New Renaissance Style choral work
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 203
    Dear Friends, some time ago I was working with a friend of mine on a project to set the Memorare to music in the renaissance style, Victoria to be precise. Well we got bogged down and weren't able to finish it but my good friend and excellent composer Joseph Lee Graham (he goes by Lee) finished it for us. I think it's excellent and he said that he didn't mind spreading it around to get some recognition. I think you'll find it excellently done. Lee is always up to taking on a new composition project and I find that his baroque compositions are excellent as well.
    https://soundcloud.com/j-lee-graham/memorare-motetum-a-4-voci-work - a MIDI of the work.

    You'll find the motet attached.
  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    very pretty.
  • Cantus67, if you would like to write a description of this for a blog post on VIEWS FROM THE CHOIR LOFT, please be my guest.
    Thanked by 1Cantus67
  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    May be an odd question...when would one sing this (outside of a corporate Rosary of course). It's very lovely, I'm not sure when I could use it.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    Just as a motet or pre/post-lude, no? Maybe on a Marian feast or something
  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    That's what I was thinking, I've heard (and sung) the Ave Maria on Marian feasts, I just didn't know if there was a rubric about it somewhere. Still learning over here and would rather ask the question than wonder about it.

    Prelude or Postlude would be nice.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Indeed, exquisite piece and a truly gifted composer in Lee Graham. I can't say that I've come across a more honed modern example of genuine species counterpoint that is so authentic.
    SPOILER ALERT-Other shoe to be dropped.
    First, all of the inquiries and commentary to follow are in no ways critical to this particular excellent work and the genius within it. Indeed, I should be so mindful and diligent in my own craft.
    Secondly, some excerpts about "composition" from VII docs:
    From CSL:
    "116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant a... be given pride of place in liturgical services.
    But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.....
    121. Composers, filled with the Christian spirit, should feel that their vocation is to cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures.
    Let them produce compositions which have the qualities proper to genuine sacred music..."

    From Musicam Sacram:
    "4. It is to be hoped that pastors of souls, musicians and the faithful will gladly accept these norms and put them into practice, uniting their efforts to attain the true purpose of sacred music, "which is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful."[1]
    (a) By sacred music is understood that which, being created for the celebration of divine worship, is endowed with a certain holy sincerity of form.[2]
    (b) The following come under the title of sacred music here: Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony in its various forms both ancient and modern...
    52. In order to preserve the heritage of sacred music and genuinely promote the new forms of sacred singing,...37] Above all, the study and practice of Gregorian chant is to be promoted, because, with its special characteristics, it is a basis of great importance for the development of sacred music.
    53. New works of sacred music should conform faithfully to the principles and norms set out above. In this way they will have "the qualities proper to genuine sacred music, being within the capacities not merely of large choirs but of smaller choirs, facilitating the participation of all the faithful."[38]"


    Allowing as how every aspect, from a need for a setting of Memorare, to this beautiful resultant work meets every criteria listed above, is it relevant to inquire if this setting should be regarded as contemporaneous to this time and modernity, and exemplary of newly forged musical idioms that adhere to the principles of the documents in complimentary terms?
    I suppose what I'm gingerly asking is based upon the dialectic of composition that many of us went through with our theory and history courseworks, recognizing the form and content via score analysis (such as species counterpoint), via drop the needle exams so dense that one had to be able to distinguish Guerrero from Morales, not just Lassus from Palestrina and so-forth. And of course, this sort of discussion has always persisted to this day, ie. One can easily distinguish "schools" by idiomatic vocabularies such as "Part...Lauridsen....LaRocca....Taverner.....Whitacre.....Stroope....Allen......Rice....Quick" and so on, so forth. When examining neo-polyphony in our age, even the sub-groupings of "antiqua" v. "nova" could somewhat be applied to distinguish between the madrigals of Lauridsen and those of William Hawley and others, even tho' their lineages are both tied to the Venetians.
    I've probably mucked this up, but what constitutes "new" within an aesthetic context? Surely it cannot be typified by the unfathomable embolisms emitted by the Sistine screamers' compositional squad and endorsed by Bartolucci, can it?

