POSITIVE + NEGATIVE
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    This post is half negative and half positive.

    NEGATIVE


    Some of us (myself included) have become Liturgical composers, more out of necessity than anything else. I became a Liturgical composer because the music used at Mass made me feel ridiculous and embarrassed.

    In the city where I work, the below is a tiny excerpt from a "Gloria" that is very popular. I don't want to reveal the composer, because I don't want to make it seem like I'm attacking any individual person or judging their motives or talent. As a matter of fact, off the top of my head, I have no idea who wrote this particular "Gloria."

    Here is a small excerpt:

    image

    MP3 AUDIO FILE

    I often wonder, when I hear this piece: "What would happen if I, or one of my colleagues, had written a line like that? What would happen if I, or one of my colleagues, had published a line like that? What would happen if I, or one of my colleagues, had COPYRIGHTED a line like that? What kind of critical analysis would I, or one of my colleagues, have received, if one of us had published that line? What type of compositional skills are displayed by a piece like that? What type of grasp of the English language is displayed by the setting of 'Lord God,' found above?

    POSITIVE


    Since that was a "negative" post, HERE IS A MORE POSITIVE ITEM.
  • MarkThompson
    Posts: 768
    I often wonder, when I hear this piece: "What would happen if I, or one of my colleagues, had written a line like that? What would happen if I, or one of my colleagues, had published a line like that?


    You wouldn't have deliberately sung it so badly?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    . . . not sure how else to sing it . . . glottal each note, perhaps??

    I'm open to correction on my singing, but the piece remains what it is regardless of how I sing it.

    (It is sung much worse in the parishes here)
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Absolutely not glottal on each note. It does have a slur under it. It is possible to sing legato, without making it sound like Bing Crosby. It might be uncomfortable, but it does work. This sort of phrase does occur in hymnody occasionally. And there are certainly much longer melismae in the Graduale. I've never had a problem with this.
  • MarkThompson
    Posts: 768
    I think you know just fine how to sing it. On the video you posted, I didn't hear "Ave Ma-ri'Hee'Haw," did I? There are definitely better Glorias out there, of course, but at Mass yesterday the whole congregation sang this one magna voce, unaccompanied, most without looking at the words or music. For something that's not composed in any obviously secular style, that doesn't use a refrain as a crutch, and that is 100% faithful to the official text, I consider that a big success for the average American parish.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I would draw a major distinction between Common-practice Era metrical pieces and Gregorian chant in free rhythm.

    I would suggest that the metrical pieces in Common-practice era have an obligation to consider the tonic accent, and not just shove phrases in and 'make them fit,' regardless of eighth notes.

    Again, I'm not criticizing anyone or anything, just asking questions. And I feel silly singing "Lord God," where I do not feel silly singing that Ave Maria.

    I hope I am entitled to my opinion. (not kidding)

    I, myself, do not feel it is a well-written phrase, because it is very difficult for congregations to pick that up. Granted, with enough repetitions, it is possible.

    Again, the phrase is what it is, no matter how rotten of a singer I am. I am no Matthew J. Curtis. I never claimed to be.

    But I don't want to feel ridiculous singing the Mass.
  • My criticism of the glory...I'm not going to criticize the singing because I have heard it done better and much worse...is this:

    Does the melodic line represent the emphasis that the words would receive in speech?

    lord GOD is how it is spoken. Or even LORD GOD.

    This melodic phrase pegs it at LORD god.

    And Mark, you are absolutely correct, for the average American parish.

    The average American parish is exactly what the pulp publishers have created.

    Would you ever hear that piece sung in a concert hall? Why not?

    There is no reason for the church to promote second class music.

    The Church used to concern itself with serious musical issues, Frescobaldi got in trouble with the Pope, not for writing commercial music, but for espousing equali temperament. The Church used to control music in the church. But with V2 they gave up all control.

    Are things better now?

