Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm not in love with the latest music trend among traditionalists...

"Contemporary Sacred Music."

Specifically, Kevin Allen. The CMAA (or at least related people) has totally taken him under their wing and is promoting him loudly.

But honestly, I'm not all that impressed. While of course I greatly appreciate his attempt at writing 3-part, latin choral music (easily transposed for a 3-voice mixed choir!) and I also love the idea of singing psalm-tone verses in between repetitions of the same short motet (what choir hasn't been so sad at watching all the work they put into learning a piece, quickly disappear as they sing it once...and then it's done?!) I just haven't found the several pieces that I've listened to to be all that...good.

Yes, it's a bit contemporary sounding, and I know one of the reasons that it's so lauded is that it's relatively easy for a church choir. But... I wish I knew more about music theory... (I felt like I barely passed it in undergrad...) so I can't necessarily comment on his music as regarding the rules, but I find much of what he does, (like in terms of using accidentals,) to
Random picardy thirds, or borrowed minor chords, that just seem to...come out of nowhere!
I think it's pretty good voice-leading, but the actual chords themselves...just irritate me sometimes. They don't seem to be going anywhere!
(This is what I'm going to be working with the choir on.)

I mean, it's not bad, and can be quite enjoyable to listen to... well, I just don't know how to describe how I feel when I'm plunking out the chords on the piano. I'd love to hear someone chime in who has more theory background...


Charles Culbreth said...

I think you've identified a very important distinction that many people seem unwilling to accept:
Stop touting the composer, just tout specific works that you'd defend as worthy or brilliant.
BTW, Marajoy, I wouldn't just say the "Allen" phenomenon was a "traditionalist" deal, rather more a CMAA deal. CMAA has a number "ists" among their number, including progressivists, pragmatists, methodists...(oops, joke slipped in.)
And, without going into detail about Allen's compositional metier or vocabulary, I think that the collective memory on the neo-con side is very short. So, Kevin's stuff is premiered at a couple of pivotal colloquiua, and then the curve of the publicity/marketing machine naturally begins. That's not a negative, just the way things bust out. And when it becomes aligned with other new young lions like JMO and Adam B., well you have a whole new market.
But guys like Richard Rice have their immediate antecedents like Howard Hughes, Thomas Savoy and Ralph Verdi, even Malcom Kogut (fairly unknown GIA), whose techniques are just as inspired as Kevin's neo-polyphony.
Brave of you to slosh against the tide.

Xristoforos McAvoy said...

I am rarely inspired by much post 17th c. polyphony. I know nothing about music theory. I think that piece you linked to is "pleasant" and a billion times better than the majority of music used today, but yes, it is not "outstanding". It is not the work of genius. it is formulaic, formulaic in a mediocre way. Sometimes the very idea of harmony/polyphony mesmerizes people and overwhelms them and they cant analyze it well therefore it all seems the same, all beyond their comprehension, especially if its in latin and they dont know latin. Sounds like the words of the introit for Christ the King by the way.