Like walking on thin ice...
  • [mild-mannered rant excised - basically church people are now empowered to analyze and change my hymn choices]

    So today at Communion I was faced with a song that I had never seem before...which is no big deal....but the refrain ended on the dominant (don't have a theory background? Dominant is the chord just before the last chord in almost all music....(the famous protestant A-men uses the sub-dominant, not as final) but the dominant 99% of the time is the second to last chord.

    So I figure, the verses must have the ending as part of them which seemed strange. But THEY END ON THE DOMINANT TOO....

    I saw myself floundering in a cauldron of fuming indecision. What to do? How does this nightmare ever end? What have I done to deserve this?

    So we sang the final verse, sang the refrain, stopped and the organist then played some little ditty, the details of which we lowly holders of the Breaking Bread book...were not privy too....to....two? AH, NOT PRIVY TO, TOO?

    "But Billy, I had to flunk you. You ended the piece on the dominant."

    "I don't care," says Billy. "I compose for OCP!" "I'm making the big bucks."
  • Oh, man... you need to find another parish! the stress must be really annoying.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    It seems that many contemporary music don't have a final, real ending. Often times instruments repeat some vainishing musical pattern with strange chords until you get tired doing it. 'Emotionally effective exit.'
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    I don't want to set you off, Noel, spare your blood pressure, if you can, but what do you mean, "church people are now empowered to analyze and change my hymns choices"?
    What church people? pastor? cantor? the guy in the second pew who happens to know where you keep the hymn board numbers?

    I was the MD at a church once with an organist to accompany me. (The console was maybe 6 feet from the podium from which I operated.)
    I picked out the hymns one Sunday, printed up programs, gave her one, put the numbers up on the board, all of this at about 20 till.
    Time comes for the entrance, I announced the hymn.
    She began an introduction to something I'd never heard before.
    I tired to sing, but no, nothing fit.
    No one sang.
    I just stood at the cantor stand looking like a big honking jack-ass.
    After Mass I asked what that was, and she smiled and said airily , oh, I don't know the one you picked, and this had some of the same words.

    Oh, when I try to explain Dominant-Tonic cadences to non-musicians I say "the 'ta' of 'ta-dah!', ya know?"

    I hope no one objects to the end of Act I of Verdi's Othello.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I don't know... in Theory on Friday we listened to Penderecki's "Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima". Didn't end on the tonic :( Then I tried to listen to some "good" music - chant. The dumb monks forgot the V-I! Then a Palestrina motet I put on ended with a Phrygian cadence! SO many dummies in the world :( OCP must be busy publishing all that!

    Usual sarcasm aside, ending on the dominant is a perfectly fine technique, and I must say I'm really getting tired of V-I. Then again, it's a fine technique for GOOD COMPOSERS. I think I might know the piece Noel is referring to, and the proper criticism isn't that it ends on the dominant (I think I had to play it in high school, and hated the ending so much that I just played the tonic at the end). The proper criticism is that it's just trash music by a lame composer published by an unethical company. And his dog is probably ugly too.
  • Gavin, I was thinking it might be Conry's "I will lift up my eyes." If so, that's not an easy call, even to call it ending on a dominant. I'd like to echo your contention, in any case, that even ending clearly on a well established dominant isn't necessarily "bad composition" in any era. There's intrinsic purpose in harmony, be it visceral or theoretical, and then there's PURPOSE tied to INTENT. Was a dominant really a dominant in high renaissance rubrics? And once the bridle was left off to allow the dominant seventh, how long did that "reality" last in light of Wagner then Schoenberg?
    "Dominant." Domine. That which comes before the final cadence, which in music can be the tonic home. But in the cosmos....???
  • I confess to liking that song of Tom Conry’s. What is most interesting, IMO, is how Conry (purposely, I assume) avoids any strong V-I motions (except the 4th verse), yet it still very much feels like “G major”.
  • JDE
    Posts: 584
    Noel,

    it is definitely frustrating to have to take seriously the ignorant, solipsistic, narcissistic, puerile and ill-considered opinions of the other staff, not to mention the parishioners. I have finally come to a point of peace with the whole endeavor, however, because i need the money.

    My new viewpoint is this. If you go into a restaurant and order a hot dog (assuming they would have such vulgar fare), but they bring you a Beef Wellington instead, what would you think? [If they were only charging me for the hot dog, I would be pretty pleased.] To come to my frame of mind, you must be willing to suspend your knowledge that Beef Wellington is objectively better, better for you, more challenging (because you actually have to chew), and all around superior.

    In fact, I think most people like their hot dogs just fine, thank you very much, and they don't want you to challenge their [ignorant, solipsistic, narcissistic, puerile and ill-informed] preconceptions about what constitutes "good" music. In fact, I got a fifteen-minute broadside from my normally calm organist on this subject last week, and he told me I was in danger of getting canned. In fact, he told me that "95 percent of the congregation are against" me.

    So I no longer regard it as my responsibility to convince the masses that they are ignorant, solipsistic, narcissistic, puerile and/or ill-informed. That is between them and the Lord. That's right -- I'm not the chef any more. I am just a line cook, or at most a sous-chef. The ignorant, solipsistic, narcissistic, puerile and ill-informed (and above all ENTITLED) customer orders a hot dog, and I say, "how would you like that hot dog, sir?"

    I feel SO liberated since I came to this place of enlightenment. In the meantime, I will keep my ear to the ground for better positions, try to pay off the enormous debt I just found out I owe to the IRS for a mistake on last year's return (the sort of thing that would make even the leftiest socialist into a Libertarian), and cut back on expenses so I won't be dependent on that income any more. I'm tired of working three jobs, never having enough money, and getting no respect into the bargain. I don't need the hassle. And since I can't quit, the only thing I can change is my attitude.

