How Much Music is Too Much Music?
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    Recently I've been asked whether it is appropriate to "cover" the Mass with music in addition to the usual Propers, Ordinary, and voluntaries for Offertory and Communion.

    (This is an Extraordinary Rite group.)

    My recollection was that the organist should NOT be playing music to 'fill all the blanks' during the Mass--that silence is appropriate now and again, especially during the Canon/Consecration.

    Any thoughts? Documentation for those thoughts?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I am a total "coverer", mainly because it gives me practice on improvisation. But I'd defend it from a pastoral standpoint: if the music does not take up the time allotted for the act, say an offertory hymn ends before the priest washes his hands, it gives the impression that either A) the priest is too slow or B) the music is not long enough. I assume we've all heard of both of these at some point. It seems to me that extending the music, either by repetition, addition, or improvisation adds to the continuity of the rite, since ideally all of the Mass should be sung.
  • I quite like the silence and question whether it's appropriate to *always* crowd it out with music on the basis that some people will complain about it afterwards.

    What's the point of having a silent canon (EF) if you're always going to make it not-silent by improvising on the organ?

    (In case it's not clear, I don't think there's anything evil about covering it up now and again, with something musically worthy, but feel that sometimes these "pastoral" justifications end up catering to a tiny handful -- or even the pastor's, organist's, or liturgy committee's notion of what worship should feel like -- and are very difficult to reverse if others in the congregation don't find them edifying.)
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    One for, one against...

    I think that the discussion implies the discussion of "rests" in music. Maybe it's not sound, but it IS part of the music...eh?

    Or no?
  • There ought to be no music played during the Canon after the Sanctus has been sung, and before the Benedictus, according to the regulations in place by 1962. I can't remember where I read this, but I suspect it was in the front of the Liber Usualis. The Canon is not to be "filled"! In other words - 'Elevations' and other such movements are definitely out!
  • Playing music for the elevation has a long and proud tradition. Frescobaldi wrote quite a few "elevation sonatas" and much of the early 17th-c instrumental repertoire was conceived with this moment in mind. While I do like the canon to be silent, I do like a nice elevation sonata.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    Palestrina--I cannot find that instruction in my Liber...
  • Rubrics for the Chant of the Mass (1961 Liber Usualis). p. xvj
    "VII...During the Consecration all singing must cease, and (even if there is a custom to the contrary) the organ or other instrument is silent. It is preferable that there should be silence from the Consecration until Pater Noster."
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Palestrina - We routinely violated that preference it seems, when I was in boys choir in the early 60s. We sang the Benedictus immediately after the Consecration whenever we sang for a High Mass. There was then no music until the Agnus Dei.
  • Palestrina,

    Evidently the passage you quote from the Liber Usalis refers only to organ music. According to the Instruction "Musica Sacra Disciplina," issued in 1958 (no. 27(e)): "If the Sanctus-Benedictus are sung in Gregorian chant, they should be put together without interruption; oterhwise, the Benedictus should be sung after the consecration."

    However, right below this quotation, at no. 27(f) comes this confusing directive: "Between the Consecration and the 'Pater Noster' a devout silence is recommended."

    http://www.sanctamissa.org/EN/music/church-documents-on-liturgical-music/de-musica-sacra-et-sacra-liturgia.pdf

    Sam Schmitt
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    NOW we're getting somewhere--thanks, Palestrina et al.

    Priorstf: note that the rule Pal. cited applies to CHANT sung music. When one sings a Chant Sanctus/Benedictus, they are sung together before the Consecration. However, when singing NON-Chant music, the Sanc/Bene are split--with the Bene beginning AFTER the Consecration.

    Thanks for the spadework, which confirms my thoughts on the matter.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 508
    J. B. O'Connell, The Celebration of Mass, 1964 (incorporating rubrics of 1962) indicates that at the Solemn Mass, the organ could play quite a traditional role, including alternating with the choir in parts of the ordinary, playing the offertory, and "playing with a 'grave and sweet sound' during the Elevation, where customary." These alternations with the choir and playing of the offertory require that a singer sing the texts recto tono with the organ, but for the elevation, there would be no text.

