Tasteful Use of Guitar in Liturgical Music
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    In another thread, the topic came up of occasionally using the guitar in a tasteful manner to support singing in parishes that are not interested in 100% chant/polyphony. I just wrote a blog post on this, Tldr:
    -People's impressions of guitar playing have been ruined by people with low talent aggressively strumming entire songs with no variation in technique or dynamics.
    -The guitar can support the human voice better when some finger picking is used and the guitarist outlines the melody
    -There are subtle ways of strumming, in contrast to what you generally hear
    -Clean channel amplification with sustain on an electric guitar can create a worshipful sound, and one that I would argue is more worshipful than an acoustic can accomplish. Sustain on an electric guitar creates a continuous sound that models how the human voice operates (this rationale is part of why the organ, which produces a continuous sound, holds the pride of place for liturgical instruments)
    -Musicam Sacram, particuarly in paragraph 61, allows for "Adapting sacred music for those regions which possess a musical tradition of their own."

    I'm interested in what other people's thoughts and experiences are!

    http://contemporaryorthodoxy.weebly.com/blog/guitar-in-liturgical-music
  • A very well thought-out and executed post. A thought or two:

    The traditionalist seeking to eliminate the guitar has a lot of ground to cover in establishing that the general population of Catholics in our country considers the guitar "suitable for secular music only" in light of its widespread usage in Catholic parishes...I suggest rather that this paragraph is referring to harmonicas, kazoos, and accordions (joke instruments in our culture, by and large) and the sort of techno/computer synthesized instrumentation that accompanies pop music and is in fact considered by everyone to be suitable for entertainment purposes only.


    Except that out here in my part of the country, there is a strong tradition of using accordions and concertinas liturgically, at least once in a while for the Missa Polka. This was the conscious invasion of a purely secular style into the liturgy; however, over time, many Catholics and their pastors seem to have found peace with its liturgical presence. Thus, what began as a violation of the norm set down by Musicam Sacram, has, by its persistent and continued use in contravention of that norm, at least within a certain region, found a sizable following who believe it is not only suitable but, by far, the most suitable form of liturgical music to their tastes.

    In many ways, the history of the guitar in Catholic worship in the 20th Century is the same. What began as a desacralizing trend, in which the categories of "sacred" music were systematically demythologized by serious scholarship, equivocated with secular music, and the category robbed of its essential identity or distinction, ended in the conscious introduction of popular, secular styles and motifs as, by virtue of their secularity and popularity, eminently suited for liturgical worship.

    Missa Bossa Nova, one of the most unfortunately enduring of the type of compositions that were on the bishops' mind in 1967 when they approved the guitar, is not a conscious attempt to create sacred music in harmony with the tradition. It represents a vision of liturgical music that has no use for those choirs & choir schools that Vatican II indicated were to be diligently fostered, that is not meant to be sung alongside the treasury of sacred music that had come before and which the Council Fathers insisted be preserved; it makes a clean break, preserving only the text, but otherwise, in style, instrumentation, and performance practice, not just insufficiently wondering whether it might be perceived as worldly, but in fact proudly and boldly taking its cues from the popular, secular music of its day.

    Of course, in the wake of these decisions and following these early examples, a body of work was composed and received widespread (flagrant) use in spite of the fact that it was conceived by a school of thought which viewed the categories set down by the Church in these matters as essentially meaningless, who believed that there were no barriers to what was suitable for sacred use, and that a strong argument could be made that so-called "sacred" styles (i.e. the tradition) were less suitable for liturgical use than so-called "secular" or "popular" styles. A great many of these arguments dwelling, of course, on a specious interpretation of the words "ceteris paribus" (a stock phrase in Latin meaning "under ideal conditions," but which was taken to mean "with all other things being [viewed as] equal [to Gregorian Chant],") in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.

    And, unfortunately, one of the key ways in which we can understand that this was indeed a clean break, rather than a sympathetic development, is the extent to which it has created a polarization. In 1925, it would have been reasonably possible to enter any Catholic Church in the world and, while fine-tuned scholarly ears in lockstep with the Motu Proprio of 1903 may have found cause to be scandalized, to experience the musical liturgy of a Church that maintained common expectations for liturgical music. Can the same be said of 2017?

