New Settings of Propers: Wonderful, pointless, needed?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    I think Kathy is saying the same thing I said. Two reasons:
    1. External (perceived need- local or universal)
    2. Internal (inspiration, fun, exercise, prayer).

    Where I was going with this thread originally wasn't "Should anyone compose?"
    I think clearly the answer is Yes (besides that it can't be helped- being made in the image and likeness of God, we have a drive to create beauty).

    My question was more about a specific type of composition: A cycle of Propers.
    Because it seems to me that, unlike a Mass setting or a moter, a cycle of Propers (even just Introits only, or just a single season) is a PROJECT, that requires continuing work and commitment long after the initial inspiration or fun as faded. Writing a cycle of Propers (a whole Psalter, or anything like that) requires devotion and commitment. Now, you might just want to take that on for your own spiritual/musical development. But it would be nice to know what other people think about the (local or universal) need.
  • Dr. Giffen, were I gifted with your compositional expertise (or Francis') I'd never withdraw my voice from adding to the ever-expanding chorus of praise. More importantly, your faith is the first informant to the calling of your muse. I often ponder the possibility that the heavenly chorus repertoire is some perfect culmination of all songs sung true throughout the ages, simultaneously perfected in the halls of the Kingdom by the Creator. As incantu quipped in another thread, "the world needs ditch diggers, too." And it needs its archivists as well, I suppose. But you're not among their number at heart, so you have my encouragement and respect.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,072
    Adam, I concur with your rationale on the last page totally: you really do have to "count the cost" before embarking on those sorts of projects, don't you! A healthy dose of humility is also needed. I remember once for a church music class I composed this fantastic hymn tune...only to realize I that C.H.H. Parry had written it a century before! Our minds work strangely sometimes, no?

    I'll vote in favor of the multitude of chant-based proper projects now. On any given week, we will use Fr. Samuel, Fr. Columba, or SEP for a Mass. The diversity of styles is wonderful. That will be further enriched by Fr. Samuel's new project (started years ago here in St. Louis) which gives three settings for each proper text ("florid", slightly more syllabic, and then a psalm tone). I think we all agree that no one person always composes perfectly to our taste, so this diversity helps us provide the best music possible to our parishes every week.
  • To clarify- I don't mean to say that people shouldn't be composing as a hobby. Go for it!
    I only meant to answer Adam's question on whether yet another simplified propers project is needed. I don't think it is, especially on a large scale. We have SEP, Chabenal psalms, and psalm tones.
    As an example of 'been there, done that', the Teitze collection did not catch on, is a paraphrase of liturgical texts, and does not seem to foster a move to the authentic chants, IMO. The work was laudable, but ineffective. Why repeat that in several directions when we can move together toward a common goal?
    Aside from practical considerations in parishes, I think every director (of course me too!!!) needs to evaluate why and how long they use simplified settings- including Latin.
    This is a human problem, and exsisted before the not-yet-close-to-being-realized liturgical reforms of the Council, which clearly called for a restoration of the authentic Gregorian propers.
    The choir I direct is not ready for weekly full Gradual and Alleluia/Tract, for ex. But that does not mean I am content with simplified settings so I have more rehearsal time for polyphonic motets, etc. I feel it is our task to chip away toward the ideal of the authentic propers however possible.
    I believe this not just because it is a clear ideal from the documents, but because we as a praying people deserve a universal/catholic identity rooted in our Latin tradition. I do not wish to be an obstacle to that.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Can someone post a JPEG of what Tietze's works look like? I'd love to see one ...

    Crazy that I have not, since my own Cathedral published them ...
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    MaryAnn wrote:

    > evaluate why and how long they use simplified settings- including Latin

    I'm using simplified settings in English (along with Missal chants and some chants from the Simplex) in the context of teaching beginning chanters/musicians to read square notation. Actually, I start with the idea of "clef" and recto tono.

    These are people who can't read music but want to learn. The English texts and simpler music allows them to focus only on developing musical literacy. I find that once they master solfeggio on top-line Do clef, and begin to feel confident, they want more of a challenge. At that point, their motivation comes from within. I can then just feed it: "Bored with Sanctus 18? Ok, how about Sanctus 17?"

    The goal of course is always to sing the best text/music combinations with great understanding and confidence.

    Our Monsignor, a great and good one, wants the workshops to follow on the heels of new Missal catechesis. I'm lucky, grateful, and hopeful.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    If no one gets to it before I get home, I'll do so- I have the book at home.

    I think the Tietze collection has not caught on because for a lot of reasons, not least of all its timing.
    It came out years ago, before knowledge of the Propers was even as widespread as it currently is(n't).

