This is a model based a Humanistic, perspective of scientific naturalism. Here, transcendence refers not to claims of other-worldliness but to the transcendence of previous limitations, either our own or the limitations of what people previously thought possible. For example, a person may transcend her previous limitations by making a breakthrough in some area of personal development, that is, by doing something that he had never done before and perhaps did not think he could do. On a larger scale, Einstein transcended the previous limits of physics with his theory or general relativity.
Breaking through a previous limitation may feel as though we have entered another world. Perhaps this is what Paul Kurtz had in mind with his book title The Transcendental Temptation. I agree with Dr. Kurtz’s critique of the other-worldly and the paranormal but depart from his exclusive focus on a literalist understanding of transcendental experiences. They are useful, liberating, enlightening and spiritual if interpreted for what they are: human experiences that seem as though we have been transported to another world. All that is necessary is that we remain in touch with reality as we enjoy the ride that the experience affords us.
Ludwig van Beethoven transcended the art of musical composition. To do it, he had to transcend his deafness and the emotional torments of his youth.
- Elliott Forbes, ed., Thayer's Life of Beethoven, Part 1, (Princeton University Press, revised edition, 1991).
- Elliott Forbes, ed., Thayer's Life of Beethoven, Part 2, (Princeton University Press, revised edition, 1967).
- François Martin Mai, Diagnosing Genius: The Life and Death of Beethoven (McGill-Queens University Press, 2007).
- Alfred Christlieb Kalischer, ed., Beethoven's Letters (1926).
Breaking social and political barriers:
- Martha S. Jones, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (Basic Books, 2020): “. . . an elegant and expansive history of Black women who sought to build political power where they could.”
- Valentin Serov, Anna Pavlova in the Ballet Sylphide (1909)
- Edgar Degas, The Star (Dancer on Stage) (1876-77)
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Paganini wrote his “Moto Perpetuo” for violin. Rafael Mendez and Sergei Nakariakov have played it spectacularly on trumpet.
- Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and Jeff Lynne, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is widely renowned as the greatest art song singer in the era of recorded music. His superb phrasing, tone, dynamic and linguistic expression, and his thoroughgoing understanding of the music sets him apart from other performers, however brilliant they were or are. His renditions of Schubert’s lieder are especially fine.
- Schubert, Winterreise, with Moore
- Schubert, Winterreise, with Brendel
- Schubert, Winterreise, with Pollini
- Schubert, Winterreise, with Barenboim
- Schubert, lieder, with Moore, 1968-69
- Schubert, lieder, with Richter
- Schubert, Die schöne Müllerin, with Moore, 1972
- Schubert, Die schöne Müllerin, with Moore, 1968
- Schubert, Die schöne Müllerin, with Eschenbach, 1991
- Schubert, Schwanengesang (Swan Song)
- Brahms, 30 lieder, with Moore
- Brahms, 28 lieder, with Barenboim
- Schumann, lieder, with Höll, 1988
- Strauss, lieder, with Pleyel, 1964
- 1965 recital, with Richter
- Master class, 2003
- documentary, 1995
Enrico Caruso is still widely regarded as history's greatest operatic singer.
- Joachim, Violin Concerto in the Hungarian Style, Op. 11: This concerto requires extraordinary virtuosity in the soloist.
- Zaimont, ASTRAL . . . a mirror life on the astral plane . . . (2004, rev. 2009): "Slowly tracks the spirit's elevation through eleven stages, from expressive contemplation through unease and turbulence, to final arrival and affirmation."
- Whitbourn, Luminosity (2008), a song and dance cycle of choral works devoted to figures in Christianity: “The focus in all the elements is on transcendent beauty and eternal love.” (Bernard Robertson, from the liner notes to this album)
- Raga Kalavati (Kalawati), a midnight raag (performances by Sharma, Mukherjee and Banerjee)
- Miles Davis, “The Complete 1964 Concert”: “My Funny Valentine”
- Enrico Fazio Critical Mass, “Wabi Sabi” (when a critical mass is reached, old boundaries are transcended)
- Alice Coltrane, “Transcendence”
- Laila Lalami, The Moor’s Account: A Novel (Pantheon Books, 2014): “Lalami sees the story as a form of moral and spiritual instruction that can lead to transcendence: ‘Maybe if our experiences, in all of their glorious, magnificent colors, were somehow added up, they would lead us to the blinding light of the truth.’ And ‘the only thing at once more precious and more fragile than a true story,’ she reminds us, ‘is a free life.’”
- Yaa Gyasi, Transcendent Kingdom: A Novel (Knopf, 2020): “The transcendent kingdom of this Ghanaian, Southern, American novel is finally not a Christian or a scientific one, but the one that two women create by surviving a hostile environment, and maintaining their primal connection to each other.”
I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious, is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.
[Stephen Spender, “I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great”]