Jazz music in church

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John Ainslie
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by John Ainslie »

alan29 wrote:Theology doesn't come into it ..... its a purely cultural thing.

I presume you mean that theology is not a parameter of the style of church music. Fair enough. But music used in or as worship must be theological because it is addressing God: its texts consist of 'logia tou theou' (sayings of God) or 'logia tô theô' (sayings to God).

alan29
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by alan29 »

Yes, thats exactly what I meant ..... I was actually remembering the sound of a children's choir at Mass in Tanzania a few Christmases ago. They sang our traditional carols but very much in the African style (did I type that?) - slowly to the accompaniment of a large drum, swaying all the while. They adopted and adapted something and made it theirs. And it was marvellous!!
I will leave the ins and outs of "theological music" to Messiaen.

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Mithras
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by Mithras »

John Ainslie wrote:
alan29 wrote:Theology doesn't come into it ..... its a purely cultural thing.

I presume you mean that theology is not a parameter of the style of church music. Fair enough. But music used in or as worship must be theological because it is addressing God: its texts consist of 'logia tou theou' (sayings of God) or 'logia tô theô' (sayings to God).


But John does theology address God as such? Theology is the scientific study of God but does not automatically presume a relationship between the theologian and God and therefore if music written to assist the worshup of God is anything it lies within the realm of adoration, praise and so on but not of academic investigation. There are, acfter all, theologians who are self-declared atheists (Altizer, Cupitt for example); and Messiaen, whose name has been invoked, defined his music as theologically driven (as opposed to mystically so) and written as statements of his faith rather than prayers, actions or other forms of invocation (such as petitions) addressed to God. Or perhaps you are saying that music used in the liturgy must have a theological underpinning, which is what Messiaen would say of his own, but I don't think this is quite the same as saying that music used in or as worship must be per se theological.

This thread is developing into a fascinating discussion.

Mithras

nazard
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by nazard »

Surely, if theology is words addressed to God, then geology is words addressed to the earth and seismology is words addressed to earthquakes.

John Ainslie
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by John Ainslie »

The word 'theology' has a long and distinctive career: see Wikipedia for a start. I have obviously chosen one of its many meanings. The point I was making is that music in worship is God-directed from God-seeking people, and that makes - or should make - a difference in how we use music for that purpose.

joeburns
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by joeburns »

Having started this - I agree that it is getting interesting - and is just posing more questions in my mind.

those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions


What does this mean?? - I'm fairly common, so does that mean I can use whatever I want??
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HallamPhil
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by HallamPhil »

I think the statement to which you refer is located in a certain time and place. Although it is open to cultural difference and the world's 'peoples' I wonder to whom it is really addressed. The writers may have been perturbed by the development of R&B and the seeming sexual energy in the 'pop' music etc. The times they were a-changin'.

Perhaps it reminds us of the mentality (to which I referred on Saturday in Leeds) which prompted white missionaries in Africa more than a century ago to instruct Africans that they should not praise God with the drum! This might be an example of one culture or tradition being unable to see the intrinsic value in another, which attitude, as we have heard in this thread, is not worthy of a God who champions diversity. The congregation before me every Sunday has changed so much over recent years that I am constantly challenged to welcome into the music those refugees and their instruments from different cultures. This can have a profound effect on the musical content and performance within liturgy. One man from DR Congo looked at me in complete disbelief when I asked that a particular song should be delivered only in unison. Improvised harmony was natural for him!

I cannot imagine the kazoo (sp?) playing a part in liturgical culture and I'm not sure it has a great part in contemporary culture. I can equally see that the electric guitar as an instrument (and in the right hands) can pass between these two cultures. We would not have to go back more than a few decades to find the use of piano in church being greeted with surprise. Furthermore the organ, which does does easily sit in contemporary culture, and which is placed on a pedestal as a liturgical instrument, in the hands of some 'technicians' is a complete abomination to liturgical sensibilities!

Not sure that this advances the discussion but it's my early morning rant and now I can get on with the day!

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Benevenio
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by Benevenio »

Calum Cille wrote:Jazz is not native to Europe and the question is therefore whether or not it can be judged as an ethnic tradition and an ethnic tradition in the British Isles or as using instruments adaptable to sacred use or as in some way growing organically from pre-existing forms of sacred music or as a new artistic expression of the faith.