    In fact, if you read the introduction, it's sort of funny and dated: CT talks about the Propers as if they are forgotten archaeological artifacts. Not in a disrespectful "these are museum pieces" sort of way, but in a "oh my gosh, can you believe no one has heard of these?! I had to trek across Siberia and wrestle Codexes from 10th Century zombie-monks in order to find them. Quick! We need to get these Propers to safety before the Nazi-aliens storm the castle!" sort of way. Okay- not really that ridiculous, but I certainly got the sense that this was some sort of Ancient Secret that Prof. Indiana Tietze had managed to uncover.

    Another reason is the "Intended Audience" problem.
    If you want to do Propers, do you also want to do European Protestant-style hymns?
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    In my humble opinion, the idea that the Church's music and liturgy is already perfect and sufficient and needs nothing more is not quite true. That is the idea that drove the council of Trent to ossify the liturgy in such a way that the opening of the floodgates at Vatican II caused so much damage. The Catholic people can sense that they and their generation have something to contribute, and while one can argue that they have often misplaced their efforts in sad and detrimental ways, their instinct on this matter is not wrong.

    It is true that Gregorian chant is sufficient for the liturgy in its solemnity and authenticity, and that there is enough Gregorian chant to keep a parish going on beautifully for years. But every generation has contributed to the church, which is why there is polyphony, orchestral Masses, Arvo Part and whatever else. Take a look at church architecture throughout the years--is a huge gothic structure, with flying buttresses and gargoyles and all the trappings of the period, less beautiful or less Catholic than a Byzantine-era structure such as Hagia Sophia?

    In time the beautiful and sacred will be rooted out and saved from the rest of the liturgical detritus from the flood. But the Church wouldn't be the Church without its history and this generation will be a part of that history. So in whatever way it does compose and contribute, that is vital. It is vital for the Church to be a breathing organism and not a fossil that sort of lumbers on through time purely by inertia and not the living sinews of the faithful.

    that is all.

    p.s. -- Mr. Wood -- "oh my gosh, can you believe no one has heard of these?! I had to trek across Siberia and wrestle Codexes from 10th Century zombie-monks in order to find them. Quick! We need to get these Propers to safety before the Nazi-aliens storm the castle!" sort of way. Okay- not really that ridiculous, but I certainly got the sense that this was some sort of Ancient Secret that Prof. Indiana Tietze had managed to uncover. = <3
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,164
    Jam, you said that so well!
  • Adam,

    Actually the Tietze collection HAS caught on in cathedrals and in places with "better" music. The cathedrals in Seattle, Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Greesburg have used them, some to more extent than others. I use them in my parish, and I saw a parish listing on NPM once that mentioned them. So it seems that they are out there, maybe just not in every suburban type parish. FWIW, at the last 3 jobs that I've begun, there was a copy of the book in the music office, even if it wasn't being used.
  • Yes, Chuck, Jam's always had the knack. But....
    That is the idea that drove the council of Trent to ossify the liturgy in such a way that the opening of the floodgates at Vatican II caused so much damage.

    That is the carnival mirror image, somewhat distorted and augmented, of the companion myth that Pierluigi da P. "saved" polyphony during Trent with a miraculous hearing of the Marcelli by Tridentine bishops. (I'm going off topic and won't Wiki-check this, but wasn't St. Philip Neri a Palestrina fan?)
    And that's quite a "Back to the future Delorean leap" from Trent to "Michael row the boat ashore." I am loathe to wonder if the real "deal-breaker" between compositional evolution and the church began with my man Monteverdi, the Gabrieli boys (the Venetian Young Guns) and the French like Couperin. It seems so "Grout" to not see the convergence of opera with the pageantry and pomp of spezzati and arias. And the dialectic continues for half a millenia to Verdi versus Pius X with a few notable exceptions like M. Haydn, Martini, Bruckner....
    Add to that the teeny weeny little accomodations of Singmesse and New World synthesised forms, it seems that the damage was complete long before Ray Repp, Joe Wise and all those Baltimore seminarians and those sweet Canadian nuns on Ed Sullivan unleashed their geetars in church crypts.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    To be sure, liturgical abuse is not a new thing. Dr. Weber played us an organ piece in our "Survey of Sacred and Religious Music" class at Franciscan that was supposedly meant for liturgical use. (It had some kind of name like "meditation on communion" or something. I don't remember exactly.) The piece would not have been out of place at a carnival, played on a calliope for the merry-go-round.

    I can totally hear what you mean in the composers from Venice such as Monteverdi and Giovanni Gabrieli. Since then a lot of composers took a lot of things from modern music and started incorporating it into their sacred music. Mozart et al. were certainly inspired by the movements of symphonies and whatnot. Granted, some of them managed to keep religious and sacred music somewhat separate.

