Makes for a good read, anyway . . . .
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I would be interested to hear what people have to say about this article I wrote a while back.

    I remembered its existence when I happened to glance at "Be not afraid," and I am always astounded that no one (NO ONE) ever sings the rhythm as written. I guess at the reason for this in the article (URL given above).
  • Jeff,

    I'm afraid that I am one of those who don't feel the need to analyze every vertical sonority in a triadic manner. A passing tone is sometimes just a passing tone. We can say "Hey, for that moment there is a minor seventh chord" but the question in a Renaissance piece is "Does it function as a harmony?" I have no doubt that Renaissance composers thought in terms of vertical harmony, but by applying 18th-20th-century terms to these "results" can be misleading. You hint that composers were preparing the way for modern usage and there may be some truth to that, but one can go overboard in suggesting a composer's intent to stretch the harmonic language when there was no harmonic language as we understand it in place at the time. Note how theorists of the day focus their discussions on cadence points primarily. They don't really seem to care much how composers get from start to finish (a holdover from medieval polyphony), but rather they seem very interested in how a composer finishes and what types of cadences are employed. Yes, I understand that theorists are "reporting" more than giving a how-to manual, but if they were really interested in passing harmonies, note that I did not say counterpoint since they do talk about that, they would discuss them more as such.

    That said, as one gets later in the Renaissance, theorists do begin to note how composers are fashioning music harmonically sometimes at the expense of counterpoint (ala Monteverdi vs Artusi). It's interesting to wonder why Lassus used those seventh chords in ex. S, but the first is a result of an appoggiatura in the bass, which is unusual, but still a Renaissance melodic movement which I suspect was the more interesting device to him. The second is a result of melodic chromaticism turning the Bb into a very common anticipatory leading tone. Again, I really think that Renaissance musicians were able to hear with two ears in a way. Yes, they heard a dissonance of quick passing lower tritone (B4-F3), but w/o the text it's hard to know if there is textual reason.

    In the end, for me it's much more interesting to look at this from the "Renaissance side" because you see composers experimenting with vertical sonorities by using the tools they had at hand. Once one looks from the other side and says, "hey, he made a dominant seventh chord there. We should give him credit for being forward-looking." That IMO does a disservice to the composer and distorts the understanding of what was really happening.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,494
    I would like your permission to print that article and give a copy to every member of the parish liturgical committee. They won't understand the analysis - a few who are accomplished musicians will, but most won't - but the comments on the state of modern church music and the loss of Catholic musical heritage they will understand.
  • Dear Jeff,

    You have some good (non-original) points, but your arguments suffer from the frequent use of hyperbole, e.g. “The reader could doubtless add hundreds more titles to the atrocities mentioned above” or “Yet the music these composers offer is
    infinitely harder and more awkward to sing than (for example) Gregorian chant.”

    In general, it reads like you live in a bit of a bubble.

    I think your point would be strengthened by looking at some pieces by popular modern liturgical composers that are not difficult to sing, that have straightforward harmonies, and that are a far cry from “Bloom Where You’re Planted”. Hurd “Ubi caritas” is a good example, as is Proulx “I Received the Living God”. Many of the psalm-songs of Haugen are good pieces. If nothing else, this would provide more points of reference for music ministry leaders--i.e. your presumable intended audience.

    You are welcome (encouraged, even) to look at the music plans on the web site in my signature here and offer your thoughts. I really think most folks here would find little to critique. What I think we do well is sticking to music that is easily sung and easily learned. Few, if any, goofy syncopations or such.
  • Living in a bubble is a requirement for making radical changes. Felipe, you have a program that works well for you in your environment.

    Haugen IS effective music...when you are singing to an audience.
  • Dear Noel,

    I submit that Haugen 91 and Isaiah 12 work perfectly well sung responsorially with a congregation, and there are several similar examples from the GIA/OCP psalm-song repertoire.

    Re your statement “you have a program that works well for you in your environment”, do you mean to bring a “this congregation, in this time, in this place” relativism into the discussion? I myself tend to think more in absolute terms; I believe the program in my parish would work well in almost any (Anglophone) American parish, excepting the choral offertories we usually do except in the summer. At least, I can’t really see what would be intrinsically specific to my parish about our congregational music.

    I’m not saying we have the ideal music program, by the way. There is no congregational use of Latin, for example, despite the clear commendations of congregational use of Latin in nearly every pertinent liturgical document that currently has force of law. Budget concerns and printing costs are causing me to have to limit our use of paraphrases of the Gregorian propers. There is not the singing of dialogues that the liturgical documents envision. And of course, our congregations really should be making much more sound than they do.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Hello, friends.

