Whose “Pop Music”?

Watching the closing Mass of World Youth Day, I actually enjoyed the “Brazilian-ness” of it all.  The music, the arms waving, the waves on the beach, and the remarkable silence of 3 million people when they were told to meditate.  (Try that last item in your local parish!)

And I could also imagine the complaints about the music, summarized as “Arggh, more pop music!”  Then it occurred to me that the music (which reminded me strongly of Barry Manilow) wasn’t pop music at all to those young people. 

Heck, it’s music from before they were born; it’s their parents’ music.  Popular music has gone way further down the road since the 1980s – think hip-hop, techno-pop, trance music, rap, etc..  And if these 80’s stylings are the music you’ve heard in church all your life, it’s not “pop music,”  it’s downright traditional church music. 

[Cue “I Write the Songs.”]


15 Replies to “Whose “Pop Music”?”

  1. Just as the "folk Mass", which has been around for nigh on half-a-century owes more to Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary than it does to real folk music, which has more in common with Gregorian Chant. A lot of Irish folk songs seem to be in Mode VII.

  2. This is precisely what Chris Ferrara and others have been pointing to — how many Catholics adhere to a pseudo-tradition of the past 40-50 years (which, in the area of music, built upon other pseudo-traditions that preceded it). It makes no difference how long an abuse has continued; it does not become less an abuse, but rather, a more deeply entrenched and therefore more harmful abuse. Think of the argument about extraordinary ministers of holy communion: they've been around for decades now — does that make them "traditional"?

    I realize you are not arguing in favor of the Barry Manilow music, but it's a scary thought that there are people out there who would run with this kind of argument instead of reforming the music to conform to the teaching of Pius X, Vatican II, Benedict XVI, etc.

  3. When we were setting up the chant mass in our parish, The parish liturgy committee in attempt to stop this from happening put out a survey about church music….in one of the questions they asked "What kind of music do you like at mass:" A) Contemporary/Modern B) Traditional (example: Be not Afraid, Gather us in, Sing a new Church etc.) or C) Ancient Traditional (Gregorian Chant, Panis Anglicus, Ave Maria).

    None of this is surprising if you understand that the "Youth Mass" (or the Hootenanny Mass as it was called in 1965) had its genesis from Adults who had an agenda, not the youth. They ("the youth") didn't ask for it, and frankly, most find (as I did when I was a "youth") find it lame or as one of my sons used to call it "hippie pot smoking music."

    When the Youth are actually exposed to Chant and Sacred Polyphony, they almost always get it…the other worldliness, calm and indeed, the sense of the sacred that is missing in the folk/pop music they are subjected to regularly.

  4. Sometimes I think that, in modern societies, older people are not so much repositories of wisdom as repositories of their own youth. The Brazilian Barry Manilow music is a perfect example! Thank you!

  5. To clarify: the point was not to glorify sacro-pop, but to make sure that when we say "pop" we understand that it may mean one thing to us and something entirely different to Millennials.

    And Podatus is right on the money about wisdom vs. our own youthful experiences.

  6. I was young when the changes came, but could chant 5 Latin Ordinaries by heart. In my parish it was the juvenile delinquents in their 40s and 50s that were pushing the "Guitar Mass.": It was disgusting then, and no less so now..

  7. The question is not whether music at Mass is popular or traditional, makes little difference. The question is whether the music is sacred or not.

  8. Having just returned from Rio after attending the WYD, I can attest that it was a wonderful celebration of Catholic faith for the millions of participating pilgrims. At the same time, I knew what to expect in terms of liturgical style, so my overall experience is captured well in Fr. Tim Finigan's blog post: http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com….
    I did have an opportunity to attend several Masses in the Extraordinary Form organized by Juventutem and the Apostolic Administration of St John Vianney in the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antiga Sé (the "Old Cathedral" of Rio de Janeiro). All were very well attended, especially the Solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Rifan. It was inspiring to see so many youth in profound, devout worship during these liturgies. (For more on this, see the NLM entry: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/index.html#4

  9. Consequently, I agree with several commenters on this thread that the Church's treasury of ancient sacred music (Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony) strongly appeals to young people. We have also observed this phenomenon as a result of establishing a parish Schola Cantorum recently. The majoriy of our members (and the ones who most consistently participate) are teenagers. (Our Schola website: http://www.seascc.org/index.cfm?load=page&pag

  10. Some ideas for how promoters of liturgical renewal can help increase awareness and appreciation among young people:
    • A mini-sacred music colloquium (i.e., workshops for Gregorian chant and polyphony)
    • Solemn Vespers
    • Organ recitals and sacred music concerts
    • Lectures and guided tours on religious art and architecture
    • Tutorials for altar servers interested in serving Mass according to the usus antiqior
    • Chant and polyphonic settings of the WYD hymn
    A subset of these have been included in the “Youth Festival” of previous WYD programs and would be well-received in Krakow three years from now.

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