Friday, November 30, 2007

Sing to the Lord--A Brief Critique, And On the Other Hand...

Well, it starts out OK, even providing as a citation Musicae Sacrae Disciplina--but curiously omitting the work of Pius X, whose writings on the topic are arguably the touchstone for all further discussion of the topic of Sacred and liturgical music.

It is clear that there were two or three (maybe more) "hands" which wrote the document, because there are far too many vague, unclear, directionless (or bi-directional) statements. It's a bit heavy on verbage and very light on definitions.

Some quick observations follow.

In #29, the authors allow the camel's nose into the tent:

Choirs (and ensembles—another form of choir that commonly includes a combination
of singers and instrumentalists
) exercise their ministry in various ways

So far, there's no 'splanation of what "instrumentalists" might be inappropriate. "Ensembles" arise again in #42 with no clear modifying terms.

They are also vague here:

Other Mass parts may also be sung in dialogue or alternation, especially the Gloria, the Creed, and the three processional songs: the Entrance, the Preparation of the Gifts, and Communion.

This formulation does not specifically mention "Propers," (and in most missalettes the Offertory Proper is not even printed.) In fact, the Introit and Communio Propers ARE set up for verses (sung to a psalm-tone) and antiphon (usually more complex Chant.) Too bad it wasn't specifically mentioned. (Later, the 'Preparation of the Gifts' processional disappears!)

Compromises abound. In #30, we read:

The choir may draw on the treasury of sacred music, singing compositions by composers of various periods and in various musical styles, as well as music that expresses the faith of the various cultures that enrich the Church.

"Various styles" is overly broad. It certainly cannot be supported based on the teachings of Pius X, (nor of Pius XII,) who were explicit in mentioning Chant and Chant-based music first...

Also in #30 we see:

The music of the choir must always be appropriate to the Liturgy, either by being a proper liturgical text or by expressing themes appropriate to the Liturgy.

Which is also overly vague, allowing "various styles" to include all sorts of things. No mention of the gravitas of the Mass here, which would be a useful insertion.

On Page 27, the document mentions Latin. should be taken to foster the role of Latin in the Liturgy, particularly in liturgical
song. Pastors should ensure “that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin
those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”

Which is good. But it's followed by this:

Whenever the Latin language poses an obstacle to singers, even after sufficient
training has been provided—for example, in pronunciation, understanding of the text, or
confident rendition of a piece—it would be more prudent to employ a vernacular language in the

Meaning what, exactly? Maybe this:

In promoting the use of Latin in the Liturgy, pastors should always “employ that form
of participation which best matches the capabilities of each congregation".

In Section III, the document discusses 'different kinds of music for the liturgy.'

“Sacred music is to be considered the more holy the more closely connected it is with
the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or
conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.” This holiness involves ritual and spiritual
dimensions, both of which must be considered within cultural context.

68. The ritual dimension of sacred music refers to those ways in which it is “connected
with the liturgical action” so that it accords with the structure of the Liturgy and expresses the
shape of the rite. The musical setting must allow the rite to unfold with the proper participation
of the assembly and its ministers, without overshadowing the words and actions of the Liturgy.

Yes--although since sacred music (by definition) uses words of the Liturgy, it can hardly 'overshadow' the words of the Liturgy.

69. The spiritual dimension of sacred music refers to its inner qualities that enable it to
add greater depth to prayer, unity to the assembly, or dignity to the ritual. Sacred music is holy
when it mediates the holiness of God and forms the Holy People of God more fully into
communion with him and with each other in Christ.

We're waiting for the term "beauty" to show up here......

70. The cultural context refers to the setting in which the ritual and spiritual dimensions
come into play. Factors such as the age, spiritual heritage, and cultural and ethnic background of
a given liturgical assembly must be considered. The choice of individual compositions for
congregational participation will often depend on those ways in which a particular group finds it
best to join their hearts and minds to the liturgical action.

And we're also waiting for the concept of "educating the Faithful."

