Misuse and Abuse of the word "hymn" • a pet peeve
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    If I am allowed to venture an opinion:

    I still see an awful lot of confusion with regard to the word "hymn" on this forum

    What is a Hymn? . . . has some thoughts regarding this misuse and abuse of a word.

    In essence, it can be very confusing when people are "sloppy" in their use of the word "hymn."

    Imagine what would happen if folks started using other homographs interchangeably:

    BARK:
    “Yesterday, my dog emitted a loud bark.” • “Oh, I see that the tree trunk still has bark on it.”

    ARMS:
    “The girl has beautiful arms.” • “My friend has numerous arms: machine guns, shotguns, rifles, etc.”


    Click here to read more
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    Hymns are sung by choirs of men and/or boys.

    Hurrs are sung by choirs of women and/or girls.

    Thymns are sung by mixed groups.

    :D

    All kidding aside, not a bad description, but you've made (excluding the modern era) hymns either Gregorian hymns or Anglican-style hymns - but omitted entirely the genre of German chorale-like hymns (which could be German Protestand or German Catholic), as well as some hymns that come from the Eastern Rite churches.

    Oh, up here in the Twin Cities area, several hundred miles north of you, "soda" and "coke" are called "pop"!!! :)))
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    And the New Testament hymns, such as Phil. 2, don't seem to be strophic.

    What exactly is at stake, again?
  • Definitions needed!

    hymn..............ecclesiastical hymn................strophic hymn..................liturgical hymn...............modern hymn...........sacred hymn...........etc........

    and the list goes on!

    Until definitions are agreed upon, all that will likely happen is a lot of wheel spinning and mud slinging.
    What is at stake? ........two or more people communicating and each actually understanding what another person is saying.
    What is at stake? ........music in Church before the Blessed Sacrament that is worthy to be there.
  • I still see an awful lot of confusion with regard to the word "hymn" on this forum.


    Where is the latest confusion?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    "Hymn" is a widely used term on the forum. it usually encompasses anything from Gregorian Hymnody all the way to praise and worship music. JO is right that because of the lack of definitions, we are often tripping over each other in what we try to say or communicate.

    Instead of referring to text or melody resident in a hymn, I usually refer to two types from a theoritically musical standpoint alone, metrical and non-metrical. In general this works to separate chant hymns out from all other types of hymns, although it is not 100% full proof.

    Chant based hymns are the basis of all hymnody. Some of our chant based hymns get forced into a meter: Veni, Veni, for example. There are others as we all know.

    Here's the deal with today. Hymns used in our liturgies are probably 99% metered hymns. We sang Where Charity and Love Prevail today.... you guessed it... the metered version. What is this obsession with meter? I don't know. Another thing that is interesting is that military music is STRONGLY metered. Is there a connection? I don't know... maybe... maybe not. Here's another thing. National music was considered foreign to the Mass and was banned by the Motu of 1903. So where did things go hazy? I don't know.

    For me, metrical hymns are an earthy expression of music that does not fit with the "tempo" of the liturgy which is 'timeless'. GC is a natural fit for the reason that it is not metrical and does not 'drive you to the clock'. Does this all make sense? I don't know. Just typing out loud.
  • In my own understanding (which I fondly believe to be butressed by objective literary reality), a hymn is a song of praise addressed to and extolling the deity (or, at times even, a great personage or a saint) and his attributes. A hymn may be strophic, or, as Kathy points out, non strophic (the New Testament and the Old are replete with them). Religious songs whose focus is primarily subjective are not hymns, they are religious or spiritual songs. Thus, examples such as 'Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven', or 'Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise', are hymns, while even such a fine poem as 'Come Down, O Love Divine' is a spiritual song, more precisely, a prayer. Regardless, though, of whatever distinctions one may make, I suspect that we will continue to call the songs that congregations sing in worship 'hymns'. However, as JMO suggests, it would be nice (and perhaps qualitatively profitable) if distinctions could be made.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    How on earth is "Come Down, O Love Divine" only a spiritual song but not a hymn?