    But again and truly, bravo to Lee Graham.


  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    Dearest...once again in English...for us struggling learners in the gallery...if you please.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I don't know if I can restate my thoughts in a Cliff's notes version, m'dear. I think maybe Richard Rice or Jeffrey Quick could do better in explaining my query.
    I try with an allusion.
    Throughout the history of church architecture, the physics and materials of the era determined the "styles" of worship spaces. The narrow basilicas defined by marble columns and Roman concrete gave way eventually to the vastly different Byzantine and Romanesque styles, perhaps wider and not as tall, more rotunda spreading outwards from the central sanctuary and naves. Then with the evolving ethos of the early renaissance, the ability to raise walls and windows, domes and towers via buttressing and the deft pairing of masonry and carpentry gave us the pinnacle Gothic cathedrals of Rheims, Notre Dame etc. With derivations like St. Marks in Venice and Santiago Compestuela, we now fast forward through the Barouqe and Bernini and basically remain contented with those various archetypes until along comes Gaudi and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. And ever since, we've gone all over the map, just like we have in music.
    I know there's some massive RC Baroque cathedral in central Africa that was erected to mimic, if nothing else, St Peter's. Why? The same incoherence seems to dot the landscapes between St. Mary's, SF, Christ our Light, Oakland, Our Lady of Angels, LA, the spaceship in Saskatchewan in the post conciliar era, and an equal and opposite reaction in retrovision by folks like Duncan Stroik result in magnificent buildings like the Aquinas Chapel in Santa Barbara and elsewhere. But, to me, there's more to consider with evolutions such as from Gaudi to Ghery, than merely plopping down a 17th C. German baroque Dom in Mumbai or Singapore. Re-creation and replication are not synonymous I suppose.
  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    Ok. I understand the concept, and if I'm understanding your question...you want to know if the new Memorare should be considered "new" because it was recently composed, or if it should be considered as "not new" due to the style in which it's composed.

    Yes?
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    At what point during a Mass would this text be appropriate? Offertory? Communion? (Prelude or postlude are more obvious, so I'll take them for granted at this point).

    The object of the question is to establish just how far away from the Propers a piece of polyphony can or should stray. In this case the Memorare is neither scripture nor psalm, and is not a Proper or Ordinary text. As a devotional prayer then, how does it appropriately fit into the Mass?

    I ask this because there are purists out there who will balk or seek arguments about this and I'm curious as to what justifications are available for its use.
  • Protasius
    Posts: 468
    I would suggest it as a motet after the Offertory chant.
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 203
    Protasius, that would have been my first thought as well. The piece is a prayer and a very old one at that, what a wonderful offering to Our Lady it would make.

    Rick
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Perhaps I didn't ask my question properly.

    I understand that the Memorare is an old prayer. I also appreciate and in no way wish to dismiss the idea that it is a beautiful prayer offered in honor of Our Lady.

    That said, are devotional prayers appropriate for the Mass? It seems to me that the Mass is it's own action with its own prayers and texts, offered for the glorification of God and the sanctification of the Faithful, and not the proper time for devotional actions, although acts of devotion can become a part of one's private prayers during Mass, especially after communion. But, the blending of devotional prayers corporately (by the priest or choir) into the Propers and Ordinary, regardless the efficacy of the prayers incorporated, may take away from those attributes (glorification and sanctification) by shifting the prayers of Faithful away from the action of Christ on the altar through the person of the priest and directing it toward some other spiritual exercise.

    I think we must be careful about these matters. If we assert on the one hand, for example, that hymns need to at least resemble the Proper texts they replace, and on the other find no problem with inserting into the Mass otherwise orthodox devotional prayers simply because we like them or they reflect our personal piety, we could appear a bit hypocritical.

