Friday, August 28, 2009

picking hymns...sigh

once again, here I go...picking hymns for Mass. I used to think that was one of the best parts of my job, and people still ask me if I "get to pick the songs," but now that I look at the Proper texts for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion for every week, and I try to pick songs that match those, I'm frustrated and struck by how different the feeling is behind all of the options for hymns, compared to, for instance, the Introit.

Maybe it's just the texts for this upcoming time of the year, but almost all of the entrance antiphon texts fall along the lines of, "Have mercy on me, O God, I call upon you, have mercy on me..."

How many of our hymns even remotely have that as an idea?!

All of the protestant hymns that I use are just "praise, praise, praise," and the contemporary Catholic shmaltz (which I try to avoid using but is the other half of the hymnal,) is just "everyone is welcome, we love everyone..."

well, there is a time and a place for both of those...but for the first 1,950 years of the Roman Catholic church, it wasn't most of the opening texts of the Holy Mass!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

book review

I'm reading a pretty interesting book right now (trying to stuff it all in before I get too busy with grad school...)
"The Signs of the Times--Understanding the Church Since Vatican II"
yes. exactly what I want to understand.

It's a compilation of short writings/essays by Fr. Richard Gilsdorf, who passed away before the book was put together, I've never heard of him until now, and he requested Patrick Beno to put his writings together.

I like reading it, because it is kind of chronological, and you can sort of see what was going through the mind of a devout, obedient, and very smart priest from Vatican II onward.

For example, he starts off with an article on "unity," and how not everyone can be right: there must logically be rights and wrongs. (Not relativism.) Particularly as they relate to different Christian denominations. You can see where this is going as it relates to both the questions of ecumenism that V II brought up, as well as growing disobedience within the church.

He then continues with an article on the tension that was particularly increasing within the church at that time. "Salvation lies in huddling close to and embracing Christ in faith, hope, and love..." yeah! it's actually pretty simple!

He continues on with many shorter essays, surprisingly readable (the editor had a warning that they might not be that easy to read in the beginning,) for example, the one I'm reading at the moment is on the terminology "People of God" rather than "Family of God" which was proposed at V II. While he discusses that "Family of God" is quite theologically accurate, "Since the Council (and contrary to its spirit), we have seen a corrosive attempt to interpret "People" in a way strictly equated to some transient form or purely human political society."
Oh yes, a political society. That does seem to be a pretty accurate summary...

"We see Machiavellian maneuvering for positions...and the aping of the secular in a direction exactly counter to that of the Incarnation."
And I'm only 82 pages into this 500+ page book, and every chapter is filled with quotable gems like that!

While you can see how all of the widely varied topics do tie into the atmosphere of the past 40 years, the book is broad enough that I think most Catholics interested at all in "wtf happened" would find this a good read. (It's not all so strictly discussing the actual problems of interpretation of the Council.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

grad school

Can't remember if I've told my blog yet that I'm heading to grad school in the fall. (Well, not really heading, rather, I'll be continuing all of my duties as Music Director as well as teaching my 15+ piano students.) I shall be busy...

I will be attending the great U of M to attain the degree "Master of Church Music." An excellent sounding title for a resume. And I don't have to give a memorized recital!

however, I wish that the program had slightly more emphasis on the Catholic liturgical aspect (it's more of an "ecumenical" program.) I've been allowed by my professor/adviser to pursue options I may have to incorporate more of this. I thought originally that I had a bunch of "elective" credits available, but I actually don't. So, that makes extra classes or studies...extra work. Which I don't exactly want. So, I'm open to any ideas.

(a few nights ago, I had the perfect opportunity to speak with the music professor at the local seminary...but, silly me, I didn't say anything! I think it's cuz I am afraid the conversation would go something like,
"hi Doctor, I'm going to be attending grad school in the you have any ideas of how I might incorporate some more liturgical aspects into my studies?"
"hmmm...not off the bat...what were you thinking of?"
"well, maybe I could do some extra research or take one of your classes?" (and then? as I've mentioned, I don't really have any available credits, unless I really want to do extra work...)
"ummm...not really...")
the end.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

article in GIA Quarterly

by Virgil Funk

in the Summer 2009 issue, "On This Issue: Musical Leftovers"

sort of a summary, and my inevitable thoughts:

He describes what happened to the music in the Roman Catholic liturgy during the 1960s, and how it applies today. (basically this decade is currently the question of my life...but as in, "wtf happened?!")