    Even for the low Mass, the organ may not be played "where the custom exists, from the Consecration to Pater noster." Does this mean, if the custom exists, it may be played?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I play for the OF only, so obviously I do not play during the canon! As regards the EF, like Michael I have to think of the venerable tradition of the organ Elevation. I don't see anything in Palestrina's comment which would forbid such an elevation or Benedictus - only saying that silence is "preferable", since the Elevation (I do believe) comes after the the consecration. I think it's a grand tradition, since music draws the heart to God who just became physically present. I will likely be playing for an EF in spring, and I'll make a point to learn a good Elevation for it.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    It's interesting that in the particular case, it's given that there will be NO "elevation music' played. The question pertained to the rest of the Mass.

    The Instruction of 1958, (cited above) # 27(E), is clear:

    "All singing must cease during the Consecration, and, where custom permits their use, the playing of the organ or any other musical instrument MUST cease."

    That wording is prescriptive, not indicative--it is a command, not a suggestion, and I take the meaning to be that 'even IF custom permits it at this time,' ..."playing MUST cease".

    That's not easily reconciled with O'Connell's statement cited by Mahrt (and it presumes that there is no SCR rescript which derogated/abrogated 27(E) which I cannot find in my "Papal Documents" book (The Liturgical Press, Hayburn)).
  • If I'm using actual propers (mandatory at high Mass), I'll add either a hymn or motet after the offertory or Communion proper to keep some kind of singing going. After that, then I'll play some soft stuff (usually there's about a minute - tops - to kill). I'll usually sing a "processional" and "recessional" hymn in English with the congregation, as neither are part of the Mass. The Introit is usually sung in between the Asperges and Kyrie anyways. I'm not into playing the "soft stuff" out of laziness from picking a hymn or motet. Nor am I into playing background music during the Canon of the Mass (or any of the prayers for that matter - in either form). If the Sanctus is sung, it should be finished before the elevations (if the Sanctus is too long, break it off after the first Hosanna in Excelsis and take the Benedictus after the elevations). The only music that should happen during the elevations are the ringing of the Sanctus bells.

    If I'm doing Low Mass, I'll still sing something at the offertory and Communion - either a hymn or motet, in Latin. I've heard people say that at low Mass you could use English hymnody at those two points. However, I prefer to keep them in Latin to stay in practice so when the next high Mass comes around I won't screw up. If it turns out there's about a minute or so left after the singing is finished, I'll go into soft music.

    At the offertory, I use the priest's turning for the Orate Fratres as the cue to stop playing. At Communion, I use the priest's reading of his proper as that same cue.
    BMP
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "All singing must cease during the Consecration, and, where custom permits their use, the playing of the organ or any other musical instrument MUST cease."

    That wording is prescriptive, not indicative--it is a command, not a suggestion, and I take the meaning to be that 'even IF custom permits it at this time,' ..."playing MUST cease".

    This does NOT say that elevations aren't allowed, because the elevation (again, I'm going off of the OF) comes AFTER the consecration. Saying that all music shall cease at the consecration means that any music that started prior to the consecration should end by the time it begins. Once the consecration has passed, there's nothing in that sentence that forbids music beginning again, as with the Elevation.
  • "J. B. O'Connell, The Celebration of Mass, 1964 (incorporating rubrics of 1962) indicates that at the Solemn Mass, the organ could play quite a traditional role, including alternating with the choir in parts of the ordinary, playing the offertory, and "playing with a 'grave and sweet sound' during the Elevation, where customary." These alternations with the choir and playing of the offertory require that a singer sing the texts recto tono with the organ, but for the elevation, there would be no text."

