Is that what we want? Really? Re: Appreciation of chant
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592

    I remember, years ago, listening to Gregorian chant and being bored. I remember hearing recordings by Solesmes and not being impressed.

    But I listened. And I listened. And I continued to read about the Faith, attend daily Mass, etc.

    As the years went by, my appreciation for Gregorian chant grew and grew.

    Sometimes, I say to myself, "Oh, I wish everyone could instantly appreciate chant the way I do!!!"

    But then . . . is that what we want? I'm not really sure that anything REALLY GREAT in life instantly reveals its secrets to everyone.

    I'm beginning to think that the best things in life have to be entered into.

    The best things in life do not come "cheap." They take a little effort on our part.

    Heck, I can remember passionately hating Chopin's 4th Scherzo for years and years . . . and then coming to love it.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,515
    I can remember hating "On Eagle's Wings" the first time I heard it. I still do! Some things don't change. Chant, like my favored Lapsang Souchong, is an acquired taste. Especially so in this age accustomed to sounds and volume levels never heard by the ancients. Although I didn't particularly care for chant the first time I heard it, I have come to appreciate it. It has a distinct beauty all its own, although I wouldn't want to listen to it all the time.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    I don't know that "appreciation" is the final goal, Jeff. To me, when we appreciate a kind of music, or a piece of art (for example), it becomes a mere aesthetic object. If we truly believe that Gregorian chant is essential to worship, then we need to place it in a category with prayer, not alongside other aesthetic objects.

    The Carmelite Saints John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila wrote about dryness in the life of prayer. We have periods, some of which are very long, when praying does not reap immediate rewards, or "rewards" of any kind. It seems useless or futile. Anyone who has been on a honeymoon and comes home knows that there are periods of "dryness" in a marriage as well. "Appreciation" of married life or prayer is important, yes, but it is not very significant in the grand scheme of things. I can appreciate the concept of marriage and I can appreciate my wife, all without loving her or acting toward her in a sacramental way.

    Think of chant similarly. Someone who isn't Catholic can "appreciate" chant. They can enjoy it, or even become infatuated with it, filling their iPods with all the available chant recordings on CD. The goal for Catholics, I think, is for chant to become fused with one's complete experience and sense of the faith (like prayer or marriage, for those who are married), not an object standing outside the self.

    To put it in a slightly different way, it isn't the sound of chant itself that is important, but what it means. The sounds can be appreciated, but the meaning must be understood and assimilated for it to have any real effect on our lives. Appreciation is only a small part of it, and may not even be truly necessary. Do we have to "like" everything about Catholicism?

    As a flipside to your story, I fell in love with Liszt's B minor sonata the first time I heard it. After listening to it about 500 times in a very short period about 10 years ago, I haven't listened to it since.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    DougS --- that's just it !!! That's how I feel about 99% of Liszt's works!!! Gnomenreigen, Mephisto Waltz, etc. GREAT the first time around! But they don't last, in my opinion.

    That being said, may I ask you, Doug: do you think it's a bad thing if folks appreciate chant?
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Certainly not, Jeff. I don't know that I was disagreeing with you at all, only framing your initial thought differently!

    My only concern would be how a person directs his or her efforts. We can spend a ton of time trying to increase general appreciation for chant without ever really making it "sink in" meaningfully.

    Think about it like this. I teach "music appreciation" courses at a major research university. Most of my students come into my courses knowing very little, if anything, about classical music, but they always leave with a better understanding of two things: 1) the historical development of musical styles; 2) how these styles are constructed (sonata form, polyphonic texture, etc., depending on the piece). All that is great, but I really want them to leave with the understanding that they are still embedded within a culture that values (or devalues) these musical styles, and that they continue to have an impact on the future of music. This last goal is less tangible or "testable" than the skills in 1 and 2, but in my opinion it's more important. If I teach and students learn 1 and 2, I have done by job and they "appreciate" music. If I teach and students learn 3, I have won a kind of moral victory and the students are truly better off. Sometimes we have to sacrifice everything we want to get done when it comes to 1 and 2--for the sake of 3.

    If we are on the same page, and I think we are, "appreciation" is more than the simple aesthetic enjoyment you are describing in the first post. We want people to move past that into something deeper.
  • Spot on, guys! I constantly argue with my in-laws (all Catholic, but very typically so) about the need to work at the faith and then things like dressing appropriately and understanding my rants about the bad music will make a bit more sense. The "at least I/they go to Mass" perspective is so frustrating because I know there are so many riches waiting for those who will just reach out for them.