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Praise And Worship


jeffpugh

Praise and Worship  

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Thank you.

I've been thinking for a long while, and I want to get my youth ministry into more traditional music for our masses, either with just the team or with the retreatants. I'll be opening a thread in Transmundane in a bit, but first I want to see some speculations here.

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[quote name='Sacred Music Man' post='1411073' date='Oct 29 2007, 10:22 AM']Thank you.

I've been thinking for a long while, and I want to get my youth ministry into more traditional music for our masses, either with just the team or with the retreatants. I'll be opening a thread in Transmundane in a bit, but first I want to see some speculations here.[/quote]

This is the issue that is closest to my heart, and I am working on a thesis in the attempt to build a case both [b]for[/b] traditional music and [b]against[/b] 'praise and worship' music.

The issue comes down to the simplest and most elementary issue of aesthetic metaphysics: form and content. In our Evangelical-ruled, unsophisticated, modernist, deconstructionist, post-Christian society, the only objectively communicative element in any work of art is its content or its subject. In the case of music, the content would be the text or the "words" sung. So much time is wasted in this argument over the content. For me, content is a non-issue. I have heard 'praise and worship' songs that had very shallow words, others that had perfectly innocent words, and even others that were pretty darn good. To reduce it to a matter of "repitition" or "shallow words" is to miss the point.

The heart of the issue here is not content at all, but form. This is not merely the "quality" of the performers or the artists, but has more to do with the "kind" of music itself. I stay away from the word "style" here because that insinuates an excessive amount of subjectivity in this matter. This is not an argument about good or bad taste.

While there are certainly subjective elements to different kinds of music, there most certainly are objective elements that make up that particular type of music's aesthetic structure. Since there are objective elements here, it is possible to have elements that can contradict the teaching of the Church, the solemnity of the liturgical atmosphere, and a posture of prayer. It is even possible to have elements that are in no uncertain terms "bad".

Now let me remind everyone, I am talking here of the aesthetics of music, not the words. Some people forget that mid-argument and say things like "But the WORDS are so good, lol". Please spare me the headaches and keep your comments to yourself if that is all you have to say.

Now, there may be an objection here at the idea that the "style" or aesthetic of the music has any objective elements to it. So let me respond by taking this to its conclusion. If music has no objective elements to its aesthetics, then that would mean that any type of music is suitable for worship (given the context of the congregation) because there is nothing objective in the music that could contradict anything in the Mass. Where does this take us? This means that we should allow for there to be death-metal Masses.

I got to this point in an argument with someone once and he confessed that it does not matter what sort of music is used. Without answering I went to my computer, opened up my Real Rhapsody player, found some death metal music, turned up the volume very high on my speakers, and clicked the "play" button. Rage, hatred, lust, violence, greed, gluttony, and blasphemy poured forth from my computer's speakers. I saw the face of my opponent turn white as he listened to that music and as he confronted his error in supposing that it does not matter what kind of music one has in Church.

That death-metal music was not a subjective matter. There was nothing subjective about it at all. It actually incarnated all the vices ever crafted by the devil. This was objectively embodying and fostering rage and anger and lust.

Let me also say that I actually find much heavy-metal and death-metal insanely interesting music. My heart belongs to Bach and other great early composers, so I do know a thing or two about music. Yet I am often amazed at the virtuosity of the heavy-metal instrumentalists and stunned at the complexity and artistry of the music.

Yet this is not an issue: talent is not worship. Not even genius is worship.

So back to the main agument. I think we can see from the extreme example of death-metal that musical aesthetics are not neutral when it comes to meaning and can be specifically linked to virtues or vices.

Let us look at 'praise and worship' music. What does it embody? Not much. That is a huge part of the problem. It is simply shallow. It incarnates shallowness, it breeds shallowness, it is birthed in shallowness and exalts shallowness. It is sap. It is worthless goo that is designed not to do anything great within an individual much less to reflect and magnify the Glory of God. No, it is just there to tickle the insides of people who are the product of hippie, flower-child, Britney-Spears-listening, club hopping morons who do not know any better and who do not understand anything better.

