Wherein Fr. Z riffs on Lady Gaga

This is a bit of a departure for me and I am nervous even mentioning it.

Let me start by standing on more familiar ground.

Did you know that some of the great polyphonic Masses we treasure as Catholics, spectacular works of sacred music and of true devotion, were sometimes based on purely secular melodies? These were called “parody Masses”. A good example would be the beautiful Missa L’homme armé super voces musicales by Josquin des Prez (whose name, for those of you in Fridley, is not pronounced “hose queen dez prez”).

In that spirit, a wag wrote a rather nice little fugue – nice, nothing special – taking his cues from a vile song/video “Bad Romance” by the vile Lady Gaga. I won’t post her vile video, but the link is HERE. Blech.

I, not being a devotee of Lady Gaga as you Fishwrap reader-visitors here surely are, I had to find the vile song online in order to get the music joke of the fugue. The video is vile – did I mention vile? – but, happily, you don’t have to endure much of it to get the musical figure for the far better fugue.

I had to write a fugue, once upon a time, back when I was a musician and had to take composition, but that is altogether another kettle of fish gone under the bridge, as Jack Aubrey might put it.  I digress.

In any event, I appreciate what this fellow did in construing his little fugue on this fine old organ.

[wp_youtube]EsZ1nDjkEJU[/wp_youtube]

And while we are at it, don’t forget Marc-André Hamelin’s Valse Irritation d’après Nokia:

[wp_youtube]gYpO6M-LyY8[/wp_youtube]

The Nokia ringtone was inspired by the Francisco Tárrega’s (+1909) Gran Vals. Alas, we know the irritating ringtone only too well.

And, so, dear reader, I will now leave you scratching your heads and continue with my list of things to do.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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34 Responses to Wherein Fr. Z riffs on Lady Gaga

  1. Mary Jane says:

    “Did you know that some of the great polyphonic Masses we treasure as Catholics, spectacular works of sacred music and of true devotion, were sometimes based on purely secular melodies?”

    I did!

    “…the vile Lady Gaga”…Lady Gaga…ga…gag…GAG.

    Unfortunately, I have heard that tune of hers before…nasty stuff. The fugue, though, is just TOO COOL. Very well done.

  2. pseudomodo says:

    I am astounded.

    I thought I recognized Francisco Tárrega’s name. He is the composer of one of my favourite spanish guitar pieces – Recuerdos de la Alhambra. I have heard this piece played by John Williams and many others, my favorite being Narciso Yepes.

    I have even heard it played by María del Rosario Mercedes Laura Jennifer Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza – better known as Charo. Cucci Cucci!

    She has been named “Best Flamenco Guitarist” in Guitar Player Magazine’s readers’ poll twice.

    Head Scratching continues…

  3. mike cliffson says:

    Who is lady gaga? I don’t think she’ in Debrett’s.

    [Aren’t you just a rattle!]

  4. Andreas says:

    Indeed, there are a host of ‘parody’ Masses based on non-liturgical works. One of those that is not at all well known is by an unknown 18th century musician who composed (better to say, ‘arranged’) a Mass in C major (KV App.235e) based on melodies from one of Mozart’s operas, ‘Cosi fan tutte’. I have never heard it sung at Mass, even here in Austria. Another is by Luigi Gatti (1740-1817), Music Director for the Cathedral in Salzburg, who composed his Schöpfungsmesse in A (Creation Mass…not to be confused with FJ Haydn’s own Schöpfungsmesse in B-flat written in 1801) based on melodies from Haydn’s oratorio, “The Creation”. Both works are available on CD; the Mozart on the Oehms Label and the Gatti on the Carus label.

  5. Timbot2000 says:

    This reminded me of a wonderful young man you YouTube, who not yet out of high school is a master violinist, who sets various tunes to his violin, making wonderful arrangements, often far better than the weak original source material.
    Here he is doing Trololo (I am Very Happy Because I am Finally Going home)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXO1z6ghgIY
    One Man String Quartet of Come On Eileen
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ing806Vc8I&feature=BFa&list=UUH9EAvKfX3NgC5fwhAWCZjQ
    Super Mario World!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stODIyJaEO4&feature=BFa&list=UUH9EAvKfX3NgC5fwhAWCZjQ

    Maybe its just me, but I think it both creative and funny. Lemonade from cultural lemons.

  6. pfreddys says:

    Lady gaga herself is the pathetic victim of abuse. A great analysis of this song can be found here: http://vigilantcitizen.com/musicbusiness/lady-gagas-bad-romance-the-occult-meaning/
    I do recommend this site for it’s analysis of popular culture: http://vigilantcitizen.com/

  7. Andreas says:

    By the way, I forgot to mention that the reason that Haydn’s Mass in B-flat is called the “Creation Mass” is because Haydn inserted two measures of a melody from his own “Creation” oratorio, substituting “Qui tollis peccata mundi” for the oratorio’s original text (sung by Adam to Eve), “Der tauende Morgen, o wie ermuntert er!” which can be very loosely translated as “The dew falling morn’, O how he roused.”