    [as far as Jeff's singing, I doubt that he purposely tried to make it sound bad...during the Colloq I heard some demonstrations of singing that were not what the director wanted to hear, but through his singing of it, it became obvious what he wanted to hear from us. Put a Latin word to the melody...that melody calls out for three syllables where only two appear]
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,084
    As far as Glorias go, this one is, overall, better than many out there. I use it during the summer, with a most excellent organ accompaniment, of course! ;-) I have never heard the rest of the mass setting this is taken from. It may not even be in print, given its age. Granted, there is plenty of bad liturgical music out there. However, one could take a few notes, even from Chabanel, and not have anything positive to say about those few notes. The composition considered as a whole, could be fine.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    CharlesW, I AGREE with what you say about Chabanel !!! (not kidding)

    My own compositions, in particular, have already come a long way.

    I promise you we are working hard to correct what we can.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,288
    Jeff

    Granted, not the best treatment of the phrase, try resinging it without the Lor-Hord-Hord but instead Lo-o-ord without any accents or emphasis on individual syllables.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,084
    Chabanel is a good resource, and I'm not knocking it in any way. My point is, that in any composition, it's possible to find a few notes in isolation that might not sound so great. That particular Gloria you referenced, when led by a choir accompanied by a pipe organ, isn't bad. Add to that the 300+ congregation I had singing it yesterday, it sounded pretty good - far better than the MOC Gloria ever could. As I mentioned, I have never heard the complete mass, "A New Mass for Congregations,' by Carroll T. Andrews. The Gloria is in RitualSong and carries a copyright date of 1970. It's the only part of that mass setting in the hymnal.
  • Let's see...at first, I was somewhat suspicious that Jeff's rant seemed to be based on four notes. (By the way, that should be an F# since this is pretty obviously in G.) So I went to listen to the mp3 and got a better context.

    Compositionally speaking, the tune is childish - meaning, it sounds like it was written with children in mind. Without trying to sound like I'm defending the thing, I think there's a pragmatic reason behind this; a lot of these composers are specifically told by their publishers, "You have to make the tune drop-dead simple for people, because most of them are old/tone deaf/musically inept/texting/half asleep, and so you have to write a tune that's easy to remember, so use a minimum of notes, stay within an octave and try to keep it linear." Some of the blame lies with the composer for the lazy writing, but not all, because I'm certain (s)he could have done a better job given fewer/less irrational restraints.

    As craftsmanship goes, the composer doesn't seem to have much of a sense of text painting. Why would you put EARTH (G) above GOD (D)???? I'm sure I could find other similar aesthetic blunders if I could be bothered to look.

    My argument is (and has always been) that people like this stuff because they don't know that there's better music out there. And as long as composers and publishing houses continue to pander to the lowest common denominator and fail to up their standards, ours will always be an uphill battle.
  • MarkThompson
    Posts: 768
    Dan McGarvey,

    Word painting is a joke. Have a read through Gloria VIII and see what you think: Deo is lower than hominibus, the first-person endings -mus are all higher than the following te's, tuam is down at the bottom while nostram is up at the top, dexteram Patris is down at the bottom and then miserere rises up to nobis; the word Altissimus is all over the place. How much do we really need to read into this?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,084
    Death by over-analysis. What a painful way to go! ;-)
  • WIlli Apel was clear about this years ago, that word painting in Gregorian chant is almost non-existent. The few instances that were "obvious" to people were challenged as the same tune appeared with a different text...
  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 331
    i like the gloria, but i hate that phrase. he would have done well to simply use two half notes.
  • Mark, I could not agree less.

