I have just been listening to the Sunday Service, on Radio 4, from Aberystwyth, whilst I was reading through the Blogosphere. There was a rather good sermon by a Canon Bell but it was punctuated by absolutely horrid music, even old classics like Immortal Invisible and Stand up, Stand up for Jesus, were accompanied by crash, crash, bang, bang, with hideous percussion, a slightly out of tune brass instrument.
I felt like one of those snakes that the odd American fundamentalist, charismatic church uses to testify to the text, “You shall pick up deadly serpents in your hands and remain unharmed”. They are left near the loudspeaker, whilst devotees dance, stomp near them, so the poor things are so traumatised, they have forgotten they are snakes, and are danced with by their handlers, who do indeed remain unharmed.
Catholic music is something different, I was reading a brief obituary of Dom Jean Hesbert-Desrocquettes, a monk of Quarr, there were these two sentences:
“He was a musician of genius; but for him the chant was the heart of the life of prayer; it would be a thing of beauty in the measure in which it expressed and nourished prayer, and it would express and nourish prayer in proportion to the loving care given to its execution.
And the same deep spirituality was both expressed and concealed by his utter simplicity; it was expressed especially in his love of 'the brethren, and it is for this, as well as for his influence for and through the chant, that he will be most remembered at Quarr and his loss most regretted.”
It is not just the words that are prayer but the music too, chant leads us into a deeper understanding of the text, that is important, but the sound, the actual melody leads us into prayer. There is a perspective in traditional chant with a vanishing point that draws us beyond ourselves to God. I don't know if one can compare it to the Buddhist chanting of "Ohm", but there seems to be something which unites, the great tradition of Catholic, Orthodox and non-Christian chant.
The crash, crash, bang, bang type of music leads us nowhere, just to ourselves, and indeed it leads us to a spiritual trauma.
I am not sure that Victorian hymns are much better, I admit I do not understand the correlation of chant prayer, I would be grateful for your thoughts on this subject.