    I should point out that I incorporate Marian hymns into the Masses in October and May, and the Ave Maria is frequently requested for funeral and wedding Masses. That is not to say that I agree with the practice. But if we don't reflect on these questions and evaluate our positions, we become no better than those we criticize and admonish.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    By that logic, is any motet appropriate?
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Either you missed the logic, or are engaging in absurd reduction. The vast majority of motets, used in the EF at any rate, were polyphonic settings of the Proper texts, as you well know.

    My question and the debate it unveils is far more nuanced, and I am looking for considered debate rather than such reductions.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,418
    The vast majority of motets, used in the EF at any rate, were polyphonic settings of the Proper texts, as you well know.


    Dr. Mahrt's introduction to the Catholic Choir Book seems to suggest otherwise.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    My only point is to ask whether or not the Church has consistently sought to draw lines of distinction between music appropriate for the Mass (texts in particular) and music appropriate for public devotion or private spiritual exercise. That's all. I've personally never heard the Memorare prayed in the context of a Mass, save for when I first served as a full-time DM, and a priest insisted on praying it at the conclusion of communion (prior to the post-communion prayer) during weekday Masses. I wondered then, and wonder now, if it is not inconsistent with Catholic practice to mix the prayers appointed to the Mass with those of devotions, especially Marian devotions. It is a fair question, and one that merits rational answers for the sake of clarification. The rubrics of the Mass seem clear - nobody may add or take away from the prayers appointed for the Mass unless provided for by options that appear in the rubrics. For the sake of this argument I'm speaking specifically of prayer texts, not scripture, psalm or antiphon texts.

    I'm not certain that Dr. Marht is asserting that it has always been the practice of the Church to employ music at Mass that was originally intended for use outside of Mass, or that such practice has gone without comment or debate (or indeed legislative proscription). For example, Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, although beautiful and certainly singable in whole or in part during the Mass, was likely not intended for such use, but rather was composed for a devotional service apart from the Mass; such services were popular and common practice throughout Europe, featuring music and devotional prayers and held in oratories and chapels set apart from proper churches. It seems to me he's commenting on current practice, or at least his current practice.

    Now, if I'm entirely wet on this line of questioning, then some kind of learned explanation as to why my position is wrong would be appreciated.

    This is an exercise in scholarly thought, not an exercise in chumming for forum sharks to see who can come up with the driest retort employing the greatest economy of words. Intelligent commentary would be most appreciated.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,789
    I wonder ... the work in question was posted here as an example of a contemporary example of Renaissance polyphony, ala Victoria. But the comments, save for a very few at the beginning of this thread, have digressed widely to the appropriateness of the text for use at Mass.

    Good grief! Are we suddenly ONLY concerned about Catholic music for Mass? What about the other liturgies of the Church? The present piece should be discussed on its own merits. After all, it is sacred music and deserves a fair hearing.

    Argue about the suitability of texts for Mass in another thread, please!
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • Heath
    Posts: 888
    Rick, how could we get our hands on other works of Mr. Graham?
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    I can't speak for others, but I personally am still learning, and if I don't know something...I ask.