Hmm… If you think of the spiritual home of Jazz as New Orleans - and many do - then you should recall that Lousiana differed to the other early American colonies: it was French-speaking and Catholic. New Orleans was a very multi- and intercultural mix: in the 1700s, West Africans were a large group, but so were the French and after the Lousiana Purchase, English-speaking people poured in, to be joined by German, Italian and Irish immigrants in the 1800s. There were no ethnic ghettos - they lived in a mixed society and exchanged musical ideas. Eventually, this gave rise to Jazz. To say it is not native to Europe only gives a small part of the picture: New Orleans was full of Europeans and Africans together and the music grew from that in particular among the creole, mixed-race groups. When the Jazz musicians started leaving New Orleans to play in New York and Chicago, many also travelled to France and England - Sidney Bechet was playing in Paris in 1919 and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band performed in the UK in the same year. The music was welcomed wholeheartedly. Sidney Bechet said, of music: "You gotta mean it, and you gotta treat it gentle".

One of the things that we should not forget about New Orleans after the American Civil War is that mutual aid and benevolent societies were common which were important for emancipated African-Americans who had limited economic resources. The purposes of such societies were to "help the sick and bury the dead", important functions, because blacks were generally prohibited from getting commercial health and life insurance and other services. The New Orleans bands had a special relationship with the mutual aid societies which had their own expressive approach to funeral processions and parades, which continues to the present. Jazz here is intrinsically woven to the fabric of the Church caring for the sick, the dying and those passing on. It is not alien to a Christian culture, though it might be alien to your parish.

Consider at the way that Jazz uses the modes. If you have never looked at the ABRSM Jazz syllabus to see the scales that Jazz exams require, do so: Grade 3 Clarinet Jazz means that my pupils need not only to play Major and Minor scales but also Dorian, Mixolydian and Lydian modes, Major and Minor Pentatonics and a Blues Scale and not only detached or legato but, at the examiner's discretion, straight or swung. But hang on - aren't the modes just exactly those that the Church has used for centuries in the Chant? Yes. Is the Chant held up as a model of music for the Liturgy? Yes. Perhaps rather than just dismissing Jazz as unsuitable, or not our culture and therefore alien, we should embrace it as being very close to the model!

From personal experience, I wrote a Blues Scale set of Eucharistic Acclamations some time back, scored for Piano, Bass, clarinets and violin. It's unashamed use of the unsettling mixture of the fourth, flattened fifth and fifth in the melody and the ninths, elevenths and thirteenths in the harmony did not put off the assembly. Indeed, one parishioner, who normally scuttled off after communion, stayed one week to tell me how the music reminded him of going to hear Big Bands at the Town Hall in his youth and how great it was to hear it again and in Church. On that Sunday, it had helped him to pray, which is all we should ask of any piece. We also use many of my other pieces that have more than a passing nod to a Jazz interest without offending the assembly here.

Writing pieces in the modes is very interesting and allows motifs from many Chants to be incorporated: the song may be new, but it doesn't dismiss the tradition of the Church only builds on it. Playing pieces where you are expected to improvise - as HallamPhil has told us of his Congolese singer - means that improvisation can become completely natural and is a great skill to encourage in your players. I don't mean time-filling twiddles on an organ (important and exciting and meditiative/thought-provoking though that can be) but something that grows from the music - a reply to a congrational line in a song, perhaps. Some people talk of being filled with the spirit when they improvise - not necessarily the Holy Spirit, but I am fairly sure that the Holy Spirit can improvise! Jazz can be in your face, loud, unstructured, but it doesn't need to be. Can it work in a Roman Rite liturgy? Yes. Is it suitable everywhere? No. Ultimately, as with any piece, any style of music, judgement of its immediate suitability comes down to the musician knowing the assembly, praying with them and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide.
Benevenio.

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Calum Cille
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by Calum Cille »

Benevenio wrote:... The New Orleans bands had a special relationship with the mutual aid societies which had their own expressive approach to funeral processions and parades, which continues to the present. ...

Consider at the way that Jazz uses the modes. ... But hang on - aren't the modes just exactly those that the Church has used for centuries in the Chant? Yes. Is the Chant held up as a model of music for the Liturgy? Yes. Perhaps rather than just dismissing Jazz as unsuitable, or not our culture and therefore alien, we should embrace it as being very close to the model! ...


While generalisations sometimes help to illustrate trends, they can sometimes obscure them. The fact that jazz music has scales does not mean that these scales are derived from Gregorian chant rather than from European music in general which was anciently used for both Christian and non-Christian purposes. Few ethnomusicologists would describe most Western folk music scales as deriving from Gregorian chant and musicologists generally view Gregorian chant as representing a modification of native European music. So European music, and its scales, are more primary to jazz. In other words, the European element of jazz derives primarily from knowledge of secular European music.

