The Gregorian Review • Totally amazing!
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    We all owe Musicasacra.com a * TREMENDOUS* amount of gratitude.

    They've posted: THE GREGORIAN REVIEW

    Friends, I was blown away by these articles!

    They handle the "tricky" questions.

    I cannot say anything else except you NEED to go download them.

    The CMAA has done a TREMENDOUS job here.

    Congrats, CMAA !!!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    Very interesting reading.

    I pulled GregRev_1_2 and turned immediately to "The Motu Proprio and Sacred Polyphony by Henri Potriron.

    To my pleasing dismay, it reflects a lot of my own thoughts and conjectures on the types of music appropriate to the liturgy, and discounts a large portion of the body of work spun beginning with the seventeenth century that attempts to insert itself as Musica Sacra. Great music does not make it fit for the liturgy, no matter who the composer may be, or what Pope may favor him. This also is why hymnody tends to 'steal' focus and while it is part and partial to our heritage, it should never overwhelm liturgical sensibility. Way too often it draws attention unto its own 'number' mainly because it introduces and adds its own text and thought to the very matter of the liturgical fabric. In a sense, it creates a spot very much like its own chapter inserted into a book as an aside. It breaks the continuous seamless flow of the perfect prayer, and fabricates its own little beginning and end. It is more an occasion for pause than for forward movement. It is a reflection on what is occurring, and not the occurring itself. (see below). I think if there was ever a liturgical hymn that perfectly matched the liturgical action, it is the Pange Lingua procession on Holy Thursday. It is how a hymn fits well into liturgical action.

    Here is the intial part of the article.

    "It [Motu Proprio] proposes to us at the same time as example and model the polyphony of the Renaissance, precisely because by its style and its interpretations of the sacred texts it is very similar to Gregorian chant. This is not to state that in this immense repertoire everything is of the same perfection, even from the liturgical viewpoint. Enough masterpieces remain, however, to make the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries one of the greatest epochs as well as one of the most fecund in all musical history.

    The decadence (liturgical) begins with the seventeenth century. The causes are multiple; the Gregorian traditions become more and more a lost art; the birth of dramatic art, the development of the orchestra and of symphonic forms, the spiritual concerts, the oratorio, psalms transformed into cantatas -- everything contributes to a confusion of styles. I mean to say, considering the masses above all, that the music incorporated into the liturgical function overflows the framework of it, by its character, its dimensions, and often even by a certain fracas incompatible with the serenity, the peace of the official prayer of the Church.

    That is so true that the style remains quite pure in the a cappella compositions. In the others, the passages where the voices sing alone or with simple accompaniment still retain the nobility which is called for. Too often, however, the solos or the orchestra betray the outside influence. The music enters into the Temple; it was not born there.

    Always it is that this evolution brings about the mass of the spiritual concert type or cantata divided into numbers. Beyond any doubt the Mass in B Minor of Bach is one of the summits of all music. It is of dazzling craftsmanship, an incomparable richness of inspiration, an ardent piety, tender and mystic, a nobility, a grandeur which no other master has surpasses; all these qualities never cease to move us at each hearing, and even in simply reading it. The proportions of the work are, however, incompatible with the celebration of the Mass itself…"


    I will stop here, and let you read the rest yourself. My hat is off to Henri. He has hit the nail and knocked the head off. The music can NEVER be the focus at the liturgy. The Word must reign, and the music must only seek to serve. It (and the performers of the music), must remain entirely transparent in such a way that the congregation almost hears the music in a somewhat subliminal fashion. Music Sacred should be more like the peripheral vision. Not the focus, but giving us immediate guide to the goal ahead, who is Christ himself.

    This is why musicians at the front of the church and in the sanctuary is entirely out of place. They have confused their ego and performance with the native quality of musica sacra. This has only happened because the priest was turned toward the people and now we are focusing on ourselves instead of God himself. We have wandered very far from truth. How will we ever get back to our roots?

    Here is the conclusion of the article. It is a must read for those of us heaven bent on purity in Musica Sacra.

    "In sum, the musical form should always adapt itself to the form of the text. From this fundamental and fecond rule is born the definition of church polyphony. It should group us, too, in obedience to pontifical authority. As for the rest, modal or toanl style, thematic unity or variety, subjects borrowed from the Gregorian repertoire or drawn from the imagination, contrapuntal style or a harmonic one, etc., etc., I admit to having my personal preferences, but it is the form, the construction, that is to say, the composition in the etymological sense, which is the most important element, perhaps, too, the most difficult to handle.

