Music that send the wrong message
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,350
    Discussion Guidelines:
    -The following is not meant as an insult to anyone.
    -Please do not use the following observations as a launching pad for an attack on any individual musicians or publishing companies.
    -Please do not fill the source page's comment section with explanations of what church music really is or should be.
    -It's liturgical suitability aside, I actually like the song in question.

    That said...
    Check out this recording of "You Are All We Have."
    Note the young performer's description below the video:
    One of my favorite church songs because my girlfriend is all that I have in the world and I LOVE HER TO DEATH!

    Well, that's sweet.
    But I can't help feeling that he's missed the point of the song (specifically) and church / music / church music (generally).
    Plus there's the fact that, you know, his girlfriend (who I'm sure is really great) is NOT the only thing he has in the world.

    Which (to misuse a rhetorical phrase) begs a question:
    What is it about this music moves the young man's mind to contemplate his sweetheart, rather than the Lord?
    Is it just the nature of youth?
    I mean- if he was chanting "Anima Christi," would he be writing about how niagara926 is his "Soul Mate" and how she "inebriates" him with her wine?
    Would Pange Lingua stir him to wax poetic about her "lingua"?

    Perhaps. And even if that was the case, one could make a really decent argument that this would be, at the very least, a romantic improvement, as he would have a much richer pallet of imagery to draw from.

    But is it possible, or likely, that style of the music, the specifics of its execution, the particulars of the lyrics... that any or all of these things are drawing our young lover's heart and mind away from things spiritual and toward things more... uh... temporal?

  • 1349

    "When I sing that torculus, I just get...all warm all over!"

    "Umm, it's not the music, it's the plague."

    We have our own plague. From the 1970's. Let's let the Protestants in. We want to be friends with them. Let's sing their music, especially music that raises up people that made Protestantism what it is! Let's sing A Mighty Fortress!

    We were wrong to limit music to just one style and to ban guitars and tambourines, look what good they do in the hands of the Salvation Army! Let's let populat music in the church. The church fathers didn't have a clue, it's time to ignore everything they said, after all what did they know.

    We'll change the Church and Protestants will want to come over and the churches will grow, grow, grow! We will have to build, build, build! This is a great time to be alive!

    In hindsight, with empty churches, clergy who are beyond sub-standard in many churches, lay people running the show...and believing that that's it, just like a pratestant service, a big show, nothing really happens...why even have communion, let's do it like the baptists, 4 times a year.....

    In hindsight, who can truly say that anything is "better" since then, especially when singing a religious song has this effect on a youth.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,181
    I'm not sure.

    First of all, music be the food of love. Music and desire are deeply related. If you want to show your love, serenade. Why are most of us in this business (besides the fact that Sr. Irma taught us the organ in grammar school)?

    Secondly, speaking (very) broadly, there are two ways of dealing with desire in the spiritual life:

    1) Negate, negate, negate (freely translating St. John of the Cross' description of the path of the pure spirit: nada, nada, nada).
    2) Encourage and redirect

    So a boy sings in the choir only because there's this girl he likes. Redirect. Redirect.
  • Um, popular music and desire are deeply related.

    Classical Religious Music intervals inspire moods, but desire?

    Francis, Francis,,,,where are you?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,312
    This isn't a case of "music that sends the wrong message". The message seems just fine; it's just that the young musician is reinterpreting the song in an idiosyncratic way.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,350
    So a boy sings in the choir only because there's this girl he likes. Redirect. Redirect.

    Well certainly.

    I dated three girls that were in my choir in High School, marrying the third one (the choir director's daughter, no less).
    And my romantic relationship with my wife has been grounded in and enriched by the love-language of scripture and religious song.

    I'm not suggesting that it's bad that our young musician here is serenading his girlfriend.
    I'm also not suggesting that it's bad that he is finding connections between his spiritual and his romantic life.
    On the contrary- I think those are both wonderful things, and I wish that there was more of both in the world, especially among the young.

    But something about the particulars here I find striking.

    He doesn't say anything about how he likes the song, or is playing it, because of his relationship with God, which suggests his girlfriend is more important to him (not surprising).