    And it's hard to make the call from this vantage-point, since the good and the beautiful tended to remain while the frilly and profane withered away.

    Ne'ertheless, I do think Trent made things worse for Vatican II in this regard, since the church was better able to self-police itself before Trent and had grown disused to doing so after. Then again, I'm no historian.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    I'm glad Heinrich Isaac and William Byrd didn't just give up because chants already existed.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,072


    Actually the Tietze collection HAS caught on in cathedrals and in places with "better" music. The cathedrals in Seattle, Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Greesburg have used them, some to more extent than others. I use them in my parish, and I saw a parish listing on NPM once that mentioned them. So it seems that they are out there, maybe just not in every suburban type parish. FWIW, at the last 3 jobs that I've begun, there was a copy of the book in the music office, even if it wasn't being used.

    I hope I'm not splitting hairs here, especially since I know a few of these cathedral directors well and greatly support the work they do, but...

    The intent of Tietze seems to be more to have an accessible resource for parish churches (a la the Graduale Simplex, but of course with a different point of departure); I know the Tietze ones to be used mostly in cathedrals, as you say. So, in a sense it has caught on, but not with the intended audience. Ideally, following the directives of SC and the other Vatican II documents, the cathedrals should be using the Gregorian propers as much as possible. There are many extenuating circumstances (i.e., choir/schola not present at all Masses, uncooperative rectors, etc.), but aesthetically I don't think Tietze should be the ideal for a cathedral, at least according to a strict reading of the documents.

    That said, my purpose isn't to rip the cathedrals, just to say parishes haven't used these as much. I know that many parish priests are not on board with the idea of using a new text every week, even if it's to a familiar tune. I'm not judging, just observing from my experience...
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700
    wow people...

    i have spent less time on this forum in the past year or so, and it is amazing to read some of these threads. this is a GOOD one! Sorry I wasn't around when the bantering was aloofing about... but here's my late take...

    The church should always and everywhere be singing the chant... the GC, that is. I have been very careful not to jump into the fray of composing English chant for one very serious reason: It could distract (or at least, delay) us from the inevitable wish of Mother Church that we promote the music that deserves 'pride of place'. MCW has a very clear and concise picture on this matter:

    Perhaps every age is operating under some sort of chronocentrism, and being that we are all tied to time in this earthly life that's understandable. Our immediate style is what we know, and sometimes what we think is best.

    At the same time, there is more reason to be concerned with sacrality, universality, and soundness of form in our composition attempts. Our private compositions aside (I love doing this, too!) most of what we offer to our Church from ourselves needs to be a gift to all peoples and all times. A tall order, indeed. But I believe love and obedience mandates these things.

    We've all had enough drivel and distraction from publishers. We've all experienced the jolt of music from one parish to another. But we are Catholic, universal, and desire communion with as many fellow travelers as possible. The Church has laid out a plan, but most church musicians (and pastors!) don't know about it due in part to the distraction of new music overload.

    Bullseye, MaryAnn Carr Wilson!

    Do we stop composing new music for the Church? No! We must immerse ourselves in the tradition that has gone on before, and if our muse is truly in tune with the Holy Spirit and we are seeking to compose music worthy of the liturgy, magic WILL happen and we might find ourselves contributing to the store of sacred music that will be timeless.

    Adam has done a very good thing! Is the SEP just a transitional resource to get us back on the path (authentic GC)? Maybe. Time will only tell. It might wind up being something the Church holds high in the future in ways we may never know. Then again, it could just be a flash in the pan. There is no way to know. However, it does point us in the direction of chant and not hymns. THAT is very valuable! I don't know Chris' work, is there a way to see it? He is coming here in six months to visit our parish. Maybe he will bring his music with him.

    We need more Hildegard's that span throughout our history... don't you think?

    And I am all for the emergence of every 21st century Palestrina who can give a new twist to the not too old art of spectacular polyphonic composition. There can NEVER be too much good polyphony! I think we all agree on that one.

    My hat goes off to ANY composer who aspires to be a composer of sacred music. Too many of them are chasing after the silver screen or the concert hall these days.
  • MCW has a very clear and concise picture on this matter

    Dagnabit, Francis, you almost gave me a heart attack with that setup! "Music in Catholic Worship" having a clear and concise picture....on anything???

    Mary Ann Carr Wilson, aka:
    MA from San Diego
    MA, amongst the finest sopranos to ever grace the airwaves (along with my wife)
    MA, serious as a heart attack Roman freaking Catholic!