    Or do we in fact now have two currents running in opposition to one another (Dcn. Edward Schaefer has identified 6, actually)? In how many places does the old argument of the 1960s still get made, still serve as the working model for parish music, in which popular styles of any descent are actively preferred to the sacred music of the Roman Rite, in which "diligently fostering" a choir means deferring to a group of aging volunteers rather than actively recruiting and training the youth of a parish, and in which the "pride of place" enjoyed by the pipe organ is essentially equivalent to the "pride of place" enjoyed by Gregorian Chant in most parishes, namely, that it may have been there first, but it's certainly not there any more?

    And how long do we have to do this before the category of sacred music, by your criteria, measured against the experience and catechized opinion of the preponderance of Catholic faithful, become stylistically, musically, an empty category, reduced merely to the category of music That We Happen To Use At Mass, and those instruments employed in worship The Instruments We Happen To Use At Mass? How long until what was sacred to us becomes useless to us, and what was profane to us is viewed as obviously sacred? How long before the deliberate and conscious contravention of a rule becomes an inviolable rule in itself?

    And, in my experience, it is the tenuous coexistence of these paradigms, more than any difference in musical preferences or tastes, that is the source of discord and the stumbling-block of an efficient musical establishment in so many Catholic parishes. I've said it often: I have never had difficulties recruiting, training, or directing a choir for the Latin Mass. Sure, it can be political, but at the end of the day, all members, of all ages, agree on the sort of thing that needs to be done and how to do it, and it is up to the director to make the pragmatic, lowest-level choices necessary to communicate those principles into action. Strong opinions on minor differences are common, but non-fatal. In general, a certain amount of congregational participation is desired, the choir has a genuine and understood distinct liturgical role, Gregorian Chant has pride of place, along with the pipe organ, but other styles and instruments are judiciously admitted alongside it, but in harmony with it, and the liturgical text appointed by the rite is executed in a fulsome way. In short, bizarrely enough, the vision of Vatican II is brought to fruition.

    On the contrary, for the modern rite, in which parishioners will have experience of cathedral liturgy, folk mass, rock mass, piano/flute mass, polka mass, with a selection of hymns & songs written in a wider variety of contradictory musical styles & textual conventions than could be found on the radio in a major metropolitan area, in which educated parishioners will variously understand liturgical music according to a variety of contradictory paradigms formed in reaction to one another, while it may be possible to satisfy one's own paradigm for liturgical music, it is very difficult to create a culture of musical peace in which the music is truly an expression of the piety and devotion of the entire community, because the community's experience of, expectations for, and understanding of liturgical music are so wildly disparate.
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    You make many good points. I sincerely apologize that you have been subjected to polka masses and Missa Bossa Nova! I listened to Missa Bosa Nova on YouTube for the first time a year or two ago and it helped me understand why people were so upset by what happened in the 1960s. It is the exact opposite of what my idea of sacred music is.

    Part of my motivation for writing this is to end the dichotomy of terrible 60s guitar music vs chant-onlyism. I think the rupture of the sense of sacred that the guitar has participated in can be remedied by teaching people how to use the guitar well. I strongly believe that the guitar has a sacred sound within its range and I think the average parish's liturgical experience could be vastly improved by changing people's perspective on how the guitar should be played.

    I think we have an unfortunate situation that the cat has been let out of the bag regarding popular opinions about what constitutes a sacred sound. Unfortunately, what feels sacred to a culture is socially constructed through experience. Furthermore, there is no single sound that feels sacred to people anymore because liturgical music has been Balkanized to the point that nearly every Catholic has different ideas about what sounds sacred. In light of this, it would be a poor idea to legally impose chant on people not culturally prepared to worship with it.

    I do, however, think the culture needs to be changed to the point where the music played at mass, regardless of genre, has a clear sacred sound to it that is distinguishable from pop music. We face a long road ahead of us in this regard, and I think progress needs to come from slowly introducing good music and having Catholics experience it in a positive manner.




    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • Kudos -
    A cogent and very well composed critique, Nihil.

    You close by echoing Isaiah's query, 'how long, O Lord, how long....?'

    I would say until how long it takes 'Rome' willfully and with a vengeance to stanch this deliberate, calculated, and boorish cultural insurrection and require obedience to the recent council's stated paradigm.

