L'homme Arme is to be feared
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I realize this is brought up as an attack on sacred music frequently, but it's really troubling to me. As we all know, in the Renaissance and very late medieval period there were many large, rapid changes in sacred music. In particular it became common for secular tunes, such as L'homme Arme, to be featured in polyphonic Masses. Although I would say this is the largest problem, there's also the matter of the sudden adoption of thirds, the move towards a major/minor theory, changes in rhythm, and the distinction of individual compositional style. Even an unbeliever in my history class blurted out "how did the Catholic Church, which prides itself on being oh-so-unchanging, allow things as radical as this into their Mass??"

    When we have something like this happening during the most celebrated period of church music, how do we have any credibility when we criticize Schutte because one of his works "sounds like" Giligan's Island for 8 measures? How do we decry the moderate importation of the pop idiom when thirds and sixths were dragged out of folk music into church and there was historically little to distinguish a Mass setting from a love song? How can we criticize the spirit of our age that "nothing written before the last 40 years deserves to be heard" when the same exact things were said of Renaissance music? Why is the inorganic change of the renaissance celebrated by us, but the music of Haugen is fit to be burned? We all know the guy who argues these points, but why is he wrong? Or is he?

    I've formulated a somewhat weak response to these points, but I'll save it so I can hear the wisdom of the other group members on this.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    The issue is one of musical style.

    Hiding a secular tune inside of a polyphonic texture does not, actually, change the musical "style," especially if it is augmented and upside-down.

    However, playing the theme from the Adam's Family at Mass would not be good, because that is a secular style of music.

    Incidentally, inserting a Palestrina piece into a secular movie doesn't change Palestrina's musical style.

    (And, actually, the Church was very suspicious of the music that sounded like secular music even in the 15th century).
  • Hugh
    Posts: 189
    At the end of the day, if Dan Schutte can deliver a Missa 'Insula Gilligani' for 6 voices with the quality of a Josquin L'Homme Arme, he'll go a long way towards redemption in my book.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,209
    When the church says it is unchanging, it does not mean unchanging in how its traditions (including music) come about. It is speaking specifically of its theological dogma. In those things, it will never change.

    Music has evolved with our understanding of harmony, counterpoint, modes, keys, etc. The liturgy, as we all can sadly attest, always undergoes abuse of some kind or another. The church 'allows' some things, (and I say allows with great caution) to prove its value, merit or worth.

    JPII encouraged composers and artists to create new works that are fitting to reflect the mystery of our Catholic heritage. Composers are encouraged to write music for the liturgy. There is a great movement afoot in the wake of VII to create new settings of the Mass in the vernacular. All very noble in their intent.

    On the other hand, commercialism, greed, vainglory and a host of other errors can enter into and 'skew' the intentions of composers, musicians, organists, choir directors, music publishers, and yes, even the CATHOLIC MUSIC PUBLISHERS! Just because Haugen finds its way into the heart of every music program today, doesn't mean the church will find it fit to actually "dub" his compositions 'sacred' in the future.

    This is all the more reason why we (as stewards of music in the liturgy) have to be diligent to know what Mother Church expects of us when it comes to what is sacred and what is profane, and to educate those under our immediate care in things pertaining to the liturgy.

    I would go on to clarify that a musical motive or melody actually is imbued with intellectual meaning depending upon how the composer sets the theme, and in what spirit (the state of his [composer] own soul) is almost intimately bound up in how he 'conceives' the work. As Jeffrey said, the Adams Family theme, belongs to the class of profane, because the music actually makes us think of the "family" which it represents, even if the words are not employed in the performance.
  • Sacred music touches the soul and the intellect. Popular music touches emotions. Music, even with sacred words that touches emotions, is Popular music

    The most remembered movie moment was announced today, following a survey in Britain. And it was a film from 66 years ago.

    Can you name it? Yes, you can.

    It is a movie based upon the story of a deer that had a fawn. In the book the movie was made from, the fawn grew up, as fawns will do, and mother and daughter eventually went on their own ways. [don't try and correct me just yet]

    Now, a certain movie producer bought the story and wanted to spice it up!