    Mike: thank you for the thoughts. You were zero-ing in on a minor point of the article, correct? At least, it was not my intention for that to be one of the major "points" of the article. I still think it is fascinating how long it took composers to use mm7 and MM7 chords, while the Dominant 7th came into use a lot sooner. Do you agree that the Dominant 7th was partially "invented" due to frequent 5-4-3 motion? Also, Mike, if I were to try to push forward the idea that folks earlier than Viadana (with his virtual figured bass) heard vertical sonorities as chords, I would produce a bunch of passages that are nothing but chords. For instance, Proke's "Musica Divina" contains has a bunch of examples of this towards the end of almost all the Magnificats and Psalms he includes (usually on the "Gloria Patri" section).

    CharlesW: I would be honored.

    Felipe: If the arguments are "non-original" I would truly love to see examples of others who made the same (theoretical & compositional) points. Perhaps (if you have the time) you could scan in a page or two from an article that makes these points. I have not read them before, and I find it amazing that no one has been making these point over the last four decades (or longer). I think there is a lot of confusion out there, like people who call things as "hymns" that are really "songs." Also, with regards to the alleged "hyperbole," I stand behind the statements I made. I never said that there are no good pieces written by anyone in the last 40 years. The two composers you cite, I believe, have written some inspired things. But, again, I stand behind the arguments I made.

    You also said:

    "In general, it reads like you live in a bit of a bubble."

    I wish this were true, but I can tell you that I merely looked at a sampling of Catholic hymnals and put down what I found. Believe me, I did NOT have to spend time searching for those examples!! Again, I say, I could have included hundreds and hundreds and hundreds more examples than I did.
  • Felipe:

    Many in my church would definitely welcome you and your program in place of mine....

    noel
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    By the way, I am grateful for everyone's comments. I really like to hear others' perspectives. I especially appreciate when they focus on specific examples.

    I hope that no one feels that they are out to "win" any debates. Again, I am very grateful for everyone's comments. Thank you!
  • Jeff,

    Yes, I was just nitpicking a point, but it is a topic that we managed to keep the Loyola dormitory awake with. I do agree that the frequent use of suspensions caused composers to gradually think of the Mm7 chord as a harmony that functioned. It's not until 1722 that someone finally comes out and says it, so I suspect, no, actually I'm quite certain, that even composers of the 17th century came to terms with harmonic movement gradually. So, they may have heard "chords" but not necessarily functional triads. The Mattheson-Fux debate, which occurs at the beginning of the 18th century, seems to underscore the flux in the thinking on this matter. So, my hunch is that composers were not quite thinking of 7th chords as harmonies quite yet, but rather dissonances that activated the music (which is what they are, of course). The avoidance of the mm7 chord probably has quite a bit to do with the avoidance of the tritone. Its infrequent use was probably linked to textual imagery or kookiness like that in Gesualdo. Also don't forget how awful it must have sounded on keyboards tuned in meantone and later tunings.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Whilst we are nitpicking:

    "The avoidance of the mm7 chord probably has quite a bit to do with the avoidance of the tritone."

    Am I missing something? I believe that neither the mm7 nor the MM7 (in any inversion) contains a tritone.

    However, as we know, the Dominant 7th (Mm7) does have a prominent Tritone. (Those of us who accompany chant avoid this chord, probably for that reason).
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Jeff — as always, I admire the passion of your writing, and certainly agree with the major points you're making. If I may add my 2¢ here (realizing that others have already contributed much more!):

    For Example H (Tom Conry's "Anthem"), I think it's a bit of a stretch to suggest he was trying to imitate Stravinsky. And for Example J ("Free at Last"), it seems to me less of an "out-syncopating" sort of tune and more of an awkward attempt to bring a (pseudo-?) African-American spiritual into Catholic liturgy.

    And, for what it's worth, my favorite "negative example" of "meter music," so to speak, is the one that begins "Sing of the Lord's goodness…" in 5/4 time, a blatant rip-off of Paul Desmond's/Dave Brubeck's jazz classic, "Take Five."

    I'll think on this some more and maybe post something, but I'm struck, actually, how so many folks really like the OCP-fare music. I attended Mass at a parish in Tacoma (where I'm visiting) this morning. I couldn't stand the music (though it was well-"performed"), but all around me, the congregants were enthusiastically joining in.
  • The development of music was based upon very strict laws, created initially by the Church. These rules governed the use of intervals and are based upon research and study of the Greeks, long before the Birth of Christ.

    While we stand amazed at the time it took for certain intervals to be written, it is because they were ILLEGAL that they were not written.

    Slight diversion: I used to teach that Frescobaldi's Fiori Musicali 1635 sounded especially poignant when played with temperaments and that he wrote to utilize the character of the temperaments. Later I learned that Frescobaldi approached the Pope to get Equal Temperament declared the standard of tuning....which indicates that though he may have written to the sound of early temperaments, he wanted equal.

    The diversion shows the hold the Church had over Music at that time....

    Now, Jeff's article hovers over the issue here like a hawk over it's prey...contemporary Catholic music is written without any regard to the rules and tradition of composition.

    Surely, we can all understand why that is a...problem. The rules make the music conform to a form that is singable, logical and....sounds as being part of a genre....

    It is important that the genre is "church"....

