Radio Silence

Firstly, I am happy to confirm Jeffrey’s report that the Simple English Propers collection has been finally submitted for publication, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This project has been on my desk for nearly nine months, so I suppose that the “birth” analogy is appropriate here. I feel like I have birthed a child… well, not literally, but my exhaustion and joy at the end of this process have to be at least a ‘sacramental’ representation of this. We have all waited with expectant joy, and now we can rejoice in the arrival of the completed project. Thanks be to God.

Secondly, I would like to apologize for my radio silence on the Chant Café, and elsewhere online. The completion of SEP has only been a part of my load in recent months. I’ve also been directing and guiding a young parish sacred music program, in addition to crystallizing plans for what I have called the ‘Sacred Music Project’, which is soon to be transformed and given new purpose.

For me, the Simple English Propers project is a beginning, not an end. I have learned so much in the process, and have had the opportunity, like many other followers of this blog, to already have used these chants settings in liturgy for five months or more. In my experience of working on the ground level of American Catholic liturgical culture I have begun to see the great things that lie ahead. The SEP project, for me, has laid a foundation on which to build. It will be wonderful to see this come to completion, but it really is not an ending point. It is a beginning point. What lies ahead in the distance is a musical treasure of inestimable value, and, I think, a vast expanse for further development in our own day. The difference here is that we’re not talking about more additions to the realm of ‘alius cantus aptus’, but contributions in the form of musical settings of the liturgical texts themselves.

Just today I read a very lengthy review of a forthcoming hymnal from a recently prominent Catholic publisher. The contents of this book are so contrary to the nature and spirit of the liturgy as I see and understand it that it is nearly appalling. What this book communicates is a clinging to an ethos that is no longer viable, not a looking to the future or a response to the needs of today. What lies ahead for us is a liturgical renewal that is founded solidly on the liturgical texts and rites themselves. The abandonment and neglect of these in the past decades has left a vast expanse for our generation to explore and understand. The propers have been ignored to such an extent that there is virtually a blank slate in front of us for further authentic development. The Gregorian ideal is still always there and needs to be utilized more and more, but still there is an incredible amount of room for filling the gap between the chants in the liturgical books and the common practice of the past 50 years.

It is an exciting time to be a church musician I think. The only place to go is up, and the future is looking very bright. I’m excited!

Please, again, accept my apologies for being largely absent in the Chant Café conversation. I will be back more now. I have accumulated quite the blogging to-do list, and hope to tackle this in the coming weeks. So please enjoy a round of virtual espressos on me and I’ll look forward to catching you all soon.

11 Replies to “Radio Silence”

  1. Adam, Thank you seems hardly enough to say for the incredible work you have done on SEP. I am using the Communio on a weekly basis and they fit the bill perfectly and wonderfully compliment the Gregorian Introit sung by our cantors from the Gregorian Missal. Furthermore, my choir/schola picks the weekly propers up with great ease and thoroughly enjoys singing them. Your positive optimism is truly encouraging to all. I look forward to hearing/reading of your plans for the Sacred Music Project you mention.

    Your comment: "clinging to an ethos that is no longer viable" regarding so many of the "mainline" publications coming forth from publishers is indeed apt commentary.

    Again, thank you for all that you do!!

  2. I concur with you and Myron, Adam. But one has to remember that this publisher has, at its heart, a commercial interest and stake inwhich any ethos apart from that is subsumed or marginalized at best. I rather think its "christening" mimics anchoring the largest warship of the US Navy just offshore of Tunisia, it's a show of force saying "We ARE viable. WE determine the course of events."
    Seems a bit anachronistic, to me, as well as antagonistic towards the semiological "catholic" ethos.
    Anyways, congratulations, Mom….er….Dad…er…parental unit!

