Cheese

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

Moderators: Dom Perignon, Casimir

NorthernTenor
Posts: 794
Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2008 7:26 pm
Parish / Diocese: Southwark

Cheese

Post by NorthernTenor »

[I have split this interesting discussion off to its own thread - Musicus, moderator]

mcb wrote:
NorthernTenor wrote:I wonder if EP's close-to-the-bone comments on cheesyness were the straw that broke the moderational back?

Don't be silly.


No sillier than a deal of the stuff that was his target, mcb, and the coincidence of his most sucessful shots and the drastic (and rather silly) response was interesting. That said, far better to do these things subtlely, as another contributor now does so hilariously.
Last edited by NorthernTenor on Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ian Williams
Alium Music

NorthernTenor
Posts: 794
Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2008 7:26 pm
Parish / Diocese: Southwark

Re: Marty Haugen at Summer School

Post by NorthernTenor »

mcb wrote:
NorthernTenor wrote:Every generation of liturgical music has its cheese, and it is our job to root it out.

Good luck with that, NT. :-) The editors of the Westminster Hymnal had this to say in 1912:
The collection also includes all the popular tunes in common use amongst English-speaking Catholics. Some of these tunes are good, some are indifferent, and some bad. But it has been felt that since those of the last-named class have been — for one generation at least — bound up with the pious associations of so many holy lives, this is hardly the occasion for their suppression. They have therefore been retained, although this retention cannot be justified on musical or other artistic grounds. Alternative tunes have been provided to most of them, so that they need not be used by those to whom they are distasteful.

though by the 1938 edition the items they felt exceeded the cheese threshold were banished to the appendix. Those items are quite possibly the only ones from the collection still being sung. :-)


Granted, there is a considerable history of cheeesiness in modern Catholic worship, much of it asociated with non-liturgical texts, but the last forty years surely takes the cheese-making prize (the sort offered by the manufacturers of Dairy Lea, I hasten to add, not the kind that Mrs. Kirkam would win). And as EP was wont to observe, their is ample evidence of cheese-love on this board, not least in this thread and its topic (thought I'd better get back there before the moderational patience ran out). Thank goodness there's an amusing side to it.
Ian Williams
Alium Music

User avatar
mcb
Posts: 886
Joined: Sat Dec 27, 2003 5:39 pm
Parish / Diocese: Our Lady's, Lillington
Contact:

Re: Marty Haugen at Summer School

Post by mcb »

NorthernTenor wrote:there is a considerable history of cheeesiness in modern Catholic worship

Just in "modern" worship? How far back do we have to go for the golden age of non-cheesiness?

NorthernTenor
Posts: 794
Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2008 7:26 pm
Parish / Diocese: Southwark

Re: Marty Haugen at Summer School

Post by NorthernTenor »

mcb wrote:
NorthernTenor wrote:there is a considerable history of cheeesiness in modern Catholic worship

Just in "modern" worship? How far back do we have to go for the golden age of non-cheesiness?


I was thinking of the time between the two Vatican Councils, as the immediate context of practice following on from the Bugnini/Pauline reforms. I don't doubt that there is a considerable history of cheesiness - St. Pius X didn't use the word 'formaggio' in 'Tra le Sollecitudini', but we get the drift. However, I suspect the widespread introduction of modern hymns in the 19th and 20th centuries, initially in the context of non-eucharist liturgies and devotions, and subsequently as supplement to or replacement for propers, proved fertile ground for the inward-looking sentiment that came on us like a deluge from the 1970s on.
Ian Williams
Alium Music

User avatar
mcb
Posts: 886
Joined: Sat Dec 27, 2003 5:39 pm
Parish / Diocese: Our Lady's, Lillington
Contact:

Re: Marty Haugen at Summer School

Post by mcb »

NorthernTenor wrote:I was thinking of the time between the two Vatican Councils, as the immediate context of practice following on from the Bugnini/Pauline reforms. I don't doubt that there is a considerable history of cheesiness - St. Pius X didn't use the word 'formaggio' in 'Tra le Sollecitudini', but we get the drift. However, I suspect the widespread introduction of modern hymns in the 19th and 20th centuries, initially in the context of non-eucharist liturgies and devotions, and subsequently as supplement to or replacement for propers, proved fertile ground for the inward-looking sentiment that came on us like a deluge from the 1970s on.

I'm not sure how to reconcile the dates. If hymn singing came in in the (late) 19th and (early) 20th centuries, wasn't that the period between the Councils? Thomas Muir is the expert on the subject of music of this period (and before). I've heard him speak entertainingly about how much bad music there was during this period. I certainly think there isn't the slightest case for making it out to be a time of unremitting good practice, which was all to be undone by the changes that followed Vatican II.

The real issue comes down to the conflicting aims of aesthetic excellence and actuosa participatio. It feels to me like we mainly act as if the two are irreconcilable. Certainly when I scan the repertoire it often seems as though the idea of music of genuine artistic merit (read: wouldn't sound out of place in a concert hall) which also involves, well, the people singing, has only rarely been tried. It's this gap that causes the liturgical music wars: those who place one or other of these two concerns untouchably higher than the other, are guaranteed to be incomprehending and implacable foes of those in the other camp. (Whether that should then take the form of public denunciation and vilification is another matter, and Calum Cille has summed it up nicely elsewhere.)