    And it is time for the Church to return to music with a capital M.
  • Jeff, yes, it was late. My mistake. The mm7 does not have a tritone. The tuning system, however, would be a deterrent to that chord. The Am7 and Em7 might be passable, but the others would be harsh on keyboard. In a capella it would be fine, but we'll have to wait for Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky to fulfill the desire for that one.
  • frogman, yes, there were many exponents of equal temperaments (not just one) even before "the frisky bald guy". It's just like a keyboardist to demand something like that! Choirs OTOH I'm sure preferred the pure thirds that meantone provided. Who cares if you can't play in B major? If God intended us to sing in that key, he would have made the circles of 5th and 3rds pure! ; )
  • I am always amazed by singers who think that they sing in equal temperament....
  • I've come to hate playing or singing with piano, actually. The major thirds are SO high.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 988
    A good read, Jeff, and I appreciate your contribution to the progress of sacred music. One thing I wish we were better at articulating, though...

    You give some great examples of music that is "Broadway" or rhythmically unsingable. Those are the ones that drive me nuts too. But too often we throw these out as accusations, without a clear explanation of why it's bad/inappropriate for the Mass. At least examples of songs that extend up to an eleventh or twelfth in range is specific, but even that could be just interpreted as "hard to sing", in a similar sense that Gregorian Chant can also be "hard to sing."

    At least the arguments about inappropriate lyrics will make sense to many people - it's fairly clear whether we're praising God or singing about ourselves. But why are notes held for 4 measures inappropriate? What's bad about syncopation? Is something that's "Broadway"-like merely being accused of being too modern and recognizable?

    I get frustrated with this myself, because I'm struggling to articulate why the examples you gave also strike me as inappropriate. So if you can bridge that gap it will help me a great deal.
  • Jeff wrote to me:
    If the arguments are "non-original" I would truly love to see examples of others who made the same (theoretical & compositional) points. Perhaps (if you have the time) you could scan in a page or two from an article that makes these points. I have not read them before, and I find it amazing that no one has been making these point over the last four decades (or longer). I think there is a lot of confusion out there, like people who call things as "hymns" that are really "songs." Also, with regards to the alleged "hyperbole," I stand behind the statements I made. I never said that there are no good pieces written by anyone in the last 40 years. The two composers you cite, I believe, have written some inspired things. But, again, I stand behind the arguments I made.


    Your article’s comments about the difficulty of the congregational music are reminiscent of Thomas Day’s points in “Why Catholics Can’t Sing”. He may also have commented on the texts; I don’t recall, and I actually don’t own a copy of the book.

    Regardless of the range of “On Eagle’s Wings” and Toolan “I Am the Bread of Life”, a lot of untrained singers in the pews do sing these songs. That’s not to say that they couldn’t sing a 4-square hymn tune better, of course.

    I really think it’s pure hyperbole to claim that “Abba, Father”, or any of the examples you posted, is “infinitely more difficult” than Gregorian chant. When is the last time you heard a congregation singing the “Hæc Dies” gradual or the “Ad te levavi” introit? Ask anyone in my choir who learned the “Pascha nostrum” communion that we did for Easter last year whether they have an easier time singing that or singing Cooney “Do Not Fear to Hope”. I guarantee you, the latter will teach more easily. Chant is hard for most folks; the bulk of it that I have done lacks the “catchiness” that helps tunes stay in people’s heads, which requires that people doggedly stick to their notation and read it carefully.

    I tend to think syncopations can be learned reasonably well from mimicking back what you hear. Chant, though, requires all kinds of attention to the notes, especially in the melismatic forms.

    You also said:

    "In general, it reads like you live in a bit of a bubble."

    I wish this were true, but I can tell you that I merely looked at a sampling of Catholic hymnals and put down what I found. Believe me, I did NOT have to spend time searching for those examples!! Again, I say, I could have included hundreds and hundreds and hundreds more examples than I did.


    Still, your article comes across as a general condemnation of anything that most people currently know. Most folks, even most parish music directors, aren’t familiar with the systems of harmonizing Gregorian chant that you bring up. That’s not to say that therein can’t lie some of our future directions for progress, but I still think you would do better to stick to one variable at a time; for example, separate your paper into, say, a discussion of good and bad modern stuff in the hymnals, then a discussion of some directions that go unexplored in popular church music today.

    As to what makes this or that text inappropriate for the Mass, we really should look to the Gregorian propers for our model. These are almost all from Scripture; ergo, if we (as most places do, whether their music directors like it or not) replace the proper chants with vernacular hymns/songs, these alternatives should be heavy with Scriptural texts, especially psalms.
  • Carl D.,

    I think the answer to your question lies in asking, “who is intended to sing this melody?” What we sing should normally be IDIOMATIC for its “performers”.

    Congregations are, IMO, a special kind of choir. They generally don’t rehearse, so they need music that is straightforward and easily learnable. SttL tells us that congregational music should generally be unison--in spite of a substantial tradition of 4-part congregational hymn singing.