    So, the most remembered movie moment is the sight and sound of Bambi calling "Mother, mother!" at her mother's death.

    A death that was not in the book.

    Gregorian chant and associated polyphonic music of the church is music that Pope Benedict and others before him, LONG before him, knew was right for church because it ia NOT music that touches the feelings, but the soul...it has impact to those that know nothing about it and impact for those who have learned it and love it. There are moments of great beauty, but beauty that is cerebral, not beauty that touches the emotions.

    Certain works, like the Miserere by Allegri, really push the envelope as by the effect of that soaring high C...but scholars tell us that it was probably not a high C in the original scoring and many now decry it.

    There's a lot of Bambi music in the Catholic church. We know it and we have the right and responsibility to not permit teh detriment it is to the Liturgy.

    Yes, the differences between secular and sacred music back then were minor, but that was not because the church music was going the direction of secular music. It was because secular music was being written much as church music was unlike today when secular music is VERY easy to distinguish from sacred music....following that era thigns diverged, but don't think that the secular music of that era changed church music...if anything it was the other way around
  • Oh, and once again, Gavin, a good thought provoking query.
  • Thirds were from secular music? Until about the 14th century most of the experimentation seems to have been in church music. In any case, the comparison of today's modern music and that of the 15th century is a difficult one. Popular music as we understand it today--disposable music written to suit ever changing fashions--simply did not exist in those days. L'homme arme became somewhat famous outside of the Netherlands/N France mostly because it served as a cantus firmus for Philip the Fair's Masses. Popular music rose during the 19th century as the entertainment for the Middle Class. The use of it in the sacred liturgy says more about the power structure of our society more than it does about the state of the musical art in our time.

    Also, it's not the importation of the pop idiom that we decry, it's the REPLACEMENT of the Church's music with ephemeral surface-emotion music.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Excellent comments, each worthy of a lengthy tangent. I remain unconvinced that the changes of the renaissance were anything less than drastic. It's worthy of fuller discussion, but if I'm going to expend that kind of energy it should be for school. But here's my theory to interact with:

    My theory is that we shouldn't be worried about the aberrations of the Renaissance nor those today. If we take a Libertarian/Free Market approach to musical development, the problem solves itself. Why are L'homme Arme Masses OK today? Because they withstood the "test of time". Time has a way of holding on to the best and rejecting that which is unworthy. Actually, to rethink it, do we even HEAR L'homme Arme Masses today? Anyone here ever do one in a liturgical setting? Would do one in a liturgical setting, given the vast repertoire of sacred-based ordinaries? Ever hear or hear of one in a liturgical setting? That was a fad and its time is well over.

    To parallel the music today, how much energy do you expend fighting off 19th century French operatic music in Mass? No, this genre died out looong ago. Can anyone here even name a single piece of this French/Italian stuff?? Its presence was even more inorganic than L'hA, but it wound up contributing to better music and then dying off. So at the same time, I think we have nothing to fear from the pop music of the day. Haugen's Mass of Creation will not be heard in 5 years. On Eagle's Wings will not last 50. And yet some music is of good quality; I hope to hear "Lift High the Cross" in churches for the remainder of my life. Lauridsen's works will likely stick as well. Matthias, Hancock, these works will likely be around when people are saying "Haugen who?"

    How does this happen? We make it happen. Each of us who, even despite pressure, says "No" to Mass of Creation is putting a nail in its coffin. The less it is heard, the less it will be expected to be heard. And if I'm wrong, then history will record us as bitter old conservatives - big deal. Let the "market" work its magic and music will keep progressing.

    Maybe we're like the people in the 15th century who said "no" to 3rds. OR maybe we're more like the people in France who finally saw the music done there as the tripe it was and brought back chant in the parishes. History will judge, and for now we just have to make our stand where we see fit.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749

    Some good points there. There's nothing wrong with new developments as such. I'm happy, for example, to sing a Bruckner Motet alongside plainsong, because I consider Bruckner's liturgical miniatures to be a valid development of the tradition. Something with the bombast of his larger-scale works wouldn't be. In some cases, it may take some time for the church and her musicians to formulate such a judgement of a style, but that's no different from the development of our understanding of other, non-musical parts of Tradition.

