Sunday, April 22, 2012

Great Watershed Video: Sacred Music vs. Secular Music at Mass

Res ipsa loquitur!

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Stan Williams said...


This is far from "watershed" unless you equivocate and add a biased interpretation to such terms as "common" and "instruments" and "legislation". The video does not even deserve the time to fully analyze. It's ambiguous but pretends to be doctrinal. Let me explain just a couple things that discredit it logically.

The host says things like "The more closely a composition for church approaches...Gregorian melodic form....and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple." Okay, now consider Fr. Perrone's latest compositions for mass. To ascribe a full orchestral work, with Western melodies, and even the use of a predominate a bass drum, would take a masters thesis to explain how his music was in "Gregorian melodic form."

Something is also lost in translation with the phrase "Gregorian MELODIC form" insofar as Gregorian is a CHANT and not MELODIOUS. The two are "commonly" known to be "different."

Then, particularly egregious is the interpretation that an instrument that is "common" in secular music, is not appropriate for worship. Let's consider that: (1) "common" is not "clear" as the host suggests. It is a VERY ambiguous term. (2) Describe a common secular instrument. Should we include the organ? (Herbbie Hancock uses an organ a lot).

Or how about the piano? Just about every popular rock, jazz, and Broadway pit band uses a piano including the Beatles. And if not Elton John then every Catholic home that uses a piano for chop-sticks has made the piano a very common secular instrument.

Next, let's list every instrument in the orchestra. They are ALL common secular instruments. And what's more, look at the names on the stops of an organ. They're all designed to sound like common secular instruments. The presence of a clarinet does not make it less suitable for worship, although it will be found in New Orleans Jazz clubs a lot.

Indeed, if you've every heard local Soprano Saxophone musician Doug Cassens play "Amazing Grace," you'd be on your knees in worship within 30 seconds, as I have been many times.

Then, there's the YouTube host's assertion that the claim: "As long as the music moves me it can be used at mass" is a non-starter when describing music appropriate for mass. What's particularly equivocal about demeaning this quote is that the popes she quotes were no doubt MOVED by Gregorian Chant. "Moved" is ambiguous and not a very theologically precise term to claim that this is a description of Church "legislation".

Last, the colloquial phrase "moves me" can easily be argued to mean to participate in the act "adoration, praise, thanksgiving."

Elizabeth D said...

I find it extremely valuable when distinctions between sacred and secular music are respected well, and sacred music chosen for Mass. A folk hymn accompanied by piano is not sacred music, a well performed saxophone solo is not sacred music, a contemporary/rock style setting of the Mass is not sacred music even if it won an award at a liturgy conference. That does not mean these things break current liturgical law, but they are not really what the Church is calling for in documents that point to Gregorian Chant, Sacred Polyphony and the Organ. Gregorian chant is uniquely perfect for the Latin Rite liturgy.