    MCW is and does rightly taste as dead as "Ashes" by Big Tom C.
    SttL would fair better were it advertised as an advert for St. Louis,MO.

    Also, me sending love and prayers to MaryAnn, God's very voice in song.

    My hat goes off to ANY composer who aspires to be a composer of sacred music. Too many of them are chasing after the silver screen or the concert hall these days.

    Why, thank you, Francis, and right back at ya, bro'. I would like to share a quartet of personal reflections on your theme:
    *My compositional mentor, Dr. Frank LaRocca, sitting in a greenhouse of the music arts, SF/O Bay Area, who's chosen to devote his formidable knowledge and talent to helping our people worship both creation and Creator.
    *Jeffrey Quick- who so patiently and charitably absorbed my reflections, and then had some beautiful work sung at the new music session after winning a national composition "contest."
    *Jeffrey Ostrowski-who would rather, like our BVM, point to another as greater, whose compositional sense is both sacred and artistically compelling.
    *Royce Nickel- a local friend whose compositional modesty matches his own personality, but belies the magnitude of his muse.

    God knows.

    Yes, I would love it if Thomas Newman, Michael Nyman or Hans Zimmer got religion. But I think we're doing much better than okay. I always come back to the problem with the fame/name game. Even when there's a domain dominated by the likes of a Steven Spielberg, a John Corigliano or a Kobe Bryant, there's always somebody out there who's gonna turn the world upside down.
  • Awww...
    Speaking of "Big name composers" like Nyman, Corigliano, etc... It's not the direction we should be looking. IMHO, the greatest living American composer is John Adams. YMMV, but in any objective measure, he's in the top 10. But he's not a SACRED composer, and I think he would have to completely revamp his style to become one. El Nino is an embarrassment (esp. the video), a rehash of things past composers did better. I don't think the world would allow a composer to rise to that level and stay publicly devout. Who is the Tim Tebow of the arts? Yes, there was Messiaen, but people tended to ignore his faith as a quaint anachronism. The great composers haven't been the sacred composers since the Baroque. There were Mozart and Haydn, but their sacrality is a matter of dispute. And Bruckner and Gounod, both slightly off-tradition. And Rheinberger, possibly the greatest 19th-c sacred composer, who certainly was a somebody in his own time but is out of the canon of Western Art Music now.

    I've heard some chamber music by my esteemed colleague Dr. LaRocca, and he's playing a different game now in his sacred work. It really is a different way of composing than most composers were raised in.

    I'm in this very late. I do what I do, and it will stick or won't. But the future belongs to young cats like Daniel Knaggs.
  • JQ, I think my contention supports the reality of "cats" like Daniel Knaggs. Never heard of him. Now that you've outed him, ja sure, I vill be zeeking heem out on za Google.
    Adams is THE MAN in American Serious *ss Composers, f'sure. I wept during "Oppenheimer."
    But like all things maleable in liturgy, the influence of high-ticket art is at best hit or miss. That's why I chuckle whenever we hear people extolling Part, Lauridsen, Whitacre et al, not to mention Gorecki, Lutolawski and Matt Maher.
    (Just seeing if anyone's awake!)
    I wonder and hope if perhaps we're in an era like the ars nova and early renaissance through the baroque, where some of us plebes' opi will be more viable a number of generations down the road....?
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,164
    JQ, you identified the problem: practically all the contemporary composers named are simply not sacred composers (or should I say sacred music composers?) or at least are not primarily so by a long shot - some have offered up a few works, some hardly any, if at all.

    For example, Whitacre, whose music I highly respect and love, seems to eschew composing sacred music - the closest thing being "Lux Aurumque" which is a translation into Latin of a short English poem by Edward Esch ("Light / warm and heavy / as pure gold / and the angels sing softly / to the newborn babe.), so perhaps it's religious, but some would question whether it is sacred. Lauridsen made a killing with his "O magnum mysterium" but how many other choral works of his do people know? It's difficult for a Polish composer such as Gorecki or Penderecki not to compose sacred music, but the fame of the better known of these composers rests largely on concert works, most of them instrumental. And so it goes...

    Who are the good composers who are known primarily for their sacred/religious compositions?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    Well, Pärt seems to be known at least as much for his sacred music as for his other works.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,164
    I agree about Pärt, although I'm not sure just how widely accepted he is (I've heard of some people not being able to get into his music). On the other hand, I recall someone who thought all of Handel's music was trash when compared with the music of Bach. I suppose that then flies in the face of the contention that sacred music is supposed to have a universal appeal?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700
    Part - minimalism - nice, but minimal.. his music is very mystical, will give him that.

