in Italy hosts a night featuring electronic music at the 15th-century Jesuit church on Milan’s San Fedele Square.
Father Antonio Pileggi, 57, presents a night of music at the San Fedele Cultural Centre featuring experimental electronic composers Maryanne Amacher and Tim Hecker. Next month, Pileggi will host a concert by Alessandro Cortini, who plays the keyboard for the American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. Cortini will play on a self-designed Strega synthesizer at the upcoming concert.
“The musicians we choose are people who are open to the spiritual and sacred dimension,” Pileggi told The Guardian. “Many of the first ones were surprised by meeting a priest at a music festival, but by now, the news has spread.”
Prior to his conversion, Pileggi was a composer of contemporary instrumental music. He first received training in his native Calabria and then in Paris under the inspiration of Boulez, Stockhausen, and Messiaen.
“I didn’t believe in God at the time. I was even a bit anti-clerical,” he recounted. “But at one point, I found myself in a church in Paris, one Saturday evening, during the celebration of the sung mass. I didn’t know why, but I kept coming back every week. I was feeling that something inside me was changing.”
In 1998, he joined the Jesuits at the age of 32. During that time, music took on a whole new meaning for him.
“I witnessed the beautiful psalms sung in the monasteries, and I listened to the music of praise to God: I was learning another way of seeing music.”
In 2009, Pileggi began to organize concerts again after he was called to Belgium from Milan. He would look into ancient music and contemporary composers, jazz and live soundtracks, and silent films. During his first invitation to Hecker to hold a concert in 2013, the priest realized that there was an openness to spirituality by experimental musicians, even if it was not orthodox religion.
“We saw a new audience with whom we want to engage,” Pileggi explains.
As a result, the Inner Spaces festival was born, focusing on ethereal and spiritual expressions of electronic, ambient, and experimental music.
“For us, the listening dimension is fundamental. Our most important sense is hearing. In the Bible, one of the most important verbs is ‘listen,’ the word of God must be listened to,” he stressed.
“And I have noticed that music can have this function of stimulating attention towards listening. Even if it is not music directly linked to the sacred, it brings us closer to the dimension of interiority, where we return to ourselves.”
In recent years, churches have come under fire for holding similar concerts. In May of this year, far-right Catholic protesters picketed a drone festival in Carnac, western France, holding signs that read “Electro concert in a church – what are our bishops doing?”
Last year, activists in Nantes blocked a church concert featuring the Swedish darkwave musician Anna von Hausswolff.
Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/sedmak
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.
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