    This is interesting, and has caused me a few problems. Alternatim obviously did/does exist, but the legislation in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum (I think - I'm going on what I found somewhere in Hayburn's 'Papal Legislation on Sacred Music') seems to say that the text must be recited WHILE the organ verse is played. Confusing, I know! How does this actually work, without ruining the underlying organ music?? Does anyone have any clarifications from Rome on this point?

    "Once the consecration has passed, there's nothing in that sentence that forbids music beginning again, as with the Elevation."

    I think that the spirit of the legislation is that nothing should be played from the elevations through to the Pater Noster.
  • Palestrina,

    One must remember that the EF allows for much more multi-tasking than the OF. During the Renaissance, for example, music was substituted for proper and even ordinary (benedictus) texts, but those texts were still required to be said silently by those upon whom it was obligated. It's a remarkable statement about the "audience" for sacred music, which was God, not the parishioner.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    Yes, Mike, but I think you're talking about the "Missa Cantata," which was more-or-less a mixture of the Solemn Mass and the Low Mass.

    Further, the Second Vatican Council used a phrase which was basically lifted from the writings of Pius X and Pius XII (although it is not a direct quotation)--that is, that "...sacred music is an integral part of the Mass."

    This implies that there IS such a thing as 'music which is NOT integral part'...and I think that may include "wallpaper."
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,102
    OK... you are all doing your homework and I am reading with great interest, learning and circumspection.

    However, I am going to shoot from the hip and give you my PERSONAL evaluation and experience for what it's worth.

    Too much music is like having NO musc. Think of a movie or an opera, or a musical. Do excellent works have music without ceasing? No. Why? Because it is the contrast of having and not. It is the entering and the ending. This is why speaking must cease for music, and music must cease for speaking. There are outward moments in the liturgy, and there are terribly personal moments... those of intimation.

    Let's look at it from a totally different perspective. The visual. The reality is in the use of 'white space' in design. Being a designer myself, I am very aware of this principle and am always trying to 'push' people toward the need for space! This movie illustrates it quite well.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=aeXAcwriid0

    Our culture is afraid of silence. But think of the times on the stage or in the movies when little is being said and no music is accompanying the action. They are hard to find, but they are significant moments. In silence we become sensitized to sound. If it is always 'noisy' or if music is always occuring, we become insensitive to any other stirrings in sound. Hence the phrase, 'you could have heard a pin drop'.

    I struggled with this during the Colloquium of 2005 when we had a discussion about music at communion. Sometimes I want it to be quite. Just Me and God! Communion is a great time for that to happen. It is the moment of intimation. Sometimes, music at that moment in time is just a distraction. It all harkens back to the reality of contemplation. Balance. There has to be balance!
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Sometimes I want it to be quite. Just Me and God! Communion is a great time for that to happen. It is the moment of intimation. Sometimes, music at that moment in time is just a distraction.

    But that sentiment stands in opposition to the spirit of the liturgy. We don't just approach God as "me an' Jesus", we approach it as His Bride - that is, collectively. When we commune, it isn't just you communing with God, but you communing with God and in the process communing with everyone else who is or has communed with God. A congregational song, as the GIRM says, makes the unity of the moment more plainly manifest. However, any form of music allows God to speak to us. Especially the psalms, which is why the ancient practice was the Communion Antiphon + a psalm. At my parish, we use Psalm 145 during ordinary time with the antiphon "The hand of the Lord feeds us, He answers all our needs." What more needs to be said of communion? And yet in the Psalm God tells us more, that "he has compassion on all he has made," "loving toward all he has made," and "near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth," among much else. At some point I want to move to a weekly psalm with the proper antiphon. So I ask, during Communion, how can anything be more appropriate? In silence God can speak to one, but in music He speaks to all.

