22 September 2011

Why Don't We Chant?

A dissertation that I'm currently reading for research gives a list of reasons cited by church musicians who are avoiding compliance with liturgical norms regarding music. Here are the basic points (some are paraphrased):

1. Composers believe in good faith that any musical form might be adopted in church.

2. It's easier to obtain impressive effects with small forces in "modern" styles.

3. The people like it.

4. Numbers in church would dwindle if theatrical music were suppressed.

5. Musicians think chant masses are not impressive enough.

6. Patriotism: liturgical music (both Gregorian and polyphonic) is foreign, in an "old, dead white male" way rather than an exotic way.

Do these reasons sound familiar?

Can you guess where these points originated?

William Whitehouse wrote the dissertation, and it's on the state of music leading up to the Second Vatican Council. The list he gives is a summary of points made by Pius X in his 1895 Pastoral Letter of Venice.

Pius X was a pastor. He understood. I'm sure he is disappointed in how his reform and the subsequent reforms turned out, but he's probably not surprised. 116 years later, nothing has changed.

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