Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Music can drive you far from God!

Ti-tee-tum-tee tum ti... or tum ti-ti ti-ti tum..., it gives me a head ache, I hate the music at World Youth Day liturgies, it is entertainment, show tunes, it drives prayer out of my head or reduces it "Lord, stop, please", It is what I imagine Americans troops play to torture inmates at their unsavoury prison at Guantanamo.

If I was present in Rio I would tear my vestments off and run naked screaming from the basilica, clawing at my bloody ears and have to be restrained and shut in a dark room by burly nuns, most probably for months, if not years, possibly even until death, which could or could not be in a state of Grace. I will read what the Bishop of Rome has to say, it is probably going to be quite exciting.

The dreadful thing is some you will agree with me. We could fill a whole locked ward to ourselves and even have matching straight-jackets. Others might wisely counsel me to pull myself together, and stop behaving like a silly adolescent and accept the stuff as penance for the common good, and others less wisely simply assure me next time round there might be something that pleases me. Yet others might suggest that they know of a little church hidden away somewhere where not just the music but the action and indeed the whole liturgy might be more to my taste, which is equally worrying.

The great problem is that music in church has become something that actually is a matter of taste and if one doesn't share that taste it actually can drive people out and the great problem is that they can be driven so far away that the actually die far from the sacraments and the mercy of Our Mother the Church. Church music has always been controlled and frequently reformed because some music be so destructive.

To be evangelised is one thing, that is an act of Grace but to like or even be tolerant of a particular musical genre  is another thing. God can draw someone into a deep and profound desire for Him but the man with the tambourine or even sackbut or organ can drive out any desire for Communion with God in a particular community, such people can be hated even by the most pious, often by the most pious. One can switch off an irritating, even heretical, priest's homily, one of parishioners often turns on her ipod when I preach. You close your eyes to shenanigans on the sanctuary but music touches the soul, even if you try to ignore it you can't. The medieval Church and universities took up Pythagoras and the Greeks who understood  music to speak directly to the soul and could either inflame passions or to bring healing and concord to the soul. Music should be healing and therapeutic but being adolescent again, in Church, it is so often torture!

That is obviously not so here where we tend to do our best to use that great corpus of Catholic music that has been tried and tested down the ages to soothe the savage breast and draw us closer to God, that music which is designed to speak at the same time to those who want to dance and those who wanted to mourn, it is designed to support the relationship with God, not to take over from it but the problem is that most people think we use the Church's music because it is music I like. It has become a matter of taste, which is presumably why VII's intention to have some music at all liturgical celebrations has been ignored and most people prefer the 'music lovers Mass', the Missa Lecta, read Mass, with no music.

Personally I much prefer this, which I have been listening to tonight but obviously it is meant for theatre and not church:


Supertradmum said...

THANKS SO MUCH. I cannot bear to watch the Masses. We have dumbed down taste to the lowest common denominator...but where is the Gregorian Chant, which leads us to God and not to our own passions?

Scott Woltze said...

If RH Benson's book, "The Lord of the World" was made into a movie, I think that music could be Felsenburgh's anthem. The music (leaving aside the lyrics) was an anthem for the City of Man, not the City of God. As Supertradmum implies, it was really the opposite of true sacred music...

Kneeling Catholic said...

Don't give up hope on WYD yet, Father!

Wynn said...

"… matching strait-jackets."

Do Gammarelli's do a High Mass set in strait-jackets, I wonder? It could turn out to be one of their most lucrative lines if WYD music becomes the norm.

parepidemos said...

Father Blake, You are so correct in saying that music in the Liturgy has become a matter of taste. Your taste, and mine, leans toward chant, polyphony and a more traditional style; however, others find a different kind of music brings them closer to God (which, after all, is the purpose).

A few years ago, I had the great joy of witnessing Mass celebrated at Guadalupe on December 12th. Initially, I was a bit stunned by the bands, the 'performance singing' to La Virgen by celebrities and the sheer emotion of the congregation; yet, those people put everything into worshipping God; it is their way.

Latin Americans tend to be more demonstrative than us northern Europeans; so, although the tambourine man may drive you and me slightly crazy, his offering may cause others to lift their hearts to God. On that, chant and polyphony have no monopoly. It is, as you say, a matter of taste.

Patricius said...

We are repeatedly told about Brazil being the most populous Catholic country in the world- and so unlike poor tired lapsed Europe. Are we being shown the recipe for success?

Deacon Augustine said...