    If the reader has judged my severity regarding certain works to be excessive, I have not figured to cast doubts on their musical value, sometimes very great, nor above all exclude them from our repertoires because of certain of the their errors. I have wished only to confront them with the Motu Proprio in order to better clarify our present duty concerning this document which henceforth has the force of law, and, moreover, to facilitate our task and thus clarify the future."
  • And, of course, this is where the liturgy of the hours becomes important. The Mass should remain as it is, while during the hours music can amplify the words, drawing attention to them in ways that during the Mass would be and is inappropriate.

    Hymns, the Vespers of Mozart with the soaring melody of the Laudate Dominum, are approrpriate, though there may be some that argue against them even there. But preventing composers from writing for the church is wrong, so encouraging them to write for the hours makes sense.

    I love what Mozart has done for the Vespers, and like his masses....but not at Mass. They amplify the text, especially in the Requiem, but they take over.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    Yes, that is one of the main reasons for the Office... and devotions. We must reclaim those precious and necessary elements of prayer and not try to cram everything into the liturgy.

    I don't think that Mozart is appropriate for the LOH at all. It is opera.
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    I love Mozart for Mass and Vespers--a affinity which I share with the Holy Father.
  • "The Mass should remain as it is, while during the hours music can amplify the words, drawing attention to them in ways that during the Mass would be and is inappropriate."
    Funny, I keep reading these posts at Chant Cafe which show how well a particular Proper chant musically amplifies the words. I guess it's appropriate when it's Pope Gregory/the folk wisdom/the Holy Spirit at work, and not when it's somebody who might own a copyright?
    Granted, there could well be an inappropriate KIND of expression of words. We composers are an egotistical lot, and we're all about doing musical handsprings and waiting for the applause. The Mass should not be about US but about God... that is after all the chief beef here about the Usus Americanus Suburbiae. On the other hand we are told that we are each a unique expression of God's creative power and love, so it would seem that expression of that uniqueness would always be appropriate IF done in a way that supports the Church's glorification of God.

    Here's an example of word-expression that leads to unusual theological insight...but yet led this particular listener to go "Attaboy, composer!" The work is Frank LaRocca's Credo. There's a kind of default option for setting "Et incarnatus...homo factus est" which I call "the wow setting" -- "God became Man...that is so neat!" Frequently the music there puts on a halo. Not so with Frank's setting...the harmony gets gritty, and we're musically reminded that "homo factus est" means "was made a powerless baby totally dependent on Mary for basic bodily needs"...that the Incarnation was in fact Act 1 of the Passion. That's what I heard, and Frank confirmed to me that that's what he intended. And yes, musically it makes for an easier transition to the Crucifixus, so I can admire the craft of it...is that bad?

    I'm trying to figure this stuff out for myself, in my own work. All I know is that there have been plenty of composers in the last 2 centuries who have done such a good job of removing themselves from their sacred music that they even managed to remove their music from the next generation's use, while music with a bit more personality is used in worship to this day. I catch more than a whiff of Archbishop Colloredo in these comments on Mozart... and we would doubtless have more sacred Mozart had they had a better working relationship. Is the Ave Verum operatic? Could it have been written by anyone but Mozart?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    Ave Verum... we do it here once in a while. In my opinion, it is a a so-so piece much like Franck's Panis or Shubert's Ave Maria. They all are a step higher than On Eagles Wings... well, at least they seem to play at the same ethos. A quasi liturgical mish-mash that mainly appeals to sentiment. Not that sentiment is bad... it is the human side of us, however, this music seems more devotional than liturgical, if you get what I am saying.

    The point of what is being said is that the liturgy is that one expression of our faith that truly rises above the mundane of humanity and demands and searches for the exalted, the fully redeemed part of humanity that has been injected with mystical proportions that do not leave personality behind, but transform it into something superhuman, in a sense.

    This musical ethos is rooted in our faith. It rose from the heart of the Church and was made manifest to us, and the Church has claimed it as its own and even points to a particular style(s) which it calls Gregorian and polyphony rooted in the same. When I hear the works of Arvo Part or Sir John Tavener, I truly sense THE musical ethos clothed in personality. I have listened to Part for hundreds of hours. Somehow, though, as beautiful and 'new' that it is, it seems that it is detached from the liturgical action.

    There are lesser known composers who imitate the earlier styles, but that music (as is spoken in this article) looses the personality and there is no sense of 'new' or now so to speak. It is just imitation for the sake of imitation.