    This hymn, addressed to the Holy Spirit (who, when I last checked is still one of the persons of the Holy Trinity) is an invocation that the Holy Spirit might "kindle" ones heart so that it might burn with the "ardor" of that Spirit. Indeed, it is an ancient hymn, the text having been written in the 15th century by Bianco de Siena, four stanzas of which were translated by Richard Littledale in the 19th century, although only three of these stanzas have been included in hymnals (to the best of my knowledge). The omitted third stanza of Littledale's translation reads:

    Let holy charity
    Mine outward vesture be,
    And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
    True lowliness of heart,
    Which takes the humbler part,
    And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

    That the text of this hymn is intense in a personal sense - in the same way that the experience at Pentecost must surely have been intense. We may only rejoice that such a powerful and passionate hymn text has been set to music by the equally inspired music of Ralph Vaughan Williams.
  • CHG - How on earth, indeed!
    I knew that someone would pillory me on Come Down...
    It is one of my favourites and I know well its history and provenance.
    Still, it is a prayer for the Holy Spirit's indwelling in one's inner being.
    It is not in praise of the Holy Spirit and his attributes, but a prayer for the Spirit's gifts and their effects.
    Wondrous as is this wedding of the arts of Bianco and Ralph, I don't conceive of it as an hymn, but as a prayer with some highly subjective if not pietistic overtones.
    This assuredly is not intended as a qualitative judgment, but a mere assessment of proper category.
    Thanks for jumping on me about this - perhaps your perspective is the better one?

    I thought, too, that Lauda anima might be challenged. After all, it is 'my soul' which is being addressed, but it is being exhorted to praise the wondrous attributes and deeds of God, who is extolled over all; so it doesn't seem to me to be subjective in substance.

    It might be interesting if readers would record here lists of 'hymns' that they considered really to be hymns, or really prayers, or theological expositions, or spiritual songs of purely subjective personal experience, or other categories.

    JMO is right to bring this up. Clarification and proper designation of the categories of religious song could go a long way to get people to appreciate exactly what they sing, why, and when. It could result in a qualitative difference in the hymns/songs that are sung.

    And WARNING: Plug about to be made!!!! If you sing hymns, always sing the introit after the Entrance Hymn, alway sing the proper Alleluya and Verse, always sing the Offertory Antiphon before the Anthem or Hymn, and always sing the Commumion Antiphon before any communion anthems and/or hymns or psalms. (And don't use Respond and Acclaim's poor settings - the Alleluyas being the worst.) AND - if your means are limited use the Simple English Propers and/or the Anglican Use Gradual........ or Fr Columba's or Fr Weber's work
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    In a rare disagreement with M. Jackson Osborne, I believe the subjective/objective distinction to be a complete non-starter, very similar to the non-controversy of the vox Dei issue.

    Look at the propers. They are subjective, just as they often speak in the voice of God. The introits of Ordinary Time have a veritable theme: "Help us Lord, You Who are all-powerful and merciful, or we will fail."

    A story: I once attended a theology lecture, the point of which was intended to be the likenesses between two hymns, one HIndu, addressed to a Hindu goddess, and the other Christian, addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The lecturer challenged us to find a meaningful distinction between the spirituality of the two hymns. I found one easily: the Christian hymn contained a subjective element. We weren't just extolling Mary's beauty and praise, but we were asking for help. That's part of what made it a Christian hymn, the subjective concern.

    Look at Watts, look at Wesley. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need. "Soar we now where Christ has led/following our exalted Head./ Made like Him, like Him, like Him we rise:/ Ours the cross, the grave, the skies!"
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    "although only three of these stanzas have been included in hymnals (to the best of my knowledge). "

    Is this a Catholic thing? Check out the English Hymnal. I don't recall whether the 3rd verse is included in my Catholic parish's hymn-book of choice, and don't have a copy to hand. I can't remember ever singing it without that verse, but I do my best not to think about that Catholic hymn-book, and anyway can't think of this hymn outside of the emotional context of the EH and its sober green covers, so may be wrong.
  • Snippets:
    *I don't know about everyone else, but, the occasional use of a truly metred hymn-chant such as O COME, O COME EMMANUEL has never appeared to evoke any militaristic reaction from our congregations in Central California. Our folks generally seem to notice "Hey, it really is Advent."
    *Others, such as "Adoro te" and "Jesu, dulcis..." are always sung freely, as opposed to the above approach, and we pay attention to arsis/thesis in terms of rhythmic/dynamic interpretation.
    *Getting "people to appreciate exactly what they sing, why, and when" is truly an admirable goal. Within the context of a priest's exhortation from a homily, especially at this particular moment of joyful anticipation, it would be of benefit. But it is not a goal in and of itself. I'd be much more comfortable if the Church would "get people to appreciate" the Real Presence of Christ in His House, the unbloody Sacrifice, the timeless cosmology of the Eucharist (typified by chant), the underlying sociology of how and why to approach worship in our corporate behaviors and manners, etc. etc. I agree with Kathy, non-starter, fit for this forum this discussion is, but 'twould be sophistry to even to extremely learned PIPs. (I know this for a fact, ask me offline.)
    *I'm glad MJO qualified some of the indictment against Respond/Acclaim's "Alleluias," but I am still uncomfortable with branding Alstott's entire volume as it's unnecessary if it's comprehensive. We need to be passed the mindset that it's all bathwater in the bowl needing tossing. Down the road we may face having discussions about doing the very same thing with a resource penned by "one of our own." Why?