Who's to blame? Or, equivalently, in whose hands does the remedy lie? Composers of serious renown, who could make a significant contribution to this hitherto-all-but-missing genre of sacred music. Cathedrals which have the resources to implement this kind of repertoire. Those who commission new works. It would probably require all three groups working together to make a difference.

Here's a near miss: the commissioning in 2008 by the Genesis Foundation of settings of a well-known prayer of Padre Pio. The brief was for something which would include a singing congregation:
The commissions come from the Genesis Foundation, a charity headed by John Studzinski CBE who is concerned about the lack of music written today for congregational participation. The brief states that the composers should address this omission.

Hats off to Mr Studzinski. But the works that resulted (from Will Todd, Roxanna Panufnik and James MacMillan) were all for choir alone. I wonder what changed between the commission and the execution - was it the composers who didn't believe that good music could be written for the assembly?

alan29
Posts: 1165
Joined: Fri May 27, 2005 8:04 pm
Location: Wirral

Re: Cheese

Post by alan29 »

Played at a Requiem today. Some pre Vat II Marian hymns. All I needed was a packet of cream crackers, and Grommit would have made me supper!

User avatar
presbyter
Posts: 1651
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2003 8:21 pm
Parish / Diocese: youknowalready
Location: elsewhere

Re: Marty Haugen at Summer School

Post by presbyter »

Good points mcb.

Johannes de Grocheio: (c. 1255 – c. 1320) - Parisian musical theorist of the early fourteenth century. wrote:The Motet is not intended for the vulgar who do not understand its finer points and derive no pleasure from hearing it: it is meant for educated people and those who look for refinement in art.


Of the composers you mention, perhaps it would be interesting to ask them, "For whom are you composing?"

User avatar
Calum Cille
Posts: 327
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:53 pm
Parish / Diocese: Earra-Ghaidheal s na h-Eileanan - Argyll and the Isles
Location: Ceann Locha, Alba / Campbeltown, Scotland
Contact:

Re: Cheese

Post by Calum Cille »

I also see a clash between elitists (musical snobs) and non-elitists (inverted musical snobs). One side harps on about 'standards' and the other about everything being turned into a performance.

Modern so-called “classical” music has maneuvered itself, with some exceptions, into an elitist ghetto, which only specialists may enter—and even they do so with what may sometimes be mixed feelings.

I would disagree with the Holy Father in that I think that such music has always been created and performed by an elite, whether in a cathedral, monastery, palace or middle-class concert hall. The modern elitist ghetto of complexity-worshippers despises all that is non-complex and is bored by it, blind to musical skill and art merely because its finesse is manifesting itself within musically simpler contexts.

Complexity is not equivalent to artistic merit, and complex musical compositions do not, merely through being complex, earn themselves artistic merit: some end up never being heard again. Simplicity can be beautiful in its own right and numerous latin hymns exemplify this. There was a time when the monodic line divided across vocal ranges was the be and end all of musical artistry. Such beauty does not cease to be simply because counterpoint has arrived.

There are also stylistic concerns. Elitists often believe that all other styles of music are inferior and, to be performed well, must transform themselves into the modern mainstream style, or that Gregorian chant is to be sung in a post-Romantic western European mainstream style and any other presentation is musically inferior.

For example, one cannot judge Greek chant from a concert hall perspective. People are singing prayer for hours each day every day of their lives, they're not getting paid to perform as actors or musicians. Modern elitists need to get real. Of course the best complex music is of high artistic merit and requires a great deal of creative skill to compose and technical skill perform but a lot of it is tol-lol. Although a lot of simple music is tol-lol, the best of it is also of high artistic merit and also requires a great deal of creative skill to compose and technical skill to perform. Such skill is gained through a mixture of natural talent and constant practice. You only need to talk to any Scot or Irishman who has studied both traditional fiddle and 'classical' violin to hear about the difference in the skills and artistry required to play either way.

I hope that we are arriving at generations who will see this more clearly than previous generations and whose only issues will therefore be of standard rather than style, and of appropriateness rather than elitist value or popularity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV0IcFyXUWs

User avatar
Nick Baty
Posts: 2155
Joined: Sat Jul 22, 2006 11:27 am
Parish / Diocese: Everton, Liverpool
Contact:

Re: Cheese

Post by Nick Baty »

Calum Cille wrote:I also see a clash between elitists (musical snobs) and non-elitists (inverted musical snobs). One side harps on about 'standards' and the other about everything being turned into a performance.
And neither appears interested in helping the assembly to pray.

User avatar
mcb
Posts: 886
Joined: Sat Dec 27, 2003 5:39 pm
Parish / Diocese: Our Lady's, Lillington
Contact:

Re: Cheese

Post by mcb »

Nick Baty wrote:
Calum Cille wrote:I also see a clash between elitists (musical snobs) and non-elitists (inverted musical snobs). One side harps on about 'standards' and the other about everything being turned into a performance.
And neither appears interested in helping the assembly to pray.

