Church Documents on Recorded Music
  • Does anyone know what church documents specifically prohibit recorded music at mass? I'm looking for preferably a paragraph I can quote from the GIRM, or other similarly authoritative documents. I have a friend who is being asked to record something for another parish. The person doing the asking is being rather pushy, and we want something official to quote. Thanks for the help.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 865
    The only such instruction I'm aware of is in "Sing to the Lord":

    Recorded Music

    93. Recorded music lacks the authenticity provided by a living liturgical assembly gathered for the Sacred Liturgy. While recorded music might be used advantageously outside the Liturgy as an aid in the teaching of new music, it should not, as a general norm, be used within the Liturgy.

    94. Some exceptions to this principle should be noted. Recorded music may be used to accompany the community’s song during a procession outside and, when used carefully, in Masses with children. Occasionally, it might be used as an aid to prayer, for example, during long periods of silence in a communal celebration of reconciliation. However, recorded music should never become a substitute for the community’s singing.


    Also, there's this thread:
    https://forum.musicasacra.com/forum/discussion/193/recorded-music-at-mass/p1

    It has citations from De Musica Sacra.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    yea, this one from dad29 is point blank. I like point blank.

    The point is that God is not worshiped by machine. Since 'actuosa participatio' begins with conforming oneself to Christ in offering oneself to God, it cannot possibly be accomplished robotically in any consequential action at Mass.

    To be near-sacrilegious, it's akin to Christ sending R2D2 to Calvary in His stead.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    It is true that all sorts of abominations have been done and left uncorrected, but it does seem like this is unthinkable to virtually everyone. In fact, even the CEI banned recordings at all Masses. It’s insulting to the children that they are deemed worthy by the USCCB of prerecorded music. My idea of a children’s Mass is the school Mass at La Chapelle d’Armentières near Lille, France: on feasts not kept as holy day, they have a sung Mass at 9 am with all of the students in attendance with many of the families coming too.
  • Nathan,

    I'll see if I can find anything beyond what is already listed by others on this thread, but I encourage you to think not in terms of legislation, but first principles.

    Recorded music is just that: not being made by the persons in the moment; always exactly the same; not designed, 99.99%+ of the time, for the building in which it is replayed; an offense against God because we're not offering ourselves at all; and an offense against the much esteemed Second Vatican Council which encouraged the laity to be actually (not actively) offering the Mass, consciously.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,671
    There are also potential copyright violation issues.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    There are also potential copyright violation issues.
    lol. ya gotta think twice about this one... you are not allowed to clone a human in the liturgy!
  • Francis,
    [Slightly off topic]
    Cloning humans would only be a violation copyright law if someone already has your DNA sequence as his personal property.

    [Back on topic]
    That I can think of, the copyright issues show up twice: once for the music itself (which won't matter to the estate of Josquin or Palestrina, but might to more modern composers, including the whole stable of OCP/GIA/WLP song-writers; one for the recording which is being piped through the speaker system of your parish church without (probably) paying a download or performance fee).
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,010
    I know that in the diocese of Oklahoma City, the bishop issued a mandate that there should be no recorded music at mass. This was a few years back and I no longer have the document since I moved out of the diocese nearly 4 years ago. I believe Bp. Sample of Portland also made reference to this in his letter on music.
  • SponsaChristi
    Posts: 356
    Why yes! Yes there is! It’s even comes straight from Vatican II!

    From Musicam Sacram:

    71. The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is absolutely forbidden in liturgical functions and private devotions, whether they are held inside or outside the church, even if these machines be used only to transmit sermons or sacred music, or to substitute for the singing of the choir or faithful, or even just to support it.
  • Sponsa,

    Those who support the use of this prohibited stuff will dismiss the paragraph you cite as one of those bones the fathers of the Council threw to the radical traditionalists which everyone (wink, wink) knew was only in there to get the document passed, and therefore can be freely ignored.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,897
    even if these machines be used only to transmit sermons

    But...the Bishop's Appeal!
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,126
    CGZ - no that's 1967, and written by Bugnini et al.
    It is unfortunately possible to dismiss it as not applying to the 1969 NO.
  • Hawkins,