    It seems to me that there is a fine balance between capturing the musical ethos and clothing it with the personality of the composer, and music that is of our time. And then to marry that sense to the liturgical action in the Roman rite. It is a very tall order. I am still struggling to find the balance myself still.

    I would like to hear the work of Frank LaRocca. Is it online?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    ...found his website... listening to The Divine Image. Very good! Reminds me a bit of Part. Now listening to Ave Verum. I think this is much more fitting for liturgy than Mozart. This truly captures the ethos that resides in the Gregorian sensibility. I am grateful to hear music like this. Thanks.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    wow... listen to his Miserere!

    http://www.franklarocca.com/miserere.html
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    Has anyone heard Penderecki's Agnus? Has a very similar ethos. I wonder if his music has been utilized during the liturgy? He seems like a composer who is more entrenched in the concert venue and has composed for film. Portions of this music was utilized in the film, Kaytn. The portion that I heard as I was watching the film begins at 5:13, and it drove me to find the composer and hear the entire work. Wow. They were right to capture it from 5:13, as this portion to its conclusion stays totally within the ethos.

    I think this composer wanders back and forth between pure innovation and then back to THE ethos. Many times this kind of musical exploration comes from an academic perspective that is driven for a search.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG7U0yI31VY
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    I think it is fascinating to see what this journal also writes about Poulenc. A composer whose music many of us admire (including myself). But where does it fit into the liturgical ethos? Does it fit at all? Where does composition stray from ethos into the concert hall? It is an extremely pressing question that we all must face as we continue to seek out the musica sacra destined for the liturgy.
  • Chant has restrictions which a composer can work within to word paint, but the restrictions prohibit going beyond a certain point in amplifying the text. The preservation of the style is uppermost.
  • Sentiment is not sentimentality; we offer our sentiments to the Lord in worship. I'm all for the sublime, but there's always been a gap between pronouncement and practice on this issue, and I'd rather go with practice, because over-emphasis on pronouncement can lead to a sterile puritanism. If we're to avoid the "merely" human (like, oh, that humanity that God took on to save us), why have any new church music at all? We have a vast repertoire of chant that can do the job; why not just declare the repertoire closed?

    Just to clarify my remarks: I did not mean them as a barb against Mr. Tucker's views on copyright (which I'm half in agreement with), but rather against the notion that the living have nothing to contribute to the Mass. That's not how I read the documents. Yes, there are limits; learning what they are is part of my job here. But if you think the Mozart Ave Verum (which is overexposed for a reason) transgresses those limits, well, there's not much use for the sub-Mozarts of the world.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    Mr. Quick:

    I totally concur with you on sentiment vrs. sentimentality. Palestrina is full of sentiment!

    Please take all of my remarks into account that I am on a search for the 21st century ideal as a composer of liturgical sacred music. I am not discounting the composers, I am simply pushing them all aside for want of idealist examples on which to build my own. I will be coming out with my treatise in the future, 'The Musical Ethos of the Liturgy'. It will simply be a complete Mass with composer's notes.
  • Well, when you find the 21st c. ideal, let me know, because that's what I'm looking for too!

    Here's a proposition that is totally separate from style, that I think we can agree on: Catholic Church music should be good enough to convert for. Matters of doctrine aside, it should make you want to be Catholic; it should be an evangelistic tool all on its own. It should definitely NOT make you want to leave the Church.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    One does not convert to Catholicism for its music, but for Christ alone. However, it SHOULD be true to form and if it is, it will be part of Christ and His way. However, it should not be inclusive, subjective or multicultural... it should be based in the chant.

    I have friends who are 'tossed to and fro by the wind of doctrine' (musical) because they are not on the solid ground of the one true faith. When the music is bad, then they defect to another denomination. That is a very dangerous and precarious ground to live upon. It is foolish.
  • Well, assuming you are a Christian (and sorry, I don't think most Prots are damned, though they'll have inconvenient questions to answer at some point) the music should at the very least make you look into the Catholic faith. And it's not an either-or; if Christ isn't in the music , it's not Catholic church music.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    Never said Prots are damned... I said basing one's religious affiliation on music is a sandy foundation. In other words, a Prot shouldn't convert to Catholicism just because of 'good music'. (and sadly that is highly unlikely this day and age)
  • I agree, actually. Doctrine is key. The question I want people to ask is, "What is in this doctrine to cause people to create such wonderful music?" Doctrine is the nutrition in the dinner; art is the spice. If art causes people to consume more healthy doctrine, all the better.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    Jeffrey... Now I TOTALLY agree with you on that!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,144
    Thnx JT... these are timeless