But the authors DID quote V2 accurately:

The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman
Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical
services.” Gregorian chant is uniquely the Church’s own music. Chant is a living connection
with our forebears in the faith, the traditional music of the Roman rite, a sign of communion with
the universal Church, a bond of unity across cultures, a means for diverse communities to
participate together in song, and a summons to contemplative participation in the Liturgy

And then comes the "on the other hand":

73. The “pride of place” given to Gregorian chant by the Second Vatican Council is
modified by the important phrase “other things being equal.”69 These “other things” are the
important liturgical and pastoral concerns facing every bishop, pastor, and liturgical musician. In
considering the use of the treasures of chant, pastors and liturgical musicians should take care
that the congregation is able to participate in the Liturgy with song. They should be sensitive to

the cultural and spiritual milieu of their communities, in order to build up the Church in unity
and peace

Holding two dissimilar objectives continues here:

75. Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all
ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as
Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants
have been mastered

The Pater Noster should take an average adult about 6 weeks to learn, if they hear it every week.

76. “The assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Proper of the Mass as
much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.” When the
congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn
, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum
might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well

The red above is an interesting formulation because it implies that "hymns or antiphons" are equally valid substitutes for Propers. They aren't, of course. Propers are the FIRST option, and the order of options actually is significant in formal discourse.

Whenever a choir sings in Latin, it is helpful to provide the congregation with a vernacular translation so that they are able to “unite themselves interiorly” to what the choir sings.

Meaning that OCP will actually print the Offertory versicle in future missalettes?

The document switches back and forth from "liturgical music" to "sacred music" without carefully explaining the difference between the two--and there IS a difference, principally in use. Sacred music uses texts from Scripture or the text of the Missal. Liturgical music may use those texts, but almost always is an adaptation of those texts. Further, "liturgical" music can be used in non-Mass devotions (Hours, Marian devotions, Holy Hours)--sacred music cannot.

There's also no mention of "hymnody" proper, another genre altogether, which might be included in "liturgical" music in this document--but who knows?

Regarding new compositions, the document is equally, ah, fuzzy:

83. The Church never ceases to find new ways to sing her love for God each new day.
The Sacred Liturgy itself, in its actions and prayers, best makes known the forms in which
compositions will continue to evolve. Composers find their inspiration in Sacred Scripture, and
especially in the texts of the Sacred Liturgy, so that their works flow from the Liturgy itself.76

Moreover, “to be suitable for use in the Liturgy, a sung text must not only be doctrinally correct, but must in itself be an expression of the Catholic faith.” Therefore, “liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about faith which are untrue.”77 Only within this scriptural, liturgical, and creedal context is the composer who is aware of the Church’s long journey through human history and “who is profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae” properly equipped “to perceive and express in melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy.”78 No matter what the genre of music, liturgical beauty emanates directly from that mystery and is passed through the talents of composers to emerge in music of the assembled People of God.

Pius X used terms like "form" and "beauty" and "universal." And his formulation was different; whereas this document states that 'liturgical beauty emanates directly from that mystery and ...emerges in music,' Pius was careful to state that the music must be "beautiful" in the sense that it was intellectually rigorous AND capable of 'catching the heart.'

Frankly, this statement is less clear, but a "fixit" paragraph emerges:

Today, as they continue to serve the Church at prayer, composers are encouraged to concentrate on craftsmanship and artistic excellence in all musical genres.

In discussion of instruments, the document is, once again, indefinite. While the discussion begins with citation of the "primacy" of the pipe organ, it wanders a bit:

89. However, from the days when the Ark of the Covenant was accompanied in
procession by cymbals, harps, lyres, and trumpets, God’s people have, in various periods, used a
variety of musical instruments to sing his praise. Each of these instruments, born of the culture and the traditions of a particular people, has given voice to a wide variety of forms and styles through which Christ’s faithful continue to join their voices to his perfect song of praise upon the Cross.

90. Many other instruments also enrich the celebration of the Liturgy, such as wind,
stringed, or percussion instruments “according to longstanding local usage, provided they are
truly apt for sacred use or can be rendered apt.”

Meaning what? "Percussion" instruments include the piano, tympani, and castanets. Of the three, the only one actually authorized (by Pius XII) is the tympani. The 'truly apt/rendered so' language is a barn-door merely waiting for the horses.