    Congregations should also have music that is idiomatic for a LARGE group of singers. Most of us don’t direct choirs larger than, say 100 singers; consider that the average congregation has several times this number!

    Does it really work, does it really sound good, to have 400 people try to sing, say, Cooney “Change Our Hearts” together? If the answer can indeed be “yes” (and many I know will adamantly insist on that), is it not ever more so, and much easier, to sing LASST UNS ERFREUEN with 400 people than “Change Our Hearts”?
  • Following up on thoughts in the previous post, music sung by the choir alone should, IMO, have a musical reason to be sung by the choir alone. Notre Dame in Paris has the choir sing in alternation with the congregation in the Mass VIII Gloria....which, to me, seems senseless. There is no good reason why I shouldn’t sing the entire Gloria in this case.

    Now, if we sing, say, an alternatim “Creator of the Stars”, then there is a good reason for me not to sing all the way through because the music’s essential structure in the polyphonic sections is based on the equal importance of each voice.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    As for the article, I find the style in which it is written troublesome. I have to wonder, who is the target audience? Felipe notices the hyperbole that jumps off the page. I can beat anyone at outlandish hyperbole, but my writing here is for people who agree with most of my point anyway. When parishioners stumbled upon my former blog, I immediately removed it; the material there was written as for other professionals and not as a parish publication. To be specific, drop the adjectives. "Abba Father" does not contain tied notes "beyond belief". It just contains tied notes; I can believe it. As Felipe mentions, the music you cite is not "infinitely" harder to sing than chant, a statement you don't back up with examples from the chant and which is easily refuted. I need not continue with adjectives, as their gratuitous usage is throughout. But that does bring me to your unsubstantiated points, which fill the article: You make NO case that composers must limit themselves to the mm7 chord for harmonic extravagance, but rather assert it through a vague implication of "slippery slope" through dropping names like John Cage. "Poison the well" comes to mind: the logical fallacy where one imputes bad qualities to a person to diminish their argument. Such as with the "modernist" composers and their "modernistic" "broadway" "secular" music. Again, these things NEED to be backed up if you want to change minds. Show us where each and every composer in Gather has breached the "Syllabus of Errors".

    I mention this because it is hard to figure out to whom you're writing or why. A person who sees no problem with many of the examples cited will simply be too offended to continue reading, nor would you change their minds. It will fire up someone already in outrage over bad music, perhaps myself some years ago, but is that kindling holiness or uncharity? Towards the end you seem to have written the article as a promotion of your own compositions, the "good news" the title offers. Unfortunately, since you did not convince the non-conservative of the lack of value of other compositions, he may not be interested in your composition. If you wrote to praise the Novi Organa Harmonia, I was indeed stirred by your description of it. But again, your hyperbole removes the force of your point: if we are to believe that "Remember your Mercy Lord" is "extreme syncopation", how can we believe that "words cannot describe the magnificence" of the NOH?

    As I said, I can write a good bit of stormy exaggeration and hyperbole. But I would not publish it in a parish bulletin. Neither would I publish it in a scholarly journal such as Sacred Music. Nor would I put it on anything but an anonymous blog, lest a potential employer should view it! On the other hand, I have written articles for parish bulletins that established that music must transcend, not abuse, emotive power. My work on my current blog I consider worthy of my good name (although I do not use it, out of security concerns). You say you wrote this several years ago. I too was unrefined in my arguing at the same time, although I was 19 and not 25. But even while I was busy yelling at schoolmates that their "Contemporary Christian" music was evil without proof, I still wrote a polite and direct letter to my parish priest demanding he stay at the altar for the sign of peace (in compliance with the then-newly-released instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum) So I say, know your purpose and know your audience. This is what separates an influential writer from another internet loudmouth!
  • Singing the Gloria and Credo with alternating groups keeps the tempo up...a congregation in a church with live acoustical environment could drag them to oblivion....signing them back and forth men and women of the choir and/or women/women across a space also works to keep them going... if your choir, as mine does, begins to drag them out...the men seem especially prone to that.
  • "Eye has not seen" has that tear jerking leap at the end of the chorus that is designed to tug at the heart....but then, the verses are pure Broadway....I can see the whole cast taking each others hands and meaningfully taking long strides towards the audience...then the entire cast turns to the star-crossed lovers as they sing the last line of the verse together...and then the smoke machine comes on and we hear..."Eye hath not seen...."

    "I still wrote a polite and direct letter to my parish priest demanding he stay at the altar for the sign of peace (in compliance with the then-newly-released instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum)"

    I'm sure he remembers you..fondly....for that. Maybe you should contact him and permit him to respond to this list with his reaction to your helpful missive?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    frogman: I taught the Gloria to some 7th and 8th graders, using alternatim boys vs. girls. They loved it. The Gloria actually can get rather boring for some, and that helps keep it interesting.
  • Sttl tells us nothing, it merely recommends....

