Monday, July 10, 2006

a funny Jeffery excerpt

Indeed, there is no better illustration of the inherently conservative character of liturgical worship than the strange fact that the Roman Catholic Mass (of all things) has become the last bastion of late 1960s folk-rock, long after popular music has moved on through disco, house, techno and trance, rap and hip hop.



At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 9:15:00 AM, Blogger PrayingTwice said...

I find it very humorous that he blames that music on the conservatives.

At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Todd said...

Not terribly hilarious, if you understand the genesis of those mostly unrelated styles and the development of church music.

In that they are all non-classical music, yes: they share that. Very few folk groups were ever able to pull of the rock sound; you need a competent rhythm section for that, by definition, as you do for all the other pop genres listed.

Contemporary Catholic liturgical music has actually seen an organic growth since the early 70's. The St Louis Jesuits were more influenced by classical training (in Foley's case) and their experience with pre-conciliar hymnody. The introduction of the piano in the 80's has meant a further evolution toward a style and sound. Worst case, it's easy listening music--another type you don't need a rhythm section to produce. Best case, it's something of a massive hybrid of authentic folk music, (not what I would call 60's RC music, though) some world styles, new age/adult contemporary, with some gospel and jazz thrown in.

The LifeTeen sound is drawn directly from Praise music and relies on the roots of both gospel music and jazz. This would be the first example of importing a secular sound (though once removed) into Catholic liturgy since the 60's.

It's a more complicated musical study than communicated in one curious statement. Or really, one post.

At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 11:50:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

Where I glean humor, though, is that the “progressives”, or liberals, if you will, are those who brought the guitar into the Mass. This was daring and brought a sense of newness to the Mass. Now those same people complain about the 2nd reform - the same element that was “liberal” in bringing guitars into church are now “conservative” in keeping it around. (That and, most congregations want to sing music familiar to them.)

At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 2:34:00 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Todd, are you saying that the introduction of the piano and its 'lounge music' occurred AFTER the LifeTeen intro of 'secular music-once-removed'?

For that matter, are you saying that the bluegrass of the '60's guitar-pickers is 'religious' music?

At Friday, July 14, 2006 1:20:00 AM, Anonymous Tadhg Seamus said...


Todd, trying to sound well-informed, ends up being merely pretentious and mostly without substance. He does SOUND pretty impressive though, doesn't he? It's mostly smoke, being blown in your face. Quite hilarious, actually. For example, he says,

"The St Louis Jesuits were more influenced by classical training (in Foley's case) and their experience with pre-conciliar hymnody."

One hardly knows where to begin. As one who was actually in the seminary with and knew quite well the "St. Louis Jesuits" and who now serves on the conducting staff of one of our major American orchestras, I can state without reservation that "classical training" had nothing whatever to do with influencing their "style." As a matter of fact, much of what they wrote was written in the five or six years of seminary immediately post high school. I don't recall theory, counterpoint, or composition being part of the seminarians' curriculum then (because, obviously, they weren't). Matter of fact, the guys were pretty musically illiterate. They could play guitars, they could noodle on the piano, and they could cobble together some tunes. Trouble arose when these pieces needed to be notated; their rudimentary knowledge wasn't up to the task. It took later editors and arrangers (e.g., Sr. Theophane Hytrek, who did a heroic job of arranging a lot of their stuff for keyboard. Hytrek herself was a formidable musician, having, among other things, studied composition at Eastman in Rochester with Howard Hanson. Even she couldn't stop the pig wiggling long enough to apply the lipstick.) to straighten things out.

If there's a "style" to be discovered there, it's the "style" of self-indulgence bolstered by the encouragements of other non musicians who were quite eager to distance sacred music from anything even remotely resembling "classical."