  8. PostCatholic says:

    Thank you for sharing that. The 13 year-old and 12 year-old “Mother Monster” fans in my life are going love it.

  9. Suburbanbanshee says:

    So… have you seen the Polish Dominican friars with their vocations skit?

    (You have to turn on the captions, because it’s a parody in Polish. And the chorus is “O.P.” and “Domini Canes”.)

  10. uptoncp says:

    While pretty much everyone who was anyone based a mass or two on L’Homme Armé, (some musicologists even find it in Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli), possibly the ultimate in this line is the mass that Orlandus Lassus (aka Orlando Lasso and other variants) based on the chanson (by Jacobus Clemens non Papa) Entre vous filles de quinze ans, in which the singer relates his thoughts on watching teenage girls bathing naked in a fountain. To give him credit, he is somewhat uncomfortable about it; still, I think it could be termed the Lady Gaga of its day!

  11. Andy Lucy says:

    Just to show that even from utter dreck, some good may come, this music video is by a couple of high school teachers in Hawaii. They make historical music videos riffing on popular music. This one is about the French Revolution, based on “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXsZbkt0yqo

    I found it very well done, and to kids who are into that kind of music, it is a powerful learning aid. I know that Monty Python’s “Oliver Cromwell” got me through a tough British history exam. lol

  12. Dr Guinness says:

    Just reminds me how much I miss organ music in a church…

  13. Philangelus says:

    Father, if you don’t want to link directly to some artist’s video, search on it at Youtube with the song title followed by “lyrics” and you’ll find videos where the fans have posted the music and just the words on the screen. (e.g., here is the Bad Romance lyric video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6IZzqMGj84)

    I was *thisclose* to buying the MP3 of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” when I watched the video, in which she’s doing lascivious things with a rosary while dressed like a nun. >:-( Um, yeah, I already lived through the 1980s and watched Madonna do the same thing. None of my money will go to that kind of thing. I’ll hear it on the radio and that will have to suffice.

  14. Rouxfus says:

    Here is a performance of “Bad Romance” on the carillon bells of Shaperd Tower, All Saints Chapel on the domain of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee by a professor of chemistry, Dr. Charles Bordley. The University is owned by the Southern Episcopal Church dioceses and has a seminary for Episcopal clergy. This performance took place on Homecoming Weekend in 2010 of years ago…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9kC6G_1xtU

  15. PostCatholic says:

    Lady gaga herself is the pathetic victim of abuse. A great analysis of this song can be found here:

    That was morbidly fascinating. I can’t believe the enormous effort that went into crafting such a weird conspiracy theory. I have to confess I didn’t read it in depth–don’t have all week–but the parts I skimmed through were very interesting. Much like a religious leader calling a human being “vile” instead of her ideas, I guess I just don’t understand the ways of your cult.

    [First, tread carefully. Second, you know that “Lady Gaga” is not a real person, right? That that is a cobbled up public facade, right? Her name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. I fear for her soul. And “Lady Gaga” is vile. ]

  16. Indulgentiam says:

    Here is something really worth listening too. Father Thomas Longua, FSSP, Pastor at Mater Dei in Irving, Tx. The title of the sermon is; “Raising a Holy Family Amid the Culture of Death” Excellent analysis of how music works on the reason and passions. Worth every second of your time

    http://www.audiosancto.org/sermon/20100724-Raising-a-Holy-Family-Amid-the-Culture-of-Death.html

  17. AnnAsher says:

    She is a sad case. I believe she is a mere puppet and knows not much about what she does.

  18. bookworm says:

    “Monty Python’s “Oliver Cromwell” got me through a tough British history exam.”

    American geography/history buffs can rely on the Animaniacs tunes “Wakko’s America” (all 50 state capitals, set to “Turkey in the Straw”); “Yakko’s World” (almost all the countries of the world, as of the mid-90s, set to “Mexican Hat Dance”); and “The Presidents,” listing all the presidents through Clinton and their major accomplishments to the “William Tell Overture”.

  19. mvhcpa says:

    bookworm,

    Not to mention all those “Schoolhouse Rock” clips getting kids through tests on the Preamble (“We the People [of the United States] in order to form a more perfect union…”)!

    Michael Val
    (who wishes kids today knew at least as much history as was shown on Schoolhouse Rock!)