If this music does embody anything, it is the spirit of the age, the zeitgeist. It embodies the instant-gratification culture, the culture of moral and philosophical subjectivity, the culture of individualistic, self-centered idolatry. It ceases to be "gloria in excelesis Deo", and it becomes "gloria in excelsis HOMO".

The ancient hymns, the great Mass settings of Bach, Thomas Tallis, Josquin Desprez, and others and the great ancient chants are towering monuments of the Glory of God. In these great works of music are embodied the very essence of Christianity. We have here courage, compassion, justice, virtue, fortitude, prudence, temperence, faith, hope and charity. No sap. No sentimental self-serving goo. This music was designed from prayer, designed for prayer, and are actual prayers themselves. Remember, we are talking about the music here, not the words. As St. Augustine said, "He who sings prays twice." The music itself is a prayer.

Some forms of music are suitable for sitting around a camp-fire with friends. Some forms of music are suitable for lovers singing to one another. Some forms of music are suitable to be listened to privately in your own home. Some forms of music are suitable for prayer and worship. It is as simple as that.

I am interested to hear responses. I am afraid I did not do my case justice here: that is why I am writing a thesis on it.

God bless you all,

Philip

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Thanks for this one, Philip. You've shed some light on some things I should and should not say. My initial response to my friends in the youth ministry is to form a presentation outlining what the Church documents and so on have to say. But, I think you've unearthed something even more intriguing which has been floating in the back of my mind, yet I could not pinpoint it. That is, the loss of realisation that music is not all the same. I think Beethoven once said made a remark about what music instills in people. He asked someone to define music or something like that. And the person said it was to make you feel happy. Beethoven's response was that he was wrong, cause if someone was playing a march, it would make you feel like marching, if it was a waltz, it would make you feel like waltzing, etc. Basically, what comes out of all that is what you said about sacred music. It was written in the context of the church and brings about an air of courage, worship, etc. I sort of have a thought experiment going on about how Chant was formed, and I think it goes along the lines of people wanting to enhance the worship with the unity of voices, out of the inspiration of the worship space (that is, the voices would echo off the stone walls, etc). When I say unify, I mean make the voices the same pitch, because when people talk you can notice a sort of dissonance in speech.
I'd like to talk more about this, but I need to run to a band practice. I'll start up the thread in Transmundane in a bit. But I want to leave you all with something that I'm expecting to be an argument: "praise and worship appeals to young people". Now, I am not (totally) against praise and worship music, but I am mainly aiming to keep it out of the context of the mass. Last note on the subject, a while back we (the youth ministry) had a discussion about people noticing our solemnity and just the ability to take time aside for prayer, which is a big thing that doesn't happen with young people often. Could I maybe take this further by appealing to my ministry with the fact that we would be taking our solemnity further?

That's all. I hope my post wasn't too disconnected. I get lost in thought quite a bit.

God bless

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Music Man, I have the dubious distinction of having experienced both "traditional" (though Protestant, but you know this :) ) and "contemporary" services. Reading old and rather tuneless songs from the hymnal gets tiresome very quickly. The same can be said for repeating the chorus of a praise and worship song some twenty times.

There is some really, really good modern music. It takes effort to find. In my own experience, a mix of old and new keeps the older worshippers happy and doesn't shut out younger ones. Some hymns keep getting sung because they remain solid and viable. Some were bad when written and should be let die peacefully. Claiming that something is better just because it is "traditional" seems very narrow-minded. That's just me.