A (mildly related) story:

A few years ago, the suburban Milwaukee parish in which Dan Schutte grew up was celebrating a major anniversary. Coincidentally, Michael Torke grew up in the same parish. (Sadly, I wouldn't expect many Catholic church musicians to recognize that name. Poor souls will have to Google it to help fill the gaps in their musical educations.) Anyway, both were commissioned to write pieces of "sacred" music for the occasion, both of which would be performed at a concert in the parish church at some point in the Jubilee year. The Torke piece was spectacular. Putting the Schutte piece on the same program was embarrassing. And, almost instinctively, the listening congregation knew it. The shortcomings of certain "styles" for effective use in worship become ragingly apparent when they're demonstrated, side by side, with something other than the usual, similar dreck.

At Sunday, July 16, 2006 8:25:00 PM, Anonymous moconnor said...

This Catholic knows Torke's music. Love it. I'd love to hear what he wrote as I only know his orchestral works. Ironically, Torke too is a bit of an iconoclast when it comes to musical subjects (especially his music named after colors and machinery!)


At Monday, July 17, 2006 8:07:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

Tadhg wrote:

If there's a "style" to be discovered there, it's the "style" of self-indulgence bolstered by the encouragements of other non musicians who were quite eager to distance sacred music from anything even remotely resembling "classical."

You know, I think I agree that there was/is a drive to remove anything “classical” from sacred music. It almost seems that erudition of any form, especially in the arts, was disdained, the repercussions of which we still encounter today when baby-boomer pastoral associates tell us the Byrd “Ave verum” on Body & Blood Sunday is unwelcoming to someone being received in the Church. (I actually had this happen; thankfully, the pastor stood behind me.)

At Monday, July 17, 2006 8:25:00 PM, Anonymous Tadhg Seamus said...


You're right: anything smacking of "high art" was (is often still) denigrated. Indeed, this is the "soft bigotry of low expectations" alive, well and hard at work. I actually think that it's an insidious form of reverse classism, i.e., "No one these days is well-educated enough or even well-rounded enough to appreciate Byrd on Corpus Christi. Therefore, we'll give them something they'll 'get,' something 'welcoming.'" This ends up being more a vivid commentary on the shallow tastes of the speaker than anything else.

Beauty in the arts (any arts) is really "class neutral." Roman Catholicism was innately aware of this, I think, even when it didn't always play out in practice. I find evidence of it in the kinds of architecture and decoration used in churches built by immigrant populations in their neighborhoods, often at great sacrifice and expense. You don't have to look very far for examples. Compare this to the typical Catholic church built between, say, 1965 and 1995. Suburban churches built during the same period (where there was likely to be more in the way of financial resources) are particularly depressing.

The iconclasts have pretty much had their way. There does, however, seem to be an awakening dissatisfaction, however slight, with the situation. The church/gymnasium seems a thing of the past; there is a renewed interest in chant, polyphony, and worthy later sacred music; a small but influential cadre of historically informed architects (like those coming out of the Notre Dame School of Architecture) are designing and building beautiful churches, and a significant number of relatively young priests seems to be vigorously promoting a "new springtime" of beauty and practuce within the Church.

None of this happens without hard, really hard, work. Creating an "institutional culture" wherein beauty is an expectation, not a luxury, is a worthy goal. It may take some time, but I'm hopeful that beauty will have its way. It means a lot of us will have to get very, very busy.

At Monday, July 17, 2006 8:51:00 PM, Anonymous Tadhg Seamus said...



The piece Torke wrote for his parish's commission is

"Pentecost" for soprano, organ and string orchestra, in three movements, using text from Acts 2:17, 19 - 21. Commissioned by St Mary' Parish of Elm Grove, Wisconsin to celebrate their 150th anniversary as well as to celebrate the building and installation of their new organ. Completed on 1st November, 1997.

Torke's publisher (Boosey & Hawkes) hasn't yet published the piece and I'm unsure if there are any plans to do so. Neither is there any commercial recording of the piece available. A shame, because it's a stunningly terrific addition to sacred 'art' repertoire.

At Tuesday, July 18, 2006 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Todd said...