  3. Charles, your accusation of "this publisher" or any other of only having a commercial interest at stake is a judgement based not on any real knowledge of the people at the company, and the people who serve on these hymnal committees. You or others may not like the content of any such book, that is everyone's right. But the judgement of motives, is wrongheaded and misinformed at best, and just plain "cheap shots" at worst. I know many of these people. "Clinging to an ethos that is no longer viable?" Says who? Not founded on the "liturgical texts and rites?" Hmmm, then why is the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago giving it its approval? Come on everyone, I know most of you here hate the mainstream publishers, and the work that they publish… lay off the drama… Be proud of the new publication that Adam has worked so hard on.. have it be a positive contribution serving the needs of worshippers of people who pray and celebrate well with this approach. No need to knock and demonize (here I go again) other resources that present options (which by the way, are totally in compliance and adherence to the GIRM) other than your own tastes. I continually am amazed at this inability to celebrate all of the voices, spiritualities and genres that can ultimately express our prayer and worship.

    I know, I am in trouble again, and I know you have your claws out ready to scratch. I just don't get it.. I think the SEP project and other efforts is a wonderful contribution. Why do we have to demonize and bash other efforts, and attach bad intentions to them?

  4. David, I will not speak for Charles, but have a couple responses to offer:

    ""Clinging to an ethos that is no longer viable?" Says who?"

    Well, this is a big topic of conversation among many, as you are familiar I'm sure. This statement has presuppositions, many of which can be found in the past posts here and in the pages of scholarship in what we are calling the "new liturgical movement". It's not a cheap shot, just a reality that many today have accepted.

    "Not founded on the "liturgical texts and rites?" Hmmm, then why is the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago giving it its approval?"

    Per GIRM 48 and 87, Cardinal George is required to approve musical settings of texts that are considered "another suitable song", and are, by definition, non-liturgical texts to begin with. There is no need for approval of "other settings" of the antiphons of the Roman Missal or Gradual, which are liturgical texts. The bulk of the hymnal I mentioned consists of hymnody that sets texts that are not from a liturgical source, but are from some other source and therefore require the approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority.

    "No need to knock and demonize (here I go again) other resources that present options (which by the way, are totally in compliance and adherence to the GIRM) other than your own tastes."

    I can assure you that "taste" is not a concern of any of the worthwhile contributors to the new liturgical movement. Taste has nothing to do with the Roman Rite. I don't promote chant because this is my musical flavor. I promote it because it is defined dogmatically by the Church as being proper to the Roman liturgy. And, also, we all know that Catholics are great at meeting issues of "compliance and adherence". We know very well how to do as little as possible in order to satisfy the requirement, and be "licit". The ethos of the new liturgical movement is about much more than being licit. It is more about restoring right order to the available "options". Our current practice is verifiable a pyramid standing on its head.

    "I continually am amazed at this inability to celebrate all of the voices, spiritualities and genres that can ultimately express our prayer and worship."

    I'm much more concerned with the people of God participating in the reality of the heavenly liturgy that is communicated to them in sacramental signs in the texts and ritual of the liturgy of the Roman Rite. I think we can celebrate our diversity elsewhere.

    "I know, I am in trouble again, and I know you have your claws out ready to scratch. I just don't get it."

    No claws out here David. I hope you see the perspective offered here and respond to it with the same charity that it is offered.

    "I think the SEP project and other efforts is a wonderful contribution."

    Thank you for these kind words, David. Do you think that you ever might use this resource, or others that set the propers in the work that you do? I'd be curious to hear what kind of success you have had in using musical settings of the propers in any context, any musical style. Other than the Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Verse, that is. I would love to see what you might be able to offer parishes that seek to sing proper texts in your own unique musical voice. Could be a great contribution, no? What do you think?

  5. David, with all respect, you're picking a fight with someone who has no malice of intent towards the publishing houses. I was merely pointing out to Adam, if no one else, the economic realities of any commercial enterprise. You really need to pay closer attention youself to stereotyping who is "us" v. "them."

    Truth be told, which I will post upon herein shortly, I don't agree with the notion that any "ethos" is no longer valuable. But you wouldn't or couldn't know that, could you? You have as much prejudice at heart as those here whom you accuse of intellectual dishonesty. In the words of the sage Tweety Bird, "He don't know me vewy well, do he?" You don't.

    I am and always will be a pragmatist. You don't know me. Visit my blog? Know my music?