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My first thought was what did they sing in church before Beethoven and Bach. I wonder if there was resistance to their music when it was new. I did like the analogy that a march should make you feel like marching, and a waltz like waltzing. I'm a post Vatican II kid who grew up during a time when the priests were wearing long hair and beards, and nuns played drums in church, so perhaps my views have been permanently warped by that. I have been singing in church choirs for 32 years now. I have had advance vocal training, and am a contralto, so I love Gilbert and Sullivan because they wrote such meaty contralto parts. I have cantored for the Archdiocesan choir, as did my grandmother and great grandmother before me. I believe that the music in church should make people "feel" the Holy Spirit, and become more engaged with the mass. I know all the arguments that just being there with the Eucharist should be enough. For alot of pew warmers, it isn't. I know when I am just in the pews for a service that some of the 100 year old music makes me physically uncomfortable, particularly when sung badly.

We are a poor parish in a drug infested inner city neighborhood. Half our Sundays are without musical accompaniment because we can't afford to pay an organist. It would be great if we could have a classical pipe organ being played by a graduate of Juliard, and a full choir of classically trained voices. In reality, we have a volunteer pianist twice a month, two singers with training, the rest are nice volunteers who don't even read music. I'm not saying it is okay to settle, and I have been working to improve the music department, but we also have to deal in reality. In our parish, just trying to get the prostitutes to come inside when it is -20C outside is a struggle. If newer music makes them more engaged in the service, in a joyous worshipful frame of mind, then that is truly praying twice.

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[quote name='Nadezhda' post='1411116' date='Oct 29 2007, 12:55 PM']Music Man, I have the dubious distinction of having experienced both "traditional" (though Protestant, but you know this :) ) and "contemporary" services. Reading old and rather tuneless songs from the hymnal gets tiresome very quickly. The same can be said for repeating the chorus of a praise and worship song some twenty times.

There is some really, really good modern music. It takes effort to find. In my own experience, a mix of old and new keeps the older worshippers happy and doesn't shut out younger ones. Some hymns keep getting sung because they remain solid and viable. Some were bad when written and should be let die peacefully. Claiming that something is better just because it is "traditional" seems very narrow-minded. That's just me.[/quote]

I don't think anyone is saying that something being a "traditional" piece of music automatically qualifies it as "good music." That is the furthest thing from what we are saying. We are not being subjective (in terms of taste and what pieces of music are "better" or "worse"), we are trying to arrive at objective reasons for allowing or not allowing contemporary 'praise and worship' songs in the setting of the Mass. I would be very curious to know what your comments would be concerning my earlier post.

God bless,

Philip

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Just to expand this a bit...

If P&W was written particularly for the Hours, would it be appropriate? Is it the presence of the Blessed Sacrament that determines the appropriateness?

While I am a big advocate of chant and solid hymnody, no one has yet offered a compelling argument why chant is, [i]ipso facto[/i], the most appropriate musical style. "It lifts our thoughts to God" doesn't cut it, because obviously for a noteworthy portion of Catholics, it does not do that. CSL says it is proper and to be given pride of place, but it does not outline the reasons why or really make a compelling argument using reasons other than the historical contributions to western music.

Let it be clear, I am a big advocate of chant and good hymnody and use it frequently in my parish ministry. But I hesitate to have the Church, grounded in Mediterranean aesthetic values, determine what lifts all people's hearts to God with some sort of artificially imposed, pseudo-universal aesthetic.

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I may have misinterpreted the original intent. My apologies if that is the case. It would not be the first time.

I read your (Lord Philip's) post. I did have a question about your "objective elements" argument. It seemed that "objective" and "objectionable" were being used interchangeably. Objective, to me, means something is not subject to opinion. It is a fact. An example might be the actual key in which a piece is written. It can't be argued with because it noted clearly on the score. Objectionable would be something inappropriate. I would object to having death metal be a part of the service, but I'm not arguing with the actual facts of the music (key, instrumentation, whatever). Again, I may have misinterpreted the post.

