When was the golden age?

Well it does to the people who post here... dispassionate and reasoned debate, with a good deal of humour thrown in for good measure.

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Alan
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by Alan »

Nick Baty wrote:I feel sure there would be no differential in HallamPhil's proposal. What matters is a shared philosophy.

Let me hasten to add that I never thought that Phil was differentiating thus. I was merely underlining the need for inclusion. :)

HallamPhil
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by HallamPhil »

Now that that confusion is over, what is your resolution folks?

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presbyter
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by presbyter »

Nick Baty wrote:Interesting interview with Jeffrey Tucker in National Catholic Register about music for the new texts: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/singing-the-mass/


I have just read the linked article. I think it's very poorly argued in places. All right, it's an article. It's not an academic article where points of view are backed up by copious references. BUT....

Read this bit.....

Of course my fascination with it (( i.e. plainsong and Renaissance polyphony )) began as purely artistic, but when I realized that there was a reason for its structure and sound, my appreciation grew. I realized that it is all a form of prayer, and the musical structure amounts to an attempt by mortals to touch a realm of immortality. It was all an attempt to somehow capture and characterize what the ancients called the “music of the spheres,” which is something like a heavenly sound that might be worthy to be presented by angels at the throne of God. The composers and the tradition heard something true and beautiful and the liturgy absorbed it as its own.

It goes without saying that secular music doesn’t attempt this at all. It is designed to flatter the performers, indulge the composers, entertain the audience, or whatever. There is a place for this approach in the culture at large, but sacred music has a different purpose. To me, to begin to understand liturgical music is to realize this central point that appears in Christian writings from the earliest age: There is a difference between sacred and profane. Many people deny this today, which just amazes me. I consider it so axiomatic that it is not worth debating, only explaining.


In summary - Mr Tucker seems to me to suggest that the purpose of music in worship is to produce something of a heavenly sound, worthy of presentation at the throne of God. That's what makes the music sacred.

I think he would do well to come to the Seminar for Composers in Hammersmith on 19th March and listen to Fr Peter Jones list the
criteria that the Church teaches concerning music and its sacredness - all of which are gathered from documents of the Magisterium (with an occasional excursion into Patristic thought too). This presentation will be factual, thoroughly orthodox, and a lot less fanciful than imagining that we ourselves can influence God's mind as to what is worthy to be presented before the throne of heaven ..... dear me!! What an appalling act of hubris that would be!!

nazard
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by nazard »

I would like to answer the question: "when was the golden age?"

For me, the golden age was the early sixties. Music at mass was very rare in those days, and easily avoided. I go to mass to pray and to offer sacrifice through the priest to God. Music does get in the way of that, and I would be happy to do without it. That said, the opinion of the council was that mass should have music, so I go along with that and have been helping to provide liturgical music for most of my life. The church then places two aims before musicians: to foster the singing of the assembly, particularly in those parts of the mass, and to preserve and expand the treasures of the church's repertoire of sacred music. Some musicians simply pick one of these aims and ignore the other, depending on their personal likes and dislikes. Surely this is disloyalty? The two aims can both be accommodated provided that we don't stick to one all the time. I thought that the Liverpool midnight mass achieved a good balance. The Widor was thrilling and prayerful, moving skillfully between moods, particularly in the gloria. The congregation sang carols, and Credo III. Alright, they did not sing everything which a congregation could have sung, but is that a cause for concern? Should the Widor be preserved only in some sort of museum, perhaps the vaults of the Bodleian? I think that to do so would be to fail the council in its stated intent.

For many parishes the music has to be simple, due to the lack of trained musicians. Many parishes don't even have a passable cantor. I have sat through a good many excruciating responsorial psalms. Hymns of one sort or another all very much the limit of what can be achieved. To add a bit of flavour to a feastday, the communion antiphon from the Graduale Romanum is about as much as most parish choirs can manage, once or twice a year. Communion goes on long enough to get a hymn in as well if you want. For the rest of the year, there are plenty of simple hymns in styles to suit most people.

People do seem to love to knock mass VIII. It is not quite Gregorian Chant, I know, but it is a passable substitute, and congregations cope with it fairly well if they sing it often enough. In my experience about ten times a year is enough. You cannot hope to teach a congregation all eighteen masses from the Kyriale: it is better to be content with one. Some people then moan about it becoming a bit of an old chestnut: you hear it everywhere you go. In my opinion that is actually a good thing. It gets to be like the football supporters songs that many clubs have. We sing it together, often, and it gives us a sense of community. Don't knock it.