    Which means, never.

    It seems beyond dispute that we are the heirs of a Church that has been quite willfully culturally shattered beyond repair. This is the work of most of the bishops and priests who came home from the council, thumbed their noses at its lofty verba, and went to work. Their heirs continue the work. And Rome? Rome did nothing and does nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    ______________________________

    While I genuinely respect jclangfo's sensitive and thoughtful approach, it does occur to me that probably most guitarists would say that what they are doing is 'tastefully done'. They all say something on the order of 'if you do it right, it's really fitting' - 'right' naturally meaning whatever way they do it. Some may play their instruments with greater artistry than others, some may be less aesthetically offensive, but no less liturgically so. Regardless of the competence and 'taste' with which it is played, the guitar remains a secular, non-liturgical instrument imposed upon us by those who 'like it' and for whom it therefore follows that it is, after all, a liturgical instrument - as evidenced by the fact that they like it and they play it 'right'. The illogic here is patent.

    Then, there is this -
    It would be a poor idea legally to impose chant on people not culturally prepared to worship with it.

    The council has 'legally' required that chant and other sacred music, choirs and choir schools, and instruments such as the organ be 'assiduously cultivated, fostered, and preserved'. This very legal expectation can hardly be called a 'poor idea'. This is the council's paradigm. This is what all have been given authority to accomplish and none have authority to obstruct. (And one notes that power to do or obstruct a thing and authority to do or obstruct it are two very different things that are not always convergent.)

    In the same vein, it seems to me that 'impose' is an infelicitous choice of verb, loaded as it is with negative implications. The people need to be educated. They deserve to be educated. They are worthy of being educated. The council expected them to be. They haven't been. They have been deliberately dumbed down by an institution that seems to like them that way, and by a cadre of historically rootless would-be musicians who have carved out for themselves turf that they'll not surrender willingly.

    While most of us would agree that sensitive diplomacy backed by determined conviction and an indeflectible will to evangelise the council's paradigm would be pastorally appropriate, one just can't help but ask the question -
    - where was the corollary to this assertion after the council when sacro- and folk this that and the other were shovelled into our churches and imposed upon the worship of people not culturally prepared to worship with it? Thousands upon thousands, millions, left the Church in utter disbelief - and no one cared. This argument rings oh so hollow.
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    The problem, in my opinion, is the terrible execution of contemporary music that has created a rupture with sacred music (as Nihil has pointed out) rather than sought to harmonize contemporary genres with sacred music. This forum tends towards the belief that Vatican II wanted exclusively chant and polyphony. To the contrary, the following paragraph in Musicam Sacram should be considered:
    "61. Adapting sacred music for those regions which possess a musical tradition of their own, especially mission areas, will require a very specialized preparation by the experts. It will be a question in fact of how to harmonize the sense of the sacred with the spirit, traditions and characteristic expressions proper to each of these peoples. Those who work in this field should have a sufficient knowledge both of the liturgy and musical tradition of the Church, and of the language, popular songs and other characteristic expressions of the people for whose benefit they are working."
  • I do, however, think the culture needs to be changed to the point where the music played at mass, regardless of genre, has a clear sacred sound to it that is distinguishable from pop music. We face a long road ahead of us in this regard, and I think progress needs to come from slowly introducing good music and having Catholics experience it in a positive manner.


    Amen! And if you go back and read the final paragraphs to my post that I just added by edit while you were posting your reply, I think that one of the reasons this "works" so much better in the Traditional Mass is that music of other styles (and I am unapologetic about this: I use as wide a range of music at the TLM as pastorally acceptable), in order to exist harmoniously with the chant of the Church, has to be heard alongside them at every single Mass, whereas the more modern idea of "drawing its inspiration from the Gregorian tradition" can mean any number of rarefied and akademisch things, including but not limited to: Sounding Like Chants that No One in the Pews Ever Hears, Being Contemporary Music Today Just Like Chant Was Contemporary 1200 Years Ago, Setting Appointed Texts Just Like Chant Does, Inventing New Ways to Point Psalmody, etc.

