"This so-called ‘music,’ they would have to concede, is in some way efficacious to humans. Yet it has no concepts, and makes no propositions; it lacks images, symbols, the stuff of language. It has no power of representation. It has no relation to the world." Oliver Sacks, The Power of Music *
"Did you write the book of love, And do you have faith in God above, If the Bible tells you so? Do you believe in rock n'roll, Can music save your mortal soul?" Don McLean, American Pie
As I listened to the NY Philharmonic's New Year's eve concert, "La Vie Parisienne", a post I wrote some time ago came to mind: on the power of music to shape our devotion in the Church. Now, the music I had been listening to was not by any means sacred music; Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld Overture, including the beautiful love song to Eurydice and that infamous "Can Can". Nevertheless, the love song evoked emotion, as did Can Can, but of a different kind.
But back to what this post is about. I'm going to repost the earlier material and add some thoughts on how music has been corrupted by a modernist hedonist culture. Let me preface these remarks with an apology--I'm not a musician and not an expert in liturgical music; for a more informed view, there are other sources; the one I prefer is The Chant Cafe.
MUSIC, THE OTHER ROAD TO ADORATION
"Præstet fides supplementum, Sensuum defectui."
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me.I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now I see.T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.And Grace, my fears relieved.How precious did that Grace appearThe hour I first believed." Liberty Lyrics John Newton
"It is not surprising that Church leaders have doubted whether the feelings which music arouses are truly religious. Music's power to fan the flames of piety may be more apparent than real..."Anthony Storr, Music and the Mind
SING A NEW SONG TO THE LORD
"Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King." Psalm 98:5,6 (KJV)
"So I waver between the danger that lies in gratifying the senses and the benefits which, as I know, can accrue from singing....I am inclined to approve of the custom of singing in church, in order that by indulging the ears weaker spirits may be inspired with feelings of devotion. Yet when I find the singing itself more moving than the truth which it conveys, I confess it is a grievous sin, and at those times I would prefer not to hear the singer. [emphasis added]" St. Augustine, Confessions
AND THE PROFANE
This music appeals only to an immediate gratification, to the brutish impulses to dominate, to have that which we desire without thought of consequences or morality. It leads away from God, not to Him. I'm not a proponent of censorship, but... So, is there a Gresham's law of music? Does bad music drive out good? At concerts the age distribution is weighted heavily to those with white or no hair. On the other hand, I was happy to see at a chamber music concert at a local university a high proportion of undergraduates. There may be hope.
Perhaps what we need to do as parents and grandparents is to introduce our children to the joys of good music. We can't assume that their musical taste is totally corrupted. Trade a half an hour of hip-hop for a half-hour of light classics and bring them to concerts at an early age. And finally, bring good, serious music to the Liturgy.