Can it be shown that "Requiem aeternam" was performed at such funeral processions? I hardly think that musical forms that grew out of American popular music can be said to grow out of Gregorian chant (which was being sung at masses in America at the time jazz developed).

Certain jazz scales are validly referred to as being related to Dorian, Mixolydian and Lydian modes and Major and Minor Pentatonics, not because they derive from Gregorian chant, but because many of the scales that these terms were (originally invalidly) used to describe have always been used in Europe, even if not conceptualised. The chordal harmony of jazz of course cannot be shown to be ultimately ecclesiastical in origin as much ecclesiastical harmony has or may have developed in tandem with or even at the inspiration of European non-ecclesiastical harmony.

Benevenio wrote:... But hang on - aren't the modes just exactly those that the Church has used for centuries in the Chant? Yes. ...


With regard to monophonic chant melody, no.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqNTltOGh5c

Even ignoring the bass and piano harmony, few would admit the blue-noted but fundamentally dodecatonic scales exhibited in the first clip as being "close to the model" of the scales in Gregorian chant. If modal jazz is a self-conscious innovation of the late 1950s, it is, in one sense, coincidental that jazz musicians decide to use (nominally) pentatonic scales in jazz and that pentatonic chants also exist in the Gregorian repertoire. Does the existence of pentatonic chants in the Gregorian repertoire make jazz any less "alien" to the Gregorian chant tradition than a pentatonic Chinese melody?

Besides, you may be referring to what are commonly called the Renaissance modes, which are scales. As a functioning system, the basic modal system of Gregorian chant as it has come down to us cannot simply be reduced to scales. Compare the mode I communion antiphon Videns Dominus, the mode IV introit antiphon Exaudi, Domine, vocem meam and the mode VI communion antiphon Ecce, Dominus veniet. These have basically the same scale and scalic range but a different modal identity in the system.

alan29
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by alan29 »

To take obscurity a stage further - At the time that New Orleans was most under the sway of French Culture, chant was habitually sung slowly and rhythmically in France. Combine this with a modal feel ....... and you are a couple of thousand miles away from Chicago, where the blues really started. :wink:

Southern Comfort
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by Southern Comfort »

It seems to me that the ABRSM syllabus and examiners would not be asking Jazz students to perform modal scales if they did not accept that there was a relationship between them and jazz "tonality". Thank you, benevenio, for that interesting piece of information.

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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by musicus »

Mithras wrote:Duke Ellington once said that there are only two kinds of music - good and bad.

I think Rossini said it first. (Which merely suggests that "Great minds think alike.")
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joeburns
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by joeburns »

I would just like to thank everyone for their contributions to this post - I didn't realise what I was setting off. Some of the finer points are wasted on me - but it has really helped me think more clearly about my own views. Thanks a lot.
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Calum Cille
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by Calum Cille »

Southern Comfort wrote:It seems to me that the ABRSM syllabus and examiners would not be asking Jazz students to perform modal scales if they did not accept that there was a relationship between them and jazz "tonality". Thank you, benevenio, for that interesting piece of information.


This could be a reply to some prior observation which could run along the lines of, "there is no relationship between modal scales and jazz 'tonality' ". Assuming the term "modal scales" to have a general application, no one has made a statement to that effect.

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Calum Cille
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Re: Jazz music in church

Post by Calum Cille »

Southern Comfort wrote:It seems to me that the ABRSM syllabus and examiners would not be asking Jazz students to perform modal scales if they did not accept that there was a relationship between them and jazz "tonality". Thank you, benevenio, for that interesting piece of information.


If the comment is a reply to what I have written on this thread, I draw your attention to my statement, "While generalisations sometimes help to illustrate trends, they can sometimes obscure them". Benevenio's generalisation ostensibly conflates in a simplistic manner the scales of modal jazz and certain of the Renaissance modes (which are scales) with the modes of monophonic Gregorian chant (which are not simply based on scales). As for modal tonality, my example of three antiphons taken together, but each in a different mode, shows very little connection to modern jazz tonality, each antiphon using a similar scale and range but ending on a different note each time and being assigned to different modes where modal jazz would assign them to one on account of scale.

While it can be difficult to understand the difference between the tonality of modal jazz scales and tonality of Gregorian modes, I'm sure cognisance of the distinction is relevant to forum members interested in the nature of Gregorian chant.

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