I am pleased with Laudate in many ways. It is a much more tasteful and usable collection that the alternatives. I do have a few moans about it though. The music desperately needs proof reading. Do they not have someone who can play slowly and carefully through the two volumes and mark up the errors? The other moan is about the watering down of the words. A certain amount of changing words is probably justifiable because the meaning of words changes. The Victorians used "awful" to mean what we term "awesome", I think. However, some hymns have been very degraded. "God of mercy and compassion" comes to my mind.

We have a problem with fashion in music. In the sixties, people who were fairly young then introduced styles of music that were very much what they found fashionable. The example that springs to mind is the much derided "Songs of the Spirit." No succeeding generation has done anything quite like it. In particular, we have avoided "heavier" forms of rock. Was that a good idea? A lot of young people listen to little else.

I am myself very much a classical musician, but I do try to use a variety of other styles because I know other people appreciate them more than I do, but they give me a problem. Classical music often carries meaning without the words. I feel that I understand songs in foreign languages because of the emotion in the music itself. I'm often wrong, but I still feel it. "Lighter" music doesn't do that to me. It often doesn't seem to reinforce the words.

Perhaps the question is the wrong one. We should be asking ourselves what should we do in 2011 to make 2012 the start of the next golden age which will grow ever more golden as the years go on in saecula saeculorum. (I couldn't resist that.)

Happy new year/ Blwddyn newydd hapus i bawb.

HallamPhil
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by HallamPhil »

I have no problem with nazard's assertion about the qualities of the Widor Mass. I just think that it needs to be considered in the light of the current liturgical context. And yes, I do think that if this music does not comply with current liturgical norms then it might find a place in the concert hall or recording studio where it can inform our prayer life. What is wrong with that? We will still recognise the power of God working through the composer, as much as we do through all creation.

John Ainslie
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by John Ainslie »

There's no possibility of a rational discussion about a 'golden age' unless all the participants can agree on what is (or was) 'golden' - and why.

Happy New Year! 'Lord, let my prayer rise before you like incense, the raising of my hands like an evening offering.' (Ps 141(140):2)

Southern Comfort
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by Southern Comfort »

HallamPhil wrote:I have no problem with nazard's assertion about the qualities of the Widor Mass.


I am familiar with the Widor Mass, but did not hear the broadcast. However, friends of mine whose opinions I respect who did hear the performance said that it was rather crummy, making the music sound poor, thus adding fuel to Phil's fire that if the assembly had been considered in first place then this might not have happened.

It's certainly not the greatest setting that has ever been written. I much prefer Vierne in C# minor if we're going to do music of this type.....

Southern Comfort
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by Southern Comfort »

Nick Baty wrote:
HallamPhil wrote:how many dioceses have these?

Those which have "superpowers" mostly don't! Others – like Clifton, Brentwood and Hallam – do.


Also Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Shrewsbury....

John Ainslie wrote:There's no possibility of a rational discussion about a 'golden age' unless all the participants can agree on what is (or was) 'golden' - and why.


Agree absolutely with this.

nazard
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by nazard »

Southern Comfort wrote:... if the assembly had been considered in first place...


Do you seriously believe that the assembly was not considered? If that is your belief, on what basis did you come to that belief?

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presbyter
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by presbyter »

John Ainslie wrote:There's no possibility of a rational discussion about a 'golden age' unless all the participants can agree on what is (or was) 'golden' - and why.


Well for liturgists, the so-called golden age is often seen as the few centuries immediately following the Peace of Constantine..... and some liturgists will argue that liturgical music in the West began to be debased in the Carolingian era and that it then took a further downturn in the ars antiqua of Leonin & Perotin.

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Nick Baty
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Re: When was the golden age?

Post by Nick Baty »

John Ainslie wrote:There's no possibility of a rational discussion about a 'golden age' unless all the participants can agree on what is (or was) 'golden' - and why.

I'm convinced there never was a "golden age" of singing the liturgy. There's no doubt that there was a great tradition of singing in church – but at afternoon and evening devotions.

I asked the question about the “Golden Age” partly in reponse to Jeffrey Tucker’s piece but also because I had just finished re-reading English Catholic Worship: Liturgical Renewal in England since 1900 (1979) – I recently bought two more copies from Amazon – there appear to be quite a few in circulation at the moment. My own childhood memories were confirmed by John Ainslie: “a Low Mass, in which the choir, and perhaps the people, sang the Missa de Angelis while the priest ‘got on with it’” and by James Chrichton: “The staple diet of most Catholics was the Low Mass, said without any music at all”.

I've lost count of how many times I've read this book now – and of how many times I've lost it and had to replace it – but, for those of us of tender years with little memory of pre-Vat2 days, it's worth seeking out.

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