If you think we have it bad...another sign of the continued deterioration in Church Music.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,138
    So worship is a "personal" preference. Hmmmm.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,931
    Which "style" does GOD prefer!?
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    I was just reading a relevant passage in Volume II of Cardinal Ratzinger's Collected Works, in "The Essence of the Liturgy," p. 12:

    "The worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult. When Moses stays away too long, and God himself becomes inaccessible, the people just fetch him back. Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking and making merry. The dance around the golden calf is an image of this self-seeking worship. It is a kind of banal self-gratification. The narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship. Ultimately, it is concerned, no longer with God, but giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one's own resources. Then liturgy really does become pointless, just fooling around. Or still worse, it becomes an apostasy from the living God, an apostasy in sacral disguise. All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness. There is no experience of that liberation which always takes place when man encounters the living God."
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,931
    do you think God has given us over to our own thinking?

    [21] Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. [23] And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of fourfooted beasts, and of creeping things. [24] Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonour their own bodies among themselves. [25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
    Thanked by 1cberry
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,067
    I never know what to do with these topics... On the one hand, it's clear to me what the best music for the Catholic liturgy is (chant, polyphony), because the Church has said as much and they are very obviously venerable and cross-culturally attractive. On the other hand...

    I don't necessarily mind people doing praise-and-worship type stuff for devotions, a la Franciscan U., provided they realize it's not liturgically appropriate.

    I see this repertoire (yes, I know it's not monolithic) in Protestant services somewhat as I see their clerical debates (I'm fine with female "ministers", since they don't claim any heritage to the priesthood in a real sense, but I'm not ok with female "priests", ala ECUSA and even the continuing Anglican groups, for that matter).

    Here in Birmingham at Samford U, Eric Mathis does wonderful things with more contemporary forms in his "Anima" project. Likewise, I have good friends who work in a PCA context that make great use of modern forms while utilizing psalmody and scriptural texts in a very tasteful, integral way. These folks are classically trained, too, and the compositions are not trite, if not as inspired as the chant repertoire.

    In the end, I suppose (outside a Catholic liturgical context) it comes down to aesthetics (is this true, beautiful, etc.) and how much you want to blend things. I've worked in a "blended" context (I'm tempted to say I "did my time"!) and do find that it detracts from the trajectory of a traditionally-based program. I've yet to see anyone in a Catholic liturgical context really roast that bird properly.

    OK, too much talking on Monday morning!!!
    Thanked by 3CharlesW bonniebede MBW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    I have given up trying to fight musical extremes. Granted, chant is the original music for mass. Polyphony, although advocated by Tridentine and after reformers who were enamored of the styles of their day, can be either lovely or be chant carried to decadent extremes. Even those reformers called for simplification of polyphony where it obscured the texts. Bach and Mozart really have no authentic place in the mass and are products of their particular age. Some of those composers were not even Catholic and in the case of Mozart, wrote for the stage and sometimes produced grandiose adaptations of theater styles for church. What to do, what to do??? I tend to try for what I consider some of the better music from all styles and ages, leaving out those that never pretended to be anything but secular. There is also the matter of how to deal with current secular styles that pretend to be sacred music. I use some modern forms that are well-written and suitable for liturgy. A huge qualifier is whether or not any of those forms fit within the talents and abilities of my singers - they don't always. It's sometimes a no-win.
    Thanked by 2francis MBW
  • My point in posting this was that we are dealing with only one other style, as guitar masses are diminishing in popularity.

    The Protestant churches are dissolving in multiple styles.

    Which will recover faster - our situation or theirs?
    Thanked by 2MBW JulieColl
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    I am in complete sympathy and agreement with the struggle evident in the last posts. In my view, it is as unlikely that the path to a fertile and valuable future for sacred music lies in recovering chant and polyphony as it is that it lies in continuing the dominance of "contemporary" music produced since 1970. A new synthesis is needed and I doubt that it will happen in the lifetime of any but the very youngest of us. Our real job is to be more serious about the task of true integration of worthy music into the Mass than most of our bosses are. Worthy music may not always be in our own preferred style or those styles which the Church professes in documents but slights in practice.



