Saturday, July 9, 2011

J.T. Whatsitworth, It's MY music, and I want it NOW!

Consider the lilies, the swallows…not even Solomon in all his glory was so adorned. (No quotes, just paraphrasing as I recall His words.)  The lilies and swallows that gave a joyful example to His disciples are long gone from Jesus' day. Most of the images of the saints and sinners that adorn blogs have arrived to their reward or will do so at some point of time. This isn’t meant to be morbid in the slightest. We believers in Christ push on, whether dragging through the mud and waste or flying in concert with the Spirit, confident in faith that a “reward” does, indeed, await. I personally believe that there is a sublime reality that escapes our notice about one particular endeavor we enjoy from God’s bounty that also escapes death. Whether this re-creation is rewarded with a hellish posterity, an ignorant, interminable limbo, or received into glory,  I dunno. Of course, I’m speaking of music. "Optima musica Dei donum."  I have had a great CMAA friend, Richard Chonak, provide two different perspectives, or translations of that: one being “Music is the greatest gift of God”; and two, "the finest music is God's gift."
 I’ve never further qualified either of those interpretations. It’s not “some music,” “my music,” “your music,” “our music” and most certainly not “God’s music.” He’s passed that. Who of us that has consciously put the muse to the pen or the recording device hasn’t secretly acknowledged that we were gifted to be the sharers, or “authors” of our tunes and harmonies from the one who created this aspect of the cosmos and spread it out upon the ether.
Here’s the point. I believe it’s basically a vanity and therefore pointless to use this gift as any form of tool or weapon to advance our truly heartfelt, informed and even righteous agendae and thus lambaste any and all perceived adversaries to our self-proclaimed truths in an effort to (what?) simply prevail upon others. And doing so seems to me a remarkably counterproductive waste of time (that which is also a gift) if we are to be fully invested in evangelizing our neighbors and strangers to the whole of the Gospels. To be clear, I have no reluctance towards sharing the bounty of our Catholic Church’s wise counsel that, at worship, we are inheritors and benefit from the unique and mysterious charms and priceless treasure that are revealed in chant, polyphony and other truly sacred forms of music.
On the other hand, if we cannot in good conscience deny that God is the sole author of grace and operates in His time and wisdom, then should any soul in pain, doubt and darkness who cries out for solace, reconciliation and forgiveness, and salvation have those prayers rejected by God’s ordained ministers? "It’s about the sacraments, silly!" (To paraphrase President Clinton in irony.) But, if that same soul is hanging by a thread to the Christian life and asks for a sip of water that musically is known as “Be not afraid,” who are we to deny that? Are we to declare to that pleading soul, “Why sure, sinner-man, as long as it’s chanted and in Latin, ‘you down with “Nolite timere?”


I want my cantus, and I want it NOW!
  Well, the way I see it going down at least for another four decades of wandering is that great strides will be made towards restoring solemnity and dignity to the performance of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass as sung in the vernaculars. But they will continue to be sung in the vernaculars by and large. And bar the highly unlikely scenario of an official reckoning with the IGRM/GIRM that makes option four as clear as crystal, proper texts will continue on their path, through the efficacy of our labors,  to be utilized as their appropriate roles at the processionals, graduals, alleluia/tracts/sequences more pervasively and hopefully persuasively. That said, I cannot predict that will ever come about at the expense of the use of strophic hymnody (as opposed to liturgical hymnody) and religious song whose paraphrased textual source may align to the proper calendar, as well as the vast body of both poetical and scriptural allusion lyrics. These latter forms, Frankenstein-monster-spawn of the Freemason Bugnini or not, have been taken up by more than one undisciplined, laconic and spiritually-undernourished generation. And they now own these songs and a great many of the hymns that they “get.” And some of us chant TRUE BELIEVERS that want our Quick Remedy Wagon surplus bought en masse right now by the undernourished PIPs are prone to that time-honored curial penchant for forked-tongue-ed rhetoric, “you can have your cake and eat it too,”  in our spiels and appeals.
Of course the people are to sing their appointed portions of the liturgy, as long as they’re those of the chanted Latin settings appropriate to the seasons and occasions (huh?). But if you can’t master much more than the Death Mass in Latin or even English, don’t worry, we, THE SCHOLA, will cover for ya, no problem. You just listen real hard, contemplate, watch and pray. And now that you know those bold fonted thingy’s called antiphons in the missalettes actually mean something, just trust us that they’re more attuned to the scriptural lessons than all that sacropop syrup those hippies have spoon fed you, and we’ll sing them real purdy, and not just at the “gathering, preparation and feasting” parts, but we’ll sing them ourselves between the readings and dazzle ourselves with our florid gymnastics that will make Christina Aguilera even more embarrassed and jealous of her obvious lack of ornamental skills. But wait, what? You want to take part too? Watch and pray isn’t working for you? Okay, then, we can do that. Here, we’ve got tons of vernacular chant propers and ordinaries that are “Lite,” you’ll get the hang of ‘em real soon. But wait, what? No, you can’t sing “On Eagles’ Wings” ever again. Here, I’ve got a 400 word treatise on why it doesn’t even qualify as an “alius cantus aptus,” so there! But wait, what’s an “alius cantus aptus?” Well, look it up ‘cause I’m done with schooling you all, and “Beagles’ Wings” ain’t one of ‘em in any case. Trust me! I mean it, TRUST ME!


I think I’ve exhausted the point. Make no mistake about it or me. If I could attend a solemn Latin High Mass in EF every day, that’s how I’d worship. You heard it here by these lips, “Ed Schaefer was right.” (Look it up.) Some of us eventually have to make a hard and fast choice. But equating our choice with imposing same upon others isn’t good medicine for all like cod liver or castor oil. It is more akin to the cliche about teaching the pig to sing. But guess which of the two protagonists in that cliche is more pig headed? Slow and steady as she goes, hope and pray and nourish the poor and teach them to swim in waters that are moving and not in pools. But don’t expect them to do a swan dive off a high cliff right behind you because you can come up and breathe afterwards to applause (which is, of course, meant to be no applause.)

Get accustomed to the Big Tent having more than one ring in the circus maximus for a few more decades, my friends.
I'm just sayin'....