    "Still, your article comes across as a general condemnation of anything that most people currently know."

    Yes...they know what has been made popular. Popularity has never really been a Catholic ideal....until now.
  • Popularity is an important consideration in any discourse. If your target audience thinks “Church Music” means “Here I Am, Lord”, then that is the most effective point of departure.

    If we can illustrate that, for example, “Change Our Hearts” has un-congregation-friendly syncopations that “Here I Am, Lord” lacks, then that will resonate with more people, and more easily, than if you illustrate the same point with two unfamiliar pieces.
  • Felipe....why not just abandon music that sounds like popular music...as church law has said for centuries?
  • Dear Noel,

    My point was to use ideas with which people are familiar to illustrate concepts. I could use Messiaen “Les amoureux s’envolent” and HELMSLEY to illustrate the same idea about syncopation, but these are more esoteric examples.

    But, to address the other issue you bring up...

    Who gets to determine what music sounds like popular music--or, moreover, what repertoire constitutes popular music and the musical characteristics it possesses to be classified as such? If I write a new piece of music, who judges whether it “sounds like popular music”?

    HELMSLEY, VENI EMMANUEL, and PASSION CHORALE are all tunes that originate in popular music that Christians have “sacred-ized”.

    Need we recall that early Christians banned instruments of any kind from their worship?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I thank you all for your input.

    I only have time for a few points at this second, but I would say:

    Gavin: I chose a composition by myself and that particular performance to show that ordinary folks (with no specialized training) could come together and sing truly modern sacred music, but still music based on, stemming from, and composed with chant as a basis (as the Chirograph by John Paul II says). However, any of the compositions premiered at this Colloquium's "new music reading" could have been used as well. For the theoretical reasons I give, pieces like "Abba, Father" (as fantastic, catchy, and emotional as they may be) do not really come from the Church/chant tradition with regards to musical style.

    Felipe: I have to say that I was surprised that after you said, "You have some good (non-original) points," the only thing you could produce was a vague guess at what may or may not be in "Why Catholics Can't Sing." I have not read that book by Thomas Day, and I don't own a copy, but years ago I glanced at it (my mother owns a copy) and I remember very LITTLE music theory in that book, and very little analysis of musical style or compositional techniques.

    I am hoping Jeffrey Tucker will hop in and help explain why rhythmically-driven, rhythmically-composed music is hard to justify in the musical tradition of the Church's public worship. I know that he does music that is unaccompanied, and (as I point out) this is the real test for music, and instantly tells you the style. The pieces I quoted in that article would NEVER work without an accompaniment that keeps that beat going! The piano, a percussion instrument, is especially good at keeping that beat going.
  • But Felipe, the Church says to abandon popular music forms....the Church has already set up the criteria and there are those over the last 50 years have decided to ignore the Church and bring secular forms and instruments into the Church....and they have been encouraged to do so.

    But the time of Reform is on us....we do not need to make new rules, new laws...just agree to follow the old ones. The church is disgraced when popular style music is played within its walls. It's that simple.

    If the TUNE brings about secular connotations, it should not be sung or played. HELMSLEY originated as a secular tune? that was disproved as early as 1896 as published in THE SCOTTISH REVIEW, where it was established the Hornpipe was actually taken from the hymntune. VENI EMMANUEL has never ever been considered to have come from popular sources by scholars, instead they argue about which era and religious group of the church it came from....Hassler did write the PASSION CHORALE tune for a secular text....and that has sure gone into obscurity. Unlike Hernando's hideaway, which pops up with a sacred text....all too frequently.
  • Well, I'm called to jump in but I think Jeffrey can deal with this just fine. So much our views toward what is and is not appropriate for liturgy is derived from a subjective feeling about it, whether it connects to our sense of the faith or not. I've not very sincere and highly educated Catholics who find praise music (you know what I mean) to be precisely what they are looking for. I really don't know what to say to them but it is ridiculous to deny that what they are saying is true. I mean, I can't understand it but truly there is no accounting for taste here. We get off on the wrong track when we deny the legitimacy and sincerity of someone else's preferences. Of that much I'm quite certain.

    The great challenge of liturgical-musical criticism is to spell out as precisely as possible what is wrong and what is right about music in a detailed way, from our own perspective, so that we can come to point of having some more objective standards. Now, this is not science, I don't believe that this goal can finally be achieved at all, and I'm not even certain that achieving this goal is what we should seek. But it helps to be as introspective as possible and precise as possible with our observations so that at least others can come to understand what makes up our subjective sense, and possibly learn from it.

    It was Arlene who pointed out to me the critical problem with music of the sort that Jeffrey attacks: it is derived from a tradition that put together these styles for the purpose of inspiring popular post-war dance. I'm not talking about the square dance or the waltz. It is helpful to think of prom night. This is the genre here. And someone else on this forum--was it Michael O'Connor?--pointed out another fact about this music. The rhythm does not take place independent of the accompaniment. The accompaniment itself is the source of its dance-like quality, with the melody operating the same way it does in popular dance music, as a sort of crooning or improvisation above the guts of the piece.