    Gorecki, the same

    Lauridsen? the american Rutter... not serious enough to be considered in the rank of heavy weight

    Adams? ? ? ?

    Mozart and Haydn... I don't consider either as composers of sacred music.

    Do I have ANYONE I would uphold as a truly serious composer of sacred music? Will have to rack my brain about that.
  • Whoa there, FK, that there scattergun o' yers' barrel is a-smokin'!
    Inhale slow, through the nose, out the mouth, repeat five times.
    Ah, Grasshoppa, much betta now.

    There's nothing "wrong" about reducing some folks' names to a word association or Rorschach exercize, if one treats it as the game that it is. But knowing you as the intensely dedicated Christian soul you truly are, Francis, I don't think you'd be all that comfortable being on the other side of that coin. I've always begged us all, even if I've not followed my own advice, to debate the composition's merit, not the composer. And, as this thread's intent should remind us, we should use different lenses and tools (telescopes v. microscopes) for each of those works.
    As Chuck mentioned the Poles, I wouldn't dismiss out of hand the "Khatchaturian notion" that the Polish-Catholic heritage of intense faithfulness had no direct influence or witness in their large works for the stage, minimalist....neo-Stravinkyist...whatever "school" one might consign their work to. I would refer us all back to the address Metropolitan Hilarion gave the Benjamin School/CUA students a couple of years back regarding this factor in the debate.
    The two pieces of Whitacre and Lauridsen that Chuck also mentioned I've conducted when I was teaching. When we, as composers, stand afar and look at their bio's and catalogs, we can choose to make pronouncements about their religiosity or not. However, if you're the conductor (and think about all the implications of the word "conductor"), a singer, or an audience member, the composer's rep or rap sheet is totally irrelevant. And it ain't for nothing in my life back then to have conducted L's "O magnum.." in the critical presence of L's major patron, Paul Salamunovich. You don't mess with the Salamunovich, he knows from chant and sacred. He's forgotten more about chant to the tune of how much JMO has learned in his time on the planet. And it hardly benefits anyone to throw L or W's name into a basket named "Rutter" or "Lloyd-Webber" on so many levels. Again, I may not see any merit to Rutter's "For the beauty of the earth" in my bailywick, but I sure as heck won't discard his "Requiem" to the dustbin because of that. Add to that the reality that folks like Rutter, like MacMillan and likely hundreds of others (Clausen, Stroope, Libby Larsen, John Leavitt, Craig Courtney et al), have long histories of service as church choirmasters as well as scholastic/artistic writers.
    I really don't want this to appear as a rant, Francis, or even a correction. But you asked a very interesting question of yourself: who "qualifies" as a composer of sacred music that you would uphold? Allow me to turn that question around on you- who doesn't? As an example, I mentioned Thomas Newman (of that famed family of film scorers.) His score for the HBO presentation of "Angels in America" (don't get hung up on the play or its content) is a magnum opus in my estimation of modern composition, and again, I almost weep everytime I hear it as I'm walking around with it on my iPhone at its sheer beauty. For me, it's truly inspired; by God, the Creator. It changes me for the better. I don't quite get the same feeling if I'm taking in Metallica's "Enter Sandman" or the Stone's "Sympathy for the Devil."
    Right now I'm pretty immersed in one Jeff Ostrowski's Psalter for Year B. And to answer your question as put: JMO makes the cut. YMMV.

    I met Daniel and his family via the FSA competition we both won. He's since gone on to win prizes all over the place...last one in Italy for 5000 euros. He's a fine human and Catholic, a fine composer, and I love to say good things about him...because it's the only way I can keep the little green monster at bay. ;-)
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700

    No correction needed, or taken.

    I am not speaking about any human here... just my take on their compositional technique and mastery... not their personal dedication to the Faith or their spirituality.

    I guess I am looking for the heavyweights of Catholic Sacred Music to appear. I will have to look up the list of comps from those you mention-can you give me a list of the BEST top ten that you consider timeless comps? Ones that could become part of the permanent treasure of sacred music? At the level of Palestrina or Victoria or ...Bach?

    My 20th Century stars were Stravinksy, Barber, Debussy, perhaps Rachmaninoff and Reger, Holst, Copeland, and maybe a couple of handful of others on this list:

    But from the list of those I mention, I consider them middle weights at best. Just my take. Of course my standards for finding the heavy weights are really based in the higher forms of polyphonic writing, so, there aren't many who I find fit that category these days. Kind of a lost art, don't you think?

    I think music composition went downhill after the Renaissance and the Baroque for the most part. There are very few masters of the craft since then. Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn are definitely a hybrid of the emerging Romantic era, which dropped the ball on advancing sacred music IMHO.