    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • If musical confusion causes general confusion among heretics, who am I to judge?
  • new synthesis is needed


    What will be synthesized, and what will be used (or, at least, would you consider necessary or welcome components) to create the synthesis?

    true integration of worthy music into the Mass


    Of course, first we need a definition of "worthy music".... but that returns to my previous observation

    Worthy music may not always be in our own preferred style or those styles which the Church professes in documents but slights in practice


    Of course, if we render the meaning of "worthy" so clear as you have, it can serve as the core of the next Franciscan Encyclical!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    What will be synthesized, and what will be used (or, at least, would you consider necessary or welcome components) to create the synthesis?


    As people in the 1950s would never have thought that church music could change so radically in the next decade, it is not any more possible to know what it will be like 10 years in the future. The next Catholic music god could appear on the scene and the U.S. church would fall in line and buy the godly or ungodly stuff he produced. I would like to think chant would be so re-established it would be the wave of the future, but I don't see any indication of it. Pope Benedict tried, but the Vandals have retaken the eternal city and who knows where all this will go next?
  • Might I suggest that it is not what "style" we should consider. That subject has been deeply thought about by the Christian Church Universal and her decision is chant and well crafted / composed music based on chant. Consider that the one thing all great sacred music of all Christian sects have in common - that they are all in some way based on chant. What is appropriate for the Liturgy has also been decided. They are one and the same! Is it not so?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    Yes, but also, no. If your father told you not to do something but never followed through with any consequences if you did it anyway, how much effectiveness would any other thing he said have? Wouldn't you completely lose respect for him? We are in a similar situation. The church says in document xyz, blah-blah-blah. If you ignore it, what happens? Nothing. As an easterner, I don't have that problem in my own church. Tradition is a sacred thing not to be tampered with. However, in the Latin church where I work, it is an entirely different situation.
    Thanked by 1MBW
  • I see your point and add that in my opinion, the musical mess is in part due to clerical ignorance, a willful defiant outgrowth from a self-centered ego satisfaction and a lack of backbone based on truth and principal; not to mention, greed!
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,931
    o Abbot J C... it goes far deeper than that.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    Pope Benedict tried, but the Vandals have retaken the eternal city and who knows where all this will go next?


    Cdl Sarah, let's pray.
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    That subject has been deeply thought about by the Christian Church Universal and her decision is chant and well crafted / composed music based on chant. Consider that the one thing all great sacred music of all Christian sects have in common - that they are all in some way based on chant.


    Yes, this is true. However, the inconvenient truth is that almost all of western music, including secular forms, is based on chant. Chant is our common seminal form. Our job now, I think, is to use our informed intellect and formed spirit to choose and perform the best music we can for liturgy. (As I suggested above, we need to take this liturgical job a lot more seriously than most of our bosses do.) I think we can safely trust that the experience of the people we minister to will then be enhanced. Not all of us will choose the same music and, in fact, we might strongly disagree about repertoire. So be it.

    We wait for the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove to land on the head of the next Palestrina/Bach/Mozart and coo to him or her how to write the next great sacred music. I don't know about you, but I am getting impatient.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,536
    We wait for the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove to land on the head of the next Palestrina/Bach/Mozart
    Well, we had Messiaen and we got…one exquisite motet. Maybe it's the soil that needs the work. BTW, if the chronology of Mozart's career is anything to go by, he should be accused of introducing church music into theaters (I think I hear the Commendatore's cue coming up).
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,931
    the messy man. I like to listen to his music but not during mass.
  • francis - I know it goes far deeper, but I was trying to be kind. If I were to say here what I know to be true, I am fairly certain I would be booted from this site. The cancer in the Church is far greater and deeper than what many either know or will admit; being in denial!

    MBW - correct, however, there are forms of musical structure there are profane and not suitable for the liturgy. Additionally, sacred text wedded to the appropriate music places such music in the obviously different category from secular music in our western musical heritage.
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    MBW - correct, however, there are forms of musical structure there are profane and not suitable for the liturgy.


    Do you refer to dance forms? Or other forms? Whatever they are, their roots are in chant. This makes our job in making music for liturgy harder. We cannot just say "chant and chant based music is appropriate" because even "profane forms" are chant based.

    If one believes that some music is profane, one must make a judgement about where in musical history or the compositional process the line was crossed. This judgement has not been clearly made by the Church (debatable, I know), and certainly has not been modeled by the church (not debatable!). Yes, we can say that music must be inspired by Renaissance polyphony, but where does the inspiration stop?

