Tuesday, July 11, 2006

MCW 25-29

The Musical Judgment

26. Is the music technically, aesthetically, and expressively good? This judgment is basic and primary and should be made by competent musicians. Only artistically sound music will be effective in the long run. To admit the cheap, the trite, the musical cliche often found in popular songs for the purpose of "instant liturgy" is to cheapen the liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure.

“Great things happen when God mixes with us!” (Speaking of the cheap and trite!)

27. Musicians must search for and create music of quality for worship, especially the new musical settings for the new liturgical texts. They must also do the research needed to find new uses for the best of the old music. They must explore the repertory of good music used in other communions. They must find practical means of preserving and using our rich heritage of Latin chants and motets."

Sounds good - preserve and use the old while also creating new.

In the meantime, however, the words of St. Augustine should not be forgotten: “Do not allow yourselves to be offended by the imperfect while you strive for the perfect.”

Hm - so “Abba Father” was to be excused as a step on the road from “Veni creator Spiritus” to perfection?

28. We do a disservice to musical values, however, when we confuse the judgment of music with the judgment of musical style. Style and value are two distinct judgments. Good music of new styles is finding a happy home in the celebrations of today. To chant and polyphony we have effectively added the chorale hymn, restored responsorial singing to some extent, and employed many styles of contemporary composition. Music in folk idiom is finding acceptance in eucharistic celebrations. We must judge value within each style.

It would be helpful to define “style” at some point. I am of the mind that good congregational music is basically one musical style: straight rhythms, homophony with one really obvious, singable melody with a modest range and repetition at the phrasal and/or motivic levels. That doesn’t exactly apply to all the music I’d want a congregation to sing (i.e. Holy Thursday and Good Friday hymns), but by and large, if I want a congregation to sing something, it should be a lot like LOBE DEN HERREN.

"In modern times the Church has consistently recognized and freely admitted the use of various styles of music as an aid to liturgical worship. Since the promulgation of the Constitution on the Liturgy and more especially since the introduction of vernacular languages into the liturgy, there has arisen a more pressing need for musical compositions in idioms that can be sung by the congregation and thus further communal participation."'2

This seems true - after the CSL there was a pressing need felt for music that was immediately accessible to Joe Catholic - which isn’t chant.

29. The musician has every right to insist that the music be good. But although all liturgical music should be good, not all good music is suitable to the liturgy. The musical judgment is basic but not final. There remain the liturgical and pastoral judgments.

Sounds good - I’ll be the first to concede that the Mozart Requiem, while incredible music, is formally awkward for liturgy.


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