  20. akp1 says:

    Well I haven’t got a clue about the Lady Gaga tune (and no intention of bothering) but the fugue was great. And the Nokia tune – wow – how beautiful! That would be quite cool to actually add as a ringtone!!

  21. robtbrown says:

    PostCatholic says:

    Much like a religious leader calling a human being “vile” instead of her ideas,

    Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot? Weren’t they vile?

    I guess I just don’t understand the ways of your cult.

    The cult is understood by wanting to know Truth–not by looking to satisfy a religious instinct.

  22. PostCatholic says:

    RobtBrown, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The people you mention did terrible and despicable things and held some of recent history’s most vile ideas. I don’t believe, personally, that they were people beyond the reach of human compassion. Even if I did, I’d still affirm their dignity and worth.

    Now, since we’ve crossed Godwin’s Law, I will say that I don’t think Lady Gaga deserves comparison to the greatest mass murderers of the last century. The young lady has done a lot of handsomely good deeds that ought to be held in the balance by those inclined to judgments. I’ll leave your comment about “Truth” alone, as I don’t wish to cause offense.

  23. Johnno says:

    Name some of those good deeds PostCatholic. And if you’re referring to her support of homosexuality, transgenderism etc. I suggest trying again. Lady Gaga is well known for inviting scandal to herself including with releasing a love song for Judas Iscariot on Good Friday. IF she does not change, she will undoubtedly share a place in hell with the likes of men like Hitler, Pol Pot etc. Don’t worry, there won’t be any discrimination there… Lady Gaga could arguably be worse though, because she would kill people’s souls by corrupting them with immorality, whereas Hitler and Pol Pot are vastly known to kill people’s bodies (though they had their share of corrupting souls to their ideologies too) . And no Postcatholic, any actual legitimate good deeds Lady Gaga would’ve done that we could all agree on won’t account for her eternal damnation nor the countless bad things she’s done or the fatal errors she spreads. One does not bargain to get into heaven. You get there based on the quality of your soul and your desiring for union with the true God.

  24. robtbrown says:

    PostCatholic says:

    RobtBrown, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The people you mention did terrible and despicable things and held some of recent history’s most vile ideas. I don’t believe, personally, that they were people beyond the reach of human compassion. Even if I did, I’d still affirm their dignity and worth.

    Even though human nature is good, people can be evil through habit. Pop stars like Lady Gaga are said to be vile because of their recourse to habitual vulgarity.

    I did, however, see her on SNL, and she was very funny.

    Now, since we’ve crossed Godwin’s Law,

    Not really.

    I will say that I don’t think Lady Gaga deserves comparison to the greatest mass murderers of the last century.

    There was no comparison to them. You said it was inappropriate to say that someone was vile. I simply asked whether you thought that those three were vile.

    The young lady has done a lot of handsomely good deeds that ought to be held in the balance by those inclined to judgments.

    There have been many despicable people in history who also did some good things.

    I’ll leave your comment about “Truth” alone, as I don’t wish to cause offense.

    I come from an anti Catholic family, was in the military a few years, and spent many years in athletic locker rooms. You can’t offend me.

    Besides which, I am most offended by those who defend the current state of the Church, esp bishops and priests.

  25. Laura98 says:

    My daughter said it reminded her of the Harry Potter music…

    @PostCatholic – Yes, every person has inherent dignity and worth, and yes Lady Gaga has done some good things and contributed to some charitable causes – some of them of a questionable nature. (Heck – even Hitler was kind to animals, right?). However, she also uses/abuses sacred Catholic items and symbols during her performances – like many other “artists” today. She has many occultic references in her videos and of course overtly sexual in them as well. How is this “good” for teenagers/young adults (her intended market) or society as a whole? Does this mean she is worthless and hopeless? No. She is just not using her talents in the way God intended. She is not beyond Redemption as long as she is alive though.

    I simply fear for all the influence she has on society. A Protestant friend of my daughter, will proudly announce her Christianity one minute, and how she wants to “Marry the Night” the next… (This is another Lady Gaga song with occult references).

  26. moconnor says:

    OK, since no one else has caught this… In the spirit of true musicological geekiness (I am a musicologist after all), there are different terms used for different types of compositions.

    When a composer borrows a melody (secular or chant tune) and places it in the tenor line intact or at least exclusively, it is called a cantus firmus (fixed tune) Mass. (e.g., most any L’Homme armee Mass or the Lady Gaga inspired work that is referred to here). Also all Requiem Masses fall into this broad category, even though the melodies are taken from the existing chant Mass for each part.

    When a composer takes a melody and intersperses parts of it through all the voices, it is called a paraphrase Mass (e.g., Josquin’s Missa Pange Lingua)

    When a composer takes an entire polyphonic work (such as a motet or chanson) and uses all the voices of that original in some way for the new piece, it is then a parody Mass. A good example is Morales’s Missa Mille Regretz, based on Josquin’s famous song.