    And so it is something that everyone can claim to do in completely different ways, while creating music with no common auditory reference point familiar to the faithful. And while I have had some success reintroducing regular chanting to an "average" parish, and then "harmonizing" the existing repertoire of choral and congregational music with that chant, what is still missing is the sense of the chant as an indispensible part of the liturgy, something that *must* be reckoned with and answered to, rather than just a part of the integrated aesthetic experience that the present music director chooses to construct, but which could easily be otherwise. And hence, while the sensitive in the pews would appreciate and compliment me for this, more often than not they would also sing the praises of the, shall we say, "sold-out" rock-concert masses they had also attended, which were likewise experiences of an integral aesthetic vision, but without the benefit of a common, objective point of reference.

  • JesJes
    Posts: 315
    OMGSH this is totally what I experienced the other day!!!

    So basically I had to sing at a funeral (I know, someone chose me to sing instead of play) and it started with me and an organist, then we got told 5 old warbly ladies would come sing, then we got told that a guitarist was coming with his amplified and I felt nauseous at the thought of another situation where once again I was handed bongoes and I would have to say "it's not that kind of Latin mass" thankfully the guitarist came with an array of instruments including a lute. It was incredible. We had some shocking hymns to sing (not my choice) and he made them sound a bit more humble than just the organ alone. His picking technique was incredible and his giving nature was so lovely.

    I've done lots of polyphonic things with lute be very wary though of the music because a lot of it even though it might be seeming to have lyrics about Christ through terms like the "king" etc it can also be pretty bawdy because often these are actually madrigals in disguise. We sang some French Le Roi (the king is born) piece thinking it was a motet for christmastide and the French lady in the room freaked out that we were singing about orgasms basically... it was awful. But there are things set for polyphonic choir and stringed instrument. Just get a musicologist and translater involved in your search if you're not using Latin stuff.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,821
    It seems beyond dispute that we are the heirs of a Church that has been quite willfully culturally shattered beyond repair. This is the work of most of the bishops and priests who came home from the council, thumbed their noses at its lofty verba, and went to work. Their heirs continue the work. And Rome? Rome did nothing and does nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    How can this paragraph be regarded as anything composed by the ever-accurate MJO, rather than a sort of hysterically myopic summation? That the Church is culturally shattered cannot be ascribed to pitiful musicians pitifully plucking (or strumming.) Furthermore, as having breathed on this orb for a full 2/3rds of a century, it rather seems to me that HMChurch is experiencing a renaissance of performance (not a dirty word, btw) practice not experienced in the last five hundred years. This forum is hale and hearty proof of that. The panorama of full-throttle return to sacrality is expanding, not receding despite papal and popular indifference. The Pius X factor has never been more realized than in the last half century, not in some nostalgic Eisenhower past.
    If folks capitulate away from this progress, it won't be because of Missa Bossa Nova.
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    Nihil, I agree that chant is an important reference point for being able to create a sacred sound in other genres. Something missing from many discussions on church music is that Musicam Sacram places the highest emphasis on singing the ordinary of the mass and lower emphasis on singing the 4 hymns that normally get sung. The situation could be much improved if priests felt more comfortable singing. I love it when the priest sings rather than says "The Lord be with you" and we sing rather than say "and with your spirit." If we could have more chanting like this it would both give people a reference point for how to compose in other genres and would likely subdue controversy about having other genres for the 4 hymns.

    where was the corollary to this assertion after the council when sacro- and folk this that and the other were shovelled into our churches and imposed upon the worship of people not culturally prepared to worship with it?


    That's an ad hominem. I wasn't around back then and I've learned from the stories people told that rapid change is a bad idea.
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,821
    www.chantcafe.com/.../ancient-chant-and-hymns-for-guitar-by.html
    www.chantcafe.com/2010_11_01_archive.html
    www.chantcafe.com/2014_06_01_archive.html
    www.chantcafe.com/2011_05_01_archive.html
    www.chantcafe.com/.../why-im-wildly-optimistic-about-catholic.html?...

