Thursday, September 20, 2007

Is this why Catholics can't sing?

~from Damian Thomspon in The Telegraph about Paul Inwood (liturgist in the Diocese of Portsmouth UK) whose letter concerning Summorum Pontificum has by now managed to become infamous. To avoid blowing your top better read with Fr Z's commentary.
The guy has a certain technical facility, but his melodies are staggeringly banal. Listen carefully to the excerpts on the website. The tunes are formulaic and unmemorable – and I’m not saying that because I dislike his whole approach to the liturgy. This is bad music, full stop.

A typical Inwood tune meanders up and down the scale, jumping the same intervals, supported by droopy harmonies. Many of the melodies are virtually indistinguishable from each other: you could programme a computer to write something very similar. (As an experiment, I have just sung the instructions on a packet of soap powder to an Inwood-style melody – it’s very easy to do.)

How much money, I wonder, has the Catholic Church spent on this dreary stuff over the years? There is a real problem here. There is nothing illegal or unethical about what Inwood is doing, but we are confronted by a problem that Thomas Day identified in his book Why Catholics Can’t Sing, a stinging attack on the trendy Catholic musical establishment.

As Day says, many professional Catholic liturgists are also composers. They push dioceses and congregations towards the style of music that they themselves compose and publish. How very convenient.

This morning I spoke to a distinguished musician employed by the Catholic Church. He told me: “There’s a cosy relationship between dioceses and the composers and publishers of what is basically bad pop music. Watch out for the new English translation of the Mass [expected in 2009]. I bet that various ‘approved’ composers are already preparing settings that will be commissioned the moment the new texts appear. It’s incredibly galling.”

Indeed it is. And what are we going to do about it?
Gulp, from out of the mists of the future I can just hear Marty Haugen's composition on "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof".

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