The Church’s sacred music played an important role in my conversion, when I was a young man. There is a great deal of work to do.
But perhaps just as in the spring rivers will thaw and log jams start to break up, we are getting to a point where young people are going to take the reins from the chronologically advanced who are frozen in their outdated and mainly false ideas of what the Second Vatican Council wanted for music in our worship.
The piece is quite long, but here a couple passages that caught my eye.
Singing the Mass
The editor of Sacred Music talks about current trends in liturgical music, his conversion to the faith through Gregorian chant, and what to expect from the new Missal.
BY TRENT BEATTIE
Q: What are the most common misconceptions about sacred music in the mind of the average Catholic?
TUCKER: I’m not entirely sure that the average Catholic is as confused as the nice people who attempt to provide music in our parishes from week to week. If you ask the average Catholic what kind of music is integral to our liturgy and ritual, most will mention Gregorian chant. They are right. The music of the Church was taking shape around the same time as the books of the Bible were being chosen; the faith and its music grew up and took shape together. Just as Scripture continues to speak to us today, the music of the faith speaks to us as well.
I find it striking that most non-Catholics imagine that our services are dominated by the kind of chant heard in movies and television. But the truth is that we do not hear it in our parishes. Why not? The musicians have not had their responsibilities explained to them. They do not know that the Church has assigned a specific and brilliant piece of music for every part of the Mass throughout the liturgical year. Not one in one hundred Catholic musicians know this. They’ve never heard of the Graduale Romanum, which is the music book of the Roman Rite. They’ve never been told that there are ideals that extend beyond a weekly game of English-hymn roulette.
People who do know about chant are often afraid of it because the notation is different and the language is different. The rhythm is different too. So it is with the rest of Catholicism. What we do is different from what the rest of the world does. We understand the need to train in doctrine and morals, but somehow we think that such training should not be necessary for liturgical music.
We have to realize that our music is of a special type, so it makes special demands on the musician. We should not permit any music to be used in Mass without some consciousness of what it is supposed to be about, any more than we should tolerate homilies that teach ideas contrary to the faith.
Q: What do you say to people who think that ”contemporary” or rock music is necessary to attract young people to Mass?
TUCKER: So far as I can tell, the only people who really argue this way are old people. It’s true that plenty of young people are not interested in true liturgical music, but those same people are not interested in Catholicism either. How do we draw people to the faith? By lying about it and substituting false teaching? I don’t think so. The faith draws people when it is not ashamed of itself and when it has the ring of truth.
It is the same with liturgical music. Church music uses free rhythm that always points upwards in the same way that incense is always rising. This assists our prayer. Secular styles of music, in contrast, use rhythms that elicit temporal thoughts and emotions. Rock music points to nothing outside of itself, so it does not belong anywhere near the liturgy.
We are living in times of transition, and young people seem to know this even more than older people. I don’t think there is any doubt where that transition is headed: People are discovering the sacred music tradition. If you look around at the Catholic music world, you quickly find that this is where the interest and energy is. This is the future.