    That's a few for you jcl. Go to CMAA/Chant Café and search "Charles Culbreth+guitar")
  • thanks...but links not working
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,821
    Copy and paste, Chase, thanks.
  • I tried copy and paste prior to any posts...

    www.chantcafe.com/.../ancient-chant-and-hymns-for-guitar-by.html =
    "Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist"

    www.chantcafe.com/2010_11_01_archive.html =
    "Simple Propers for the Second Sunday of Advent by Adam Bartlett"

    www.chantcafe.com/2014_06_01_archive.html =
    "Colloquium Vlog - Day 1 by Ben Yanke"

    www.chantcafe.com/2011_05_01_archive.html =
    "The Tragic Return of the Ukelele by Jeffrey Tucker"

    www.chantcafe.com/.../why-im-wildly-optimistic-about-catholic.html?... =
    "Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist"

    What you may have to say is surely interesting...but unavailable as presently formatted.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood jclangfo
  • bhcordova
    Posts: 369
    Chase,

    In the upper left hand corner on the Chant Cafe site is a search box. Typing the word 'guitar' into the box brought up all of those articles and more.
  • I do know how to use search engines (inter alia Google and also ChantCafe.com; both of which use Google search)....thank you bhcodova!

    I am just interested in the originally posted (albeit malformed) links. SDG.

  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,594
    Here are the links again, and I hope they'll be clickable this time:

    http://www.chantcafe.com/2010/10/ancient-chant-and-hymns-for-guitar-by.html
    http://www.chantcafe.com/2011/09/why-im-wildly-optimistic-about-catholic.html

    Charles posted a link to a month-archive page, but I assume he's referring to this post:
    http://www.chantcafe.com/2010/11/classical-guitar-as-voicesdirait-on-by.html

    Here are two more archive pages containing several posts he wrote:
    http://www.chantcafe.com/2014_06_01_archive.html
    http://www.chantcafe.com/2011_05_01_archive.html
  • bhcordova
    Posts: 369
    Chase,

    I only mentioned the location of the search box because it is slightly hard to find.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,594
    By the way, folks, there is a "catch" about the forum software's treatment of URLs.

    If the URL includes the starting prefix "http://" or "https://", the software will automatically make it a clickable link; it automatically puts in the necessary HTML code. But if you copy and paste a URL without the prefix, then the forum software won't make it a clickable link.

    Also, copying links from a search result can have some glitches, because Google sometimes abbreviates the link for display purposes. Those abbreviated display URLs may not work.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,239
    Also, copying links from a search result can have some glitches, because Google sometimes abbreviates the link for display purposes. Those abbreviated display URLs may not work


    Judging by the "..." in Melo's pastes, that seems to be what happened.

    Also -- in most browsers, if you copy directly out of the nav bar at the top of your browser, the "http" will be included in your copy even though it does not normally appear in the bar.
  • Another method: paste the URL of a page (such as your search results page) into the URL box of this, click Load, and then select+copy what you want from its output. It extracts all the links and shows them to you in plain text.
  • music123
    Posts: 74
    I am the one who brought this up on another thread, and there have definitely been some interesting comments here. Honestly, I don't know if I could stomach any kind of electric guitar in Mass! The gentleman we have plays (amplified) acoustic, very tastefully, generally just on quiet meditative pieces. He usually plays with the piano. I have had it with organ sometimes. I would not have guitar lead the music for the whole Mass, just as an accent occasionally.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,821
    As I've often stated, singing...song sung (etc.)....leads the service of music for liturgy. Instruments provide textural "couches" for the "song." The myriad imitative voices of the wind-driven organ, exquisitely sympathetic to the human voice, nonetheless have correspondence with myriad textures and timbres of plucked string instruments, unamplified or not. A "surf guitar" texture, or BBKing "Lucille" blues texture distracts from our norms of liturgical accompaniment, just as does an "all stops" registration can overwhelm congregational singing. All things being somewhat equal, "dialing it in" discretion must always be applied.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    Adding to melofluent's comment, the electric guitar has the broadest range of textures of any instrument other than the organ. A well chosen electric guitar tone can be as tasteful or more than an acoustic guitar setting.
  • Thank you!
  • Thanked by 1MarkS
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,594
    Are there any recordings on the net to demonstrate the tasteful use of electric guitar in the Holy Mass? Normally, I would think the instrument excluded because of its association with worldly entertainments often of a coarse nature.
  • music123
    Posts: 74
    Yeah, honestly I try to be open to things, but it would take much, much, much convincing for me to accept that electric guitar could be appropriate for Mass! To me that screams rock and roll regardless of what you try to do to it. Like chonak I would be curious to see examples to the contrary.
  • ...would take much, much, much convincing...