    Everything the "progressives" don't like gets dismissed in the same fashion, so the printing date doesn't actually matter much, but I take your point. It ought to be harder to dismiss. Then again (to shift fields for a moment) it ought to be hard to throw out the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by a Democratic President and passed by overwhelming margins in both houses... but it isn't.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    observation loaded with potential explosion

    Since a digital organ IS a mechanical recording (of a real pipe organ, ie, a “music machine”?), I am thinking it should be banned from the liturgy.
    Thanked by 1MNadalin
  • You would be, logically, flawless in your appraisal of the situation.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,671
    And that will be a great way to ensure more organs would be replaced by pianos. Be careful what you ask for.
  • Liam,

    Pianos and other noisy instruments aren't supposed to be used, either. That an alarmingly large number of people don't seem to know what ought to be done, even in the absence of legislation, is quite to be expected. I think it was Father Rutler who observed, "If you have to tell the celebrant why he can't wear a cheese block on his head for Mass, you have already lost the argument."
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,671
    Ah, so a future with fewer instrumentalists whatsoever. (Not mocking you. Cautioning about the way that logic can work in practice on the ground in more places than I'd prefer.)
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,107
    My understanding is that the use of a pipe organ or a reed organ are allowed because they produce sound by moving air through them. Whereas electronic organs, electronic pianos, electric guitars, etc. are not allowed because they do not produce sound in a similar fashion.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,010
    BHC, I don't think that has anything to do with it. Bells are allowed and they don't move air through them (yes, they vibrate air, but you get my point). The issue isn't the mode of sound production, per se, but rather the sounds themselves and the broader ethos of the instrument. At this point the organ has been sacralized over centuries. Other common instruments rather decidedly have not.

    Digital organs can be seen as a legitimate advancement in organ technology. If they aren't, then where do we draw the line? Are electric actions OK? What about stop control systems? Pistons? Is tubular pneumatic action too recent? Tracker only? Barkers? Electric blowers? Only organ stops developed by 1600? What about clarinets and English horns, or flute triangulaires? Those were also developed in the last century. Celests are deliberately dissonant! Can't have those!

    Are lightbulbs OK? They are ultimately a mere simulacrum of candles/fire.

    via media seems prudent in such matters. To ban digital organs, merely on the basis of the mechanics of how they produce their tone vs. pipe organs, is a form of legalism and Neo-iconoclasm.

    There's nothing fake about a painter using acrylic paints rather than going out and grinding up flowers to mix into egg whites. It's just a different chemistry, but the value of the art is not in the type of paint used on the canvas, but rather the icon that is created, and the spiritual offering behind it.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 865
    Can we get the Holy See to rule on whether Autotune may be used live during Mass to fix the pitch of cantors?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,745
    I always thought the judicious use of a cattle prod might get the basses on pitch.
  • Thanks to those who have posted some quotes from documents. It is most helpful.

    Also, why is it i asked a question about a friend of mine being asked to make a recording of a song to playback at mass, and it has turned into a discussion about whether digital organs should be allowed. Yes, they both involve recorded sounds being played back. But anyone with a brain should see the difference between a live musician playing a digital organ and someone playing a recording of someone playing an organ. I know our discussions get sidetracked sometimes, but this is just starting pointless debates for the sake of debates. I asked a question about church documents on creating recordings to playback at mass and we are discussing if digital organs are licit. Does anyone else think that is ridiculous? Especially when the post that derailed this whole thing acknowledges that it has the potential to do just that. If you are going to post something like that, maybe start a new thread next time and leave my thread for people with answers to the question I actually asked. Discussions naturally develop over time and go in unanticipated directions. That is fine, but please don't just start an argument for the sake of argument like happened here.
  • .
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,107
    I always thought the judicious use of a cattle prod might get the basses on pitch.


    As a bass, I resemble that remark!
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,010
    I tried trawling through my old emails and I cannot find the OKC diocesan guidelines. Google doesn't turn anything up either on that particular front.

