NEW MASS!: Mass of the Contemporaries
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    This Novus Ordo Mass is set in Latin and makes use of contemporary harmony and counterpoint. The Mass is dedicated to all contemporary saints.

    Here's the link:
  • I don't understand it.
    In fairness, the number of things I don't understand is enormous, so this inability to understand what you're doing probably doesn't carry much weight.

    As with other pieces you've submitted, is this intended for a concert hall at a college, or do you intend it for parochial use?
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 976
    I think the biggest thing for me must be that the synthesized performance cannot be what's in your head. The organ voices on notation software are famously bad -- the Kyrie of this Mass, since it is unaccompanied, actually gave me the impression that I knew what you were going for.

    The tone clusters with alternating solo work, which had their own patient logic in leading to the ultimate resolution made sense and, I think, held together (I have questions about the size and composition of your ensemble, and think you could unshackle yourself a bit from the tyranny of your starting key).

    The Gloria which I heard first, and almost last, looked interesting on the page, but I couldn't hear that music through whatever the MIDI was doing. In curiosity, I looked up some of your works for wind ensemble (the "Conference Call" suite) and found that the MIDI performances were expertly curated, and the result was fun, lively music that made a lot of sense. (On that note, I would really appreciate little epigraphs for the different sections of those pieces a la Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" or Joplin's "Wall Street Rag" -- I think it would help us understand the full 'satire' at work).

    On the Mass, I would work with alternative voices for the organ setting / play around in the Finale Score Manager (or equivalent in your program) until you like how the big stuff sounds, and then share it, so we are helped, not hindered, from getting an idea of how this works in your head. When we become intuitively aware through listening that you have a vision for this work, and get a sense of what that is, we would be in a better position to appraise it or, if helpful, many of the expert composers on this forum could probably help you realize it even more clearly or, depending on choral forces available and intended use, practically.

    But, thanks for writing music and thanks for sharing it.
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    @NihilNominis, the way this piece was formed was through heavy experimentation. The piece honestly makes sense to my ears, but I was prepared to be told something I didn't agree with about the Mass. For Chris Garton-Zavesky, it is intended for professional choir as part of the liturgy or as a concert work.
  • Achoyce91,

    I hope you'll excuse my questions, but if I'm going to attempt to understand the piece, in whole or in part, I shall need to clarify some mush in my brain.

    Is the goal of the tone clusters to portray something transcendent, something numinous (if that's the word)?

    Picking up on the satire which Nihil identifies, does the piece make more sense if I know those satirical moments are there, clearly signposted for anyone not so dense as to miss them? (For comparison, The Carnival of the Animals is great fun even for the uneducated, but even more for those who hear the cancan in the tortoises or the dance of the fairies in the elephants; the1812 Overture is an impressive piece without the knowledge of the competing themes: La Marseillaise v. God save the Czar, but it's so much more fun when you can hear them).

    What time of year, since the seasons have different foci, do you think the piece fits best? Is it (for example) the expectation of Advent, or the severity of Lent, or the grind of the season called Ordinary Time -- so many undifferentiated weeks to work out the spreading of the Great Commission --or maybe even the exuberant joy of Paschaltide?
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    i think all the clusters should be on the organ... it would be very difficult to have a choir sing and sustain the pitches in a cluster over consecutive measures.

    Otherwise, interesting harmonic texture.
  • Bombarde16
    Posts: 98
    This reminded me of William Albright's "Chichester Mass."

    I appreciate your work, though it probably is a bit outside of the realm of what I would be able to use.

    Thank you for sharing your work, Alex!
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    Good suggestion @francis! But I must admit I love the haunting quality of voice for the clusters. You're right though: this would not be easy to execute.

    Chris Garton-Zavesky, to put it simply you'll either love and intuitively understand the clusters or simply just won't. There's plenty to critique concerning performance difficulty but as far as composition is concerned this piece is quite personal and subjective.