    I asked if this particular piece was appropriate to use at Mass because I find the work to be a lovely bit of polyphony and if it IS in fact appropriate, I will teach the choir to sing it for use in the Mass. So I don't consider my question to be a digression.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,789
    My sincere apologies. I was only trying to get this thread back on what I thought was its original purpose.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Well, Chuck, yours was the opinion for which I went trolling. And I know, as both composer and purveyor of other composers' work, applying "merit" to a discussion of a specific composer or work can be like a stroll through an Afghan minefield. So, I ask again, having declared the work meritorious, if there still remains a dichotomy with this particular work as you've described it, "an example of contemporary....Renaissance polyphony."? I infer you do get my concern, as you then characterize the idiom as "ala Victoria."
    However, as we've all experienced with the works of that miniscule list of living composers I provided that neo-classic polyphony means different strokes for different folks. Two examples from our own circle I would cite from experience: The Choral Communios of Richard Rice are truly unique polyphonic treatments both in their subtle and surprising use of both rhythmic declamation and harmonic treatments, especially at cadences. Richard hardly muddies the waters with compounded chordal clusters (Skippy L. and Eric W.) but he'll approach a phrase from a conventional manner and then, boom, pull a chordal rabbit out of a hat that blows your mind. And most of the time you don't see it coming because of pending accidentals visually! Deft! Chris Mueller does things like that but his turns are sharp, you don't see or feel them coming until they're upon you, and you then go, "Aha! Wow....that was cool." For example, the final cadence of his MR3 Mass "Agnus Dei" looks as improbable on paper as you can get, but oo, la la, does it give the notion of Christ's "peace" a whole new aesthetic resonance. Kevin Allen's pieces fall roughly into this category as well, I think. So, is "contemporary/Renaissance polyphony," which Mr. Graham's piece certainly adheres to in theory, an oxymoron if the piece does adhere to the historical tenets of species counterpoint and essentially doesn't bring anything "new" to the genre?
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Paul_D
    Posts: 133
    I don’t believe a there is a standard term for distinguishing works written in strict adherence to historical principles (let’s call that type A), versus a new work based on historical principles with some recognizable contemporary twist (call it type B). For example, we speak of Hindemith (obviously type B) as “neo-Baroque”, but what would we call a new composition that is such an evidently perfect specimen of Baroque counterpoint (type A) that it could fool a modern musicologist? “Pseudo-Baroque” or “Quasi-Baroque” won’t do (or will it?). The living choral composers mentioned above have unmistakable contemporary twists on traditional choral writing – type B. They could not have been written in any other period of music history. Mr. Graham has provided us with an excellent example of type-A; that is to say, there is nothing in the composition alien to authentic Renaissance polyphony. Is there a common label for such type A compositions? What terms would you recommend to distinguish the two? Discuss.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    You know, Paul D, thank you for pointing out that essentially and academically my questions are perhaps just rhetorical and do nothing to advance the obvious worthiness of Mr. Graham's motet and all such others. OTOH, as I mentioned in my first post, Holy Mother Church uses the term "polyphony" rather indiscriminately if you look at it just off the page, doesn't it? Whose polyphony? Polyphony from where or when? Polyphony that straddles both homophony and tonality as well as "many independent voices/modality?
    If we state that classic Roman polyphony includes the sacred settings of all Italians in this specific period of time and has these basic elements, ABC, then does the whole of Gesualdo's sacred catalogue serve as exemplary to emulation today. (Bad example?)
    I suppose the greatest challenge facing composers who wish to compose for the church is to clearly deliniate pieces that invite and integrate the congregation's participation from those that are to be taken up by the choir on their behalf, and then somehow maintain an aesthetic brilliance of invention within both types. So, if one writes a motet Communio, its technical elements determine genre and the ear, mind and heart determine its efficacy. But if one writes a setting of the Mass Ordinaries, it seems that, at least in the OF, the inclusion of the congregations' vocal participation is an element that is necessarily required (or heartilty encouraged) by the three principal documents.
    That is a problem I don't think, even from Peloquin to Proulx to Mueller that we've wrapped our collective minds around in order to satisfy all concerns, no?
  • Paul_D
    Posts: 133
    Mel,
    I was intrigued by the point(s) you were raising, and I thought I would try to narrow it down to a concise question. But I have done a disservice, because you seem to be after something more. Your last comment raises at least three issues. I’m still intrigued. Would you mind walking us through this by stating one question on which we could focus the discussion? I’m interested to see where this goes.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Okay, I'll try. (Kathy and Chonak would be laughing their ____ off.)
    Is it really possible to compose a choral-based Mass steeped in beauty and craft, but that also includes substantial congregational "active participation (literally meant)" that doesn't condescend to that mean, and simultaneously preserves the integrity of the artistic merit of the work?
  • Paul_D
    Posts: 133
    Well, folks, there you have it. Ok, so we’re looking for Mass settings that have beautiful, inspired, artful, even challenging choral / instrumental content AND accessible yet beautiful and awesome congregational involvement. If you can name one, then the answer to Mel’s (current) question is YES; if not, then the answer is either NO ... or NOT YET, and “OK, composers, what are you waiting for?” And so your nominees are ...
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Well, if that wasn't a sardonic recap, and I am the naif of the day, in the immortal words of Ira Gershwhin, "let's call the whole thing off," eh, Paul?
  • Paul_D
    Posts: 133
    I assure you my intentions were only to further the conversation and no ill will was intended in any way. I am seriously interested in the question as posed. I wish I knew what I said that makes you think otherwise. Honestly, I was looking forward to some answers and had no intention of souring the discussion. Heck, I'll go even further and say that this search for (or prompting to compose) Mass settings of this description will be of service to the Church in some way, and that's what being on this forum is about. There was no ill will intended, but if I made it look like I was belittling your position I am sorry. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go look up "sardonic". But I'm still interested in any nominees for Mass settings that would seem to fulfill the balance sought, which we would have to consider an ideal for the postconciliar liturgy that I wish could be fulfilled in my lifetime.
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Now if you'll excuse me I have to go look up "sardonic".