I'll be honest-I'm not sure how you are supporting the shallowness claim. What is shallow about an acoustic guitar? I would have a problem with shifting focus to the virtuosity of a particular player, but the instrument itself is as emotive as a cello. I DO realize this is a singular example. To others, don't come crying for my blood. It was the best illustration I could create.

I believe the words are as important as any melody. There is little point in singing an entrancing arrangement if the words are ridiculous. I find the simplicity of many modern lyrics preferable to grandiloquent phrases of the past. That's how I've read the quote from Augustine. The words are a focus point. That's just me.

I've had the good fortune to be in choirs for most of my life. I'm an alto with some training, albeit nothing extensive. I've gotten the most benefit out of songs that I can actually relate to. I'll admit that I'm not particularly strong at debate. I've never claimed to be. (Feel free to snicker if you so desire.) Bach's Masses are stunning, but "Shout to the North" has more applicability to me.

Just for s and g, I'm not a total philistine. I love Holst and have actually sung in a peformance of [i]The Planets[/i]. I also enjoy Stravinsky and Copland.

Edited by Nadezhda
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I'm taking praise and worship to mean contemporary church music?

I like and enjoy both....at one point in history what we see as the traditional music was the contemporary music of the day--just because it was written centuries ago and is a reflection of a different type of music, doesn't mean we should keep church music unchangeable. I don't see the basis for being totally against "praise and worship", though some of it is a bit corny.

I've a friend who lives in Ireland and the Mass she attends incorporates Irish music and the well-known hymns....music is a reflection of culture, which is a reflection of the people. Whatever makes you feel closer to what you are attempting to understand---if contemporary music appeals to the younger generation, aren't the younger generations the lifeblood (to an extent) of the church? I'm not saying do away with traditional music, but not to be against incorporation.

I do enjoy tradition, but I'm always open to different kinds of music that reveal Catholicism from the heart. I think music can be a connection between the traditional world of Catholicism and the contemporary world of believers that are seeking a reflection of what they can respond to.

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[quote name='Lena' post='1411210' date='Oct 29 2007, 05:44 PM']I'm taking praise and worship to mean contemporary church music?

I like and enjoy both....at one point in history what we see as the traditional music was the contemporary music of the day--just because it was written centuries ago and is a reflection of a different type of music, doesn't mean we should keep church music unchangeable. I don't see the basis for being totally against "praise and worship", though some of it is a bit corny.

I've a friend who lives in Ireland and the Mass she attends incorporates Irish music and the well-known hymns....music is a reflection of culture, which is a reflection of the people. Whatever makes you feel closer to what you are attempting to understand---if contemporary music appeals to the younger generation, aren't the younger generations the lifeblood (to an extent) of the church? I'm not saying do away with traditional music, but not to be against incorporation.

I do enjoy tradition, but I'm always open to different kinds of music that reveal Catholicism from the heart. I think music can be a connection between the traditional world of Catholicism and the contemporary world of believers that are seeking a reflection of what they can respond to.[/quote]

That's basically what I was trying to say. You did a much better job.

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I'd better clarify. The praise and worship stuff that I'm talking about is the Pentecostal geetarr strumming stuff that at some points can (but not necessarily) includes the hand raising swaying thing... but not in my youth ministry's context. Songs like "You are Holy", "How great is our God", and "All in All". I don't mind those for a praise and worship session, but what I want to accomplish is to set that aside from mass. Why? Because the mass is an extraordinary event which should be set aside from the secular-like music which can encourage getting all excited and stuff. Yeah, I guess I'm at a loss of words. But I'm telling ya, I know that we can't immediately get rid of the whole folky geetarrr stuff from our liturgies, but I think we should encourage some usage of traditional musical worship. After all, the music was developed in the context of mass to begin with, with prayer and attention to the mood and solemnity of the moment. I especially appeal to chant because it's not a 200 year old innovation, but it spans something over 1000 years of use. Why is that? And why is it that chant music sells so well in secular culture (that is, compared to the faddish pop artists do today. They get their spotlight for a little while on one album. that's it)? It's unique and it has a certain property that cannot be underestimated. I find it fascinating how the guitar stuff took over the liturgy almost overnight (from what I've heard). Seems like a conspiracy to me...