    BTW, I wish you wouldn't associate tripe with rubbish. It's a wonderful food.
  • To be fair, L'homme arme continues to be in our consciousness through music history courses. It is historically important, but, like you said, rarely if ever used in the liturgy. Think of all the much better 15th-c compositions that are virtually unknown outside of early music circles (Missa de pllus en plus anyone?) Palestrina OTOH has withstood the test due to quality of composition and an innate appropriateness for Mass that our and previous generations have detected.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    I still like Hugh's idea of a "Missa Insula Gilligani". Imagine the Sopranos starting off with a sustained "Yoooost...."; all the other voices come in, and then they continue with "sit right back...."
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    The L'homme arme Masses and their ilk date from a time when the line was blurred between secular and sacred. Unlike in our own time, where the same condition exists, it was because the sacred so often spilled over into the secular. Now the situation is quite the reverse.
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    I would classify Franck's Panis Angelicus, (Bach)-Gounod's Ave Maria and Gounod's O Divine Redeemer (plus OF COURSE Faure's O Holy Night) as belonging to that French romantic operatic style. I think Gavin's right though, there's no way around it, things really turned around during the Renaissance. It wasn't just that they introduced secular tunes into the polyphony. Look at the "improvements" they made to the chants themselves, so well documented in one of our recent Sacred Music issues. Was it part of the counter-reformation? You've got Martin Luther saying things like, "Why should the devil get all the good tunes?". I mean, you see your market share DRASTICALLY reduced and people start saying we've got to be more user friendly to the crowds or they're going to walk. There had to be SOMETHING that precipitated these changes.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Well, well, well.

    Maybe we've got it all wrong. If we can't beat 'em, join 'em!

    Bring on the liturgical dancers (to go with the dance music).
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Paul, I think you are confusing Adolphe Adam's "Cantique de Noel" (Minuit, chretiens) with Jean Baptiste Faure's "Les Rameaux" (The Palms).
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    Guilty as charged! Ah, you've just reminded me of another fine example of music in the grand french operatic tradition. The question is--what precipitated this seularization?
  • being ignorant, i must ask, which tune exactly is it that sounds like Gilligan's Island? I must know . . .
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    And the whole thing about french operatic style seems like a double standard to me. I love the masses of Mozart and Hayden, but detect very little difference in their sacred and operatic styles. Live with Magic Flute, Don Giovanni and Finta Giardiniera and you will know exactly who composed Mozart's masses when you hear them. Sure it's first class music, but it's music that practically drips theater.
  • @darth_linux:

    Those would be the verses of "Behold the Wood".
  • Well, if you listen closely to Mozart you will some nice polyphony -- full blown fugues in the later works -- that are not part of the theatrical idiom. You are right, however, that his church and opera music were quite closely related. Magic Flute and the Requiem (what little he finished) are 2 sides of the same spiritual and musical coin. I'm probably in the minority for not really wanting to have Mozart Mass settings in modern times for reasons of length (even the brevis Salzburg works) and the galant spirit of those pieces which don't frequently reflect the text. They are excellent concert works, though. I think the Cecilians had the right basic idea, even if they stumbled on the details.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    I think the Cecilians had the right basic idea, even if they stumbled on the details.


    Or: don't you feel a 'Sacred Music' article welling up, Michael? I hope so.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    And BTW - Gilligan's Island? Have I missed something?
  • IanW, listen to the verse melody on "Behold the Wood"

    I think Michael Lawrence would be a better choice for the Cecilians article. He has the fire in him. My short point, however, would be that they called for a purer church music and cited Palestrina as the model. When a composer, say, like Bruckner gave them something wonderful, they rejected it because it wasn't ... Palestrina.
  • The only thing is that the Cecilians aren't really a problem these day. I found myself developing opinions on them in reading the Ruff books. They seem like a recognizable sort. They had views that one likes in the abstract and ways that one finds maddening in the details. It would go too far to describe them as the Taliban of 19th cent. Church music, but at their worst there seemed to be a tendency in that direction. on the other hand, their principles were largely sound and they fought a good fight.