    Peace of mind can be yours as well! Try it with me, people!

    Repeat after me:

    "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig."

    Likewise, never try to convince the dolts on the parish council that they are not first-class experts on church music. Because, after all, that's why they went to dental hygiene school, right? Because it wastes your time, it annoys the dolts, and it puts you in danger of de-jobbing.

    Here endeth the rant! Thank you! I feel much better now.

    Never try to teach a pig to sing . . . OMMMMMM . . . never try to teach a pig to sing . . . OMMMMMMM . . . never try to teach a pig to sing . . . you get the picture.
  • JDE
    Posts: 584
    Oh, and about that "dominant" ending:

    Since I have no idea which song you mean, is it maybe an attempt at modal writing? This happens a lot in rock music. For instance, Carry on, my Wayward Son is in Dorian mode (or possibly Hypodorian). Just witness the big guitar riff from the bridge:

    re do re FA, re do re SOL, la do lasolfa sol do, sol ti (etc.), and 'home' appears to be Re. And there are loads of examples of this sort of thing in rock music.

    Do I think the rock artists are doing it on purpose? Maybe, but I doubt it. I think it happens because the modes are more natural than the post-Corelli world of I-IV-V-I. So maybe what you are encountering is just the natural triumph of modal melody over the constraints of L'Estro Armonico.
  • Unless a Grain of Wheat

    It tells the story how a grain of wheat, unless it falls upon the ground and dies, is bound to stay forever a grain of wheat with no life. Possibly when she wrote this, the lack of a final cadence in the melodic writing and supporting harmonic structure of the melody is to create the longing and need that grains of wheat that do not fall to the ground feel when they become aware that they are bound to be dried, processed, and then shredded into breakfast cereal instead.

    The melody of the refrain ends on the second, the verse on the fifth.
  • Zen and the Art of Being a Catholic Church Musician!

    Thanks, Yuri!
  • JDE
    Posts: 584
    Noel,

    since I have never had the misfortune of encountering that song until now (although I was aware of its existence), I looked it up in my OCP accompaniment book. It's very sing-song IMO and doesn't really come to a conclusion except for the tacked-on afterthought of the return to tonic in the final ending.

    Oy gevalt! I could have gone the rest of my life not knowing that song . . . . but now it's IN THERE with all the other flotsam and jetsam of musical inadequacy. At least I have still (touch wood) managed to avoid ever having to play Anthem. I think that would be a walk-out song for me, along with the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

    By way of explanation, the latter is not suitable for church because it is not the least bit about God, except in using him as a cartoon-like divine avenger; and because my forefathers fought (and many died defending their homes) in that war, it still touches a sore spot for me. My great-great-great-grandfather was the sole survivor of 12 brothers. So to me the BHOTR is plainly unacceptable, and it baffles me that anyone, after hearing the explanation of the text, could still want to use it in church.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Yurodivi, re: BHOTR, I agree with you 100% - now. Five years ago, when my father passed away, I was determined that, as a veteran, he would have it as the recessional at his funeral Mass, as his father had before him in 1973, and in fact, I insisted on it when the local organist demurred. Once I attended the workshops in Auburn and started reading all the online material about what the Church asks of music, I was ashamed of how I had acted, realizing that I had done then the same thing that I grouse about other people doing to me.

    So the moral of this story is - what, exactly? Be kind to everyone, even those hot heads who insist on certain things, because they may eventually see the light and become firm allies, maybe. Or perhaps, the sins of our youth make us more serene and knowledgable when dealing with similar situations in our, ahem, middle age.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "I could have gone the rest of my life not knowing that song"

    How many pieces of music in a typical OCP/GIA hymnal could I say that about??
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Traditional hymns such as "Gonfalon Royal" by Percy Carter Buck, and "Engelberg" by Charles V. Stanford end on the dominant also - at least if you don't finish with the specially composed "Amen"!
  • Steve's right and they end beautifully.

    The reason is the Gonfalon works is that the dominant final chord is preceeded by the dominant of the dominant. And Engleberg ends with a Plagal Cadence in the key of the dominant.

    500 ends with a subdominant followed by the dominant. As it appears...but I am working from a melody copy...or in the vernacular, the second and third chords of Hang On Sloopy.
  • I suppose someone has to be the fly in the ointment some think is chrism. Call me Jeff Goldblum.
    Did it occur to anyone that what here has been identified as BHOTR is more properly named "Mine eyes have seen the glory."? Does that trigger the association in anyone's mind of the eschatological vision that came to Julia Ward Howe's mind as she moved through the tent hospitals and the war-torn landscape and skies around D.C.? Isn't that association much more valid with its "Revelation" imagery than the patriotic or nostalgic one's that has become attached to our perceived need to honor nationalism in liturgy? Such tunnel-visioned criticism reminds me of the send-ups of "Jerusalem (And did Those Feet in ancient times...)" that the Pythons consistently goofed with in the seventies.
    As long as the hymn is sung in an eschatological context (Advent) and not set to cheese (which includes the infamous Wilhousky arrangement) then I have no problem with it's use as a "dismissal."
    PS. FNJ, if your "Sloopy" project sees the light of day, be forewarned: Bill O'Reilly's scorn will find its way to you. He just yesterday heaped howls of derisive laughter at said ditty on The Factor. Good timing, what what? (Yes, I knew you were kidding.)
  • I have to admit that Bill O'Reilly's scorn is what supplied the reference to Sloopy!
  • Synergy! I love it. Bill was quite full of mirth In yesterday's installment. O'Reilly's one PIP I'd love to hear opine on our current liturgical cultures.