Anywho, I mean no offense to any parties. Forewarned.

God bless.

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[quote name='Lord Philip' post='1411094' date='Oct 29 2007, 01:13 PM']This is the issue that is closest to my heart, and I am working on a thesis in the attempt to build a case both [b]for[/b] traditional music and [b]against[/b] 'praise and worship' music.

The issue comes down to the simplest and most elementary issue of aesthetic metaphysics: form and content. In our Evangelical-ruled, unsophisticated, modernist, deconstructionist, post-Christian society, the only objectively communicative element in any work of art is its content or its subject. In the case of music, the content would be the text or the "words" sung. So much time is wasted in this argument over the content. For me, content is a non-issue. I have heard 'praise and worship' songs that had very shallow words, others that had perfectly innocent words, and even others that were pretty darn good. To reduce it to a matter of "repitition" or "shallow words" is to miss the point.

The heart of the issue here is not content at all, but form. This is not merely the "quality" of the performers or the artists, but has more to do with the "kind" of music itself. I stay away from the word "style" here because that insinuates an excessive amount of subjectivity in this matter. This is not an argument about good or bad taste.

While there are certainly subjective elements to different kinds of music, there most certainly are objective elements that make up that particular type of music's aesthetic structure. Since there are objective elements here, it is possible to have elements that can contradict the teaching of the Church, the solemnity of the liturgical atmosphere, and a posture of prayer. It is even possible to have elements that are in no uncertain terms "bad".

Now let me remind everyone, I am talking here of the aesthetics of music, not the words. Some people forget that mid-argument and say things like "But the WORDS are so good, lol". Please spare me the headaches and keep your comments to yourself if that is all you have to say.

Now, there may be an objection here at the idea that the "style" or aesthetic of the music has any objective elements to it. So let me respond by taking this to its conclusion. If music has no objective elements to its aesthetics, then that would mean that any type of music is suitable for worship (given the context of the congregation) because there is nothing objective in the music that could contradict anything in the Mass. Where does this take us? This means that we should allow for there to be death-metal Masses.

I got to this point in an argument with someone once and he confessed that it does not matter what sort of music is used. Without answering I went to my computer, opened up my Real Rhapsody player, found some death metal music, turned up the volume very high on my speakers, and clicked the "play" button. Rage, hatred, lust, violence, greed, gluttony, and blasphemy poured forth from my computer's speakers. I saw the face of my opponent turn white as he listened to that music and as he confronted his error in supposing that it does not matter what kind of music one has in Church.

That death-metal music was not a subjective matter. There was nothing subjective about it at all. It actually incarnated all the vices ever crafted by the devil. This was objectively embodying and fostering rage and anger and lust.

Let me also say that I actually find much heavy-metal and death-metal insanely interesting music. My heart belongs to Bach and other great early composers, so I do know a thing or two about music. Yet I am often amazed at the virtuosity of the heavy-metal instrumentalists and stunned at the complexity and artistry of the music.

Yet this is not an issue: talent is not worship. Not even genius is worship.

So back to the main agument. I think we can see from the extreme example of death-metal that musical aesthetics are not neutral when it comes to meaning and can be specifically linked to virtues or vices.

Let us look at 'praise and worship' music. What does it embody? Not much. That is a huge part of the problem. It is simply shallow. It incarnates shallowness, it breeds shallowness, it is birthed in shallowness and exalts shallowness. It is sap. It is worthless goo that is designed not to do anything great within an individual much less to reflect and magnify the Glory of God. No, it is just there to tickle the insides of people who are the product of hippie, flower-child, Britney-Spears-listening, club hopping morons who do not know any better and who do not understand anything better.