An amusing set of commentary, to be sure. Someone offers a counterpoint to a post and the commentariat lines up with a dash of substance to add to a potload of insults. How to win and influence, to be sure. A few things:
- The guitar has waned as the instrument of progressives, replaced by the piano at least twenty years ago.
- I'm not sure how bluegrass music made its way into the discussion, but there has been very little liturgical or sacred music written in that genre. That said, modern bluegrass musicians have the chops to rival the best players in any genre, so using the musical style as an insult doesn't really fly too far.
- I thought I was clear about Foley's training in piano. They all were influenced by preconciliar hymnody as well as pop styles. But the sacred roots of their music seem very obvious to me.
- Hytrek was indeed a formidable musician. That said, her arrangements of SLJ music leave something to be desired, in my opinion.
- If you think the reaction against "high art" is coming from liberals and iconoclasts, you're sadly mistaken. It has been the American way for centuries. And you see it in all manner of the sacred arts for at least the last century. Why else do parishes buy catalog statues and ask Mrs Ferguson the piano teacher to play the organ (manuals only) and help out Father at $5 per service?

If you're looking to convert any significant fraction of the 19,000 parishes in the US, you're going to have to do a lot better than silly jokes and elitism.

At Thursday, July 20, 2006 6:29:00 AM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Frankly, Todd, your postings are exactly as tadhg s. reviews them: windy, and grossly uninformed.

We must begin with the understanding that "progressives" are generally NOT in conformance with established norms of either musica sacra nor of hymnody. Therefore their instrument of choice is irrelevant. The piano is more "progressive"--but it is NOT the organ, which is specifically mentioned as THE instrument of choice for the Roman Catholic church. The church looks askance at percussive instruments such as the piano.

Who cares whether bluegrass musicians have "chops" in a discussion of hymnody?

What's "obvious" to you is flatly contradicted by personal knowledge and testimony of a very competent musician, tadhg s. What is obvious to US, however, is your hubris.

Sr. Theophane Hytrek, OSF, was an exceptionally talented musician and composer. So happens she was ALSO tadhg s' instructor, and mine. She could not make silk out of the sow's ears given her by the SLJesuits. Not likely that JSBach could make that stuff better, either. The fact is that their music does NOT derive from classical hymnodic form and style, nor from Chant. "Sacred roots?" Get serious.

You mention iconoclasm but seem to forget that it's not "American" in origin. The outbreak of iconoclasm which affected the US was the one of the Puritans. However, the "progressives" in the US were perfectly happy to dress up their iconoclasm by calling it "early Christian" or "pure."

Horsehockey. In fact, it was another manifestation of the horizontalism so exquisitely condemned by Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, and is manifested in the 'horizontalism' of architecture (exactly as tadhg s mentions.) Another erudite observer states that the 'progressives' have effectively erased the concepts of 'sacred space, sacred time, sacred language'--not to mention sacred music.

As to "Mrs Ferguson"--that can be easily remedied through the use of Gregorian Chant, which does not require an accompanist, and which also comports perfectly with the letter of Vatican II's DOLiturgy--not to mention centuries of teaching and practice of the Church.

You are right. We need not 'insult' you. Your own posts do an adequate job of that. Consider the possibility that someone else in the universe actually knows what they are talking about, Todd.

At Thursday, July 20, 2006 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Todd said...

dad, on many points you're simply wrong, or in a position to be unable to document your comments.

First, non-comformity with norms (as opposed to actual directives) is a human failing, not solely a progressive one. Some progressives may have problems with complying with directives or adhering to norms, but we didn't spit in Rome's face in '88 and go off to ordain our own bishops. I know it's a tough burden, but we're still with you in the Church, brother.

tadhg may well be a competent musician, but he doesn't have a bead on the entire Catholic experience. Jim McDermott's article is probably the best summary out there. And as heartfelt as tadhg's personal experience is recalled, it's one opinion. McDermott has another. And lots of people, even experts, have their own takes--good, bad, and neutral on the Jesuits.

I'm not sure what you're getting at with the organ vs piano stuff. The Roman Catholic instrument of choice is the human voice--it always has been. The pipe organ (note: pipe) is number two. But other instruments aren't excluded. So the argument that "the music sucks and besides, it's not even played ont he right instrument" is pretty lame.