Brilliantly Pythonesque! I was just waiting for Eric Idle to crawl out from under the altar singing "Every sperm is sacred...!"

No wonder the fundies are devangelising so many Catholics in Brazil.

JARay said...

I see that the music which you have given us has a conductress in charge with very bare arms. Somehow I don't think she would fit in with church dress in Spain or Portugal or Italy.
The music is fine though!

From George said...

I have resorted to wearing earplugs every time the choir sings the hymns and Ordinary in "modern style" and I silently read the Latin instead. I am at the very back of the Church so as not to be too rude. I have to plug my ears or it makes me too upset. Faith comes by hearing...and that noise does not echo of Heaven.

johnf said...

Yes, Father, I like Rameau as well. But to hear the chorus sing " ah, how sweet to live under the laws of this gentle Queen "
That can't apply to this country for a start where the Monarch has broken her Coronation Oath for the second time.

For liturgy, the only music at Mass should be either Gregorian Chant, or if the Schola is god enough, perhaps some Polyphony. On the latter point, I once played John Shephard's 'Et incarnatus est' to my 7 year old daughter and asked her what type of music it was. " church music" she said. "And why do you say that?" I asked.

"Because it sounds like angels singing" she said.

For a long time when the Church had thrown all its patrimony into the gutter, the only places you could hear Gregorian Chant was stations such as Classic FM - where hedonists wanted music to relax by. Who knows, it may have awakened thoughts in their souls and turned them to God.

As for the stuff played at the Papal Mass, it's not as bad as some, but bad enough

nickbris said...

I feel the same way about all the singing at High Mass.

It goes back to when I was young and us children had to stand at the back for a very long hour

Physiocrat said...

I would want a straitjacket in my size (small), otherwise I would wriggle out of it. Big outdoor events need suitable music. A four part setting by Palestrina would get lost. Some of the Gregorian chants settings were intended for processional use and they could work. I would suggest that inspiration could usefully come from sixteenth century Venice, where music by, for example, the Gabrielis, was specially written for state occasions and would still be well received today at WYD and similar events.

Such as this, for a Venetian coronation, where the musicians would have been an a barge in the canal procession.

The people in charge of these events need to be imaginative in their choice of appropriate models. Public address systems can also be problematic at large outdoor gatherings - I don't know what the answer to that is - the church must have had them before electronic sound systems were invented.

Martina Katholik said...

"The great problem is that music in church has become something that actually is a matter of taste and if one doesn't share that taste it actually can drive people out and the great problem is that they can be driven so far away that the actually die far from the sacraments and the mercy of Our Mother the Church."

This is absolutely true and I think the enemy within the Church knows this truth.
There were a lot of psychological studies done by communists how music influences the mind and unleashes the passions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Father.

gemoftheocean said...

French opera. Gott in Himmel. Wake me when the Viking woman with the big bazoombas and helmet mitt horns shows up to vanquish these bald French women to Hades! They are only slightly less irritating that that imbecile of a faux French woman who does that "YAH-gurt" commercial.

As for WYD, the people who pick the music apparently are trying to relive their own hippy youth 45 years ago.

As for the Bishop of Rome, I hope he's still okay, after his extraction via helicopter from a mob. Maybe on the plus side it will cause him to rethink giving his security details so many headaches.

Jacobi said...

It wasn't clear to me if the music was on the video or actually being played. Whichever way, it was the sort they used to, and perhaps still use, at Communist party extravagances.

In the close-ups, the Pope looked uncomfortable and unsure. It's just as well he has retained Marini – who also looked a bit stressed.

Physiocrat said...

If the music accompanying the video is what was being played at the time, this was inside what appears to be a large church and there is no excuse.

If priests were doing their duty, everyone present would be able to join in the Latin Gregorian chants

Instruction on putting into effect the constitution on the sacred liturgy...

Paragraph 59.

"Priests shall take great care that the faithful and particularly the members of religious organisations for the laity also know how to sing or say together in Latin those parts of the ordinary of the mass that are rightfully theirs. They should be taught especially the use of the simpler melodies."


Don't panic, this is not the full story.

This music style is not always at World Youth Days. This sort of music in the liturgy was always going to happen at WYD Rio, because it is common in many South American countries.

Normally this style of music is not the norm, and this is shown in the comments of UK youth workers, like Jack Regan, who complained, at other World Youth Days, that the music was not happy clappy enough and was too stilted (and this was during authorised periphery events, not even the main masses).

I believe it will be in Poland next time and things should go back to normal.

Woody said...

I recently was able to be present at Mass in Munich, Vienna and Budapest, and each time there was very traditional, tuneful music, of which I could not understand a woprd, of course, since it was in Geman or Hungarian, but it sounded like very traditional stuff to me. Left me asking whether it is only in the US (and I guess the UK) that we must suffer the "Catholic Top Fifty" stuff.

Genty said...

Francis' face in repose is glum - like HM The Queen's - but I detect a certain level of (understandable) impatience during the prolonged VIP hand-shaking and interminable speeches. He wants to get down with the crowd. He also seems very ill at ease at the big, liturgical ceremonies so it's a blessing for him to have the steadiness of his liturgical Praetorian Guard, Mgrs. Marini and Krajewski.
But the nusic... oh, dear me. I wonder how a lady who couldn't hit the note was chosen for such a prominent role at the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. All pretty painful for the auditory canal until the mute button came into play.

Cormac said...

When I clicked the clip and heard the music the first thing that entered my mind was that it sounded like the tunes you'd imagine the youth wing of a fascist or communist group from a few decades back singing... 'all marching forth to glorious victory' or something like that. Horrendous stuff.

Aloysius Beckett said...

I started to watch one of the Masses, but turned it off is short order. I was becoming angry and upset...on the verge of tearing my clothing off, then then "run(ing) naked screaming from" my sitting room, "clawing at my bloody ears and have to be restrained and shut in a dark room by burly nuns, most probably for months, if not years, possibly even until death, which could or could not be in a state of Grace." The Pope is saying some wonderful things...but what he is allowing in the Liturgy is shameful. It is clear to me the attitude is to "show up and do whatever they ask." That attitude will, in the end, bit him in the arse and be source of scandal.

Cosmos said...

As a "cradle Catholic," the embarrassingly bad music always fed my deep belief that no one really believed in the religion. Faith was something of a relic that was now just for losers (i.e., the people participating and leading the music and the rest of the performance) or dutiful people like my parents.

Not my current opinion, but my teenage one. That is why its hilarious that the worst music is often justified as appealing to the masses. I doubt it.

John Nolan said...

Actually the music reminded me of the chorus from a second-rate 19th century French opera.

However, if we are to return to the glory days of Piero Marini and JP II we must have drums and liturgical dancers.

Savonarola said...

Thanks for the link to Hipolyte et Aricie which I wanted to see at Glyndebourne, but cannot make it.
This is the best thing that has ever appeared on your website - nothing to do with religion!

The Rad Trad said...

Poor Guido Marini

Clearly Salmon said...

Our children have been fortunate to attend 3 WYD's in the past, and I cannot sing it's praises loudly enough. They befriend many Catholics like themselves, from far-flung places across the globe. They experienced the Global, Universal Church in it's glory and felt Christ with them through these contacts. They experienced others who love the Lord as they do and want to get to know Him even better.
Their faith was extended and enhanced by awe-inspiring and holy Catechesis. They attended Eucharistic Adoration,Reconciliation, and Mass. They were inspired and loved by the Pope.
These young pilgrims do not experience this sort of music back home in their parishes. So experiencing it once every three years can't be too 'damaging'?

They came back home each and every time, moved to be more active in their parish with a sense of solidarity as Catholics and enthusiastic about their faith.

The only reason this happened is because Blessed John Paul II had the vision to create something just for the youth. He realised that the youth are the future of the Church.
WYD represents the youth, is for the youth AND the future of the Church.
Surely these positive objectives overshadow the negligible music for some?
What makes WYD so special is that the pilgrims experience a flavour of Catholicism from the part of the world they are visiting. The Catholic culture of that host country.
We 're all at different stages of our journey with the Lord, for the youth, perhaps the music is just what they need? As more mature Christians, they may be drawn to the ethereal music you're promoting Father?
Rather than focussing on personal dislikes, let's celebrate this wonderful gathering of hundreds of thousands of young Catholics on their journey searching for a more intimate relationship with our Lord.

John Fisher said...

Yes I agree. Sometimes I feel like I belong to a cult! It edifies my inner atheist!
Can't they see how ridiculous they are and how sometimes the price of belonging is too high?

Sarah said...

Doesn't real beauty--heard as well as seen--have a universal resonance? I mean, sure, there's room for personal preferences when it comes to musical styles, but isn't truly beautiful music something every human was made to enjoy?

Or is such music reserved for Heaven?

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