    JO does have a good handle on the chant form, I must say that! Bravo JO!!!! At some point I do hope to have much more time immersing myself in that art...

    There was a composer that Curtis put up here a few months back (in one of his recordings) that actually blew my mind... was highly contrapuntal and demonstrated an incredible facility for writing 21st century polyphonic music... can't remember who it was though.

    BTW... I did a search for the word 'sacred' on that wiki list (above) and ONLY THREE were classified as composing such... what a tragedy!!!!!
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,992
    " Of course my standards for finding the heavy weights are really based in the higher forms of polyphonic writing".

    That is tremendously limiting. I do think sacred choral music in the 20th century is overall quite better - more properly liturgical - than in the Classical and Romantic eras (which is not to say there are no pearls from those eras, but Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is not properly liturgical sacred choral music). I do get tired of the sustained note-cluster school of sacred choral minimalism, though; it's a trick that needs to be reserved for short, distilled texts. The influence of Eastern and even Oriental (I think here of Alan Hovhaness, who brought Armenian chant influences into the Western sacred music mainstream) Christianity, as well as the revival of Gregorian chant, and elevated embraces (in the US) of seemingly "primitive" sacred music forms of aboriginal Americans, white spirituals (aka shape note music, but with roots going back further than that) and African-American sacred music, have all contributed to a great revival of sacred music. It's just that Catholic cathedrals and parishes are not generally patronizing this revival, and are missing out. Thomas Day might suggest a cultural explanation for this.
  • "I do get tired of the sustained note-cluster school of sacred choral minimalism"
    Don't even get me going...uh, too late. There's no emotion without motion, there's no motion without harmonic change, there's no harmonic change when there's nothing to change to because you're already there.
  • I don't know where this places me, but I actually get what JQ just said and am, if true, very down with that. Now that's not to say that Liam's point is not well taken as well about the excesses of Part and Tavener in certain of their works. (for example, there are sections of the former's MISERERE that are beyond tedium, and, OTOH, moments of sheer brilliance in his TE DEUM. So what's new?)
    I dunno if it was here or at Cafe, but I brought up Barber's ADADIO. If what I'm reading from JQ's quote above, that work is a progenitor of that ethos. On a smaller scale, as I've mentioned, JMO's very subtle and deliberate harmonic shifts via well prepared clusters and suspensions, along with a purposed bass movement also illustrate JQ's point.
    Regading Liam's other notion, I also concur that in the Big Tent Catholic Church, there should be room for the occasional foray into the breadth of choral traditions of sacred musics globally.
    IIRC, Adam Wood's rightfully big objection is that there's way too many suburban or post-urban music ministers that think belting out Crouch's "Soon and very soon" is the pinnacle Advent achievement. That's not an example of "white man's burden," rather "dumb guy's burden."
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700

    Beethoven did not write higher forms of polyphony. He composed layers of homophony with extraneous melodies ala Mozart. da-da-da-daaaaaaa! Where did you get the impression I even LIKE Beethoven! The classical era is when sacred music started going over the cliff. (I don't even own his 5th) Learned to play it on piano once a long time ago just to see what was in it.

    Sacred Choral minimalism comes from those who are trying to swim back to the island of authentic music through the experimental sea that swallowed them earlier in life.


    Do I hear John Cage Catholic?

    Is this the sadest thing you would ever want to see on your wiki page (as a composer)?

    "Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played. The content of the composition is meant to be perceived as the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed,[8] rather than merely as four minutes and 33 seconds of silence,[9] and the piece became one of the most controversial compositions of the 20th century."

    Best known for producing nothing... now that's a statement!

    Your comment is too much... Look at it this way... it might help.

    You're already there when you arrive and you're never leaving!


    I do not look for 'moments of sheer brilliance' in music. It has to be brilliant from measure one all the way to the thick double bar at the very end. Otherwise, it belongs in the sketchbook. BTW... I like some of Arvo's work. I just think I would never perform it. His Te Deum is interesting and so is his Beatitudes. I think they could be categorized as severely advanced minimalism. Litany also kinda falls in this category, yes? Starting at 10:46, he writes a minor pedal all the way to the end to 22:58! That's 12 minutes of hanging around one chord with ornamentation.

    Are you familiar with the music of the Liber Organi? Much of it is very simple to play, but most all of it is quite brilliant! Look at Martini's Elevazione... hint of romantic, but very well composed.

    (returning AK47 back on the sling. ;() )
  • I'm not entirely sure I was comprehended. My problem with choral clusters (and clusters in general) is that they don't create motion, because there aren't enough notes to change to. Consider the difference between a I-V progression and a I-iii progression. The former sounds stronger, because you're changing 2 notes instead of 1. If you're using 8 different pitches, there are only 4 more to change to.