    Debate away....
  • I teach my students that hymns are theological meditations on the mysteries of the Christian faith that are meant to be and need to be sung in their entirety for the theology to be understood. They need not be metrical or strophic; they may have refrains.

    The Gloria in excelsis Deo is such a hymn.

    {to be continued]
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    CCCA

    I wasn't implying that Veni Veni is a militaristic hymn by any means. I was simply giving some "off the top my head" reflections and observations about hymnody and its use in the liturgy since I have been a church musician.

    I also was bringing to our attention that national hymns were officially banned by the church in the Motu of 1903, and somehow we have ignored that mandate (along with many other mandates of the Church concerning musica sacra.)

    Any deductions you make are your own. I insist over and over in my post that I don't have answers or deductions to my observations, but they are my observations about hymnody, nonetheless.

    Speaking of ignoring the church, check out the news I JUST DISCOVERED this minute from the Vatican Insider: New Vatican commission cracks down on church architecture (including abuses in liturgical music). Will post as new thread.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    MJO, it seems to me that you have narrowly taken "hymn of praise" as the definition "hymn" - which would seem to preclude "hymn of thanksgiving", "hymn of supplication", etc. By your definition, a whole heckuva lot of hymns would have to be excluded, not just "Come down, O Love divine" - "O come, O come Emmanuel" - "To you before the close of day" (Te lucis ante terminum) - etc. etc. etc.

    "Praise" is not the only form of "meditation on the mysteries of the Christian faith" (a much better working definition to me).
  • CHG - I say with all good will, you may be right that my understanding of 'hymn' is narrow; so, we might observe that yours is 'wide'. But, the distinctions which I make are of categories, and do not at all imply quality or fitness for worship or liturgy. I believe, not judging qualitatively, that from ancient times a hymn is understood to be a text extolling the attributes of the object of worship. Thanksgiving, supplication, and subjective exercises, no matter how appropriate and beautiful, do not seem to me to be hymnody: they are distinct categories. How often have I pointed out to people that such-and-such a 'hymn' is really a prayer, and their appreciation of it was enhanced because they had not perceived this because they were 'just singing a hymn'. We really do increase people's understanding by making these distinctions.
  • Francis, no worries. As in most cases, including yours with the Westendorf classic, I wonder if the fault lies not in the meter, but with a "Brutus" like performance; or maybe even "buffo" style ala our Sixtina tenores!?!
    Regarding "national hymns" and even "wind (brass) bands" banned (I'm on a roll here!)- I don't know about Wyoming, but I consider myself fortunate that our Pentecostal Portuguese Assn. bands throughout the California lodges cease playing at the footsteps of the church doors on Holy Ghost and Fatima Festa Masses, save for maybe Pismo and Gustine! But, I think there's still more of that nationalistic stuff going on in Europe, AND most likely in Italy (gasp!) than there is Hamtramk or Chicago with Polka bands. Now, if you could just write Rocco Palmo a brief missive asking him to politely request no Mariachi Bands and gritos of "Viva Mexico!" on Dec. 12th in Whispers!

    I'm not quite sure what you mean by making deductions in your response. Feel free to point out what I've said that seems contentious. I'm all ears. (I wish)

    Blessings
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    Perhaps the real problem is with the use of the term "hymnal" - which collects together hymns of praise, and other forms (prayers, suppications, etc.), as well as liturgical music (propers, ordinary, Mass texts, etc), and sometimes even more.

    For my part, I've always understood various categories of "hymns" - as I described above - and understood "hymn" to be more generic than JMO's understanding.

    Now the question seems to be - what (musically) properly constitutes the contents of a "hymnal" ????

    Are we to change the designation to "songbook" or "songs and ritual" or what???
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Hymns, in general, mean songs of praise (Harvard dic). The meaning has been changed (or it rather became more specific) among Christians from early Christian era to modern days.

    In the Holy Mass we have, there are distinctions between Propers, Ordinary parts (both of them are texts of the Mass given by the Church) and then what we usually call 'hymn' (with the text written by individuals). They have different roles and places in the Holy Mass of Latin rite.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    Hymnals don't belong in Catholic pews.