    By the way, what do you mean by profane? Secular - or something worse?

    Additionally, sacred text wedded to the appropriate music places such music in the obviously different category from secular music in our western musical heritage.


    Yes, text is of primary importance. In the spectrum of the development of musical form, we must make hard decisions about what forms it is possible for sacred texts to "baptize". Also, not an easy task, or one where everyone of good heart will agree.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    It seems arbitrary to say that dance music came from chant. People danced with music before the Church ever existed, and well prior to the historical synthesis which created Gregorian chant.
    Thanked by 3MBW CHGiffen Adam Wood
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    Yes, Chonak, that was too comprehensive a statement. I should have said that the development of western dance music, as we usually understand it, owes much to chant and chant based music in its melodic and harmonic language. Clearly there are other inputs both pre Judaeo/Christian and extra-European.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Our Parish Priest says it the best when he said that God is Love, he is all things beautiful. If the hymns are beautiful, if the Parish grounds show the beauty of the lord, if the Church itself is filled with beauty and love, then we are encompassing all things worthy of God. I could see a classical guitar playing in a church and being of utmost beauty to the Lord... though that same instrument strummed and played quick is not so much of beauty, as of having an entertaining piece to it.

    That being said, our Director of Music plays both classical and contemporary hymns... but all have the common theme of being beautiful. They are liturgically appropriate and especially picked to go along with the readings of the day. Right now for Advent (and every Advent), we utilize Schubert's Deusche Messe setting... which is a very beautiful Mass setting.
  • To respond to some of the wonderful insights previously herein above, I believe that I once read a few years ago a wonderful article on what is sacred and what is profane by Dr. Marht. Also, do I recall correctly a youtube video on this same subject as given by him at a lecture?

    Additionally, I do think that "intent" of a musical work carries weight in this decision on what may or may not be liturgically appropriate. While there are many works of great spiritual depth and divine inspiration that might be appropriate within the walls of a sacred space, they would not necessarily be appropriate for a given Mass or other liturgical function. The Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams has deeply moved many including myself. If one had the resources at a church for its performance as a prelude to a liturgical event, all the better. However, within the context of a liturgical event, it would most likely be out of place. On the other hand, I must confess, I would rather hear it at a Mass in place of most homilies!
  • We can do very little to make change. (not that we should give up) The only true change will come through change in the teaching in the seminaries.

    Anyone that thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken.

    You can't replace a manager at Panera Bread with one direct from Burger King. The basic elements of the business are almost totally different, even though they both feed people.

    While I totally disagree with WICatholic's comments above on many levels, when you only have a Burger King in town it becomes the measure of what is quality cuisine. A Panera plunked down in a community used to Burger King has little chance of financial success due to the demographics of the community, which has a different expectation and understanding of the word beauty.

    I write this from a community which is without even a Burger King and according to the census, 3 out of 10 are unable to read and write. Makes the line at the post office slower as the postmistress (illegally) reads their mail to people unable to read. The PO does not permit this!


  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    as the postmistress (illegally) reads their mail to people unable to read.


    Sounds like something from an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Noel, you're a long way from Manhattan now, I take it?
  • I lived in a town of 3,000, that has a McDonald's and a Subway, for many years. Would never think of that as "quality cuisine" though, even if that is all I had. The Catholic church I belonged to had a volunteer husband/wife duo who played music for Mass (he was an organist, she was the cantor). The husband would constantly get slower on the organ as he went... and the wife couldn't hold a pitch if she tried. Though I will say this... never did I see a guitar played in our church, and while the hymns were of the 70s/80s Haugen/Haas/Schutte variety, they least were played in a respectful way. Of course, beauty is only one way of measure...

    Not to mention, comparing Catholic hymns and the way they are played to food tastes is a totally different thing. I think this needs to go even deeper than teaching in the seminary... it also has to do with proper catechesis and teaching of the young about what Mass is really about. It is part of the reason I am a catechist at my Parish.

    Our Parish Priest is in his 30's... was IMO a part of the better teaching in the seminary... and many of the recent Priests coming out of the seminary are bringing back incense, better hymns, making music directors go back into the loft if the church has it. There are only a couple Parishes that have younger Priests in charge, but all of them thus far have had very positive changes there since their arrival.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago