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Friday, 17 July 2009

Utility and Aesthetics in Liturgical Music... and Something Else

What are our ideals, as liturgical musicians?

Do they include the conviction that there is an ideal, a paradigm that in a perfect world would obtain every time, every Mass?

Charles of Musica Dei Donum Optimi began a conversation at the CMAA boards, (and continued it on his blog,) of the Sanctus, and whether all the demands on it can be met, and are being met in the music we program.

He begins with only 2, utility and aesthetics, but the post and the subsequent thread radiate out to others -- or are they all encapsulated in the two?
Is making full and appropriate use of the gifts of both choir and congregation an aspect of utility? is that ineffable quality we all transcendence really a way of saying "so beautiful I feel I am in the presence of God"?
Kathy voices some concerns with most currently popular settings that I might encapsulate by saying that they are all assertive to the point of being aggressive.
Aristotle points to the absence of a translation of the word "igitur" in one, and of any "igitur to be translated in the other 3 EPs, after the Sanctus, contributing to the seeming lack of integrity of form, (that I had referenced in "Noble Simplicity",) and Bruce comes out firmly against the choral Sanctus for the violence it does to this integrity, this unity of form, (as well as criticizing certain forms and the theology they express and/or encourage, about which rabbit hole, the less said the better.)
All in all a terrific conversation.

But what most intrigued me, Richard decries the acceptance of the "bigness imperative," the sensibility that measures solemnity in decibels, and in the process throws out another possible requirement, perhaps the first requirement of an appropriate setting of words of praise we Sing With the Angels -- humility, (actually, he describes it and Charles names it.)




But making that one of our ideals does not mean that not only is a chanted Sanctus the ideal, but one that, once arrived at, can never be deviated from, surely. Musicians and liturgists are exhorted not to neglect the treasury, composers are exhorted to add to it.

But always with humility. (Humility would make it impossible to muck with the text. )


A mode of singing, and composing for that matter, that answers the question, is the Eucharist the source and summit of our Faith or are we Its?


Now please turn to number four hundred and seventy one in your But Enough About Me, God, What Do You Think About Me? hymnal.

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

With humility, I referred to Mgr. Schuler's "duality of the choir" reconciliation in the Musica Sacra thread.

And I would not characterize all Chant "Sancti" as 'tentative,' or 'querying.' See, e.g., IV, XI, XVII.