Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jumping Back Into the Pool of Musical Styles

Good day to all. Last night I attended a parish mission presentation given by Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS. Brother Mickey has several books published here at WLP. He projects his artwork on a large screen during the presentation, telling stories and sharing his own deep faith and spirituality. I was inspired beyond measure. Mickey brought us to tears, to laughter, and to true conversion. If you have never seen Mickey's art, think about purchasing one of his books. Here are two I recommend: At the Name of Jesus; Blessed Art Thou. His book, Jesus A to Z, is terrific for children. 

Well, I am going to step back into the musical style pool again this morning. A recent anonymous poster said this: "In other words, just because GIA (for example) offers a few chant pieces, that doesn't make up for all the music they offer that has been forbidden by the Church for liturgical use." As a publisher of music for the Roman Catholic Church, I cannot allow this kind of information, or misinformation, to float out there without issuing some kind of challenge. I am coming to the defense WLP's good friends at GIA. Can someone point me to the specific document or action taken by Church authorities wherein music offered by a publisher "has been forbidden by the Church for liturgical use"? 


Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...


Chris said...

There actually was a blacklist several decades ago, which had its own roots in the publication of Tra le sollecitudini. See http://www.musicasacra.com/pdf/blacklist.pdf . The Musica Sacra site references this link as "for archival purposes only." There was also a (possibly corresponding) white list: http://www.musicasacra.com/pdf/whitelist1947.pdf

I know of nothing more recent than these and frankly, I'm largely in agreement with you. GIA's Gather contains a large selection of traditional and Gregorian music to go along with its large selection of more modern music, for example. Even OCP's Flor y canto (which I don't like nearly as much) has several traditional and Gregorian pieces -- and OCP provides many other publications that could supplement this if only music directors, choirs, and the faithful would accede to the occasional traditional or ancient piece.

I'll repeat: the problem lies not in the admission of modern music but in the near exclusion of traditional pieces. The major publishers, all of whom provide wide selections of both, are not at the root of this difficulty.

Copernicus said...

I'd be surprised if anyone could come up with a convincing response. Claims about what is "forbidden" usually come from a subjective and selective reading of the liturgical documents, and regrettably take the place of what would undoubtedly achieve so much more in the long term, namely leading by example.

I see that Pope Benedict will celebrate the Mass of Pentecost this year to the accompaniment (I think that's the right way to put it) of Haydn's Harmoniemesse. By the standards of Tra Le Sollecitudine or the writings of Pope John Paul II, or of Sacrosanctum Concilium for that matter, it would be hard to view Haydn's magnificent work as 'good' liturgical music. Take the Agnus Dei, for instance: liturgically speaking, it's a penitential litany, yet in Haydn's version it ends with a triumphal march. And the whole piece has no objective connection with our chant heritage: its musical style, idioms, motifs and forces are unequivocally those of the late-18th century concert hall and opera house.

In using it within the Mass, Pope Benedict is showing himself, with his characteristic discretion and understatement, to be an apologist for liturgical diversity. (Haydn's a long way from Palestrina!) The same might be argued to be one of the aims of Summorum Pontificum.

For Pope Benedict the key quality we need to discover, rediscover and preserve, is beauty. And that's a laudable aspiration for all liturgical musicians, regardless of their stylistic proclivities. To my mind, beauty in diversity is a proper mark of a truly Catholic Church.

Chironomo said...

Okay, I'll take the bait here...

There is a considerable dispute about what kind of music is a)advocated by the Church b)permitted by the Church, and c)discouraged by the Church for liturgical use. When particular groups of individuals talk about "banned" by the Church, in the contemporary context that would mean discouraged by the Church for liturgical use. You are right in saying that the Church doesn't currently have a "Black List"...they seem to assume that those responsible for music preparation will be responsible in their selection.

I know it is "disputed", but I still contend that music that is obviously rooted in popular music styles is discouraged by the Church for liturgical use. This would apply to selections such as D. Haas's "We Are Called", James Moore's "A New Song", Bob Hurd's "I Want To Praise Your Name"...the list goes on and on. All of these are promoted by GIA (and OCP).

Songs which make use of texts that have been "bowdlerized"... i.e "Gender Neutral" texts. This practice is very clearly denounced in Liturgiam Authenticam as follows:

31. In particular: to be avoided is the systematic resort to imprudent solutions such as a mechanical substitution of words, the transition from the singular to the plural, the splitting of a unitary collective term into masculine and feminine parts, or the introduction of impersonal or abstract words, all of which may impede the communication of the true and integral sense of a word or an expression in the original text. Such measures introduce theological and anthropological problems into the translation. Some particular norms are the following:

a) In referring to almighty God or the individual persons of the Most Holy Trinity, the truth of tradition as well as the established gender usage of each respective language are to be maintained.
And yet...in selection after selection in Gather we get the following types of reworkings:

Psalm 34 (Original Version)

I will bless the Lord at all times,
His praise shall always be on my lips.
My soul shall glory in the Lord
For he has been so good to me.