And, yes, there was a revolutionary statement made here:

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

Recorded music has NEVER been allowed at Mass, even for chilluns, in the history of the Church. And (by the way) what's wrong with "long periods of silence" during communal reconciliation? A lack of entertainment is uncomfortable, but sinners OUGHT to be uncomfortable.

Either the music is or is NOT that of 'a living assembly.' Facsimile-music is, by definition, NOT 'living.'

The discussion of acoustics evades the fact that a 'shoebox'-shaped church (dimensionally similar to a shoebox) provides the best acoustics, if it's not covered in carpet and acoustical tile. There's a reason for that evasion: the Liturgeist Establishment has spent a LOT of other people's money building circus-tent churches, which are acoustic abominations. Mention the reality, and some people might be unhappy...

On PP 43/44, the document makes a curious statement:

The Entrance and Communion chants with their psalm verses serve to accompany the two most important processions of the Mass: the entrance procession, by which the Mass begins, and the Communion procession, by which the faithful approach the altar to receive Holy Communion

Better minds than mine will have to explain what happened to the Offertory procession, in which gifts are brought to the altar of sacrifice...and which was mentioned earlier in the document!

On the other hand, this probably explains what happened to the Offertory versicle in the Pauline Use (at least in the USA--for the European/Solesmes Gregorian Missal still HAS the Offertory versicle.)

A little later, we see this:

...congregational hymns of a particular nation or group that have been judged appropriate by the competent authorities mentioned in the GIRM, nos. 48, 74, and 87, may be admitted to the Sacred Liturgy. Church legislation today permits as an option the use of vernacular hymns at the Entrance, Preparation of the Gifts, Communion, and Recessional

Well, yah, but what is NOT mentioned is that those hymns are the LAST option mentioned in the pertinent Church documents--after the Propers of the Mass.

Here's a cute line:

121. When a Liturgy or music committee is chosen to prepare music for the Liturgy, it
should include persons with the knowledge and artistic skills needed in celebration: men and
women trained in Catholic theology, Liturgy, and liturgical music and familiar with current
resources in these areas
. It is always good to include as consultants some members of the
worshiping assembly so that their perspective is represented...

....if actually followed to the letter, most "Liturgy committees" would be reduced to one or two people.

The discussion of "how to pick the music" uses three criteria, and requires that all three be considered equal in arriving at a judgment.

One of those is the "pastoral" judgment, and the latitude provided therein is astounding:

130. The pastoral judgment takes into consideration the actual community gathered to
celebrate in a particular place at a particular time...

...liturgical assemblies are composed of people of many different nations. Such peoples often “have their own musical tradition, and this plays a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason their music should be held in proper esteem and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their religious sense but also in adapting worship to their native genius. .

Other factors—such as the age, culture, language, and education of a given liturgical
assembly—must also be considered. Particular musical forms and the choice of individual
compositions for congregational participation will often depend on those ways in which a
particular group finds it easiest to join their hearts and minds to the liturgical action

Truck drive-through.

Similarly, the "musical judgment," while beginning soundly:

Only artistically sound music will be effective and endure over time. To admit to the Liturgy the cheap, the trite, or the musical cliché often found in secular popular songs is to cheapen the Liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure.

...doesn't end that way:

Sufficiency of artistic expression, however, is not the same as musical style, for “the
Church has not adopted any particular style of art as her own. She has admitted styles from every period, in keeping with the natural characteristics and conditions of peoples and the needs of the various rites.”104 Thus, in recent times, the Church has consistently recognized and freely welcomed the use of various styles of music as an aid to liturgical worship

This means that the 'trite, cheap, and cliche' will be declared a "style" by the Liturgeists...

Skimming the rest of the document produces much of the same. It's like reading an economist's predictions: "On the one hand.....on the OTHER hand..." with some very good and some utterly silly language.

Another revision? Maybe. More likely Rome will simply intervene.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Praise to the Lord, The Almighty. The King of all Creation...

Are you sure you don't just want to become a Protestant?

I know you don't but, imagine that part of you that wants dogma that equally matches up with content and suddenly you have a traditionaly protestant.

Keep fighting either way.