As the title suggests, Scoring Transcendence by Kutter Calloway (Baylor University Press, 2013) is concerned with parsing the theological implications of film music. Callaway’s thesis is premised on the notion that the divine Spirit is present and active in all human activities, including those activities outside the bounds of traditional religion. His goal in writing is to help readers become aware of the Spirit’s activity, particularly in our film experiences.
Callaway begins by showing that films, particularly film scores, have the potential to provide first-order spiritual encounters with the Transcendent. Using Pixar’s short library of animated films, his first set of examples will be accessible to most readers. Moreover, by starting with a list of films many would initially dismiss as “children’s movies,” Callaway is able to make a plausible case with more clarity and less effort than if he had begun with less accessible films like “The Tree of Life.”
Methodologically, Callaway engages in second order theological reflection by analyzing film scores, while first-order theological experiences are drawn from personal interviews with movie-goers and from his own encounters with the divine in film. This is essential to his argument that “’meaning’ emerges through the interplay between both the film’s form and the film’s reception.” In other
words, meaning cannot be solely deduced through the process of analytic logic from a distant observer, viewers engage a range of inherent meanings through the totality of their experiences. A two way hermeneutical movement occurs between our life experiences and our film experiences, so that what we experience in life affects how we watch films, yet our experiences watching films also profoundly impact the way we live our lives.