    Yeah, you're in trouble, big guy, but you need to know it is trouble you have brought upon your own conscience by your prejudice. And my claws, or my right hand fingernails, so you speak, are (Deo gratias) are in good shape so that I can continue to hone my formidable guitar skills occasionally playing (as in last Sunday) your own compositions.

    You don't know me, David. Do your homework, and then simply apologize for your impetuosity. And, for the record, I have recommended one of your new settings to the contemporary ensembles under my supervision upon the advent of MR3. I won't deny myself or that endorsement because of your silly misunderstanding of my intent.

    I like hymns, I like songs, I can play any of them better than many of your fellow travelers.

    There's no drama involved with the unveiling of any commercial interest's product line; it's just business. I, for one, appreciated AWR's thorough review over at PT, or didn't you get that? So, you own the drama and the trouble, David. I'm just a discerning consumer, but I'm neither a demonizer nor unintelligent.

    You picked the wrong fat guy to excoriate.

    But, if you want to talk this out someday over a glass of Cabernet, I'm always up for that.

    Otherwise, send an email next time.

  6. Adam, I might have been more direct if I'd used "etymological" instead. But I would think that the traditional understanding of the collection of regional chants (ascribed to Gregory the Great) also could serve as symbolic evidence of Roman Rite "universality."
    Should stick to two bit words, huh?

  7. Charles;

    What kind of cabernet? We really must get together again…


    I have no doubt that those involved in commercial liturgical publishing are good people. I might characterize their actions as well intentioned. But what would happen if any one of those publishers adopted a vision of liturgical music consistent with and obedient to the Church's documents read in light of her 2000 year history, and developed their Lproducts" to promote that view. Show me THAT business plan and a willingness to pursue it and I'll be a believer.

    Until then, don't blame those who are suspicious about motives.

  8. Ok, I know this is kinda late, but did you ever consider putting the alleluia verses in it, since that is one of the propers? It would make it much easier for some of us, and wouldn't take up much space.

  9. So instead, they promote and (here's the important point) CREATE a need for ever-changing, new and not-available-except-through-us music. To be blunt…it is my firm belief that most of the Catholic faithful "want" contemporary liturgical music at Mass the same way they "want" Great Grains cereal for breakfast or Dunkin' Donuts Coffee on their way into work… the need is created by and fostered by the companies that sell those products. And there is a reason why those hymnals are referred to as "products" by their respective publishers. They have been "produced" in response to a "need" that they themselves have created. Now, all of this doesn't mean that the individuals involved don't have personal views that mesh well with promoting this vision… I really believe that they do. The question is, does that vision mesh well with that given to us by the Church herself?

    It's not some coincidence that the major Catholic Music Publishers have flourished in the post-Vatican II environment. And they have flourished not by promoting a musico-liturgical vision of the Church in continuity with her 2000 year history, but by promoting a vision that fits a business model. If anyone can show me any evidence that the offerings and "products" of a commercial publishing house are determined by a business plan that results in less profit than would be possible with some other "products", and that the decision to make less profit was based on the needs of the liturgy, not including those decisions which have to be made as a result of mandates from above (including the Chant Mass in all published resources, using the new translation, etc…), then I might be convinced. But a simple demonstration of syncronicity between the liturgical vision of the individuals at publishing companies and the products they create and sell is not a convincing argument.

    Chironomo (I can't log in via mobile right now!)

    May 24, 2011 7:25 AM

  10. Charles;

    What kind of Cabernet? I'm a bit far away to join you for a glass though….

    That out of the way… I think it's possible to admit (say? claim?) that commercial music publishers are, in the end, driven by commercial (profit) interests but still have interests of the liturgy at heart. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    But then comes the all important question. When we say the interests of the liturgy, do we mean our view of what the liturgy's interests are, or do we mean those interests that are given to us by the documents of the Church read in the light of and informed by tradition? If the latter were the case, I doubt that there would be much complaint from the "reform" movement about the motives of commercial publishers.

    But the problem comes when it is realized that commercial publishers have to create a unique product that is only available from them. There is no point in supporting a vision of liturgical music that centers around music that is (now) available for free everywhere and which, at best, would foresee a music book for the pews that would not need to be replaced EVER save for replacing worn out copies.

    May 24, 2011 7:25 AM

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