    Text painting is not "a joke." It shows an expertise of craft and a sensitivity to the word content. Simply because it's not incorporated into everything does not negate its effectiveness. Besides, the piece that I'm criticizing is not a chant piece, nor does it pretend to be. Make comparisons to the Gloria VIII all you like...apples and oranges. I will continue to "over-analyze" to the extent that it satisfies me, thank you very much.
  • I would argue that this is (at least partly) due to trying to cram a non-metrical text onto a metrical tune. It's also partly due to the fact that the lame-duck ICEL translation of the Gloria is pretty sing-songy to begin with. It's easy to recite this translation with the same inflection as a Shel Silverstein poem.

    Not that the text should be blamed for all crummy arrangements of it, of course. I'm saying that it lends itself well to such treatments. One underlying problem is the composer treating the congregation as dumber than they really are. Because of this assumption, the composer tries to recycle the same tune several times during the Gloria, thinking the congregation has a tonal memory of about a phrase and a half. Heck, the most interesting part of this Gloria is the middle section, when it changes keys, which is supposed to be sung by the choir alone.

    In my opinion, the congregation will sing poorly only as long as composers assume that they sing poorly.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,084
    Actually, my congregation sings the 4-part middle section, too.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,054
    Whether or not a setting is word-painted, it does seem to me that some musical phrases are rational and some are merely utilitarian. I think that the ordinary is especially prone to utilitarianism, in order to maintain cohesion across a Mass setting. The chordal structure becomes the overriding concern. I honestly don't know how a composer could hope to maintain the initial creative impulse throughout the composition of a Mass, given these constraints.
  • Word painting crops up in Propers chants all the time. Also how many times do you see a rising line at "et resurrexit" in Credos? Sure, Credo IV descends, but it jumps to the highest note in the chant immediately afterward. Only the ubiquitous Credo III eschews a dramatic moment. Credo VI makes a huge leap after a slight descent, which could be read as meaningful. I was just admiring the long curly melisma in the Wedding Mass at the reference to the fruitful vine. There is no doubt that musical imagery was prized by chant composers, but not as overdone as seen in the madrigal repertoire after 1580.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,884
    I hope I am entitled to my opinion. (not kidding)

    To be sure, Jeff, but now we're invited to infer that your previous stacking of the deck might have been tongue in cheek ;-) Anyway, your point can hardly be that, out of context, Haas' and Janco's settings of two words are objectively better, can it?

    The first other non-responsorial Gloria that comes to mind is Schubert/Proulx, which sets the "Lord God" g_d b_g (an improvement??). Do Matthias, Powell or, my favorite, Felciano (all H82) appear in any Catholic hymnal?

    Can anyone here report on submitting mass settings for the imprimature?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,054
    My favorite word painting in chant is the introit Ecce advenit (Epiphany). It's regal, like a fanfare.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,804
    It's not a Baroque melisma where one naturally must engage in hocking in order to articulate; I would venture that hocking is less likely than Jeff assumes.

    I don't think the Andrews Gloria is one of the enduring monuments of congregational settings of the ordinary, but for 1970 it ahead of the curve on through-composed English Glorias for the new translation.

    As noted, the translation lends itself to baleful dance meters; at least the Andrews Gloria resisted that temptation.

    My own reaction is that the F# is in the way here - a cleaner line would either be the two half notes suggested earlier, or G-E (two quarters or a dotted half and eighth - I lean to the former) on Lord.

    As for text-painting: in the hands of geniuses, it can be marvelous. In the hands of yeoman, it's a treat best resisted strongly. Andrews appears to have been possessed with good self-awareness.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,804
    PS: In the realm of hocking, the ordinary setting that takes the cake must be the Celtic Alleluia.'

    BUT: normally, it's only modestly average-to-good choirs that hock that. Congregations certainly don't (they just tend to drop the sixteenth in a scoopy legato/portamento), and very good and best choirs don't hock it, either.
  • mwa
    Posts: 22
    I taught this Gloria to my homeschool group--it was the best I could come up with in English that we could learn easily, sing a capella, and have some chance of dragging the congregation along, but the childishness was inescapable: among the smaller group who were also my Latin tutees, we referred to it as the "Barney Gloria."