Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Musica Sacra since 1969

This article has been referenced numerous times in the last 10 days, but was not available online until this morning.

A well-known and highly respected Scots composer, James MacMillan:

In recent times the Church has developed uneasy relations with its musicians. Growing up in the 1960s and 70s I was aware of a creeping separation between my serious engagement with the study of music, the application and practice of assiduously honed skills, and what the Church seemed to need and want for its liturgy.

I soon discovered that most serious Catholic musicians were being repulsed by an increasingly rigid misinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s reforms on music. Clergy and "liturgists" began expressing a scarcely veiled disdain for the very expertise and learning that musicians had sought to acquire. Serious musicians were more and more caricatured as elitists, reactionaries and Tridentinists by a new philistinism in the Church. Many of those who were not subdued into a state of quietism defected to Anglican and Lutheran parishes where their skills as organists, choral directors and singers were greatly appreciated.

These other churches now regard the Catholic Church as having engaged in a cultural vandalism in the 1960s and 70s – a destructive iconoclasm which wilfully brought to an end any remnant of its massive choral tradition and its skilful application to liturgical use. In short, music in the Catholic Church is referred to with sniffs of justified derision by these other denominations which have managed to maintain high standards of music-making in their divine services.

No question about it. And serious musicians who could quote Paras. 36 & 54 from the Document on the Liturgy were considered dangerous infiltrators.

But the author is optimistic:

There is a new momentum building in the Church which could be directed to bringing about this new, creative “reform of the reform”. Part of that momentum comes from a widespread disgust at what was described recently as “aisle-dancing and numbskull jogging for Jesus choruses at Mass”. The days of embarrassing, maudlin and sentimental dirges such as “Bind us together Lord” and “Make me a channel of your peace” may indeed be numbered.

Are we seeing the end days for overhead projectors, screaming microphones and fluorescent lighting and their concomitant music, complete with incompetently strummed guitars and cringe-making, smiley, cheesy folk groups?

Or even less desirable ones...

Liturgy as social engineering has probably repulsed more people from the modern Catholic Church than any of the usual list of “social crimes” trotted out by the Church’s critics. Like most ideas shaped by 1960s Marxist sociology, it has proved an utter failure. Its greatest tragedy is the wilful, de-poeticisation of Catholic worship. Our liturgy was hi-jacked by opportunists who used the vacuum created by the Council to push home a radical agenda of de-sacralisation and, ultimately, secularisation.

The Church has simply aped the secular West’s obsession with “accessibility”, “inclusiveness”, “democracy” and “anti-elitism”. The effect of this on liturgy has been a triumph of bad taste and banality and an apparent vacating of the sacred spaces of any palpable sense of the presence of God. The jury is still out on any “social gains” achieved by the Church as a result

Ah, yes.."inclusiveness." Gay Marriage, anyone? "Dumbing Down" the schools, anyone?

He cites not only SC, but Musicam Sacram, affirming Chant, choirs, polyphony...

It is clear, therefore, that Vatican II did not abolish choirs, the great choral tradition, Gregorian chant, organs, prayerful liturgy, or even Latin. In fact as the documents make clear here, all these things are positively encouraged. So who did abolish them?

In this country, we could start with the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, which was first chaired by Rembert Weakland, OSB...

1 comment:

Susan Westberg said...

Just thinking about the music that I have been subjected to since my conversion to the Catholic faith makes my eyeballs roll in the back of my head and it makes me twitch. I get on by letting my mind wander--letting my mind and spirit take me back to another time and place and humming the beautiful sacred music in my head. If I don't do this the next time they start to sing Here I am Lord, I just might cry because its one sad and sick piece of drivel.