Tensions

I have been thinking a lot about Gregorian chant these days.  As often happens when I am pecking away at a subject, someone sends me a link to something useful.

There is a series of videos on YouTube in French taken from VHS of a course on Gregorian chant by the monks of Solesmes. If you have French, even remotely, you will find them interesting.  They are not the final word and they are dated, but they are helpful.

One thing caught my eye in the video Le chant grégorien à Solesmes (4) : Modes, impacts, Legato.  This inscription is displayed – I assume that it is at Solesmes, if not in the church then in the monastery – while a chant is played as a demonstration of a point that was made.

There is always going to be a tension between the insights of the past and the insights of the present, especially as we learn more and develop and deepen our understanding of an aspect of the Faith.  There is also always a tension in this life between authority (external to us) and one’s own will.  This applies to doctrine, as Bl. John Henry Newman pointed out, and to our liturgical worship, as Pope Benedict XVI so ably underscored.  Bringing these elements into harmony can be the task of a lifetime.  The inscription above provides a good starting point.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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4 Responses to Tensions

  1. Ben Trovato says:

    Father,

    If you are thinking a lot about Gregorian Chant, you may be interested in a series of posts I have started to put together in request to a response from others for an Introduction to Chant. The first is here http://ccfather.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/an-introduction-to-chant-i.html and three others may be found by following the chant tag on my blog. I intend to add further posts over the coming weeks as I have time.

    BT

  2. Ben Trovato says:

    BTW, for those with no French, the inscription may be translated:

    Let us seek the wisdom of our forefathers; let us submit ourselves to their authentic interpretation; let us humbly subordinate our artistic judgement to theirs. For that is what is demanded of us, both by the love which we should have for the whole tradition, both melodic and rhythmic, and by the respect we owe to a form of art that is perfect of its type.

    BT

  3. Archicantor says:

    The date on the inscription, June 6, 1849, is the birthday of the great Solesmes chant scholar Dom André Mocquereau. The passage quoted is from the first of his Monographies grégoriennes (1910), a commentary on the introit In medio.

    I love the description of chant as an art form that achieves perfection in its genre. An introit is not the same thing as a polyphonic Mass setting, let alone a symphony. A plainsong introit needs only to be the best plainsong introit it can be, and the Gregorian repertory represents a perfect achievement of that aim. One could extend that to the life of each Christian: what would Christian perfection look like in my calling, in my circumstances, in my state of life? It may not be up to me whether my calling is to be an “introit” or a “symphony”.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  4. LadyMarchmain says:

    Thank you for this, Fr. Z and for the further illumination, Archicantor. You have no idea how much consolation and affirmation you dispense and how grateful your readers are.