© 2017

Music and the Generosity of God


  • Argues that sound can manifest divine generosity.

  • Fills a gap in the theological engagement with avant-garde music.

  • Appeals to scholars in areas of music, theology, and phenomenology.


Part of the Radical Theologies and Philosophies book series (RADT)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Gerald C. Liu
    Pages 1-14
  3. Gerald C. Liu
    Pages 15-35
  4. Gerald C. Liu
    Pages 37-52
  5. Gerald C. Liu
    Pages 53-67
  6. Gerald C. Liu
    Pages 69-92
  7. Gerald C. Liu
    Pages 121-133
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 135-140

About this book


What if sounds everywhere lavish divine generosity? Merging insights from Jean-Luc Marion with musical ingenuity from Pierre Boulez and John Cage’s 4’33”, Gerald C. Liu blends the phenomenological, theological, and musical to formulate a hypothesis that in all places, soundscapes instantiate divine giving without boundary. He aims to widen apprehension of holiness in the world, and privileges the ubiquity of sound as a limitless and easily accessible portal for discovering the inexhaustible magnitude of divine giving.      



John Cage Jacques Attali Sri Ramakrishna Ernst Jünger phenomenology

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton Theological SeminaryPrincetonUSA

About the authors

Gerald C. Liu is Assistant Professor of Worship and Preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary, USA. 

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Music and the Generosity of God
  • Authors Gerald C. Liu
  • Series Title Radical Theologies and Philosophies
  • Series Abbreviated Title Radical Theologies
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-69492-4
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-88787-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-69493-1
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIII, 140
  • Number of Illustrations 4 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Christian Theology
    Philosophy of Music
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Gerald Liu’s book is an achievement of interdisciplinarity. Creatively synthesizing approaches drawn from a variety of far-flung fields, the work advances a radically open and pluralistic vision for the theological significance of all manner of sonic expression, from the esoteric to the everyday. At the heart of the book’s analysis are provocative re-assessments of several monuments of postwar modernist composition. Alongside Liu’s intricate defense of the value of 'the din of the sacred,' readers will find engaging excursions into twentieth-century cultural and intellectual history. This stimulating volume deserves a wide audience, one just as diverse and multidisciplinary as are the forms of insight that lend it such a distinctive voice.” (Benjamin Looker, author of A Nation of Neighborhoods: Imagining Cities, Communities, and Democracy in Postwar America)

“Heidegger would be proud. In Music and the Generosity of God, Gerald C. Liu leads us beyond theo-phenomenological delimitations of musics (plural) in search of a non-conceptual, non-representational, non-discursive mode of sacramental perception. Liu stages an opening—beyond multiple metaphysical and metaphorical closures—in several unexpected works, viz., Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings, Pierre Boulez’s Structures Ia, and John Cage’s 4’33”. Inasmuch as these artists harbor sites of Divine generosity, Liu argues, their works free us to perceive a primordial charity wherein, perhaps, God might reveal Godself. This pithy yet expansive text demands careful attention from ethnomusicologists, philosophers, theologians—indeed, all who seek God amid the world’s ‘sonic ubiquity.’” (Jacob D. Myers, Assistant Professor of Homiletics, Columbia Theological Seminary, USA)

“For any who have spent energy considering the relationship between music and theology, this succinct and unsettling contribution by Dr. Liu is a must read.  An unabashed romp through late colonial theories, Cagian contributions, and theological interlocutors, this small book is nonetheless expansive in its vision. His work poses many questions.  While not agreeing with every idea, I cannot dismiss his helpfulness in expanding the field. If  you are interested in examining the role of music in a post-modern theological mode, then this is your guide.” (Edward Foley, Catholic theological Union, USA)