    Why is this not appropriate for liturgy? It comes down to a matter of function and cultural association. Just as people wear uniforms to signal information about their function--waiter, policeman, priest--so too music wears a uniform to signal its function. The function of modern dance music is not the worship of God. It is to bring people together in some common act, sometimes for sexual purposes but mostly just to inspire a sense of care-free fun. This it the association and it works. It is not the association that liturgy seeks to inspire, so when we use it, we are pointing in a different direction and creating a barrier to understanding.
  • The true music of the church is not based upon the sensual rhythm of the pulse but upon one thing that makes the true music of the church "sacred music".

    The true music of the church is based upon word rhythms alone. Chant and Polyphonic music is all about the words, the sacred words.

    Any music that needs accompaniment fails to match the criteria of the church and must be carefully examined before it is sung and played. This does not totally rule out Mozart...but you must weigh the enhancement of the text by a beautiful melody with the attention it receives. The singing of a beautiful song may move the people to applause, as the composer has used musical techniques to reach the emotions, enhancing the text. The music then withdraws one's attention from the Mass. Music of this nature may be fitting for an Offertory, but not for Communion, as evidenced in NYC.

    The cry that this music, "sacred music" will drive youth from the church is so untrue that it must be said that youth are driven from the church by inferior performances of music in popular styles so poorly done that would never, ever be heard on their car radio on the way to church....because radio stations depend on people listening to stay in business.

    If the music needs guitars, pianos or rhythm section...it's not sacred. Even clapping. Snapping of fingers.

    Imagine Gibbon's O CLAP YOUR HANDS....O clap (clap clap) your hands (clap clap) together (clap clap clap)....of course hemiolas WOULD be more obvious...
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    I think Frogman has brought up a couple of significant issues:

    "Chant and Polyphonic music is all about the words, the sacred words."

    Therein lies a legitimate problem. If the people do not understand "the words, the sacred words" then what is the purpose of Chant and Polyphony other than to provide music, which people may selectively like or dislike at their whim?

    When Chant and Polyphony originated, the language of the Church was plainly Latin, and was understood by many people. Today, that is far less the case. I'd be surprised if you haven't heard the visceral, nearly explosive, anti-Latin outbursts at every diocesan conference I've attended.

    So if it's all about the words, we need to consider moving things like "By Flowing Waters" to the forefront of the contemporary Chant world.

    I'd even go so far as to suggest that accompaniment can enhance the presentation and comprehension of the words, whether it's pipe organ, piano or guitar doing so. It's a question of the musician's abillity to submit his/her own "performance" to the greater meaning of the Liturgy.

    Chant and Polyphony are beautiful, and Latin remains the official language of our Church. But if they stand in the way of the words, they are every bit as corrosive as bongos and banjos.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I can't agree that chant and polyphony is "all about" the sacred text. I'll try to paraphrase composer Ned Rorem who says that a piece of music is not sacred just because it has a religious text, otherwise the Psalms of David would be on par with a Sunday School book. The sacredness of the music is not contained in the text, but expressed through the text by means of the music. If understanding the sounds of the words were the most important thing, melismatic chants and polyphony would be among the least appropriate music. The text is important in a different way, because it provides the inspiration for the musical expression to transcend that which can be expressed by words: the "ineffable."
  • No, effable.

    言葉を理解するのが私たちを混乱の最初の場所です。
  • Jeffrey, I can't claim credit for your remembered quote. Sorry. Anyway, we might learn something from a previous age of Church music. New music during the 17th century was based on dance rhythms and operatic styles. One good example is the Spanish villancico. It started as a theater music in the late 15th century. It was lively and catchy and very popular. Well, these villancicos began being played in autos de sacramentales, which were outdoor plays illustrating stories from the Bible or Church teaching. Sometime in the 16th century, certain Spanish churches started allowing them during the Mass to "connect with the people". Well, they connected alright. Villancicos in the 17th century became so popular that they began to replace parts of the Mass Propers and even sections of the Ordinary. Churches had better attendance but there's no evidence that people connected with the sacrifice of the Mass any more than they would have. They just liked the music. By the middle of the century, authorities began to restrict the number of villancicos that could be used in a Mass. By the centuries end, they were restricted only to Christmas, Corpus, Easter and feasts of Our Lady. Today, they the term is roughly equivalent to "Christmas carol" in English. I offer this as an example of a time when our same reservations about secular genres sung at Mass are resurfacing. Bishops and priests back then did not want to curtail the villancicos since contributions seemed to go up during their heyday. There is nothing new under the sun.
  • 言葉を理解するのが私たちを混乱の最初の場所です。

    Rude of me, I know....

    And Google translates it as:

    Is to understand the words to confuse us the first place.


    When actually it says permitting the Mass in English started this whole mess...