    Thank you @Bombarde16! I'll have to check out the Chichester Mass.
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    @Bombarde16, WOW! THAT is the kind of Mass I was going for. Wish mine measured up to his. Such a shame there are so many masterpieces almost nobody knows about...
  • To all -

    Achoyce91...congrats on completing a new Mass. On the logistical side, I would echo the comment about using a different organ sound in the midi if you don't like the one you have, or if it's obfuscating your textures. There are ways to get a pure organ sound even with free patches (I think finale has one called drawbar organ which is closest to simple flute pipes). I gave up on fiddling with midi to make something sound right a long time ago - if you have access to a choir, I'd spend my time getting readings done rather than fiddling with technology, but that's just me.
    Technically, I see what you're going for and can hear your textures and harmonies - but you are right that certain parts will be very difficult to execute as is. Experiment with what you can eliminate in the vocal clusters and still get the same effect, a less-is-more approach is most effective with a capella/ choral music - or split it between the voices and the organ. Midi always makes people over (or under)score; use your inner ear and sing-test it, rather than anything you hear from the computer.
    Exploring other key areas is also wise advice - just because something is modal doesn't mean it can't move, and it will even simply open up new possibilities in tessitura of the choir parts.

    The Commentariat - I do also appreciate the thoughtful comments and support of new liturgical music which may not be in a style which is to everyone's taste...I think most people on this forum have their ideological druthers in order, so it is wise to temper criticism, especially when the creation of new liturgical music is on the table...not to smother the butterfly in the crib, to mix metaphors.
    Thanked by 2LauraKaz Carol
  • Achoyce91,

    I enjoy singing (and listening to, when sung well) Durufle's Ubi Caritas, but tone clusters aren't the field I plow, as it were, in bringing my own compositions to fruition.

    I'm seeking to understand what you, the composer, put into the piece, not what I may or may not find there. Learning about fugue subjects helps people appreciate the opus of Bach and learning about tone clusters and their use to create (invoke?) particular emotions or sense-responses will help me understand your work more than I presently do. Around here somewhere you'll find a setting I wrote of the text of the Introit for the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, in which I try to mimic the fluttering of a heart with vocal rhythms. If you don't grasp that, the piece looks rather like a modern attempt to be undergraduate-student complex just to prove something can be done.

    I hope you'll help me to learn what is in your piece that I can appreciate.
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    Ok. Fair enough Chris. The tone clusters are specifically chosen in a manner that mimics a dense, closely vibrating body that gradually expands into a more standard harmony, which would be the e minor 7th harmony when the basses come in. It is a nice expansion and contraction that is very pleasing to my ears. And I love hearing the female section perform it! It sounds quite haunting, but still very beautiful to my ears. Hope this helps!
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,902
    "tone clusters aren't the field I plow,"

    CGZ: Brilliant! Le mot juste. I have to remember that for future reference. Tone clusters have certainly been a la mode for the past generation of choral writing, it seems, but they are a seasoning I wish were used with more discretion instead of as if they were salt or sriracha.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen LauraKaz
  • Carol
    Posts: 836
    I have nothing to add to this discussion, but I must tell you that these are the kinds of discussions that bring me back to see what's new on the forum!
  • I find your Mass setting quite interesting, and I appreciate your kindness in sharing it—although I feel a choir would have difficulty singing it well. I think the organ sounds you used are lovely; would you be to willing to share whence they come?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,131
    There's a lot of interesting music in here, but let me offer two suggestions for the Sanctus, around opportunities to express the meaning of the text more.

    "Deus Sabaoth" usually is a moment of grandeur, but here it is sung so simply as to seem unimportant. I wondered if this might be an intentionally paradoxical treatment, or if it is something that could be developed.

    In addition, the organ's harmony for "Benedictus" (m. 27 ff.) has a change, which is needed there to correspond to the newness of "qui venit", but it ends right away after the vocal line, and that seems a missed opportunity. Perhaps extending that change in harmony and delaying the return to the previous harmony would add some more interest.
  • Alex,

    I'll limit my comments to the mundane, for now.

    If you intend the Gloria in Excelsis Deo to be sung at Mass, that line -- as intoned -- is sung by the priest, so he would need to be comfortable with what you've written as a line for him to sing with the organ underlay. I know there are some very musical priests out there, and I give thanks to God for them, but probably few would be interested to sing that line, and confident to do so, and skilled enough. (That's quite a trifecta!)

    At the end of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo there's no Amen. That strikes me as odd from all sorts of perspectives.

    As I was reminded recently in a very excellent crash course in Gregorian chant, Latin never puts the accent on the final syllable. All the way through the "qui tollis" section, you have a large percentage of the parts singing "qui tol -LIS". I've no doubt that the effect is intentional and part of the musical environment you're creating, but it's jarring to my ear. You use the same accent pattern in the Memorial acclamations, so it's clearly intentional, but a thing can be intentional and not achieve its goal.