    Furthermore, I'll repeat my claim that the Mass is properly ALL music. If we had the time to teach our congregation a chanted confiteor and train the lectors to sing the readings, at Christmas we'd have had music from the time I sit down on the bench until the priest begins his sermon. Sure, a chanted collect is different from a Gloria, which is different from a hymn, which is different from an antiphon, which is different from a prelude, which is different from a chanted reading. But it is all to be music, because that is the proper way to approach God, as so many psalms tell us. A lack of music may support a need for individualism or dourness, but it is not the best way to approach God and it is NOT in keeping with the mind of the Church.
  • When Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, spoke at Christendom College in the Summer of 2006, he strongly recommended periods of silence during the Mass, particularly after Communion. He was very clear and specific in recommending that musicians stop playing or singing music during some periods of the Mass to allow for silent prayer.
    Brian
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Periods of silence, as in silent meditation, yes. After each reading, before the penitential rite, after communion, maybe even after the Entrance, absolutely. Don't-touch-the-organ-after-the-Offertory-antiphon-is-done-even-if-the-priest-is-using-incense-and-hasn't-taken-the-gifts-yet? No way. If Cardinal Arinze has a problem with me improvising after the offertory hymn or until the priest begins to cleanse the vessels, I'll just say it's a good thing that I don't work at his parish.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    Well, yah, Gavin--if there's a Big Hole to fill, unobtrusive meditative music can be appropriate.

    But I tend to agree with Francis. Periods of deliberate silence are fine--and necessary. I've heard that then-Card. Ratzinger also made the same point in his "Spirit of the Liturgy" book.

    No different than rests in a musical score. Absolutely necessary for the music to happen.

    And that "community" stuff only goes so far--for the community is still made up of individuals; they are not a herd, nor to be treated as such.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Well what precisely would you say, in the OF, constitutes unnecessary music outside of the examples I gave? And I should be specific as well in saying my organ music at communion policy is to try to end the playing while the priest is cleansing vessels. If I have an extremely short piece worth playing which will start and end during it, I'll play a whole new piece during, but not often. And if the music ends after the priest returns to his chair, my boss always starts waiting AFTER the music ends (same with a postcommunion). I think we can get more done dealing in concrete should-dos and should-not-dos rather than just saying "no unnecessary music".
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'd add for pastoral concern that there was a study done somewhere (no link for it) that said something to the effect that humans can measure time typically up to a minute and a half. Past that we start getting terribly inaccurate. To illustrate, at our school Masses the children in the choir lead a short (3 verse) responsorial psalm during Communion, and then go down to receive from the EMHC and priest. The first week I did this, I didn't pay attention and went all the way through the psalm and the teacher who was EMHC had to wait a verse. Talking to her later, she exclaimed "I was waiting so long!" I responded "Yes, the time delay was regrettable, but it wasn't THAT bad". She said "I was waiting at least five minutes!" "Be reasonable, a psalm usually doesn't take any more than 2 minutes at the most!" "5 minutes if not more!" So I think when we talk about silence in liturgy, we need to remember that longer than a minute and a half (a minute for some, even) will seem painfully long. Maybe that should be taken into consideration also.
  • "unobtrusive meditative music" is a term that I struggle with, essentially because it can lead to banal improvisations which have no "goal" or even "idea" to underpin their structure. It reminds me a little of elevator music - just filling a gap until the next big "thing" happens. I think that an ideal to strive for is that the improvisation should be built out of the music that has just been sung e.g. at the Offertory, perhaps the organist could take a fragment of the Offertory Chant, and use it as the basis for an improvisation, and, when the possibilities offered by this fragment are exhausted, return to the Chant to find another motif to use in a similar way. I'm not saying that this is easy - it requires an understanding of modal harmony, which is something that isn't really taught. I do, however, think that it is neccessary to take this sort of approach, otherwise the standard of organ music will not be very high.
  • G
    Posts: 1,386
    I know when I first took on my present position I was terribly guilty of the aimless improvs that Palestrina fears.
    (I still am from time to time.)
    And I currently allot WAAAAAAAAAAY too much time to subliminally teaching music that I am not at liberty to program.
    Bless me, Father, for I have sinned... but I am determined that someday, somewhere, the school children who currently sing the Clapping Gloria and Lord of the Dance will hear the Gregorian Ave Verum, or the Ambrosian Gloria, or the Salve Regina and whack their foreheads in the classic CouldaHaddaVeeEight gesture, and say, "Hey, I know that, let's sing that!"