    Happy listening!

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  27. PostCatholic says:

    Thank you all so much for explaining to me again why name-calling and (literally) vilifying people is consistent with Catholic morality. I’m sorry if it gets tedious; I know you in particular have done this for me many times before, robtbrown, and thanks for your patience. I guess it’s just something I have trouble accepting, but I’ll work on that.

  28. robtbrown says:

    PostCatholic,

    So you’ve decided that because you can’t show where I said anything incorrect, you’ll play the victim. Well done.

    I can’t remember having called you a name, but I do remember your initial approach when you appeared on this blog. You dropped some names of theologians, a visit to Rome, and names of hierarchs, part of a strategy that said “I studied theology, knew bishops, and visited in Rome–then I saw the light, was able to get beyond all that and become an atheist (or agnostic).” Thus, the Post Catholic moniker. That strategy ended when you discovered some of us have actually spent years studying theology, lived in Rome, and knew more Ecclesiastical brass (actually, I’ve always been more impressed by the really good theologians).

    This is Fr Z’s blog, and he decides who participates. Personally, I am fine with you being here, but I also feel free to challenge anything you say. If you are offended by that, all I can say is too bad. I don’t look on this forum (or for that matter, theology) as a round table, where people merely take turns voicing their opinions, as in here’s what I did on my summer vacation. Theology is dialogical.

    From her interviews, it is obvious that Lady Gaga has no use for Catholic sexual morality. Odd that doesn’t seem to offend you, but you are offended that some of us are offended.

    BTW, I seem to remember St Augustine in one of the readings at Matins during Christmas season addressing Arius and saying, “What do you say about that . . . heretic.”

  29. Someone here give me a reason why I should allow this to stay open.

  30. PostCatholic says:

    I have none.

  31. PostCatholic says:

    Let me address some incorrect facts. My first appearance on the blog was on the occasion of the funeral services of Senator Kennedy; I was in fact a Catholic college seminarian–meaning I earned an B.A. in Philosophy; I did and do still know some “ecclesiastical brass” but I’m not sure why that matters as I’ve never approached them for favors and they are certainly not my close friends; I never lived in Rome (I did visit the Vatican one summer while a Catholic seminarian, tagging along for an ad limina and immensely enjoyed the experience); my graduate training in theology is not from a Catholic divinity school and those degrees were conferred after I decided I no longer believed in deities.

    And I’m conceding you the argument. Thank you for elucidations.

  32. Kathleen10 says:

    Even good families bicker now and then. It will pass. Everyone will say what they need to say.

    Re lady gaga, I like her birth name alot better. Very pretty.

    Re the fugue, it’s wonderful to see someone take something profane and make something beautiful out of it for a change.
    Fr. Z., what instrument did you play? As I watch the organist in the video, I am, as always, transfixed by someone playing so effortlessly, two hands doing different parts. Reminds me to get back to the piano.

  33. robtbrown says:

    Post Catholic,

    I never said that you lived in Rome–I used the word “visit”.

    Nor did I say that you had studied Catholic theology. Theology is either right or wrong, uses Scripture and reason well, or it doesn’t. Some years ago I read a book on the priesthood by a prominent Catholic theologian (now dead) known for his fidelity–I didn’t think it was very good. I read St Thomas and St Augustine because of their depth and because their theological vision is catholic, not because it is Catholic. In fact, as a Thomist, I think there are theological methods and conclusions that the Church permits that I think are a mess.

    My problem with Lady Gaga and much of post modern pop culture is that it takes itself seriously, a trait I attribute to the influence of drugs. And so we are treated to the likes of her preaching on TV on the value of gay “marriage”. I wonder whether at the 40th reunion of the class of 2012 classmates will want to hear “Bad Romance”.

    My generation had our own pop music, but no one thought the likes of Louie, Louie and Surfin’ Bird was anything but fun, dancin’ and drinkin’ music that glorified the virtues of adolescence. Those who did later found themselves in rehab.

  34. PostCatholic says:

    Thank you again, robtbrown.

    My generation had its own pop music with sometimes-simplistic social justice messages. I’ll bet “I Hope The Russians Love Their Children Too” and “99 Red Balloons” had as much impact on the nuclear arms race as Lady Gaga’s tunes will have on Marriage Equality. And we had our music that was about premarital sex (“Come On Eileen”, “Like a Virgin”, “Relax”), masturbation (“She Bop”, “Blister in the Sun”) and alcohol consumption (“Red Red Wine”, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”, “Brass Monkey” ) that bothered elders who worried that if we sang and danced to these things we’d never have a higher thought. It doesn’t seem to have worked out that way.