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Wednesday, March 21. 2012
I like the Taize songs. Here are a couple of them:
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The worship music of the Taizé community includes historic western medieval and renaissance era chant, chant from Eastern Orthodox churches, and modern compositions that use lines that are simple both in language and musical phrasing, often repeated.
It comes from a monastic community, where emphasis is on simplicity and contemplation.
Simple repeated forms can function like a mantra helping one to focus on God rather than on one's own issues and problems. A form of meditation, losing oneself in a group activity of worship.
As one of the traditional foundational documents of English protestantism puts it, our purpose is to revere and adore God. One can guess from reading the book of Revelations in the New Testament that the chief occupation of all souls in heaven will be singing praises to God. I think it rather irreverent of Joseph Allen in his Taki article Jesus Returns (in a Tour Bus) to say
The performers praise Jesus as though he’s some pagan deity who suffers from self-doubt and a chronic lack of attention.
Praise is what people who love got will do. I don't think the attendees were violating Matthew 6:1; rather they were taking to heart Ephesians 6:19-20.
Now, I myself often joke that the typical evangelical or pentecostal praise song goes like this:
Jesus Jesus Jesus
© 2011, Mr Flashy worship leader
Yet under the right circumstances, (perhaps involving large groups such as the Taizé community, World Youth Day, or arena shows with loud bass beats) there is a real physical charge to participating with many others in using such words in song to revere God. It gets endorphins active, changing our biology to make us feel good. Yea verily, this is part of why people like sing-along-Handel's Messiah performances and rock concerts, which usually have no overt spiritual component to speak of. If our belief and faith is nothing more than the feel-good chemicals resulting from the haptic response to the acoustical energy in the room, then it is pretty shallow. But I don't see anything wrong with people participating in the sorts of events that make them feel closer to God. For some, those events will be praise involving quiet meditation. For others, noisy meditation.
I'm also conscious that people who express themselves through creation and performance of music will want to express their love of God, reverence to God, and thanks to God using the tools that they are most intimately familiar with. And I often snicker when the expressions of στοργή and ἀγάπη have inadvertent double entendres if perceived as expression of what CS Lewis called wɛnʊs type love (sexuality). I might not like their style of music, I might wish for more sophisticated expression. Yet I recognize that for others it will be just the thing that speaks to them and evokes feelings that help them connect with God.
Huh. We were just talking about Taize this week, discussing whether it would be appropriate for Easter sunrise.
As for praise songs in general, yes, there is too much "Jesus is my boyfriend" music, but the Hallelujah Chorus is really what a praise song is when it grows up: simple repeated lyrics which can be done by a group.
I have seen some beautiful Christian music videos put out on Serbian television that encompass elements of modernity while keeping ancient themes. They are well-produced, not showing a particular slant toward youth oriented culture, but showing all ages together. These videos remind me of those. I used to like Christian pop music, but so much of it is just not very good at all, and not a small part of it is star-driven, with the focus on the singer or band. And it has a horrible market-driven quality about it that irks me.
Here's a Serbian Orthodox Christmas song:
Christian rock as entertainment is one thing, and if it puts someone on the road to a more mature faith, that's great. Personally, as entertainment, I'd rather listen to the Rolling Stones.
Popular music is market driven and without any guarantee or even need for solid theology. Anglo-Catholic and Orthodox hymns do not follow a top-40 format -- even Morning has broken (aka Bunessan) was both a Catholic and Anglican hymn before Cat Stevens made a pop hit out of it.
Christian pop music is not music for the liturgy of the Word. I don't want to hear Agnus Dei played on power chords with full distortion nor do I want to hear I just wanna be a sheep.
As somewhat pointed out above, our purpose at Mass or Morning prayer or Vespers, whether as Anglican, Catholic or Orthodox, is to worship God. Traditional, theologically sound liturgical music that is meant to be sung by the church community is selected with that in mind; popular Christian music is not.
The day thou gavest lord is ended
I'll take the other side of the argument; sort of. I lead a LifeTeen band at our Catholic parish. That means we do loud. I feel free to pull from the best of Catholic and non-Catholic contemporary Christian music; generally songs that are rooted in biblical references that support the readings and the liturgy each week. And we do sometimes get loud, but we also do some beautiful a capella stuff as well. Showing my prejudice here, one of the many things I love about being Catholic, is that I'm not limited to that. My teens have no fear of a capella Latin Mass parts. They love it. But they loves them some loud music too; always in the spirit of supporting the Mass, not drowning it out...