    Sure, that style evokes timelessness. But at my age, I'd like as much time as I can get. There'll be time enough to write "for the end of time" when God is giving out the commissions.

    And no, I don't see the Barber Adagio as minimalist at all. There are lots better examples if you're looking for a progenitor of that style, starting with Perotin.
  • JQ, then we both misunderstood each other...
    *I didn't link Barber to minimalism at all, that would be heresy. Anything by Barber drives a stake through the heart of Glass every day of the week.
    *Your point about tension/resolution via voice movement is spot on; learned that big-time at 15 studying Miles Davis. However, I don't believe the issue centers around density of clusters, and how that obfuscates/obscures the power of voice movement.
    *So, as always, "success" is determined by the expertise, craft and intent of the composer, one. And then the response of the performing and listening public. We could yak until the cows come home (sorry) about whether the clusters of Whitacre and Lauridsen (the Pacific contingent) disperse more profoundly and interestingly than does the North Sea contingent (Part/Taverner). To what end?
    *That's why I cite both the ADAGIO and the more modest examples of Ostrowski's accompaniments: the melody in extremis motives in the Barber are more than complemented, they are achingly held up by single angels of specific harmonic pitches that shift very subtley as the melody moves to a terminus. To me, that's timelessness. And romantic in the truest sense.
    *And my taste leans towards that romanticism because it includes "humanity" in the equation, a heart so to speak. So, I'll take Barber and antecedents like Alf Houkam and William Hawley any day over .... well, you know.
    *Lastly, I'd like to mention that left out in the cold from this discussion are the harmonic marvels of the Balkan and neo-Orthodox traditions (Bulgarian State Women's Radio Choir!) Oi vey, incredible! (said with l'accent Francaise)
  • "However, I don't believe the issue centers around density of clusters, and how that obfuscates/obscures the power of voice movement. "
    Density itself obscures voice movement; it's not like Spem in Alium is a model of clarity. But what I was addressing was the power of the unused pitch. You could see this as a hierarchy: 1). diatonic pitches unused in the present harmony 2.) chromatic pitches with a simple relationship to the key (secondary dominants mostly), and 3.) pitches exogenous to the key (bVI, bIII, bII, #4, esp. as roots). The farther out a musical event is on this continuum, the more WHAM it has. But that impact depends on the freshness of the material. If you clusterize the diatonic scale, you've essentially eliminated one level of possible WHAM, and you have to go to chromatics to get any sense of motion. Put the whole chromatic into constant and undifferentiated rotation, and you have NOWHERE to go for surprise (which is the problem with atonality). Now, there are ways to compensate, with density, dissonance load, rate of rhythm, dynamics etc. But that's like a blind person compensating with sharper hearing; they'd still be better off with sight, and composers are better off IMHO with all those tricks PLUS a functioning system of harmonic motion.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700
    JQ said

    Sure, that style evokes timelessness. But at my age, I'd like as much time as I can get. There'll be time enough to write "for the end of time" when God is giving out the commissions.


    And I agree... Barber is very far from minimalism.


    I would LOVE to see your top ten of all time (20th Century Comps Sacred)
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700
    Worth noting in Colin's homepage:

    Because, however, of his increasing dissatisfaction with the prevailing atonal style of composition, he returned composing tonal music in The Phoenix and the Turtle, a work written in response to a commission from Musica Viva for the 1974 Australian tour of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under Neville Marriner.

    This work marked a lasting change of compositional style for Brumby, who said at the time, 'I became convinced that the atonal style of composition attempted to elevate gibberish to an art-form, and that I wanted no further part in it.'

    Thank God, I never wasted time composing a single note in that nonsense.
  • Isn't "nonsense" and "gibberish" overstating the case? Some of it does sound like words imply, but have you never been moved by the music of Messian, Langlais, or Britten?
  • Well, some of Messiaen is atonal (not a lot) but I don't recall hearing any Langlais or Britten that I would call atonal.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700
    Messian dabbles in a spirituality that is foreign to Christianity and weaves it into his music. His craft borders on that which strays from the roots of sacred music. His music is powerful and enticing, but I think it could also be something that leads us from the roots of sacred music. There should be decades of analysis and discernment before we accept his music as part of the true body of sacred music.

    Langlais does not compose nonsense, nor does Britten.

