Too Much Music??
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,158
    From Cardinal Sarah:

    Catholics inflict great harm upon the Church when they exalt themselves and put their own theories above God and his revealed doctrines.

    This attitude, seen in all areas of the life of the Church, is most plainly manifest in the liturgical realm. Cardinal Sarah states: “As Benedict XVI often emphasized, at the root of the liturgy is adoration, and therefore God. Hence it is necessary to recognize that the serious, profound crisis that has affected the liturgy and the Church itself since the Council is due to the fact that its CENTER is no longer God and the adoration of Him, but rather men and their alleged ability to ‘do’ something to keep themselves busy during the Eucharistic celebrations.”


    I've been in the parishes where the musician seems near-O.C. about filling every single minute with mo' music. For that matter, a priest once told me to improv during (near) every moment of the EF when the choir was not singing. It's "the custom" in his native land.

    The Cardinal, and the Emeritus, are right. That just does not work, whether it's the music or the altar-antics from clergy or laity. It's a horrific distraction instead.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 552
    I think in the EF it can be a distraction. In the OF it covers a whole lot of awkwardness. It also prevents the priest from adding jokes about washing dishes during the purification of the sacred vessels.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,158
    No. You are confusing a priest-problem with a musician-problem. Big difference.

    Define "awkwardness" in the OF, please!
    Thanked by 2Vilyanor bhcordova
  • NihilNominis
    Posts: 212
    I've had priests in the EF encourage me to improvise straight through, essentially. They said that it freed them from extended, awkward silence due to their slow and still somewhat tenuous grasp of the ceremony, and freed them to pray the words at their own speed.

    If the priest offering the Sacrifice is praying better because of it, that's hardly a "horrific distraction."
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 613
    In either form of the rite we should be cautious about making the liturgy a platform for our music.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 481
    In the extraordinary form, the music is integral to the liturgy; everything to be pronounced aloud is sung (with the brief exception of the concluding blessing). This seems to be the intent of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and of Musicam Sacram, so that it should apply to the ordinary form as well. This does not preclude silences in the liturgy--there are many places, some long, some short, where silence can be extremely fruitful. The problem with this is that priests have not been trained to sing their parts; without the singing of the celebrant, the music loses its integral character in the liturgy, and the singing of the congregation becomes more incIdental; this has led to the substitution for proper liturgical texts of pieces whose texts are also incidental. l think that part of the problem that Cardinal Sarah addresses is that in recent times, the congregation has been expected to sing practically everything themselves, leaving little for the choir to do. But there is a kind of silence, a receptivity, for the congregation to hear the choir singing proper liturgical music.
  • It's not the amount of music, but its quality that is important. If it serves to beautify the liturgy and is real music it should be encouraged. This is nothing new, not even to the EF. Anyone familiar with Frescobaldi's Fior Musicali will know that the playing of canzone and such at points during the mass was commonplace historically. Our friend Girolamo is just one handy example of dozens that could be named. Playing real pieces or improvising real music is legitimate ornamentation of the ritual. The maudlin grinding out of boring chord progressions (which some rather boldly call 'improvising') is not.
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 276
    I have to distinguish something, MJO, because I think it's not enough to say that music in the liturgy must beautify it and be real music, because in order to actually beautify the liturgy, it has to be in keeping with the nature and order of the liturgy. The music that is proper and ordinary to the Mass is the cantillation of the Mass itself, and is thus verbal music, which has always been regarded as supreme within the liturgy. Thus additional music is ornamental. While ornament is very good and can lead to a greater appreciation of the Mystery, there's such a thing as too much of a good thing when there's an imbalance of the elements of something. Ornament, the aesthetic, can disturb the proper proportion of the liturgy by intruding too often or where it doesn't belong. Romano Guardini and Ratzinger both discuss this in their "Spirit of the Liturgy"s as the primacy of Logos over Ethos. If Ethos, the aesthetic and beautiful becomes emphasized over and above the Logos, the rational order and truth of the liturgy, that aesthetic ceases to be beautiful and becomes shallow pleasantry and amusement without the depth of truth. What is truly beautiful will accord with what is true, with what is harmonious in its ordering, and the harmonious ordering of the Mass can be disrupted by what is excessive or in the wrong place, even if it is good and beautiful in a different context.

    We should remember too that God speaks out of the silence in a "still, small voice", not in earthquakes and raging fire. So we need to allow time for sacred silence rather than filling everything with noise, whether that noise is electric guitars or orchestras. Even with the instrument that is most suited to use in the liturgy apart from the human voice, the organ, overfilling the Mass with majestic pieces or improvisations will still push out the silence in which God speaks. And we should always rely more on God's ability to speak as the still small voice through the art perfected by our predecessors in the form of Gregorian chant than in an overabundance of majestic organ themes, which can become so much clanging of drums and clashing of symbols. I think Rich_enough put it well.

