Random thoughts and a review of SACRED MUSIC, Winter 2014 Issue

In another thread (over at MSF) I quipped about having to “slog through” two articles on Viennese Masses in the most recent issue of SACRED MUSIC. In any case I did my slogging and save for Dr. Jenny’s article, read it cover to cover just yesterday. There is much to ponder, both in content and as regards intent.
I was surprised and gratified to again hear Prof. Mahrt publicly mention “circumambulated” Introits as a potential betterment of the Entrance Rite that is commonly practiced. His whole article could be easily shared with skeptical celebrants wary of fussy, “traddie” musicians always yammering on about the Benedictine altar and ad orientem. His recollection of one particular Colloquium Mass (I believe Fr. Keyes was celebrant) that reflected the value of a prominent Altar Crucifix even when the OF is celebrated “versus populum” would likely sway a few hearts of non-stolid celebrants.
The article profiling Fr. Louis Boyer was an eye-opener. For non-academics such as myself, the revelations of ritual “sausage making” are of extreme interest. Such detail (not dissimilar to Dobszay’s explication of Bugnini) gives insights by which we now can re-consider “why are we doing this as such?” Boyer’s own internal struggles with the value of the Pauline Missal, on one hand endorsing SC and on the other making this incredible declaration, “What people call liturgy today is little more that this (embalmed cadaver-a reference to the pre-conciliar Low Mass one supposes) same cadaver decomposed.” Yikes! What may be even more frightening is that the “slap-dash” liturgies (of the Dutch?) that were “cobbled together at the last moment by a gang of three) would be now considered “High Church” by comparison to Mass at St.Suburbs.
The articles on the Viennese Mass were informative if a tad anachronistic. What both authors could not resist were suppositions of how abuses in the 17th century among others in regions other than just Wien, automatically bring to mind comparisons to presumably all contemporaneous service music in the 21st century and globally so. There is an undeniable amount of truth in linking such denunciation, but what is overlooked is that the processes of “action/reaction” and “problem/solution” that were in process then are also in process now. Thankfully, as CMAA has a clear ethos centered around the primary and secondary genres of “genuine Roman” music, the default to those makes excursions into “what place does the Viennese Mass” have as a standard of beauty for Masses in this era a brief consideration. Msgr. Schuler’s spirit lives on, but not pervasively so. But to advocate for this model of Mass to be resuscitated, well…..
The article about the very definition and nature of “art” seemed, to me, very sketchy and of dubious value. I’m just going to leave that discussion open to others. It does have some passing interest by a loose connection to the issue of free speech brought to the fore of the news cycle by the recent tragedy. (One digression as I type is the incredulity of the media gleefully exhibiting the cover art for the emerging issue of “Charlie Hebdo.” Would they have done that three weeks ago?
Mahrt scores again with his brief and helpful analysis of Factus est repente by Gallus. Goes to the top of the pile for next rehearsals.
I very much appreciate the standards of SACRED MUSIC being maintained at a lofty scholastic level. Perhaps down the road, some enterprising young scholar might apply those rubrics to examining the body of music that is significantly employed not only here in the states, but in their own ways, the inculturated accretions that are routinely and generally excoriated in forums such as this one. There is no doubt that what Benedict predicted about unfettered inculturation would “do” to the “Spirit of the Liturgy” is spot on. However, I’ve yet to see any comprehensive discussion of inculturated musical elements that have been properly vetted and not found wanting. Now that would be interesting reading. Cheers.

One Reply to “Random thoughts and a review of SACRED MUSIC, Winter 2014 Issue”

  1. SACRED MUSIC would welcome good discussions of any music for the liturgy; perhaps Charles, you could set the example. Some criteria: The closer the music is to Gregorian chant, other things being equal, the more it is to be preferred (Pius X, Motu proprio). The closer the text is to the texts of the propers the better. That is, how suitable is the music to the spirit of the liturgy, as opposed to the entertainment or edification value of some sacro-pop music.? The discussion should address intrinsically musical elements. Most writing on hymns addresses the texts alone, while the music is very significant. What, for instance, are the great hymns and why?

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