What we really need more than anything else
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,444
    I think FNJ brings up the obvious answer to why some people view some styles as being inherently unsuited. On the other hand, one could argue that this is largely a matter of opinion and perspective.

    As someone who stands roughly in the center on that debate, I would have to say that from a strictly rhetorical standpoint, both would need to prove that their interpretation is correct.

    This is not a rhetorical issue, devoid of spiritual/historical precedent and import...
    While it is possible that the question of the appropriateness of folk music or pop music at Mass is open (and let's say it is)- the question of the appropriateness of chant and polyphony is decidedly closed: it is always appropriate, and indeed seems to be the preference of the institutional Church. For that reason, the argument in favor of styles outside the traditional canon would have to be very strong.
    Now- indeed I think the case is strong enough. But it's champions will have to do better than, "It's not specifically disallowed," or "but people like it."
  • I am very encouraged in reading this thread, and by reading Msgr. Wadsworth's Magna Carta on the propers. We are certainly on the cusp of a renaissance in propers, and it is all very exciting!

    I am hearing important themes, though, that I think need clear answers in order to, as Msgr. Schuller once said, "properly chart the course".

    Of course we have immediate needs and these are the most critical. But I also think that we should look carefully at the past 40 years where a precedent has been set (which is now crumbling) and observe all of the dynamics at play. In other words, what will liturgies in the U.S. really look like 40 years from now after a move to the propers in the 2010's? As an anecdote, consider what the people who put together the Glory and Praise book were thinking in the 70's. Did they envision that Catholic parishes would still be singing this music in 2010, and that some people sing it with vested choirs to organ accompaniment? I doubt it. I bet they thought that it was a transitional step also, but much of it STUCK! But a part of the Catholic psyche is a desire for permanence, and whatever we promote now will likely be around--it if truly takes hold--for many generations.

    I say this because as little as the issue of text translation may seem now, it may be something that the next generation will loathe and say "I just wish they would have set the right texts!" In other words, offering this very large group of Catholic parishes a simple resources for singing the propers may seem like a stepping stone to us, but for many parishes in the long run it just might end up being the "destination". Not a bad problem to have, but it would be wise to think through these implications really well now while we still can!

    I'm also hearing from composers that they do not want to set unstable or obscure texts. I would hope that anyone who will be taking on the propers, even if this is the setting of psalm tones, will want their work to endure and continue to be useful to future generations. The "alius cantus aptus" issue is all fine and great and there is nothing about finding the "best" translation to move forward with that will somehow negate settings that use a different translation. If I'm hearing what composers are saying, and I am one myself, we want to know that the texts we are setting will endure.

    I would like to also bring up the point that resorting to "alius cantus aptus" for text translations (although perfectly fine... and I don't want to create "distractions") severely weakens the argument for the propers being "given" or "prescribed" by the Church. Especially with all of the focus that is given to textual accuracy that is given to the texts of the Missal with Liturgiam Authenticam. To this end, perhaps the best route to take for the next interim period is to set the antiphons of the Missal using the RGP for verses, and crafting the missing Offertories from the RGP. This is in line with the intention of Liturgiam Authenticam (art. 36, specifically) and it would be something, I think, that future generations would probably thank us for.

    So, I just offer these few thoughts as we now are afforded the time to think thoroughly about "charting the course" before we cast off into route.

    Are any of these thoughts resonating with anyone else here?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,516

    DougS 3 hours ago edited
    I wish we could be more careful with our use of the word "ideal." After a brief search, I did not find it in any of the most frequently cited documents concerning sacred music, save with respect to "the ideals" set forth in another document. An ideal by its very nature is absolute, and therefore doesn't "admit variety." How can it be both ways?

    Consider this: MS #50 "Other musical settings, written for one or more voices, be they taken from the traditional heritage or from new works, should be held in honor, encouraged and used as the occasion demands." Held in honor! Should be used!

    Doug, I take it that this is an indirect swipe at my previous comments. So I feel obliged to defend. Please do not take my direct and factual arguments personally.

    You can be careful if you would like, but I will aways be blunt. Chant and Polyphony are the ideal forms of RC liturgical music. You forgot to look back two numbers in the same document...

    48. Compositions of sacred polyphony, by the old masters as well as by contemporary artists, are not to be introduced into the liturgy unless it has first been established that, either in their original form or in arrangements, they comply fully with the ideals, and admonitions set forth in the encyclical Musicæ sacræ disciplina (AAS 48 [1956] 18-20). If there is any doubt, the diocesan commission on sacred music is to be consulted.

    and this: SC # 113 "But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30." By no means excluded!

    Doug, its number 116, not 113, and the first half of that sentence reads thus...

    "116. The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. Other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action as laid down in Article 30."

    For me, it is an impossible mental game to reconcile these statements with the notion of a liturgical "ideal," which--and I can't stress this enough--from Plato to Kant to Collingwood has meant a thing-in-itself.

    I will help you further if you need.

    Maybe I'm making too much over nothing. Reading too much into things, as we scholars notoriously do. "Ideal" is just a word, right? It's not really an absolute, like I'm saying it is, right? We're just talking on the internet--no big deal, right? Just buds in the locker room. Except I personally don't want to lose sight of the fact that Jesus was God and man in a single being born into human history, not an ideal. We are Catholics, not Kantians. Reading what some have to say about chant makes me question that from time to time.

    Too much over nothing... Ideal? Yes, the Church has proclaimed chant and polyphony as its sacred forms most suitable to the liturgy. There is no debating this issue. Not even the philosophers from Aristotle to Collingwood have an iota to say about it!

    miacoyne 3 hours ago edited
    We remember Pope Saint Pius X especially for his famous Motu Proprio of November 22, 1903 on the reform of Sacred Music and the restoration of the Church’s plainchant. Like Pope Benedict XVI today, Pope Pius X was a musician; he was above all concerned that the faithful of the Catholic Church might pray in beauty. He recognized in Gregorian Chant the native idiom of the Roman liturgy. Gregorian chant shines with an evangelical poverty. It is chaste in its expression. It is entirely obedient to the Word of God that it clothes, carries, and delivers.


    Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have reiterated his insistence on the primacy of Gregorian Chant and the value of the traditional Roman polyphony in the liturgy of the Church. On November 22, 2003, the anniversary of Pius X’s Motu Proprio, Pope John Paul II said, “With regard to compositions of liturgical music, I make my own the general rule that St Pius X formulated in these words: 'The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.’” On June 24, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in similar terms: “An authentic renewal of sacred music can only happen in the wake of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.”


    Singing Gregorian chant made possible for me and many people I know to expereince humility and true divinity of God. One can read documents merely intellectually and try to reason endlessly, or simply try and experience the teachings and the tradition of the Church. Simplicity and humility are essential than intellect to learn the true love of Christ and His sacrifice. Although there have been several stages in my faith journey, only through Gregorian chant I fell in love with the Church, her liturgy and ultimately with God, and come out of 'self-centered worship.'

    I believe there are stages to reach the ideal of sacred music in Liturgy, and those stages to be 'honored.'

    Beautifully said, Mia.

    Kathy 3 hours ago
    I think you might be going overboard here, Doug. I don't think anyone is saying chant-as-such is an ideal in the Kantian sense. Of course it's incarnational. It breathes, for heaven's sake. The ideal is not actually chant, but the thoroughgoing use of the chant.

    No, Kathy, the ideal actually is chant. And not just chant, but Gregorian Chant.

    "The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy."

    I'd go so far as to say the exclusive use of chant propers is an asymptotic ideal, inasmuch as there have always been efforts to add other things to the Mass.

    That's going pretty far. People have ATTEMPTED to graft elements or experiment with the Mass, but those attempts fall away because when they are tried they are not true. I especially agree with you on the opera and folk crazes!

    Some have been completely incorporated, for example the Gloria, and a certain kind of polyphony. Some have flourished only to be later discouraged, like the sequence craze, the opera craze, the folk craze (which I contend was started by Ralph Vaughan Williams), etc.

    The Gloria and polyphony were found to be authentic. That is why they are officially a part of the Mass.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,516

    I really am not interested in setting English for sacred music. It will probably always remain unstable as it is not the Church's liturgical language. The Latin is timeless and unchanging.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,516
    For proof of idealistic music of the Roman Rite, (tried and true) simply look to the Church's own official books: The Graduale (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Gradual) , the Simplex, the Sacramentary, the Gregorian Missal (http://musicasacra.com/books/gregorianmissal-eng.pdf)... etc. It's quite plain and clear!

    For NEW sacred music we have a host of composers that follow in the authentic chant and polyphonic tradition of the RC Church. They, however, are not usually found in OCP, GIA or WLP publications. (sad statement that it is)
  • tdunbar
    Posts: 120
    or, as Jeffrey wrote a while back:
    The Real Catholic Songbook
  • Chrism
    Posts: 866
    Adam Bartlett, I think singing the antiphons of the Missal would make the different texts in the Latin Graduale harder to introduce.

    If composers don't want to invest in setting the English versions when the texts aren't approved, that's fine. Choirs are unlikely to be able to learn polyphonic Propers anyway, because they change every Sunday. The point is to reintroduce Propers to the sung liturgy, where they have fallen almost entirely into desuetude. The tension between Propers and options in the OF is usually resolved in favor of options today, but if significant effort were put into restoring the sacred character of the sung Ordinary, plainchant Propers (recto tono, Psalm tone or melismatic) would be an excellent way to keep the rest of the Mass sacred and meditative. A Palestrina Credo followed by Immaculate Mary at the Offertory tends to kill the effect.

    You may be right about the RGP being the ideal English Psalter for use in translating those texts of the Graduale taken from the Psalms -- except that the actual ideal would be a Roman-approved translation, and Rome has shown a propensity to edit vernacular Psalm verses before approving them for liturgical use, even after approving the underlying Psalter.

    If you want to create an RGP-based Gradual and negotiate copyright and a licensing fee structure with GIA, nothing is stopping you. I don't think such a book could ever be made available for download from musicasacra.com, unless and until Jeffrey wins the Grail copyright fight.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    [Adam Bartlett, I think singing the antiphons of the Missal would be borderline illicit and would make the different texts in the Latin Graduale harder to introduce.]

    What is your source for this being "borderline" illicit? The GIRM disagrees with you.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 866
    Scratch that. Editing.
  • The non-postable status of the Grail is a serious problem.

    By the way, I have it on direct and excellent authority that Catholic music publishers are discouraging composers from using ANY copyright protected texts, except those of the Mass ordinary and PERHAPS the Psalms at a later date, so as to avoid any royalties. No one can afford that stuff these days.
  • "On the other hand, one could argue that this is largely a matter of opinion and perspective."

    Observant Jews maintain two totally separate dish sets for meat and dairy.

    Music for sacred worship deserves to be just as separate...or even more so?

    The movie music test is a simple one.

    Show an arch and play folk music.
    The mind anticipates peasants.

    Show the same arch and play sacred music.
    The mind anticipates...

    Then there is the gut test.

    In someone who has been recruited from the pews without exposure and training in sacred music, when he plays a popular tune on the organ, he feels nothing wrong.

    For someone who is committed to what is commonly accepted as being sacred music, playing this music is uncomfortable, In fact this musician may well also feel uncomfortable playing Autumn Leaves on the piano instead of Bach.

    There is a line across which some will not step.