    We should have Missals, Kyriales, Libers and other types of pubs that are integrated with the rite(s).

    Adam is onto this with the release of his new publication, the Lumen Christi Missal. I really think this is the future of pew books.

    This is for the simple reason that hymnals become a standalone, unapproved resource that separates the music out from the context of the Mass or a specific rite. That is a Protestant view of a 'service'. Our liturgies are all predefined in content for the most part. This is why hymns replaced Propers... the option should not even exist.

    If the Bishops truly did their part in 'approving' new music, then publishing companies would be able to print a music resource that allows an appendix of newly approved music.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    I agree with the general consensus of Paul Ford. The hymns of the Church are 'extra' musical matter that align themselves to the theology of a particular Feast, Rite, etc. They don't have to be (but can be) metrical, but the important thing is that they are used in proportion (with discretion) to the needs and demands of a particular liturgy and are subservient to such. Too often music is put into the liturgy just because people want to sing what they want to sing. (WRONG!) In other words, not every liturgy needs a hymn. Many times I just the do the Propers and the Ordinary and that's it! No need to insert anything more.

    Good examples for placement of hymns:

    Processions at feasts (Holy Thursday, Corpus Christi, Palm Sunday, etc.)
    Communion Processions
    Sequence Hymns

    Other than that, it would be more appropriate for chant and polyphony to be sung by the choir.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    I still don't know what is at stake in this discussion.
  • Ditto
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    Kathy

    I don't think there is anything at stake... we are just trying to define the word hymn as it applies to the Mass. We use the word hymn so much on a daily basis, that people perceive it as something entirely different than what one might mean. I might say:

    We are going to sing a hymn for the procession and someone might think, "O, we are going to sing a praise song by (enter Christian rock/pop singer name here).

    Do you see where the confusion can come in?
  • Francis, I'm not quite sure your understanding of "hymn" aligns with what Dr. Ford stated exactly at all.
    The coherence of "Gloria in excelsis Deo" or even "Phos hilaron" (non-scriptural) is vastly different than that of a wide array of systematically constructed texts throughout many centuries.
    I think where we are trying to find consensus is to what degree may poets (and others) may construe what constitutes a "meditation" upon a universally acknowledged mystery of faith versus some didactic, even polemical intent. That's why we still have some measure of consternation over fairly antiquated texts, ie. "A mighty fortress" as well as some of our own, ie. "Gather and remember," "Sing a New Church" and the truly disabling "Anthem" (you thought I was gonna cite "All are welcome" I bet!) that must be deliberated by every conscientious DM at some time or the other. (My time for most of those came and went long ago.)
    I wonder if I'm more on Mia's page (gasp) with a general assignation that "hymn" simply means "a song with sacred content"?
    OTOH, if we stick to Office hymns, we all okay.
    In that scenario, I'd just as soon use any of Kathy's settings for festal days, or those of Magnificat.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    CCCA

    Well, there are actually two debatable elements of a hymn... the text... and the music.

    So its doubly confusing to discuss it without clarifying the textual (theological) and the musical (theoretical)... so which one are you specifically speaking to?

    Personally, I am not so much concerned about the textual differences of hymns as the musical, however, there are definitely hymns that are textually out to lunch and should be avoided altogether just like there can be great text but bad music. If bad shows up in either, it's an automatic blunder in my book.

    A Mighty Fortress... hmmm... I don't EVER use that piece in a liturgy.

    Am I understanding you right?

    The Gloria is one of the best hymns ever, yes?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    A pet peeve of mine, by the way, is this expression "liturgical abuse."

    I think we should all avoid attaching our issues to the sexual abuse scandal. This happens constantly on the left. "The abuse scandal" is the perfect excuse for ending priestly celibacy and ecclesial structures and all sorts of things. In my most jaded moments, it appears to me that the victims turn out to be of little importance when compared to political aims.

    Even in unjaded moments it is clear that the word "abuse" refers to a little kid being overwhelmingly injured. I don't think it should be used, at this historical moment, for anything else. Just my 2 cents.

    ***
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    Kathy--
    I for one, think that is an incredibly narrow definition of the word "abuse."

    (ETA: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, animal abuse, liturgical abuse, etc. Even with the sexual abuse scandals, that is certainly not the first thing that pops to mind when I hear the word "abuse.)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    lol. Very true.

