The beautiful, golden image on the cover of the December issue of Limelightshows angels playing musical instruments. It is from a triptych by Dutch artist Hans Memling, painted between 1483 and 1494, and has a definite Christmas feel about it. However, we are using it to relate to a fascinating feature called Evanescence and Permanence: Music, Religion and Immortalityby Carole M. Cusack, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney.

The cover of Limelight's December 2020 magazine
Subscribe to Limelight
by Sunday 15 November to receive a copy

In 1974, the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Denial of Death. Becker argued that art and religion are ‘immortality systems’, which help people deal with, and even transcend, their fear of death. Professor Cusack explores the close connection between religion, music and cultural rituals, and looks at what that means in the West today where organised religion is in decline, music has fragmented into numerous different genres, and rock bands can inspire as much devotion...

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.