If this music does embody anything, it is the spirit of the age, the zeitgeist. It embodies the instant-gratification culture, the culture of moral and philosophical subjectivity, the culture of individualistic, self-centered idolatry. It ceases to be "gloria in excelesis Deo", and it becomes "gloria in excelsis HOMO".

The ancient hymns, the great Mass settings of Bach, Thomas Tallis, Josquin Desprez, and others and the great ancient chants are towering monuments of the Glory of God. In these great works of music are embodied the very essence of Christianity. We have here courage, compassion, justice, virtue, fortitude, prudence, temperence, faith, hope and charity. No sap. No sentimental self-serving goo. This music was designed from prayer, designed for prayer, and are actual prayers themselves. Remember, we are talking about the music here, not the words. As St. Augustine said, "He who sings prays twice." The music itself is a prayer.

Some forms of music are suitable for sitting around a camp-fire with friends. Some forms of music are suitable for lovers singing to one another. Some forms of music are suitable to be listened to privately in your own home. Some forms of music are suitable for prayer and worship. It is as simple as that.

I am interested to hear responses. I am afraid I did not do my case justice here: that is why I am writing a thesis on it.

God bless you all,

Philip[/quote]


Hope you don't mind that i've been showing everyone and their mom (actually mine) this post. I think it is really good and hits the exact point i've been trying to make to people but couldn't find the words (or the logic). i'm hesitant to bring it to my youth minister, but am showing my closer friends who attend lifeteen masses (gosh i hate going to those....good thing we have a good TLM in the area)....

anyway thanks for the enlightenment! i hope to read your thesis....

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I have always believed that music is not just sound. It is emotion communicated by the use of sound. Every song has an emotion at its heart -- whether it be anger, hatred, depression, vengeance, or devotion, patience, understanding, determination. Songs that have great depth are that way because they invoke deep emotions. Music in the context of the liturgy should have this in mind. Generally speaking, your choice in music will greatly affect the depth of emotion the congregation will feel during mass. Though there are a few exceptions, I have observed less mature emotions from Praise and Worship music. The usual emotions I have found I would term as playful, clever, thoughtful, observant, etc. For the liturgy I personally prefer music that points closer to deeper emotions such as disciplined, insightful, thirsting, consoling, majestic, heavenly, reverent, convicting, sacrificing, etc. In my humble opinion, I find the more you deemphasize the beat in a song, the more emotion you draw out of the congregation. Its hard to do music with deep emotion, which is why you seldom find it at mass. But I think its not worth adding music to the mass if you don't intend to do the work to do it right.

Edited by abercius24
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Good point, Abercius. Especially the whole thing about emphasis on the beat. Naturally, it's there in music when it comes to phrasing, but I think you're speaking about the extra emphasis that popular music likes to use. I asked my music teacher (at a "Catholic" school) what his opinion is on why the mass should have the traditional music, and he gave along the same lines. He was able even to describe music fit for the liturgy even without having to make a reference to the lyrics. In fact, he explained his opinion while emphasizing that he wasn't talking about lyrics. Now, I'm not too sure about his faith life, but he gave a pretty good point that the music brings solemnity and focus, mainly because of (what I understood as) a relationship with God. These composers had a relationship which music was a medium of their dialogue. Just the music alone. Coupled with the lyrics, the music was suitable for prayer because it was a product of prayer: prayer was put into it so that "double praying" could come out of it. After that, we started talking about chant and stuff and the development of our modern harmony from that :). It's amazing stuff. I think we decided that not many people have been exposed to this traditional music and so they fluff it off as something outdated. But hey, we can also look at it this way. Some of the "folky mass" guitar music is from the 70s and stuff, so how would that all be relevant to kids? It might as well be from 500 years past because it's not part of their lifetime. Besides, there is a little more inspiration in something that was written by a guy who wrote for the Church so he could put bread on the table. These people had some experience. :D

My two cents. I welcome some friendly dialogue from all parties.

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