    Anyone who truly, truly believes the entire Mass must/should be in the vernacular has the heart of a Martin Luther....bringing the level of the celebration down to the level of the people rather than challenging them to meditate, study and learn the meanings of the Mass texts cheapens the entire experience and takes away yet another thing that made Mass, and being a Catholic special.

    And it has decimated the pews...

    After all, take away their robes and even the KKK look like a bunch of misfits....

    [my 4th grade teacher up north told of the night the KKK visited their Catholic home in the South and she noticed the Grand Exalted Wizard's shoes....the local bank president always wore really expensive English footwear.....]
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,494
    You are right, there is nothing new. the introduction of secular music into the church has gone on for centuries. I wonder if there was ever an equivalent version in his own day to a "Byrd Rocks" t-shirt, or maybe "Orlando Rules."
  • And if the words do not make the music sacred....then let's do the Gibbons:

    Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap


    Anything missing there?
  • Dear Jeff,

    I was regarding more the analysis of the melodies that you have made, which I can say with “pretty good” certainty is in Day’s book.....which EVERYONE on this forum should read. Whether you agree with it or not, it’s a landmark tome.
  • Noel said:
    HELMSLEY originated as a secular tune? that was disproved as early as 1896 as published in THE SCOTTISH REVIEW, where it was established the Hornpipe was actually taken from the hymntune. VENI EMMANUEL has never ever been considered to have come from popular sources by scholars, instead they argue about which era and religious group of the church it came from....Hassler did write the PASSION CHORALE tune for a secular text....and that has sure gone into obscurity. Unlike Hernando's hideaway, which pops up with a sacred text....all too frequently.


    HELMSLEY: The Musical Times, 1 March 1901. (Do a JSTOR search on “helmsley”.)

    I’ll grant that I offered VENI without having really looked into it. Good call.

    My point still stands, though: who gets to decide what music is or isn’t overly similar to secular music? What are the criteria on which they will base this judgement? If I write a new piece of music, how will someone who has never seen it know whether it is fitting for liturgical use?

    You could, if you so desired, put the Pirate King song from “The Pirates of Penzance” at one end of a spectrum and Palestrina “Sicut” at the other end. Changing one notational facet at a time, you could gradually “move” from one to the other. How would we determine where along that gradient the music becomes enough like Palestrina’s original to be considered “sacred”?

    Noel earlier said:
    But Felipe, the Church says to abandon popular music forms....the Church has already set up the criteria and there are those over the last 50 years have decided to ignore the Church and bring secular forms and instruments into the Church....and they have been encouraged to do so.

    ISTM that secular music in the Church is far, far older than the last 50 years. Mozart’s Masses were blacklisted for precisely this infraction. “L’homme armé” Masses. Baroque sonatas “da camera” and “da chiesa” were sometimes only different in naming. At one time, the organ itself was considered a secular instrument. By your own admission, PASSION CHORALE was a secular tune when it first saw sacred use.
  • I was just thinking that someone needs to look again at Day's book and write a tribute. That was a very brave book given when it was written. He has been treated like a leper by the in crowd ever since. He really did the heavy lifting.
  • "You could, if you so desired, put the Pirate King song from “The Pirates of Penzance” at one end of a spectrum and Palestrina “Sicut” at the other end. Changing one notational facet at a time, you could gradually “move” from one to the other. How would we determine where along that gradient the music becomes enough like Palestrina’s original to be considered “sacred”?"

    The answer is constant study of the church documents and a firm, deep desire in your heart to try to live up to the goals that they set.

    You will find it easier and easier for that little voice in your head to take control and give you the strength and confidence to make the decision and stand up for it or not.

    Too many people choose or not.

    Too many people would rather spend all their time looking for the parallel fifths in the chorales of Bach instead of singing them. I have stopped discussing the wrongs of contemporary church music with contemporary church musicians for the same reason. The only people doing that music who will ever change are ones who study the church documents and apply them to their own music making.

    But I will answer your Pirates question: It's easy. When the gradual changes to Pirates reach the point where I don't think, "Pirates" it then may begin to enter the realm of sacred music. Of course, I'm lying because the elephant in the room is laughing at you and me because THE WORDS ARE NOT SACRED.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Felipe:

    I tend to say it's about associations. And hence, I tend to view what music is and isn't appropriate for liturgy as a subjective decision by each pastor.

    As to your question, I have to agree with Noel: when I stop hearing "Pirates", it's no longer secular. But that's because music developed in the Church that didn't sound like "Pirates". We all "know" what church sounds like in this country, even despite the shifts. I recall an episode of the Simpsons where the local church is decorating, to the tune of "A Mighty Fortress". When we hear an organ, we think church. The music of "revivalism" is also considered ecclesial today, but only in a protestant context - and then, indicative perhaps of Catholicism, in the Simpsons Rev. Lovejoy reacts to the local hot revival saying "let's fight razzle with dazzle!" He then picks up a guitar and sings an off-key "Michael row your boat ashore". There is an extent to which we "know" what's church.

