Sunday, August 05, 2007

“Musical material of itself is neutral.”

I just received a copy of “Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform After Vatican II” (ed. J. Overath) through Amazon Marketplace. Basically what it presents is the proceedings of the Fifth International Church Music Congress in Milwaukee, held in August 1966. It’s interesting to read what many (certainly not all) prominent musicians were saying in the couple of years prior to the promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI.

One particular quote deserves mention, an excerpt from the Resolution on the Use of Profane Music in Worship (183):
Musical material is of itself neutral. The distinguishing mark of music as something profane somes from the use which men make of the musical materials and their connection with certain realms of life. Music is considered profane because of the responsive images and feelings that it evokes from men. Music which readily conjures up in men’s minds a juke-box, a piano bar[,] or frivolous entertainment is not appropriate for the liturgical realm.

That first sentence is key: Musical material is of itself neutral. I find myself wanting to play devil’s advocate here and look for ways by which one could argue that Josquin’s polyphonic works might have an intrinsic liturgical merit that is lacking in the music of Harry Connick Jr., to cite a popular artist whose work I find to be of high artistic caliber.


At Monday, August 06, 2007 1:10:00 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Maybe you want to quote the context?

The FIRST statement made in that paper (182): "The music in Catholic divine services must be liturgical music. ...The relationship of the music used in divine services to the ...Eucharist and...Word of God must manifest itself in an interior orientation toward what is holy.

"For this reason, music associated with the liturgy must surpass the profane and must clearly distinguish between what is a form of entertainment ...and that which is an expression of a spiritual turning towards God."

I like Connick, too.

At Wednesday, August 08, 2007 9:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an issue with me too, because I don't buy the whole argument that there's some single quality that music can have or not have which defines appropriateness in the liturgy anywhere and everywhere.

That statement would seem to say, more or less, "it's about results". How do people respond to the music if they like it? Does it increase devotion or become recognized as entertainment? I don't agree that this is the hidden criteria for suitability, but it's a good one to keep in mind. At your average parish, suggest eliminating the guitars and such and people's response is, "but everyone likes it!" Then again, I'm sure there are those who would respond that same way to dismantling a schola.

So I still don't see why I can't just not use Haugen's music for the many many reasons I find it unusable without making a declaration that it's wrong "at all times, everywhere, and for everyone."


At Wednesday, August 08, 2007 1:52:00 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...


The relationship of the music used in divine services to the ...Eucharist and...Word of God must manifest itself in an interior orientation toward what is holy.

The next rule of Pius X was that the music must be "beautiful," that is, conforming to the rules of music; it must have the form, and be artistic. This implies that there must be intellectual firepower at play.

That's amplified by Pius X's mandate that it BOTH lifts the hearts AND minds of the Faithful to God, while praising God.

It cannot be "heartfelt" but not 'mind-engaging,' nor the vice-versa. E.G., neither 'love song' nor 'Stravinsky', but both.

Which is why Chant is the model. Music not modeled on Chant principles will (generally) be either 'hearts' or 'minds,' rarely both.


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