    That isn't to say there isn't a place for organ fills or instrumental music in the Mass, but it's important to recognize the proper amount and place that it should have, and how it should relate as a whole to the Mass and its chants.
  • Vilyanor -
    Sensitively put!
    I could not agree more.

    Actually, I wonder sometimes if, with our refined sensitivities, we might not have been altogether overjoyed at some of the music, 'good' as it was, that was offered during mass in times past. Some of our cherished French basses et dessus de trompette, for example, or even splendid renaissance canzone or toccate really don't converge with what we might consider worshipful. Would not we, who rail against pop-isms in our music, have raised eyebrows at masses using popular chansons and the like for cantus firmi?

    I could not agree more with you for referencing the 'still small voice'. Its absence in any ritual is an immediate clue that its participants, from high to low, are clue-less as to what they are about.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 350
    I agree with MJO and Vilyanor, but I think there may be a larger issue at play here. I think that in our society as a whole, many people are very uncomfortable with silence. I find that many people are disturbed by quiet, whether it occurs at mass or at home. There seems to be a rush to fill every moment with something, sometimes anything rather than to be still and quiet.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,158
    Yes. In response to one post above--it may be 'good stuff,' but too much of a good thing is still too much. And yes, kenstb, many seem to think that silence is a vacuum which must be filled, not left alone. It becomes oppressive...
    Thanked by 1Vilyanor
  • Might we conjecture that silence is threatening to an empty mind?
    Thanked by 2Vilyanor dad29
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,254
    silence is threatening ...?
    At a Methodist church where I used to serve the council replaced pew pencils with pens and instituted a silent Offertory so people could think even harder about check writing. We went back to organ voluntaries when a first time visitor left a note complaining that they found it creepy.
    Thanked by 1Vilyanor
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 276
    Well, that's a pretty poor reason for silence, not that it necessarily would have made any effective difference whether the reasoning behind it was good or not. I think it's also been shown that people give more money at an offertory when they're not expected to sing a hymn at the same time.

    Here at the 8pm "Praise and Worship" Mass has a "Communion" hymn and then another "meditation" (usually more P&W than the preceding one) and then the pianist hammers out that rhythmic muzak until the priest is ready to say the Post-Communion. It's absolutely maddening. Are we so afraid of silence? Can a Catholic school of higher education not treat its students like adults and leave them in silence? And piano is the worst possible instrument at that point. It's so percussive and rhythmic in a way that draws you entirely out of the numinousness and timelessness of the Mass and into the pedestrian and the here and now.
    Thanked by 2Olivier bhcordova
  • At my home parish, silence is impossible. There is a constant buzz from the amplification, a constant hum and swish from the ventilation, constant traffic noise from the street, constant sound of pews creeking, constant sound of people whispering, constant baby babble (which tends to turn into babies screaming during the homily and moments of silence for some reason), constant people going up and down the isle to the bathroom... there is never a moment of silence or stillness, no calm, no peace, constant motion and activity... it is chaotic and maddening. When the organist manages to play something to cover the noise in a restrained and quiet manner it actually reduces the chaos.

    Yes, I do think sometimes there is too much music, or too much emphasis on music.
    If there is so much music it needlessly prolongs a part of the mass, that is too much.
    If there is never a moment of quiet, that is too much.
    If it is all overblown, over the top, putting an exclamation point on everything type of music, it is too much (music at diocesan masses at our local cathedral tends toward this, if John Williams composed a mass it would have less fanfare).
    If the pastor tries to spiritually blackmail people into singing all the time, that is too much.
    If music takes precedence of liturgy or over prayer, it is too much (here a I think of combination liturgy/music directors that invest great attention into music but do only the contractual minimum on the liturgy director portion of the job).
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,158
    Here at the 8pm "Praise and Worship" Mass has a "Communion" hymn and then another "meditation" (usually more P&W than the preceding one) and then the pianist hammers out that rhythmic muzak until the priest is ready to say the Post-Communion.


    At my parish it is ALMOST the same--except it's not a "P&W" Mass. But the music is continuous, including the "hammers out that muzak" (a felicitous phrase, by the way!!) part...here not hammered, but Taize-like repetition, repetition, repetition, .....

    "You will be MADE to Like This!!!"
    Thanked by 2Olivier Vilyanor
  • OlivierOlivier
    Posts: 49
    repetition, repetition, repetition, .....
    "You will be MADE to Like This!!!"

    Hahaha! Exactly.
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 276
    CONFORM.
    Thanked by 1bhcordova