    I just think we should avoid the word for the time being.
  • OTOH,
    I'm on a crusade to dissuade litvolks from employing two words when discussing litwerks, namely "violence" and "like."
    For example, "This language does VIOLENCE to the liturgy!", or "Neither me nor my friends LIKE chant; we LIKE bilingual songs. We LIKE some hymns, 'specially those by Brian Wren, but don't LIKE those old ones, LIKE "Panis angelicus" or "Come, Holy Ghost. That's, um, LIKE about it."
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    +1, Charles.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'm somewhat naive in that I believe the "liturgy wars" are not simply about getting what you like above what someone else likes. I really think there are some people trying to use music which is the most suitable they can muster in a pastoral manner.

    Then I see discussions like this, and it's hard NOT to conclude it's all about forcing my likes on someone else. It's a hymn if I like it, it's not a hymn if I don't like it. Oh, sure, we use different language... "holy" instead of "like", or "abuse" instead of "I don't like", but I suspect deep down it's all about "winning". I win... you lose.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    "What's to like?"

    "Like it or like it not."

    +1, Charles in CenCA
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    It's a hymn if I like it, it's not a hymn if I don't like it. I win... you lose.


    Now that is the most accurate definition of a hymn I have heard yet. Very accurate.

    Gavin:

    The crux of that issue is that WE are not 'pastors' of music. Pride would like us to think so. The Church is and does a good job telling us what to do. The real problem is that those who are supposed to excerise pastorship DON'T, and everyone looks the other way.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    There is something missing here that Jeff touched on in the original post but hasn't quite been fleshed out very well in this discussion.

    There can be different musical stylistic settings of the same hymn. Thus I don't understand why Francis says that "Sequence hymns" are "good placement of hymns" and then follows by saying, "Other than that, it would be more appropriate for chant and polyphony to be sung by the choir."

    Aren't sequences 1) typically plainchant, and aren't there 2) polyphonic settings of the sequences (e.g., "Benedicta semper sancta sit Trinitas," Isaac's setting of Notker's Most Holy Trinity sequence)? Not to mention all of the chant hymns that may or may not have been set by Renaissance polyphonists.

    If I'm not mistaken, para. 88 of the GIRM states: "88. When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the Priest and faithful pray quietly for some time. If desired, a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the whole congregation." There can thus be no question as to whether or not hymns, in se, are "appropriate" for Mass. The only real questions are about musical style and theological soundness, not the definition or appropriateness of the thing itself.

    There are hymns in every musical style, and hymns that date from every period of history. It seems far more useful to distinguish the types of hymns from one another (which was Jeff's original point) instead of to ask, "Is it a hymn or not?" Once the decision has been made to use a hymn in Mass, having that information is all that's important.
  • Thanks for that reset, Doug, very helpful.
    Hpy St Ceci's day
    RIP JFK
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    DougS said

    Aren't sequences 1) typically plainchant, and aren't there 2) polyphonic settings of the sequences (e.g., "Benedicta semper sancta sit Trinitas," Isaac's setting of Notker's Most Holy Trinity sequence)? Not to mention all of the chant hymns that may or may not have been set by Renaissance polyphonists.


    Exactly my point. You are absolutely, 100% correct. Thanks for backing me up. Hymns, in the Church's eyes, ARE Gregorian Chant.

    Communion is an excellent place for a hymn, (as in my list), but should not displace chant and polyphony as the TE DEUM is THE PERFECT Communion 'hymn'. In other words, the 'Church's prescribed hymns' are, in general, always a better alternative than 'other' hymns. It's the old APTUS that gives us problems.

    AKA Paul Ford on a different post:

    Rome is thinking of this when they legislate that all sing the post-communion song of praise. The Graduale Simplex lists the Te Deum Laudamus, the Te Decet Laus, and the Te Laudamus for this time at Mass.


    Again... the "pastoral approach" would be to follow the pastors of music, yes? So why are we doing something else ALL the time? I have NEVER heard, even once in my lifetime, any of these prescribed hymns sung after communion. Am I in the RC Church, or am I just reading the signs on the front of the buildings incorrectly? I just have to keep reminding myself (lIke they say in the real estate market), "Location, Location, Location".

    Reboot again, please.
  • I thought "hymn" referred to the text - and "hymn-tune" to the melody.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    I could be dead wrong, but I don't think I have ever read anything in any church document about a 'hymn tune'.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Francis: "Hymns, in the Church's eyes, ARE Gregorian Chant."