He connects it to the social movements of the times, "the inspiration for their music was...the protest style of music (Dylan) now transformed into a 'commercial' version." (and he is able to state it so on earth was that ever supposed to be a GOOD thing?!)

He quotes Ratzinger (from "Communio" 13, no. 4) and how Ratzinger critiques "this developmental dynamic and its effect on a community's theology..." as in, this sense of protest and rebellion is going to affect the music at Mass. (and he STILL thinks that could possibly be a good thing?! good grief!) of course the result of that is going to be terrible theology!

Somehow he moves on to discuss composers writing new songs, contrasted with the fixed repertoire in the old hymnals and chant books. Once again he ties it together with a totally true statement of a horrible ridiculous fact, as if it's supposed to be a good thing, "apart from much older repertoire, there is no free music is a commercial enterprise..." He goes on to list some of the reasons-one of being the Vatican and its translators copyrighting the texts. Sad, but true.

Continuing to claim (perhaps truly, but I don't know enough specific history,) that the roots of this are from the protest movements, he then goes on to mention Humanae Vitae. Absolutely fascinating in my opinion. I believe its (40th?) anniversary has recently occurred, and so I have read a couple articles recently on "what happened that fateful summer" at CUA when a bunch of priests were secretly gathered to then publicly voice their disapproval of the document...without ever having read it, and without being given a chance to discuss it. (The only thing that matters is that the Church doesn't permit artificial birth control...not that the reasons matter or anything, and there is certainly no possibility that the Church might actually have some good facts or arguments about why not! We certainly wouldn't want to read them!) And how the atmosphere of the era-as well as subtle, smaller, previous rebellions by bishops and priests-had made RIPE for the outright rebellion among bishops, priests, and down through the laypeople, that followed. (I could write my doctoral dissertation on that. Just amazing. a side note.)

(insignificant note: this is then the only article I have ever read where the "continued on page..." leads to a previous page. Space filling, I suppose.)

On the last page, he implies that "fallen-away" Catholics "fell away" due to their protest groups dissolving in the 1980s. No consideration to the possibility that they were "falling away" throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, as they saw what they thought was their church being taken over by various forms of "protest groups"... (It would be interesting to see a serious study, somehow but I'm not sure how, analyzing exactly when- if it was at a single time- the most number of Catholics "fell away." And why was it?)

He begins to close the article with a list of, "So what remains of the '60s in today's liturgy," as if they are good things:
-"A strong Catholic music publishing industry" -- bad in that it has a complete monopoly on what Catholics sing. Good if you want to have Catholics singing the same thing in every parish. Good in that we now have an easy and existing system set up to distribute good music...just whenever the "for-profit" publishers ever decide there is a market for it. (not to mention that there is already loads of excellent free music, written by the masters from over the centuries online already! Oh wait, maybe that's why the publishers don't want that to become too available-they know that would put them out of business!) And of course bad if (and since) this music publishing industry uses its monopoly to distribute cheap and chintzy versions of folk or popular music for use in the Liturgy...
-"a residue of protest-style musical forms" --he has previously described this as traditional folk-music: easy to sing, and easy to remember, as well as attempting to stir up emotion and forming an identity within "the group." Not good if you know that none of those are or should be the goals of music during Mass.
-"and a belief that God exists or is present when the music produces cohesion of the group." Could be interpreted in different ways. Yes, we worship corporately, BUT, we also worship individually. And more importantly, worship has NOTHING to do with the "us" or "me." That is the main theological error of the Catholic "progressivists." Too much emphasis on the "WE" of "We are the Body of Christ," rather than "Christ." And of course God exists and is present whether or not there is any cohesion of the group! He's present Really and Truly simply through the Eucharist! (oh...wait...most "progressivists" don't believe's all starting to make sense now...)

And while at the beginning of the article, I wasn't even sure which direction Funk leaned, I can only quote the ridiculousness of the last sentences,
"As the institutional authorities attempt to reassert control over the text and musical shape of the dialogue between the altar and the rest of the assembly ('And with your spirit' set to one tune found in the Roman Missal), the urge to protest arises. The leftovers from the 1960s that still shape our singing may begin to touch your smoldering resistance."

Good about an aging hippie... I have smoldering resistance? (sorry Fr. Funk, I think that's only your generation...and you're on your way out! My generation actually believes in obedience!)