    However much, there isn't enough much to convince or justify the use of a guitar simulacrum at mass. As with other kinds of simulacra, the trend now is to refer to the real thing as an 'acoustical' such and such, as opposed to an 'electric' or 'digital' such and such, as if by doing so one had asserted that they are both equal but merely different versions of the same thing. They aren't, don't sound the same, and can't. The laws of physics, due to the difference of sound source and production, forbid it. They are different things. One is fake, an imitation, the other isn't. It is good that, in the case of electric guitar simulacra, no one is claiming that they sound the same. It's pretty obvious that one is the beautiful sound of a real guitar, and the other is an unholy something else altogether.

    It is astonishing that this conversation is being taken seriously on this forum.
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    There are certain motifs of the electric guitar such as shredding that are indissolubly linked to entertainment and no one would ever consider sacred. The same can be said for the organ - no one would rightly play the organ in the manner it is played at a baseball stadium or in certain varieties of jazz.

    The trick with the electric guitar is to avoid to rock motifs and use the other end of its range. The electric guitar has a sweet organ like character when played with a low distortion tone and with sustain.

    In terms of examples, first, refer back to my blog article which has some:
    http://contemporaryorthodoxy.weebly.com/blog/guitar-in-liturgical-music

    Here are a few additional examples. Some of these the electric guitar is very subtle and doesn't come in until later in the song:
    -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFr6dVTVN2w
    -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxkNj5hcy5E
    -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-P8pUCV5MI

    These examples all have in common that the instruments are used to support the human voice as the primary instrument.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,821
    I'm not easily astonished, JMO!
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    Like other kinds of simulacra, the trend now is to refer to the real thing as an 'acoustical' such and such, as opposed to an 'electric' or 'digital' such and such, as if by doing so one had asserted that they are both equal but merely different versions of the same thing. They aren't. The laws of physics, due to the difference of sound source and production, forbid it. One is fake, the other isn't. It is good that, in the case of electric guitar simulacra, no one is claiming that they sound the same. It's pretty obvious that one is the beautiful sound of a real guitar, and the other is an unholy something else altogether.


    This is a ridiculous argument that displays a lack of knowledge about how an electric guitar works and how an organ works. Surely one would not make the argument the microphone amplification of a choir is replacing the real sound with a fake one. Yet, this is primarily how amplification of an electric guitar works. There is a small microphone on an electric guitar which picks up the faint sound and then send it to an amplifier or a sound board. In the case of electric guitarists who plug strait into the sound board, the original sound of the guitar is played through the speakers in the same manner that the original sound of the choir is played through the speakers.

    In some cases, the amplifier can put a sustain on the sound, continuously playing the sound received for a certain period of time after it was received. If you have a problem with this, you have a problem with how most organs operate. Do you insist that all church organs be completely mechanical and have no electronics in them at all?
  • Whatever their merits as religious music, none of these is liturgical, as understood by the Catholic Church. The attachment is from the first of the links which chonak constructed, above, and the comments there provide a link to samples played on an acoustic guitar (it won't attach). Those samples would not, I think, appeal to my parish priest for use at Mass.image
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    Whatever their merits as religious music, none of these is liturgical, as understood by the Catholic Church.


    You got a source for that? To the contrary, Musicam Sacram says the following:
    "4(b). The following come under the title of sacred music here: Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony in its various forms both ancient and modern, sacred music for the organ and other approved instruments, and sacred popular music, be it liturgical or simply religious."
    "61. Adapting sacred music for those regions which possess a musical tradition of their own, especially mission areas, will require a very specialized preparation by the experts. It will be a question in fact of how to harmonize the sense of the sacred with the spirit, traditions and characteristic expressions proper to each of these peoples. Those who work in this field should have a sufficient knowledge both of the liturgy and musical tradition of the Church, and of the language, popular songs and other characteristic expressions of the people for whose benefit they are working."
  • liturgical OR simply religious
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    That implies it can be liturgical.
  • I am open to persuasion (I think), but have not yet heard anything remotely convincing as liturgy. On the other hand, see the post just started by ProfKwasniewski, about using a lute.
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    I am open to persuasion (I think)


    As has been sort of discussed on this thread, I think that Musicam Sacram was calling for an inculturation where a sacred sound could be molded from the bones of the common musical expressions of the local people, while what we got was often a secular sound with religious lyrics. One of my goals is to try to create an authentic incultured sacred sound. You can argue taste with me, but it is never my intention as a primarily contemporary church musician to entertain people with some sort of rock piece with religious lyrics.