    He (seemingly) draws no parallels between his relationship with God and his relationship with his beloved, even though such a parallelism would be both obvious and helpful- which suggests that his "sacramental imagination" (his ability to see physical reality as a reflection, manifestation, or symbol of divine truth) to be under developed- which is really sad, and very typical of today's Catholics.

    He finds this bit of "church music" to be particularly suited to serenading his girlfriend, which (no matter how much I dislike this fact) makes me wonder about the liturgical suitability of music which is more like a romantic love ballad than it is like any style traditionally associated with spiritual themes.

    I'm sure I'm reading too much into all this.
  • Or not enough!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,181
    Part of liturgical music's potential greatness is the way it moves the desires. I meant to say above that love for God gets us into this business, and the joy of finding a way to express that love.

    Different kinds of music move the passions in different ways. I would *love* to hear a conversation about chant on that level--how it redirects love.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Well, I don't understand the whole thing well, but when one breaks up with his girl friend because his emotions die away, then sing the love song to another one. Do those youths apply the same concept with God and singing liturgical songs to Him through those romantic songs especially during the Holy Mass? I mean to them God exists because their feeling is there?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,350
    I would *love* to hear a conversation about chant on that level--how it redirects love.

    Me too!
    Although I wouldn't use the word "redirect."

    I mean to them God exists because their feeling is there?

    This is an excellent insight. I think this happens to a lot of people, and when that feeling goes away (like when they go off to college and the local parish doesn't sing the favorite songs from back home) they stop going to Mass and eventually fall out of relationship with God.

    This is one of the reasons why, on the one hand, we should not swiftly remove all the habitual music that people associate with their relationship with God, while, on the other hand, working to ensure that our children and children's children do not rely so heavily on music which is so fleeting. That's personal for me, by the way: I know that I will always love the songs of Haas and friends, and be (in some ways) dependent on them for spiritual/emotional nourishment. But I want my children (if I'm blessed to have any) to feel that way about a more permanent storehouse of music.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I think Haas' and his friends' music has its places, but in Holy Mass we experience God as He is. As you know our feelings and musical taste can change over time, and our faith is not depend on those feelings. So should the adults provide music with feelings that will go away in Holy Mass to people, especially to youths, or teach them properly who God is through proper catechism and provide music that transcends time and place as God does as well as His liturgy given through His Church. The initial reaction might not be positive for some, but I believe truths will remain with them and have much better chance for them to return.

    In my experience, I used to like music of Haas' and all at first. It was fun and also challenging at first, but I got so tired of them and even stressed out from playing them so much at the Mass. And when I started schola and sing Gregorian chant, I also started to relearn about the Holy Mass and read the Church's documents on the liturgy and documents, thorough which I discovered (and still learning ) who God is and fell in love with Him more deeply. And that knowledge is also reinforced in the Holy Mass (in EF. Unfortunately, most parish OF Masses in this area have too much distractions in the celebration for me.)

    My children's schola sing Gregorian chant that has been sung over centuries in Roman rite, that saints and holy men and women listened and sang, who also sing with us in the Holy Mass with all the angels. We bow in Gloria Patri, which reminds us of the Martyrs who were willing to give up everything for God. (They are also homeschooling children who receive authentic catechism classes at home mostly by parents, who decided to so with sacrifices they make from staying home since authentic catechism classes are not available in their reach.)
    Do I have a too high expectation from them that they will grow to be saints even if some get distracted on the way than just remained as average Sunday Catholics?
    I pray that the experience of Holy Mass with sacred music and the learning of authentic Catholic faith will be with those young people as they grow to be mature Catholics.
  • My brother (self-described liberal Catholic) calls this type of emotive ballad 'Jesus-is-my-boyfriend' music, and escapes for hikes and naps when P&W sessions start up at young adult retreats he attends. That description works so well for me.

    Kathy, I would chime in on your discussion request by pointing to the free rhythm in Gr chant. Because the rhythm alternates between unpredictable patterns of 2 & 3, the singer or listener is removed from time unfolding in a predictable manner. The emotions can be moved to contemplation of realities outside of time. Wish I had *time* to write more on that.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,830
    o jeesh...

    the liturgy NOR the music is about me, we or my pretty lass or strapping lad. fine for a ballad at her balcony. i write and play love songs for my bride, (my 12 string is quite enamouring for love music) but i don't sing them at mass.

    so, i would answer your final question