Psalm 34 (GIA Version)

I will bless the Lord at all times.
Praise shall always be on muy lips;
My soul shall glory in the Lord
For God has been so good to me.
This type of "neutering" occurs in selections throughout Gather. Would you not say that this type of alteration very clearly violates LA #31? Would you say that since this is music, LA doesn't apply? LA says that it very definitely applies to music:

61. Texts that are intended to be sung are particularly important because they convey to the faithful a sense of the solemnity of the celebration, and manifest unity in faith and charity by means of a union of voices.[40] The hymns and canticles contained in the modern editiones typicae constitute a minimal part of the historic treasury of the Latin Church, and it is especially advantageous that they be preserved in the printed vernacular editions, even if placed there in addition to hymns composed originally in the vernacular language. The texts for singing that are composed originally in the vernacular language would best be drawn from Sacred Scripture or from the liturgical patrimony.The point being that LA clearly sees it's provisions as applying to sung texts. And so...would songs with texts such as discussed above be advocated for liturgical use? I would say no, and I would claim instead that they are clearly discouraged if not outright "disallowed". And yet, there they are in Gather....page after page.

Anonymous said...

How about the case of the "Lamb of God" settings that include texts other than "Lamb of God..."? The GIRM specifically gives the text and says that may be repeated as often as necessary, but there is no mention of other texts being substituted. Same goes for the Sacramentary. Both of these are official books of the Church.

Why then all of these "other invocations" presented for use in Mass settings that are published? Where did those come from? I looked in the latest USCCB document and it says that other invocations may be used if the Agnus Dei is sung "as a litany"...but that conflicts with the actual law set out in the GIRM and the Sacramentary, and since the USCCB document did not receive approval from the Holy See, those two documents would have to take precedence. I'm sitting here looking at two different Mass settings that include these other verses.

Chironomo said...

Copernicus says;

"In using it (the Hayd Harmoniemesse) within the Mass, Pope Benedict is showing himself, with his characteristic discretion and understatement, to be an apologist for liturgical diversity. (Haydn's a long way from Palestrina!) The same might be argued to be one of the aims of Summorum Pontificum."

Hmmm... not sure where you would be going with such a claim. The kind of Liturgical Diversity implied by Summorum Pontificum is likely not what is generally promoted as liturgical diversity in a modern sense. I'm reminded of the famous line from The Blues Brothers:

"We play two kinds of music here... Country...and Western!"

And so it goes in Sacrosanctum Concilium...

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should 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.
Now... we might wish that it said "other kinds of music including Polyphony, Broadway and popular ballads are by no means excluded..." but it doesn't say that. It says "other kinds of Sacred Music, especially polyphony". I think the diversity that is both implied and advocated here is a bit more restricted than some may want to admit. To claim otherwise requires an interpretation so loose as to be meaningless.

I would be interested in hearing Pope Benedict's reply if asked whether a Mass setting such as Bob Hurd's "Mass of Glory" is as suitable for liturgical use as Haydn's Harmoniemesse. I don't presume to speak for His Holiness, but....I might be able to imagine the answer. I don't think the Pope's use of this work implies his being an apologist for liturgical diversity!

Anonymous said...

Blah, Blah, Blah, Polyphony. Blah, Blah, Blah GIRM. Blah, Blah, Blah, LA

Matthew 25:34-46

Chironomo said...

Wow Anonymous...

I finally understand the progressive position on liturgical music now that you have summarized it so eloquently. What you seem to be saying is that you don't care WHAT the documents say, it's all irrelevant to you.

Anonymous said...

Chironomo, I don't know that your anonymous foil has articulated the progressive position so much as poked a little fun.

You seem to be in denial about the repeated documentation placed before you. It would seem all of us need to get over the fact that neither Rome nor the Holy Spirit do our musical programming for us. It will require work, prudence, judgment, and personal commitment to excellence. It does not come canned in either our repsective gurus nor their documentation.

Styles of music remain in dispute in the larger church with no discernible signs of banishment in the offing. Next topic, please?


Chironomo said...

Well there are certainly some here who are in denial about the Church's liturgical documents.

I had to "get over" the entire progressive-liturgy movement years ago...about the time that it began to get tiring to the people in the pews as well.

And when you continue to say that "Styles of music remain in dispute"...is this just another way of saying that not everyone agrees with what the Church has proscribed? I don't find liturgical documents ambiguous at all. The only thing in dispute is the decision of whether to adhere to what such documents say, or to wander off onto one's own tangent via "interpretations" of those same documents.

I would agree about moving on to the next topic... perhaps we could choose one where the argument can be made from facts instead of falling back on arguments from opinion or reliance on "reverse justification" such that because something has been done for a while, it must be the correct thing to do. Simply incredible that people still buy into that...

Anonymous said...

Are we talking TEXT here or MUSIC style?

If we are talking musical style, Jerry G., just read the documents (Pius X, Vatican II, Pius XII, Benedict, John Paul II, Arinze, etc.) and compare the GIA catalogue. All will become very clear.

Anonymous said...

I think we all need to remember that every liturgical document was written in a context. "Popular" or "secular" music is a changing animal. There was a time when polyphony and operatic/oratorio style were "popular" or "secular." There was also a time when the organ was not an "approved" instrument for liturgy.

Anonymous said...

Just a reminder, the "original text" of Psalm 34 contained no words--pronouns or otherwise--in English. Tell us about the Hebrew words, please!