One of the interesting things that happens once in a while is that some older member of the parish will speak to me after Mass and tell me they love to come the the 5 PM Mass because there are so many young people there and they love the energy. It lets them know, as they approach their sunset years, that the Church will go on. But they turn their hearing aids down...
Thanks for the reminder on Veni Sancte Spiritus. I'm in the middle of planning Easter Vigil music with my pastor, and I had forgotten that one. It'll be in the mix now for certain.
Some of the contemporary Catholic worship music is very much in the spirit of Taize meditative song. Ken Canedo's "Holy Spirit" comes to mind (http://www.spiritandsong.com/compositions/30945 - listen to the 3rd version of it on that page). Likewise, Matt Maher's "I Love You Lord" (http://www.spiritandsong.com/compositions/66128) and numerous others. In the "loud" genre, one of my teens' favorites is Matt Maher's adaptation of the Lord's Prayer, "As It Is In Heaven", (http://www.spiritandsong.com/compositions/81532 ).
The nice thing is, we have 5 Masses every weekend, so if you don't like that style, don't go to the 5 PM...
I'm curious, do you mean, by "loud", electric guitars/basses, with drum kits? then-Cardinal Ratzinger, in The spirit of the liturgy, has made his preference clear on this.
"On the one hand, there is pop music, which is certainly no longer supported by the people in the ancient sense (populus). It is aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. "Rock", on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit's sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments."
Elsewhere, Pope Benedict has stated that liturgical music (i.e., for Mass) should preferably be vocal, with an organ accompanying, and that instruments that can be used for popular musical styles to be discouraged.
That is, I could arrange, for a rock band, music for the Trisagion and, without missing a beat, move into Sympathy for the devil; I could play Ave Maria on a kazoo. Just saying the Pope has a point.
Actually, elsewhere, Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul II, and even Jesus have had words put in their mouths by- I call them the Angry Catholic Crowd- in support of their radical modern music called Chant. Revolutionary stuff, Chant. I wonder, sometimes, in what form did they sing before Chant came along? And in what language, before Latin was adopted? Was The Last Supper an inferior form of worship because Jesus spoke in Aramaic and they sang hymns in their native language, rather than chanting in Latin?
If this really matters to you, I would encourage you to watch Fr. Bob Schreiner explain the proper place of music in the liturgy: http://www.cys.org.au/sacred-music-and-enculturation .
Here's a transcript of his talk: http://catholicyouthministry.com/the-role-of-music-within-the-liturgy/
Here's the USCCB weighing in on the bickering: http://www.catholicreview.org/article/work/chant-may-gain-traction-under-new-missal-but-hymnodys-place-secure
Money line (referring to the use of the word "chant" particularly it increased prominence since the promulgation of the New Roman Missal): "Our interpretation of ‘chant’ is in using the word ‘chant’ in a generic way, a translation of (the Latin) ‘cantus,’ ‘that which is sung,” said Father Richard Hilgartner, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship.
Different strokes... as I said, if you visit our Parish, might not want to come to the LifeTeen Mass. But you'll miss some beautiful noise...
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
2Let Israel be glad in its maker,
the people of Zion rejoice in their king.
3Let them praise his name in dance,
make music with tambourine and lyre.
4For the LORD takes delight in his people,
honors the poor with victory.
5Let the faithful rejoice in their glory,
cry out for joy on their couches,
6With the praise of God in their mouths,
and a two-edged sword in their hands,
7To bring retribution on the nations,
punishment on the peoples,
8To bind their kings in shackles,
their nobles in chains of iron,
9To execute the judgments decreed for them—
such is the glory* of all God’s faithful.
I'm fascinated by ongoing debates in liturgical music and instruments.
this Vatican document (from the Vatican's website, so authenticity is not in dispute) shows the preference for a pipe organ and a prohibition against instruments suitable for secular music only.
INSTRUCTION ON MUSIC IN THE LITURGY
"VI. Sacred Instrumental Music
62. Musical instruments can be very useful in sacred celebrations, whether they accompany the singing or whether they are played as solo instruments.
'The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, since it is its traditional instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lift up men's minds to God and higher things.'
'The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.'
63. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions. ... ." (footnotes omitted, emphasis added)
I see the USCCB's website has interpreted this somewhat liberally ...
CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP
AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS
"Musical Instruments and Approval of Musical Settings
While the organ is to be accorded pride of place, other wind, stringed, or percussion instruments may be used in liturgical services in the dioceses of the United States of America, according to longstanding local usage, provided they are truly apt for sacred use or can be rendered apt."
I also understand that the USCCB has submitted to the Holy See a list of songs for approval, but the matter is still under review in Rome.
but I still prefer, as a heretical Anglican,
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir
One of the points that Fr. Bob Schreiner makes in his talk (linked above), is that circa 300 AD, the Church Fathers absolutely railed against the unholy and sinister influence of the.... wait for it.... the flute.
Now, as Fr. Schreiner points out, a pipe organ is nothing more than 1000 one-note flutes, standing upright, and being blown by a bellows... Fr. Schreiner also goes to great lengths to emphasize, and I totally agree, that regardless of the Mass style, or accompanying instruments, the only thing that truly matters is that which is sung; the WORDS; the chant... When choirs get that out balance, with the instruments drowning out the voices, whether a rock-n-roll LifeTeen band, or pipe organ Gregorian Chanting Choir, they're doing it wrong.
"Sacred Music must adapt to the legitimate demands of enculturation"- Pope John Paul II
The Church moves slowly and the language of the Musicam Sacram, speaking as it does of an "instrument legitimately admitted" hints that the acceptance of an instrument depends on a body of suitable liturgical music written for it and perhaps that process is ongoing for electric guitars now.
Enculturation ... explains why folk hymns such as Amazing grace find acceptance in western catholic liturgical music, as they are true examples of community worship that grew in a particular place and time, vetted as theologically sound.
But query, do teens have a legitimate culture that can make a legitimate demand for a role in liturgical music or is teen culture a matter of market driven, Top-40-style whim - rap, hip/hop, heavy metal, R&B ...?
Some of the comments bring to mind the time when I worshiped in a RPCNA church. After Zwingli and Calvin, this group held that use of any instruments at all was unsupported by the New Testament, and the practice of my local congregation was to sing the psalms unaccompanied in unison and in order.
This approach is very much of the "what is not explicitly permitted is proscribed" school. And as a protestant church the authority is the New Testament -- So singing Psalm 149 is fine, but pulling out one's tambourine or lyre whilst singing is right out.
The approach taken in the new denominations of evangelicalism is much more "what is not explicitly proscribed is permitted". As far as I can see the prohibitions on types of music or musical instruments that have come from authorities on both Roman Catholic and Protestant sides have had very clear reasons that were not that there is something inherently wrong with the use of flutes, drums, or electric guitars. Zwingli's problem was the professional church musicians,
Hypocrites do their works to be seen by people, they receive their reward in this world.
Thus it follows that chanting and loud clamor, without true devotion and done for money only, either to seek human praise or else material gain.
The example of flutes from the third century was because they were so strongly associated with pagan worship of "Baconalia [sic] and the Cult of Aphrodite" as the transcript of the Fr. Robert Schreiner video linked above puts it. (mmm, bacon...).
An example of the permissive school is the Salvation Army, with William Booth writing in 1880
Secular music, do you say, belongs to the devil? Does it? Well, if it did I would plunder him for it, for he has no right to a single note of the whole seven. But we deny it. He's the thief. It is he that has stolen it, and in appropriating it we only get our own again. Every note, and every strain, and every harmony is divine, and belongs to us. . . . So consecrate your voice and your instruments. Bring out your comets and harps and organs and flutes and violins and pianos and drums, and everything else that can make melody. Offer them to God, and use them to make all the hearts about you merry before the Lord.
I can deal with any kind of service music, loud or quiet, as long as I find it beautiful. Banal music confronts me with the difficult task of quieting the snarky internal voices that distract me from worship. As for lyrics, I just hope they're not too heretical or ridiculous. I'm particularly allergic to the "social justice is great stuff, and I'm so glad to hear that Jesus and the Church have some things to say that agree with me about some aspects of this" variety.
Lots of "Wonder, Love & Praise" songs opt for extremely simple, repetitive lyrics in aid of getting a somnolent and musically ignorant congregational to join in half-heartedly, but at least they do aim at some congregational participation, which beats the usual sit-in-front-of-the-TV-to-be-entertained atmosphere.
I love music (especially singing) so much that I'm always in danger of letting the musical successes and failures distract me from the service. Harmony and rhythm are powerful forces for binding a community together. There's a good reason for drum circles.