No, on the contrary, I think both sides believe that's what they're doing.

User avatar
Nick Baty
Posts: 2155
Joined: Sat Jul 22, 2006 11:27 am
Parish / Diocese: Everton, Liverpool
Contact:

Re: Cheese

Post by Nick Baty »

mcb wrote:No, on the contrary, I think both sides believe that's what they're doing.
Well they're not doing it as well as the rest of us! :lol:

User avatar
Calum Cille
Posts: 327
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:53 pm
Parish / Diocese: Earra-Ghaidheal s na h-Eileanan - Argyll and the Isles
Location: Ceann Locha, Alba / Campbeltown, Scotland
Contact:

Re: Cheese

Post by Calum Cille »

Nick Baty wrote:
mcb wrote:No, on the contrary, I think both sides believe that's what they're doing.
Well they're not doing it as well as the rest of us! :lol:

I want to move to Nick Baty's parish!

User avatar
Nick Baty
Posts: 2155
Joined: Sat Jul 22, 2006 11:27 am
Parish / Diocese: Everton, Liverpool
Contact:

Re: Cheese

Post by Nick Baty »

Calum Cille wrote:I want to move to Nick Baty's parish!
:lol:

NorthernTenor
Posts: 794
Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2008 7:26 pm
Parish / Diocese: Southwark

Re: Marty Haugen at Summer School

Post by NorthernTenor »

mcb wrote:I'm not sure how to reconcile the dates. If hymn singing came in in the (late) 19th and (early) 20th centuries, wasn't that the period between the Councils? Thomas Muir is the expert on the subject of music of this period (and before). I've heard him speak entertainingly about how much bad music there was during this period. I certainly think there isn't the slightest case for making it out to be a time of unremitting good practice, which was all to be undone by the changes that followed Vatican II.

The real issue comes down to the conflicting aims of aesthetic excellence and actuosa participatio. It feels to me like we mainly act as if the two are irreconcilable. Certainly when I scan the repertoire it often seems as though the idea of music of genuine artistic merit (read: wouldn't sound out of place in a concert hall) which also involves, well, the people singing, has only rarely been tried. It's this gap that causes the liturgical music wars: those who place one or other of these two concerns untouchably higher than the other, are guaranteed to be incomprehending and implacable foes of those in the other camp. (Whether that should then take the form of public denunciation and vilification is another matter, and Calum Cille has summed it up nicely elsewhere.)

Who's to blame? Or, equivalently, in whose hands does the remedy lie? Composers of serious renown, who could make a significant contribution to this hitherto-all-but-missing genre of sacred music. Cathedrals which have the resources to implement this kind of repertoire. Those who commission new works. It would probably require all three groups working together to make a difference.


No problem of timing, Martin. I’m merely observing that the catastrophe that was (and to some degree still is) post-Conciliar parish music didn’t come from nowhere. It grew from fertile ground, and one of its chief characteristics – whether we label it cheesiness, sentimentalism or a Dionysian tendency – was encouraged by the nature of many hymns of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and their increasingly widespread use.

I’m afraid your comments on the Golden Age and participation are Aunt Sallies. I haven’t posited a Golden Age. I’m sure the Old Adam in us works against the liturgy in every age, encouraging liturgical musicians to focus on the emotional impact of the music, turning us inwards rather than towards the true Object of our worship. Equally, it is our duty to strive against this tendency, in composition and choice. To simply look on and observe the difficulty of the task, rather than join the struggle, is an abnegation of responsibility.

Nor have I suggested that music appropriate to the Rite is necessarily to be performed by musicians alone. Putting aside the questions begged by your comments on participation, I came to the Church from a Christian tradition that would find that position nonsensical (and which, I trust, will bring some of its musical patrimony to the Church through the Ordinariat). It’s quite possible to write and choose competent, non-cheesy liturgical music and hymns; the problem is that large parts of the Church in England and Wales has limited or little experience of doing so. Until it begins to think about aligning music to the character of the Rite, it will continue to have a problem.
Ian Williams
Alium Music

alan29
Posts: 1165
Joined: Fri May 27, 2005 8:04 pm
Location: Wirral

Re: Cheese

Post by alan29 »

Not only the Catholic Church either. Wasn't the English Hymnal compiled partly as an antidote to sentimental Victorian hymns. Happily the publishers were able to call upon RVW to both root out the worst, and in his own tunes, lead by example. But such attempts at moulding taste never last long ..... just consider the huge number of "I look at Jesus and he looks at me" kinds of choruses and hymns that are to be heard in Anglican parishes.
It ever was so. People may not know much about music or liturgy, but they know what works for them in the context of their worship. For some it will be Byrd, for others a Wesley hymn, and for some it will be a simple modern song. And for many it will be something that doesn't get in the way of worship by demanding technical accomplishments they don't have or want.

Post Reply