    (Save the Liturgy Save the World)
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Good for you, G!!!!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,102
    Well, I never responded to Gavin, and I guess Gavin, you were expecting a rebuttle or something. All I can say is 'me an' Jesus go back quite a ways! (Baptism, to be exact). I have come a looooooooooooooong way in understanding the liturgy (The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass seems to be the most appropriate title for the liturgy) since my very first assistant organist position in 1973.

    I thought it was interesting to bring up the term, unecessary music. That is the negative view. If we consider the positive view, it would be:

    What is the necessary music for a complete and beautiful liturgy?

    I would dare to say, it wouldn't even need an organ. Just the voice!

    This page says it well.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10001a.htm

    (BTW... I love the pipe organ, and am a tracker buff at that.)
  • Keeping in mind that the Catholic Encyclopedia online is an edition from about 1912-1919 (give or take a year), I am fascinated by the statement "These chants [the ordinary] should never be accompanied by the organ or any other instrument." Is this view supported in documents of the time? Had it been abrogated by 1962? In any case, this entry should be food for some good discussion.
  • To add to my previous post ..
    "They [propers of the Mass] are, however, an integral part of the duty of the choir, and must be sung, or at least "recited", in a clear and intelligible voice, the organ meanwhile sustaining appropriate chords."

    This seems to be the opposite of what some posters have indicated is the practice at their church. Again, I'm wondering how official any of this is.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,102
    The liturgy has been an organic, constantly evolving rite over the centuries.

    If I was a literalist, I would say we need our Liturgy to look exactly like the last supper, just like Jesus celebrated the first Mass. A low wide table, and we should all sit on the floor. It should'nt be more than 12 people or so, and the priest should wash eveyone's feet at every Mass.

    Well, as you will quickly realize, that is silly.

    So why do we try to 'freeze' the liturgy in time? All of the liturgical experiences that the church has had over the centuries were mostly all valid. I say mostly because there were always abuses, customs, and continued organic growth that was eventually adopted into the liturgy. Jeez. Palestrina has only been around for a little over 400 years, folks. That represents only the last fifth of the history of the liturgy.

    Where I depart from this way of thinking is when Vatican II occurred. That is where major confusion entered because the liturgy no longer grew organically, slowly, and deliberately over time and from the people. It took a paradigm shift and was rewritten from the top down by a 'chosen' few. That has never occured with the liturgy before.

    I don't think we should to subscribe to a 'best' or 'only' practice of the liturgy. The Church makes room for the music of old, the music of new, improvisation, chant, polyphony, hymns, instruments, organ, and more. I attended an Orthodox Mass a few weeks ago. They don't even HAVE instruments, or the organ. They chanted everything a cappella. It was solemn and beautiful. It was the prayer sublimely joined to music. As soon as someone says "I have the best way" or "This is the only official way to conduct music at the liturgy", well, aren't you kinda saying "I am for Paul! I am for Cephas!" "I am for Latin! I am for English! I am for a cappella! I am for Organ!"
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    FWIW, Michael, the way I was trained, Proper chants should NEVER be accompanied unless the schola is....well....really....amateur.

    And Ordinary chants should be unaccompanied, as well--but that prevails only when there is strong leadership in the singing--like from a choir or at least a couple of strong singers.

    Otherwise, both pitch and tempo will suffer.

    Also for what it's worth, I can trace my 'education lineage' directly back to Regensburg during the period of the late 1800's--the liturgical reform movement.

    So as to the thread-header question 'how much is TOO much?,' I think that we can look at the Mass' music as we look at Chant: with arsis and thesis--that is, analogous to breathing, or walking--there must be 'resting' periods.