    This is precisely why communication on this subject breaks down. A polyphonic setting of a hymn is no longer Gregorian chant. So where does that leave us?
  • "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" is the hymn; Grosser Gott is the hymn-tune.
    "Gloria" is the hymn - it can be set to many different melodies.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    "Pange lingua gloriosi" has several Gregorian tunes (at least three that I know of).
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    CHG:

    There may be several (key word: Gregorian) tunes, but specifically we are speaking to the term 'hymn tune' as it would be described in a church document on music. I don't think there is any mention of 'hymn tune' in any church document that I have ever seen. How many Gregorian hymns have more than one Gregorian tune? I venture only a few if that. If there are more, we should be singing THEM!
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    How many Gregorian hymns have more than one Gregorian tune?


    Many, many Gregorian hymn texts were sung to various tunes. Hundreds.

    More importantly, I wish to clarify that my whole point is that when we speak of hymns we should be clear:

    Are we talking about hymn TEXTS or hymn TUNES? They are NOT the same.

    Are we talking about mediæval tunes and texts? 19th century vernacular translations of said texts? Tunes written in Major-minor tonality (Common-practice era)? Modal hymn tunes?

    These are IMPORTANT distinctions. They must be made. Always.

    The original Latin hymn texts did not even rhyme (but were based on poetic feet, longs and shorts). Rhyming came later.

    And ancient "hymns" like the Gloria are something completely different.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    DougS

    And this is why we need to specify whether a hymn is a text or a tune. You are speaking of a text that is set to polyphony. Is it still a 'hymn'? In most people's minds, a hymn is a four part homophonic piece of music where the text is sung metrically in unison. A Chorale is a derivation of that as it might employ some scant polyphonic treatment. A motet is more the other way around (generally), more polyphony with a scant rendering of homophony. Then there is full blown polyphony, where each individual line is it's own independent melody.

    As I said earlier up, there are TWO ASPECTS of a hymn, and that is why this is confusing: the text, and then the music. You are interchanging the term hymn as applied to the text. So you are calling a polyphonic variation of a 'hymn text' as such. So your understanding of hymn falls within a certain 'group' of people who profess hymns to be primarily textual content, and the music can be any style or treatment as long as it utilizes the 'hymn text'. That is dangerous territory and exactly why we are singing "rock praise hymns" today.

    I hear you saying this:

    "Well, it's the words that matter, not the music".

    This is the crux of where the Church went south in terms of sacred music.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    Francis - Of course "hymn tune" is an English/Americanism, so for "hymn tune" in this context, simply read (Gregorian) "melody" - and you'd be surprised just how many Gregorian hymns have move than one (Gregorian) melody. To start the ball rolling, how many "Ave Maria" (Gregorian) melodies are there?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    Many... and THOSE are the hymns of the Catholic Church... the ones we SHOULD be singing.

    So of course, the underlying argument here, is again, the ole "chant versus any other kind of music set to a 'hymn' text". What else is new?

    Thank you all for trying one more time to unravel the issues surrounding sacred music. It is always stimulating, enlightening and a worthwhile effort if it brings us to a common thinking... eventually.

    JO, I hope you found an answer to your original question. I hope we didn't steer you away from your intended focus. See JO's post above.^^^

    I am gonna go set the Pange Lingua to a setting for Jazz Quartet (ala idiom, Ella Fitzgerald) complete with cadenza for scat singing (in Latin). (will it still be a "hymn"? Will it still be a 'liturgical hymn?' Will it still be a "Catholic Hymn?' Will it still be fit for liturgy?)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    Francis, what do you think about this? Is it impious?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8welVgKX8Qo
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Francis, just because a piece of music is polyphonic doesn't negate the fact that it's a hymn. Take the Gloria for example. Or Te Deum Laudamus. Polyphonic settings of those texts are still hymns. If you disagree, fine, but as I said before, that's why communication on this issue breaks down. People get such rigid definitions of words in their minds that any other conceivable possibility is essentially null and void.

    We don't have categories: "Chant," "Polyphony," "HYMN." Hymns can be chant or polyphonic. They can be chorale-style settings. They can be many things. The question of musical style is simply a different question from the text, WHICH IS YET a different question than suitability for Mass. It all seems to run together in your mind, which means that this conversation is an utter failure.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    I have programmed that song for our liturgies in the past when I led contemporary praise band music. Does it belong in Mass? You tell me.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    DougS

    The conversation is not an utter failure. Is that not a pessimistic attitude? I now understand that you mean hymn as a text... and only a text... the word 'hymn' for you is different than many others who visit here. For you it has nothing to do with musical style or idiom. That is where the breakdown occurs.