    My most moving experience of sacred music as a teenager was hearing this played during adoration on a retreat. In college, I wrote a short paper for a communications class about the different techniques this composer used to create a sacred sound. I suppose we could debates the merits of this example:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fB7nORy5EU
  • MarkS
    Posts: 95
    Yet, this is primarily how amplification of an electric guitar works. There is a small microphone on an electric guitar which picks up the faint sound and then send it to an amplifier or a sound board. In the case of electric guitarists who plug strait into the sound board, the original sound of the guitar is played through the speakers in the same manner that the original sound of the choir is played through the speakers.


    By no means an electric guitar expert, but I always thought electric guitar pick-ups worked via magnetism—they are not microphones. A quick search turned up:
    http://soundcalledmusic.com/electric-guitars/

  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    Editing out my previous response to say instead:

    We are using different words to mean the same thing. After searching Google for a bit, it appears that the way all microphones work is by creating a variation in a magnetic field to produce an electric current.
    https://www.quora.com/How-do-microphones-work
    http://zerocapcable.com/?page_id=219
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,821
    I admire the pluck, but I have to agree (with MJO) that the discussion is now chasing its tail. One thing I've learned in my decade with CMAA is that citing portions of TLS/MS/IGRM et cetera can be useful towards defending darn near any thesis proposed. Once a discussion of worthiness disconnects from singing towards the properties of instruments, all is basically lost. It's not always about: a. taste b. legislation c. timbre d. physical dynamics e. all/none of the above.
    Is it intellectually dishonest to simply adjure: If it works, it works?
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • jclangfo: The Church distinguishes its official liturgy from other things, such as those called popular devotions. This is not to denigrate the devotions, which as you say can provide powerful and lasting spiritual experiences. The first time I heard a guitar in church, many years ago, was one such for me, they sang Sidney Carter's Friday Morning and I was moved to tears, with I think lasting beneficial effect. And particularly in a closed group, a retreat or scout camp or parish council away weekend, one might adopt a different attitude to the rubrics. But in a public act of official liturgy we are offering formal worship to God, not manipulating our own emotions. If it is not official liturgy, even in a Metropolitan Cathedral, pretty much anything devout tasteful and non-heretical can be done (hope that doesn't go too far).
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 56
    a_f_hawkins: from sources I've posted, it seems to me that the rubrics allow some sort of contemporary music. I do agree with melofluent that there is a substantial amount of grey area in theses documents. I think the church wants us to exercise judgement, and individual judgement has the influence of taste which is difficult to argue. So, while we might not be able to agree on what sort of contemporary music might be allowed (simple guitar plucking to an old hymn vs. the songs I posted earlier), I think we should be able to agree that the rubrics allow some sort of contemporary music.

    I disagree with the characterization that contemporary music is about manipulating emotions. All music is inherently emotional to some degree. I do think there are some excessively emotional songs out there but if we wanted to take emotion out of the liturgy we would just read the words rather than sing them.
  • Agreed, an important function of music is to rouse the emotions, and of the words to direct them. In the case of liturgical music to direct them towards God. I probably expressed this inadequately above.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 7,970
    Do you insist that all church organs be completely mechanical and have no electronics in them at all?


    Yes, he does. I for one am not willing to bury myself in the casework where I can't hear what the congregation is hearing. Also, those electronic combination actions surely are nice and convenient.

    I once allowed a guitar for a Spanish Baroque mass where it was written into the score. Worked well and was quite nice. For whatever reason, guitars have become associated with elderly hippies - gray bun de rigueur - wailing Haugen/Haas and other trash. Good guitarists are not so easy to find in many parishes but the bad ones abound.
  • sacred popular music


    This does not mean what many people construe it to mean.
    Thanked by 1Andrew Malton
  • Yes, he does.