    Whether you envision it as each prescribed sung part (Proper and Ordinary) as the phrase, with the silences between, or whether you draw a longer set of lines--beginning, e.g. with the Introit and ending with the Gloria, (etc.)--or whether you imagine only one large phrase with the Consecration/Elevation as the apex--you get the idea.
  • "Proper chants should NEVER be accompanied unless the schola is....well....really....amateur."

    Some choirs have difficulty staying on pitch, and I think that accompaniment can help them. I think the organist must remember, however, that the accompaniment is only meant as a support to the singers - which means that it should be as soft as possible, and, really, only needs to be heard by the choir. If the choir is close enough to the organ, then it's conceivable that a single 8' Flute with the swell box closed, should be sufficient.

    "And Ordinary chants should be unaccompanied, as well--but that prevails only when there is strong leadership in the singing--like from a choir or at least a couple of strong singers."

    Agreed - unaccompanied is the ideal. I just don't think it's very practical in many situations e.g. when you have a congregation of several hundred people (including many musical amateurs), it's unrealistic to expect that pitch will be maintained well. I started accompanying Credo III at my church when it became clear that there was no way the congregation wasn't going to go flat as a result of the descending triad motion that pervades that piece, even with strong leaders in the choir. That doesn't mean that the organ has to be ridiculously loud or bright (I don't think that there's often (if ever) justification for drawing any stop above 4') - just that it should be capable of leading. Whereas the choir may only require a "subtle" background accompaniment to keep it on pitch, congregations may require something more.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,673
    We're pretty much in agreement, although I was always told that when you have pitch problems, using a 2' stop is the best remedy. A soft one, but a 2'.
  • G
    Posts: 1,386
    "I was always told that when you have pitch problems, using a 2' stop is the best remedy. A soft one, but a 2'."

    What an interesting idea... it makes perfect sense. I may try it.
    My choir has a real flatting problem, if we do anything unaccompanied, and I can't seem to do anything about the worst culprits, so unless it's loud and fast, (like one middle verse of an SATB hymn,) the closest we get to a capella is singing over a pedal tone.

    My congregation has an unerring ability to drop a whole step by the word "heaven" and then maintain that key very well to the end of the Our Father. This happens regardless of the key the priest begins in (we have low legit baritone and high pop tenor priests.)

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,102
    here is a technique i have used many times. you may already know this one.

    tell them to make their descending intervals a hair smaller than they think they should be and their ascending intervals a hair larger.
    Thanked by 1Andrew Malton
  • dad29 said:

    "FWIW, Michael, the way I was trained, Proper chants should NEVER be accompanied unless the schola is....well....really....amateur."

    I'm sure many on this forum have been waiting for me to add my nickel's worth (inflation!). Gregorian chant accompanied by the organ IS a tradition in the RC Church. So is unaccompanied chant. Amateur chanting without the organ usually sounds bad. Amateur organists accompanying chant probably sounds even worse. Good chanting with appropriate organ accompaniment CAN be a beautiful thing, and as I just stated, IS part of the Church's tradition.

    I know there are only a few of us who are this strongly in favor of accompanied chant, far fewer than those against. But I will suggest to you that there are exponentially more people in the middle on this one!

    And this is, of course, a tangent to the original question. I've been playing for EF Low Masses on a weekly basis for over 4 years. I know how long the Prayers at the Foot are, and the Offertory, and trim my hymnody to suit. I use Finale, and give the PIPs the most pertinent and beautiful texts to sing. The Communion time starts with me chanting the Communion Proper with organ accompaniment, which is followed by the hymn. I use short interludes or improvise if needed. That's the way I like it, and it's what my Pastor wants me to do.

    And, in both the OF and EF Mass, the organist's primary responsibility is to know the cues for both beginning AND ending the music! I was at a Mass offered by Cardinal Arinze where he stood up and cut off the music from the choir loft after Communion. It was the 3rd choral offering during that time, constrcted with verses, and had a few more verses to go. As offended as some of my musician friends have been at my telling of this story, the director in the choir loft really should have found an early stopping point, IMO!