    There is an EWTN article that address this, and mentions that the italian bishop's conference has explicitly banned the practice: https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/prerecorded-music-at-mass-4830
    This article also quotes De Musica Sacra:
    "Finally, only those musical instruments which are played by the personal action of the artist may be admitted to the sacred liturgy, and not those which are operated automatically or mechanically."
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,010
    This document https://www.scsba.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/guidelines_liturgical_music.pdf from the canadian conference of catholic bishops is a bit more forgiving, but still says it shouldn't happen if it can be avoided, and if it does happen, it is to support singing, not to be a feature in its own right:
    The human voice: The human voice should always hold a primary place in the music-making of the Church. For this reason, recorded music must never replace the singing of the assembly, nor should it displace the ministry of other musicians. Only in cases of necessity may recorded music be used in the liturgy for the purpose of supporting the song of the assembly.19

    [Note in the margins]
    Recorded music never replaces the human voice in liturgical celebrations.


    It reiterates this point twice, first in relation to Mass in general, and secondarily in regards to marriage ceremonies.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,010
    https://www.rcan.org/sites/default/files/files/Music at Mass During Phase 3.pdf
    The Diocese of Newark issued the following guidance, siting another document:
    Pre-recorded music, even to support congregational singing, should not be used in the liturgy ​(​Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship​, 93).
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,010
    USCCB has this to say in regards even to pre-recorded televised masses:
    The use of pre-recorded music, even to accompany the congregation's singing, is not appropriate for the liturgy (Music in Catholic Worship, #54 and Liturgical Music Today, #60; see Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship [2007], #93).

    https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/frequently-asked-questions/guidelines-for-televising-the-liturgy
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    And that will be a great way to ensure more organs would be replaced by pianos. Be careful what you ask for.
    pianos were never approved for liturgy.

    UPDATE

    And, I might add, because of the subpar sound that a simulacrum produces, it has encouraged the overall tendency to even replace digital organs (simulacrum) with pianos (and dedicated organists with pianists) because of the mechanical and acoustic nature of the piano being a 'real' instrument. People will always prefer the real deal. It is a psychological disposition that is very subtle and insidious. Pianists are 'drawn' to the effort and organists are 'discouraged' from the effort. The whole convolution erodes the fact that the (real) organ IS and SHOULD be the only choice of instruments for the church and the liturgy.

    And I take offense at being told that this discussion has no place in this thread. It ABSOLUTELY has everything to do with 'the mechanical nature' of instruments very much so. With the continuing development of simulacrum technology the line is more and more blurred to the point where even devoted organists will accept the counterfeits... and one counterfeit leads to another, and that is why the liturgy gets stretched to the point where it subtly encourages abuses by allowing recordings, MIDI sequencing, MP3, sound systems and microphones, and on the visual side, slide projections and more.

    Even church architecture has suffered from this mentality where the 'real deal' is replaced with 'multi-functional' concepts and 'cost saving approaches'. It's just plain wrong and an insult to God who always demands the utmost for his holy dwellings.

    And then where does all of this lead??? - to 'online church'... why even go to church! We can just deliver it into our own home through a copper wire!

    In the end, God is disappointed and we severely handicap our very nature (fool ourselves and try to fool others) (but God is not fooled...) In the end, we limit severely our ability to take in the loftiness of heaven on earth and bar our own senses (hearing-word and music: seeing-art and architecture: touching- or perhaps NOT touching as much in respect of what is truly holy: tasting/smelling-perhaps NOT tasting before we receive the taste of heaven so that we hunger for the true bread, and by lifting the burning of incense that is truly pleasing to God, and not the smokes of Cain. We must endeavor with all our might to uphold the (REAL) True, the (REAL) Good, and the (REAL) Beautiful, be done with the counterfeits so that we and the rest of mankind can truly EXPERIENCE a taste of heaven on earth, as best we can make it. Otherwise, people will easily prefer the shopping mall, the concert hall and the movie theatre to our sorry polymeric offerings.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,010
    And Pius X specifically bemoaned them.
  • SponsaChristi
    Posts: 356
    a reed organ


    Reed organs were allowed as a toleration for churches in small communities due to financial and size constraints.