    Charles! 'He does not!' You do me a disservice. While I would not squawk like some at a totally mechanical instrument, I am far from opposed to electric blowers, direct electric action, combination actions and other 'conveniences', so long as the sound source and its means of activation remain inviolate, which is the 'bottom line' absent which there is no organ at all. Still, I do, indeed, prefer tracker instruments because of the intimate relationship they offer me with playing the pipes. While I do not mind 'modern conveniences', even gladly avail myself of them, I do not understand those who have unappreciative fits of displeasure at their absence.

    Last year on Palm Sunday, here in Houston, Ken Cowan presented La chemin de la croix on the Fisk at Palmer Episcopal (across from Rice Univ.). The Fisk, except for the blower, is totally tracker-mechanic and has no form of combination action. Ken pulled this off with the aid of two or three registrants and gave a stunning performance. I, for one, would never contemplate such repertory on a mechanical instrument, but have nothing but admiration for the one, and his helpers, who accomplished it.
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  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,207
    Surely one would not make the argument the microphone amplification of a choir is replacing the real sound with a fake one.
    Surely you jest with us ;-) There are churches one simply has to make the best of, but the substitute isn't the same as 'acoustical' singing. But let me change tack before I end up calling St Peter's Basilica a simulacrum of a church.

    There's been a lot of John Adams being played lately around his 70th birthday. Last week there was a Berkeley revival of the dance Available Light, with a score for a Macy's-bought synthesizer. The presenter made a big deal of the 'original instrument' angle. This week I'm singing in The Gospel According to the Other Mary, (not the apocryphal book but somewhat in the Bach-Passion mold of combining the canonical Gospels with contemporary poetry). It makes considerable use of amplification and it's so far been fun rehearsing as a lean all-pro chamber chorus, but I'm dreading the coming tech rehearsals. During under tempo runs I took a lot of it two octaves down, but tomorrow I won't be able to mark the high fortissimo passages on "Who rips his own flesh down the seams and steps forth, flourishing the axe, who chops down his own cross, who straddles it, who stares like a cat, whose cheeks are the gouged blue of science, whose torso springs out of wrung cloth, blazing ocher, blazing rust [with repeats]" (2nd basses up to g above middle c!). In 'real' ensemble singing one simply does not place this much blind trust in the sound designer.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,821
    I bought one of those Macy's simulacrum at Hilltop Mall in Richmond, Richard. At the time it seemed quite right.

    May I propose a moratorium, not a ban, herewith, so's we can return to corners and figure out if pursuing the thread further has any merit whatsoever. Respectfully all, we've been down this path many, many times. It has no outcome.
  • By no means an electric guitar expert, but I always thought electric guitar pick-ups worked via magnetism—they are not microphones. A quick search turned up:
    http://soundcalledmusic.com/electric-guitars/

    The electric guitar uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings—which are typically made of steel, and which occurs when a guitarist strums, plucks or fingerpicks the strings—into electrical signals. The vibrations of the strings are sensed by a pickup, of which the most common type is the magnetic pickup, which uses the principle of direct electromagnetic induction...no microphone!

    Also guitar amps do not provide sustain; for this the player needs an effects pedal such as the Electro Harmonix Soul Preacher or such apparatus as Fernandes Sustainer or the Sustainiac.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 7,970

    Charles! 'He does not!' You do me a disservice. While I would not squawk like some at a totally mechanical instrument, I am far from opposed to electronic blowers, direct electric action, combination actions and other 'conveniences', so long as the sound source and its means of activation remain inviolate, which is the 'bottom line' absent which there is no organ at all.


    I can go with that! Can't speak to direct electric action, since the only ones in the area are rather ancient Wicks instruments. Perhaps the technology has advanced since those were built. I suspect it has. Electro pneumatic instruments can work well, or be slow to speak. The slowness can be frustrating, although the newer instruments seem to have worked around that problem. Registrants simply get on my nerves. I don't like them moving around me and find them a major, major distraction. Peterson combination systems are a big improvement. My biggest objection to trackers, aside from being buried in the instrument, is that it is a primitive technology and seems like doing things the hard way for the purpose of doing things the hard way. You don't get extra stars in your eternal crown for doing that. LOL.
  • Surely one would not make the argument the microphone amplification of a choir is replacing the real sound with a fake one.


    I absolutely would. :-)