Friday, May 27, 2011

Lux Arumque and my thoughts on Sacred Music

I recently was forwarded a youtube post about Eric Whitacre and his "Virtual Choir":

Here is the full version released:

Watching this got me to thinking about Sacred Music. The text of the piece above is a reflection on the nativity of the Christ child.

Lux Aurumque:

warm and heavy as pure gold
and the angels sing softly 
to the newborn baby.

Lux, Lux
Lux, Lux
Lux Lux
Gravis que
Gravis que
Gravis que
Pura velut aurum
canunt et canunt et canunt

My thoughts came around to the melding of the sound and the meaning and there was something deep present!

Here is then the product of that thought:

In Sacred Music we often settle for “Festal” joy, which tends to amuse the intellect. Rather, Sacred Music should aim at “Sublime” joy, which humbles the intellect through wonder and awe at a mystery beyond itself.

Too often our Church Music is the saccharine expression of popularism that wants to amuse and, dare we say it, entertain. Sacred Music should express itself to a deeper part of the human heart than the appetites. It should penetrate to the core whence love springs from the melding of intellect and will touched by mystery.


Father Shelton said...

So, a mystery (A.) produces wonder and awe, which (B.) humbles the intellect (is this possible or desirable in a post-Enlightenment and post-Modern world? The Godly man say "yes"). But what, then, is the role of Sacred Music in making this happen? If the mystery causes this intellectual humility, then why do we even need music? If the music is the mystery, then are we not pagans? If the mystery is God, then, again, what is the point of Sacred Music?
I suggest that when we decide what--or Who--the mystery is that humbles our intellects, and when we decide that our intellects do, indeed, need humbling, then we will be ready to approach the question of Sacred Music. But not until then. When we do reach this point we will see Sacred Music not so much as a means for our own self-worship, but as an aid to keeping our intellects before the Mystery whose wonder and awe is so sublimely humbling. God never forces us into that position. The choice is always ours.

Father Shelton said...

Catholic News Service, the official news agency of the US hierarchy, posted this question on their Facebook Page yesterday: "Is Gregorian Chant an aid to Catholic worship, or would you rather have music at Mass you can participate in?" Surely the question itself in flawed. Polyphony may be specialized, but the basic Gregorian chants are so simple anyone can sing them. Even if CNS is talking about complex polyphony, this style of music is renowned for its capacity to lift the listener out of himself and into its movement, a movement which, in sacred polyphony, is towards God. Right?