Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Pregnant Music

When I was young and stupid, (as opposed to now when I am middle-aged and stupid,) I was singing some enormous choral work in some enormous concert - the Berlioz Requiem perhaps?- some Mass, no matter.

Whatever it was, I, and all the silly girls around me, thought what a bad job the poor incompetent composer had done -- ya call that a finale?
That weak, quiet, unassuming little thing? What kind of way is THAT to end a performance piece?

We, of course, had no notion of the liturgical purpose of the various movements of a Mass.

Essentially, we believed music should be buttoned.

Watching a recording of a liturgy taped some time ago off EWTN, a "big" Mass.
And it's not badly done, the music not badly chosen or sung or played, it is not utterly inappropriate, the problems are not "style, " per se -- but I realize what so many movements of the Ordinary, (a work I actually like,) are missing:

They are not pregnant.
Whatever they were intended to deliver, is already out there.
They are finished.
Instead of quickening, they are dead.
They sound final.
They do not lead to something more, in fact to something more important, they do not promise something greater to come.

And far too much church music is the same way -- how often would a stranger to Catholic worship think the collection must be the high point of our services?

The music says so!

I am very aware just now of the movement through time of music and words, as the play I am rehearsing comes together.
Ah, we need to slow this down, we need to make this more matter of fact, we need to highlight this, we need this to build, we need this to whet the appetite to what follows...

There is a craft to constructing theatrical music. There is a craft to constructing performance music.

And its methods should NOT be applied unthinkingly to the programming and playing of liturgical music.

Because then the Mass ends up being a series of finales, of ta-dahs!

No, liturgical music must be pregnant.

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