First, it must be understood that music is essentially an amplifier of sentiment and or idea, and as such, can actually be quite powerful--> and therefore, quite dangerous. The best of music can stir our soul and transport us to the heavens. The worst can leave us drowning in the rotting muck of hell. And, naturally then, it can leave us every place in between. Just because the lyrics might be about God doesn't mean it should be in a Church.
Second, some people have problems with a lot of the more contemporary lyrics. Several years ago there was a trend to have the congregation singing about God in the first person, which is not exactly humble. Likewise, a lot of the songs are not actually about God, but about how great we are as a community--Go Us! The focus in a lot of contemporary "hymns" is not God, it is I, we, us, when it ought to be God, or at least people in heaven, like Mary. Singing in praise of Us! is, well, weird at best.
Third, not all "sacred music", strangely enough, is meant for a mass setting. Verdi's Requiem Mass was intended as a concert piece, not to be such as an actual mass. It's too big, too hardcore for an actual mass, and Verdi knew it, maybe even made it so on purpose.
This third point is a very important one: Some music is better in a concert setting, even if it's got religious lyrics. A lot of contemporary "praise music" falls into this category, I think. It's great to listen to in the car, or to go to a concert to hear and sing along with. For instance, I'm a huge U2 fan, and they did a rendition of Psalm 40 called (du-uh) "40." It's a lovely little piece, but I don't think it should ever be used as the Psalm for Mass, no matter how well written. Not because of who wrote it, but because it does not lend itself toward communal singing, such as a psalm for Mass should.
And here is another important point-- music to be used in a Mass needs to balance between two sometimes opposing requirements: First, to inspire and move our spirits and hearts toward heaven and second, to be singable. To be singable for the average person means that one cannot be too complicated in terms of melodies, chords or rhythms (this rhythmic requirement knocks out most contemporary music). However, simplify too much and you get schmaltz and saccharin-sweet lullabies.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
New blog: Swingin' Rosaries
~by "two Jesuits and four Nerds with some answers, possibly to your questions," as they describe the 'blog. Check out Swingin'Rosaries I liked this post: Music and the Church