Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bad 'good' music

Whenever I hear the warbling amplified voice of a soloist leading the congregation in the Gloria over the pipe organ in a Catholic church, even if it a basilica that has what is considered the "best" music program around, I shudder and give thanks that we have an option locally that spares us of such distracting froth. It may not be all as bad as I feel, but it's as if I've developed a severe allergy that's triggered every time I'm exposed to the phenomena.

Of course, then I remember Thomas Day's charming and illuminating book, Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste (Crossroad Classics, 1992), a must read for anyone interested in why music is as it is today in most Novus Ordo parishes of the Catholic Church.


Ralph Roister-Doister said...

I enjoyed Day's criticism of modern church music. The music is maudlin and often unsingable, and some of the lyrics border on heresy, when they are not simply incoherent.

Truth be told, and unlike Day (who is, after all, a music director, and has to put bread on the table), I would prefer as little singing as possible, and then only of gregorian chant, preferably by a small choir, not by the Joe Sixpacks of the pews. I would prefer that communion be silent, for the same reason that I prefer adoration of the host to be silent. I would prefer that music not be used as filler for moments of silence.

I would prefer, in short, as little emphasis on "participation" as possible. "Participation", I have come to think, inevitably trivializes and distorts the prayerfulness of silent witness.

For all these reasons, I am convinced that liturgical renewal efforts are wrongheaded in themselves, regardless of whether they are initiated by Pius X or Paul VI.

I'm sick of "joy joy joy" and "hi, neighbor." There will be time enough for that following a favorable particular judgment.

Unknown said...


It is bad enough having to deal with the "bad" music that has essentially been neutered of so much meaning, that a Jew, Muslim, Protestant or Atheist could listen to it without cause for concern.