    I agree with Chonak about the let down on Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Couple that with the (clearly) jarring notes on Domini -- and it sounds to my uneducated ear as if the text is being intentionally lampooned. Since I trust that's not what you're doing, you might want to reconfigure that.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,131
    Now, Chris, I'm sure you've heard Messiaen's tone clusters on very sacred words!

    I'm glad to read that Alex intends the work to be sung by a professional choir, and it needs that, not so much because it's avant-garde, but due to the difficulty of the divisi parts.

    I get the impression that newly composed masses in very contemporary musical language are rarely performed in the liturgy here in the US (I wouldn't consider the Benedict XVI Institute's events as fitting that description). There are some renowned examples from Germany, such as the debut performance of Pärt's Berliner Messe in 1990, and the famous/infamous Ash Wednesday Mass for Artists offered in Cologne in 2019.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    O yes… the demonic mass… I remember that one…
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    Hello fellow musicians! You’re right: I did not give the text fair treatment. I did what the Church did not prescribe and made the text at the service of the music rather than vice versa. I really appreciate the honest feedback as it helps me understand where I need improvement, so thanks!
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    Good eye, CGZ, for the "qui tollis" parts in the Gloria. Also, I will find a way to reach the Amen as the text requires.

    As far as the Sanctus, I'll make sure the "Dominus Deus Sabaoth" is connected and separate from the next word phrase. I'll experiment with changing the key as chonak has suggested.

  • GerardH
    Posts: 404
    If you intend the Gloria in Excelsis Deo to be sung at Mass, that line -- as intoned -- is sung by the priest

    This is not a requirement in the Novus Ordo, for which Alex has specified this is composed.
  • Chonak,

    I've been sheltered from most of Messiaen's work, actually. I've heard wonderful praise of his work, but had very little contact with it myself. Durufle is, I think, the closest I come.


    Could you support that claim, please.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,137
    From the Roman Missal:
    The Gloria in Excelsis
    53. The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. The text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other. It is intoned by the Priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir; but it is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by everybody together or by two choirs responding one to the other.
    It is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character.
    Thanked by 2Liam ServiamScores
  • Charles,

    Thank you for that. What if I maintained that the "if appropriate" is an empty set, sort of like saying "I support the use of altar girls and contraception every time tusing them is an absolute necessity and morally upright"?
    Thanked by 1OMagnumMysterium
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    Thank you, CHGriffen.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    The NO is a new rite, completely different from the TLM with its own set of allowances… I refrain from stating anything else.
  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,147
    The somewhat unidiomatic “if appropriate” translates “pro opportunitate” and “opportune”. The French is “si ... opportun” and the German is “gegebenenfalls”. It would be better translate (throughout the GIRM) as “possibly” or “where applicable” since there is no hint in the other languages of “fitting” or “suitable” or “well-chosen” or “preferred”, as suggested by the English word “appropriate”.
  • Andrew,

    I appreciate that there is a difference, and I always appreciate language distinctions such as the one you identify, so thank you for that.

    I don't see, however, in this case, that it makes much difference, or enough difference to rescue the practice. "Where applicable" still needs definition. When and where is the idea that a choir can replace the celebrant's intoning of the text actually applicable? Does the regulation address the Los Angles Religious Education Conference or Solemn High Mass with a laryngetic priest or....?
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    I’ve fixed the Glória and will get to the Sanctus soon.
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    The stressed syllables in the Sanctus have been placed properly and I decided to have the priest intone the Gloria. I personally think a heavy majority of priests can sing the opening line. Also, concerning the Gloria, stressed syllables have been placed properly and an "Amen." has been added.

    I'll have the revised videos up this evening.

    That be all!
  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,147
    Chris: it's applicable when there's a choir. In every place in the IGMR where it says pro opportunitate, it refers to an action which wouldn't apply at all when there's no deacon, or no cantor, or no choir, or no incense actually in use, or no exchange of peace, etc. Perhaps to avoid the suggestion that those should or must be present even if not used in a certain occasion. It really does mean “if applicable”. Or to be completely explicit and a little coarse, “if there is one”, “if it's being used”, “if any” etc.

  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    OK! Finally fixed the Gloria and the Sanctus! Below are the links. Enjoy!


  • Andrew,

    Try that again. I don't follow what you mean, but that may be because I'm exhausted just now, so I'll try again when I'm well rested,too.
  • achoyce91
    Posts: 165
    @Dixit_Dominus_44, they are the flute and foundation stops from Vienna Symphonic Library’s simplest organ. They have a HUGE organ pack that comes with all sorts of stops. Forgot what it was called…