The bottom line is that many serious musicians overlook non-classical music and pontificate on it with a lack of knowledge at their own peril. The statements about folk music, bluegrass, and other non-classical styles betray a shocking ignorance. If conservatory musicians have good things to say about classical music, let them make their point there--they do a very good job with it.

Finally, let me point out that plainsong is not a classical style. It is far more of a folk music (in the technical sense). If reform2 folks are looking to continue church music, they might be better served to consider the roots of the music they advocate. And learning a bit about their adversaries might not be a bad idea either.

At Thursday, July 20, 2006 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Todd said...

If you didn't want to bother with the link, here's an exceprt:

" ... the St. Louis Jesuits understood and capitalized on the musical traditions of the church. “Their work used chord progressions that resembled those in the commonly-used St. Gregory hymnal,” notes Elaine Rendler, associate professor of music theory at George Mason University. “Consequently, their product sounded familiar to many Catholics.” Put simply, they sounded Catholic, and did so in ways that remained compositionally interesting. Though originally only Foley had extensive training as a musician, all five resisted the banality of previous postconciliar work. “The musical vocabulary that they engaged was more complex in terms of melodic, rhythmic and harmonic structures,” states Judith Kubicki, assistant professor of sacramental and liturgical theology at Fordham University."

At Thursday, July 20, 2006 11:38:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

It’s worth pointing out some examples of more musically interesting SLJ stuff: Foley’s “Turn to Me” is, IMO, sadly neglected. Not all of it is tripe.

People harp on the SLJs, but I think Carey Landry is the worst offender of them all. “Abba Father”, “Great Things Happen When God Mixes With Us”, .... though I do enjoy “And the Father Will Dance”.

I do not concede the term “progressive” to anyone: it implies that what one advocates is “progress”, and it is questionable at best whether much of what many such people advocate is truly progress. ISTM that advocating for rubrical integrity and observance of tradition in the liturgy is itself a departure from current normal practice; in a sense, Adoremus is every bit as “progressive” as Bp. Trautman.

An interesting read that kinda put the SLJs and Landry in a different light for me was Hume’s “Catholic Church Music”. It’s kinda like “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” for the 1950s: hymns are banal, can’t we have some good Mass settings, etc. Our parish still sings “Bring Flowers of the Fairest” for May crowning ... I about doubled over laughing as I finally beheld this oft-derided (but apparently still cherished) tune. At least the SLJs used Scripture primarily.

I see two trends developing when I survey modern Catholic music. One is music like David Haas’s “No Longer Strangers” - questions of integrity or appropriateness aside, it is a hard tune to learn unless you’ve heard it several times. Then there is music like Farrell’s “Christ, Be Our Light” - very easy for people to pick up. We can sort out questions of instrumentation and style later, but we first need to establish that a) it’s ok if the people don’t sing everything, and b) what the people *do* sing should be really easy to pick up, unlike “No Longer Strangers”.

dad29, maybe I’m just too attached to having timpani at Easter Vigil, but I am loath to concede that percussion instruments do not belong in church. (I’m not sure this is your assertion precisely, but I just wanted to put that out there.)

Everybody take a deep breath and repeat after me: ad majorem Dei gloriam.

At Friday, July 21, 2006 4:43:00 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Cantor, the way to interpret the Church documents on the Liturgy is to begin with what the Church specifically asks for; the further one wanders away, the less appropriate the instrument (or music.)

As to instruments, the DOL is clear: the pipe organ. Pius XII authorized the use of symphonic instruments (including timp) in 1955, in addition to the pipe organ.

So timp is fine (not as a solo...)

But piano? WHERE does any Church document say "Pianos are fine."??

At Friday, July 21, 2006 5:06:00 PM, Blogger Todd said...

dad29, Sacrosanctum Concilium 120b, which opened the floodgates for MCW. Regardless of what the DOL (sic) says, the human voice is now and always has been considered the primary instrument.

At Friday, July 21, 2006 9:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sr. Theophane Hytrek, who did a heroic job of arranging a lot of their stuff for keyboard. Hytrek herself was a formidable musician, having, among other things, studied composition at Eastman in Rochester with Howard Hanson. Even she couldn't stop the pig wiggling long enough to apply the lipstick"

Now, you want a TRULY funny line... brilliant, Seamus!