    Your sentence there, Paul, is the definition. That's okay, we'll move on.
    I've programmed Royce Nickel's St. Therese of Liseaux Mass since the implementation of MR3 in Sept 10. Before Advent last, we changed the Glory to Jeff Ostrowski's Ralph Sherwin, for which we took a poll of the congregation and they assented to it by a wide margin. Now we're looking at two settings for the Eucharistic Acclamations to Agnus Dei: Chris Mueller's setting for MR3 (Bensonariam) and Richard Clark's Mass of the Angels (CanticaNova.) So, I'd enjoy hearing from directors/choristers who sing this currently for their thoughts.
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 203
    Heath, I'll let him know that there are requests for more of his work. And I'm not sure of this argument about the stringency of texts of the mass. Does not the Offertory and Communion antiphons take care of singing those texts? If not then should we never sing Sicut Cervus at communion, or O Sanctissima at offertory? It's starting to seem a bit more of the Catholic legalism that kept me out of the church for so long. Just my two cents.
  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    I don't know that it's legalism so much as a desire to not repeat the mistakes of the 70's. For the record I personally don't have a problem with a Marian piece sung during Offertory on a Marian feast. However...the devotional practices at most parishes are slim or none, and therefore the only time to really sing anything resembling this piece would be during Mass.

    If a parish has a healthy and rich devotional life outside the Mass (and I happen to know that David Andrew is the MD of just such a parish) then it would become a necessary exercise to make the distinction between Mass music and devotional music.

    In today's society where everything seems to have equal emphasis and no one choice is better than another, I absolutely see the desire to make sure that people understand that devotions are good and healthy things...but the Mass is the the most important rite of our faith community. One way to do that effectively is through the music that is sung at Mass vs. that which is sung at devotions.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 203
    I suspect that we're all trying to direct ourselves in a spiritus catholicus in these endeavours. Also, I don't see a problem with this motet sung during a Marian feast as long as the proper chant of the day gets the primacy of place. To a certain extent I see the concern over using a text that is not specifically liturgical but in the case of this piece it's far more appropriate than other forms. I didn't want this to be a discussion of where it should be used, I do know that I wish it to be used because it is so exquisitely composed. That's all. Veritas and blessings upon all.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I think David asks a good question, and I'm dismayed to see it dismissed and ignored by so many. For my own part, I'd suggest liberty. "Alius cantus aptus" IS an option in the Ordinary Form. It's like composing: follow the rules, but when you break them, know why you're doing so. Except there isn't even any rule saying you HAVE to do the proper text. I don't think rules and prescriptions are any substitute for a well-formed and educated conscience. So do a motet every now and then, and prescribe propers for everything else to make up for it!