    We are speaking of atonal noise here, not contemporary music. There is a world of difference between the two.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Messiaen really didn't write much sacred music.
  • Not much LITURGICAL music anyway.
    I think that all my choral music is sacred. However, not all of it has been Christian.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 756
    I rather like Pierrot Lunaire, tho' I grant the approach might not work liturgically. Still, it would be fun to try, and perhaps the Propers would be a good place to begin.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700

    never heard of him... will have to look him up.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,164
    It's a rather (in)famous piece by Schoenberg.

    I daren't say too much, since I've been known to use a tone row and polytonality occasionally. However, I don't regard any of my works as atonal. I have also used octatonic modes at times.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 756

    Sorry about that - I should have used an emoticon, but I don't think there is one for tongue-in-cheek! On the wider issue, despite being a tonal hack in my own occasional work - maybe stretching to the odd cluster and whole-tone scale - I like as a listener to explore music that stretches the boundaries, even if many of the attempts to do so in the last century were an aesthetic dead-end (e.g. integral serialism) or risable (e.g. Stockhausen's Stimmung). Enough of it works and moves (e.g. Messiaen) to be worth listening to, and persevering with if necessary (think learning to drink bitter beer). None of that, though, is to deny the constraints of various kinds - of tradition, reception and practical considerations - that operate in a liturgical context, tho' that shouldn't prevent development of style and technique: medieval polyphony was, after all, a novelty, albeit one that grew organically from chant.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700

    i studied under jean ivey at the peabody and gordon cyr at Towson State U, both who were great advocates of atonal and experimental music. the peabody (at that time, in the 80's) had relegated music as a means to its own end. i was speaking to someone about this the other day. much of the 20th century experimental composition was a kind of turning into self. composers (at least at the peabody) created a vaccuum among their own kind. the beautiful art of music was reduced to a means of self expression and 'aural manipulative technique' and a Godless descent within that was void of meaning or any kind of reach beyond a pursuit of creating "sound on a timeline". that was the goal. this kind of turning in is a reflection of what unfolded in our society in general, and tragically foisted itself upon the liturgy. we saw this in the total rejection of all things traditional, the facing "inwards" of the priest towards the people, and an experimental attitude toward things sacred. anything goes. as the great platonic truth bears out, music precedes and shapes society. the madness of early 20th century music flowered into the grotesque, the fruit of which has matured into widespread sexual scandal and amorality which ultimately birthed the freaks of relativism and syncretism that pervade our society and our Church.

    it has escaped me for my whole life... i cannot get used to bitter beer. have tried over the years. o well.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700
    looked up Pierrot Lunaire

    perhaps he was simply one of the demons 'within' that tormented shoenberg. the first descending vocal trill about 10 seconds in sent shivers through my being and i had to abort the listening immediately. demonic to the core.

    just looked up the text...

    here's a telling phrase:

    "So this music is pervaded By a morbid deathly charm. Wild ecstatic harmonies Disguise the icy touch of doom"

    jeeez! he got that right!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Francis, most of your comments on this thread seem to be saying, more or less, that every composer is inadequate, except you. That can't possibly be something you would would say, so I just wanted to mention that this is how you're coming across...
  • francis
    Posts: 10,700

    i am a sinner like the rest of the composers in this world. none is adequate in the sight of God. unfortunately, i am embarrassed by my participation in the destruction of sacred music in my ignorant years. i was at one time writing the ditties i now see as totally innapropriate. i was involved in rock masses in the 80's. may God have mercy on my soul! But I have come to my senses only by the grace of God and especially through our Blessed Mother. she knocked me off the horse of my wayward thinking back in the early 90's and i am ever so grateful to her. She has now given me the courage to expose the works of darkness similar to those I once was party to create.

    as for adequate in terms of musicality, who in the 20th century do you hold up as a model? it was a troubling century for sacred music, don't you agree?

    As for the Church's preference in liturgical music, well, some of us do try to uphold her wishes. there are a ton of excellent composer's of sacred music... i suspect you don't need me to list them. among our own here we have the obvious ones who are certainly gifted, devoted and able, and I count it a blessing that I know them.
  • Well, it WAS a bad century for Catholic sacred music, overall; worse than the 18th or 19th c. (Not at all a bad century for ANGLICAN sacred music though). And those of us who studied composition in the '70s and '80s have our tales of trauma to tell. But it's always darkest just before the dawn.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 756

    I think you’re confusing different things here, and perhaps it would help to consider an analogy with visual art. Do I think Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” would work as ecclesiastical art? No. Do I appreciate it as a powerful, moving expression of anguish? Yes. I don’t hold those positions in tension: they are completely different judgements.

    As for bitter beer: I’m sorry you tastes don’t run to it, but pleased to see you don’t confuse that judgement with any moral or liturgical imperatives.