Todd, my understanding was that Foley had no "classical" training (and it wasn't really classical, it was formal,) until well after that initial burst of... creativity for which he is so derided, er, I mean, WELL KNOWN.

Also, how can you ignore, for instance, Joncas's well known love affair with what he thinks is the style of modern American musical theater in your claim that the Praise Band drek is the first secular sound imported since the '60s?
You don't seem to know what you are talking about here.

"Worst case, it's easy listening music"
Your experience must be very limited.
Easy listening is one of the better cases -- so much of what transpires in Catholic churches around the country is very difficult listening indeed, except for anyone with a tin ear and a strong stomach.

At Saturday, July 22, 2006 3:49:00 PM, Blogger Todd said...


We could be picking nits over classical versus formal training. In the forties and fifties when Foley was growing up (and as my musical relatives and friends of that age attest) piano students played the classical composers' repertoire. The reality is that Foley was neither concert pianist nor noodler. The thing is I never made him out to be the former, and painting him as the latter is grossly inaccurate and self-serving as an argument.

Yes, Joncas pulled off bits of Rodgers and Hammerstein. But is he a genre to himself? Heck, I've written things in a ton of different styles for amusement or liturgical use, but that doesn't make be an imitator of piano bar jazz or Taize or such. LifeTeen music, on the other hand, has spawned the first series of "youth hymnals" since FEL's Hymnal for Young Christians. I was thinking bigger trends, not individual efforts.

I might not be clear in what I'm talking about. I do try to be conscious of the medium of comboxes in which we work here. If you have particular elements you'd like to try to pin me down on, send me an e-mail and I'll have a go on my own blog.

At Monday, July 24, 2006 5:20:00 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Todd, since the discussion had to do with NON-vocal instruments, I mentioned the organ. But thank you for your oh-so-precocious clarification.

By the way, MCW has no authority. Not a shred. It is a waste of time to read it, and dangerous to follow its "principles."

ROME is the sole legislator regarding liturgical practice. MCW was not even "authorized" by the USCC--it's merely a Committee document.

Not that USCC's stamp of approval would mean anything without express approval from Rome...but you get the idea.

At Monday, July 24, 2006 5:32:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Dad29 - phrases like “oh-so-precocious” serve your arguments very little and paint you as someone whose opinions it is difficult to take seriously. Much of your other commentary seems well-informed, but try to keep a level head and to maintain a respectful tone here, please.

I think you’re right that MCW has no “authority” insofar as setting norms; however, it functions as a guide from a legitimate authority. Therefore, if it encourages congregational singing of the Introit, we should take that seriously. We’re not breaking liturgical law by having the choir sing it alone, then, but we would be in sin if we disregarded the counsel of the BCL altogether.

“Qui tacit consentire”: “One who is silent consents.” As I understand things, though the USCCB per se did not approve MCW, it delegated the task to the BCL - essentially a “blank cheque”. Since the USCCB took no corrective action regarding the document, they implicitly consented to its content; Rome similarly consented. (Rome allows female altar servers in the same way.)

Understand: I think there are flaws in MCW (some of which I have detailed in my walkthrough of the document), but the people for whom it was a formative document were not necessarily doing anything wrong in following it.

At Tuesday, July 25, 2006 12:53:00 AM, Anonymous tadhg seamus said...


You say, "I think there are flaws in MCW (some of which I have detailed in my walkthrough of the document), but the people for whom it was a formative document were not necessarily doing anything wrong in following it."

I would add that "the people for whom it was a formative document" were indeed looking in the wrong place for primary formation. Much of the American liturgical/musical establishment seems to have had an almost reflexive (arrogant?) distate for Roman documents and legislation. Attention to those documents and legislation might have given them a more thoroughly catholic frame of reference. Preference for a national (American) document (a document which dad29 rightly notes as carrying neither legislative force nor authority) seems a preference for the very "parochialism" so often decried as "ghetto mentality" when referring to the American Church pre-Vatican II.


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