    That said, I object to Noel's description that we all know what's right and do so against our conscience and the clear dictates of the Church. Is the Mass of Creation REALLY indicative of Broadway? Really? Some of it blurs the lines; Haugen's Masses are rather "churchy" - they have largely foursquare rhythms, traditional harmonies (even the beloved mm7) and moderately dignified melodies. On the other hand, most of his songs and psalms are more similar to popular music, although some may be performed well on the organ. I don't have a little voice telling me not to do Haugen. Of all the mental anguish that I got at my last job, schizophrenia wasn't part of it. I refuse to believe that the folk group there all knows that their music is inappropriate to Mass and that they are doing it out of hatred of Christ. I refuse to believe that Todd Flowerday, who demonstrates a willingness to confront the legislation, does his music because he knows what's approrpiate and doesn't care.

    At the end of the day, I suspect that Noel, Felippe, and I would reach 90% agreement over what music (music alone) is appropriate for Mass and which isn't. Why bother ripping off each other's heads over the 10% if Felippe does Haugen at his church or I did "Gift of Finest Wheat"?
  • Well, I offer as exhibit A, this forum, the CMAA and its growth, and the emergence of a movement of chant scholas as evidence that a pretty good number of people have gotten to the end of their patience with what some would call "sacred" music. Exhibit B is the fact that the big publishers have made a nod to Gregorian chant in the catalogs. There is something going on here, I think. Now, I know you can't make an objective test for the sacredness of music unless it's a pretty basic one (e.g., the words must be biblical, or theologically correct, or liturgical) and does not take the musical component into consideration. That's why we need highly trained people to lead the music ministries and well educated pastors to back them. You won't need to nitpick if you do this. Good decisions will get made.

    BTW frogman noel, "Too many people would rather spend all their time looking for the parallel fifths in the chorales of Bach instead if singing them." is kind of a cheap shot. I don't play the organ and my singing is pretty basic, but I do love studying Bach's compositional process. I don't feel that I'm any less of a musician than you. I will simply refer you to Boethius who informs us that real musicians are those who understand and study music. Those who play instruments and sing are, to paraphrase, necessary evils. Of course this hierarchy does not persist today, but this is the reverse of your statement.
  • It's not a cheap shot....it's a description of what I and other members of theory classes studying the 300+ Chorales of Bach did all the time...if nothing else, it's a confession! Instead of trying to assimilate the basic theory, we were wasting our time trying to disprove it's rules....after all, if Bach broke the rules, why were we docked for it?

    He did write parallel fifths...but they were diminished, so since they were not perfect, they did not violate the rule.

    I doff my hat and salute the Schola of the beautiful sandy beaches!

    And singers have always been, and will be long into the future, necessary evils so Boethius was absolutely correct in what he wrote. It is always a pleasure to work with a musician who can study, understand and ALSO perform....

    And it is nice discussing these issues with all of you. I can't think of anyone on this list I'd not want to find myself sitting next to on a cross country flight....
  • ISTM that secular music in the Church is far, far older than the last 50 years.


    Secular music has always crept in and been kicked out....that's why we have Gregorian Chant....it was an attempt to replace the music in the church THEN that was unsuitable.

    But read my last sentence in that note....this is the first time in the history of the church that Secular music style have been openly invited into the church, along with no control over the texts....which is an even bigger crime.
  • frogman, you are right that secular music has been around for a lot longer, but Gregorian chant was introduced in most of Europe to replace other chant. It was Charlemagne's way of uniting the new Holy Roman Empire. Too bad that we had to lose a beautiful Gallican chant tradition, but perhaps the Spirit wished this to be. I don't think there was any lousy music then to replace. Popular religious music grew up at first mostly to fight heresy (ala the Ambrosian hymns). Isn't that ironic? As time went on, lay groups began singing laude in Italy and nobleman began writing troubador-like settings like the Cantigas de Santa Maria. The success of the Church was certainly complete. You are right, though, that the 20th century is different. Undistiguised Pop music entered the Mass with the approval of the clergy and little action by Rome.
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 173
    And speaking of chant scholas . . . please wish the Pope Benedict XVI Schola good luck tomorrow night. We're singing our first Mass at a nearby parish (not mine).

    Nothing fancy--a Marian hymn at processional and recessional, Latin ordinary, Chabanel psalm (thanks, Jeff!), at offertory a nice little two-part "Ave Maria" by Perosi followed by a chanted "Salve Regina," and at Communion the Communio for the day ("Beata viscera," with Magnificat verses).

    The pastor is very supportive of the reform of the reform. Several current schola members are members of his parish.

    If the members sing half as well at Mass as they did at rehearsal last night, I'll be delighted.

    Mary
  • Leland
    Posts: 32
    Michael O'Connor: «Undistiguised Pop music entered the Mass »

    I don't know if that was intentional or not, but it's a fascinating conflation of "undistinguished" and "undisguised" with overtones of "disgust"... ;-)

    Leland