okt 282011

Jeg nevnte i august at jeg leste en doktorgradsoppgave fra USA om teologiske og liturgiske spørsmål, skrevet av Walter William Whitehouse: THE MUSICAL PRELUDE TO VATICAN II: PLAINCHANT, PARTICIPATION, AND PIUS X. Oppgaven kan lastes ned her: DEL 1 – 338 sider og DEL 2 – 145 sider. Jeg leste ferdig oppgaven for noen uker siden, og før jeg går videre til andre liturgibøker, vil jeg si noen siste ord om denne.

Oppgaven, som legger stor vekt på begge mål i pave Pius X’s motu proprio fra 1903 – både at menigheten skulle delta (og synge) i messen, og at den gregorianske sangen skulle gjenopplives – skriver etter hvert mest om forsøkene på å lære de amerikanske katolikkene å synge gregorianikk. Det tok en hel del år før arbeidet kom skikkelig i gang, men utover 50-tallet gikk det stadig bedre – spesielt på de katolske skolene, noen ganger samlet mange flere tusen barn som sammen sang messens ordinarium. Men etter konsilet falt dette arbeidet sammen, og i Amerika erstattet man det gregorianske ikke med noenlunde høyverdige salmer (som i Norge), men med ganske banal, moderne musikk. Slik kan vi lese i oppgavens oppsummering:

POSTSCRIPT – “Ce délicat probléme”

Of the two critical aims of Tra le sollecitudini – active participation of the people, and the singing of Gregorian chant – one saw its apotheosis and the other its demise in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, a liturgical watershed unparalleled in the history of the Roman Catholic Church (both for those who supported its aims, and those who did not). The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy paid due homage to the “pride of place” of Gregorian chant, to the “treasury of inestimable value” represented by the musical tradition, as well as to that generative idea of Pius X, so potent in the twentieth century, that “the true Christian spirit is found in the active participation of the faithful in the Liturgy.”

Because this latter impulse “carried the day,” the reforms of the Council occasioned a musical upheaval in the American church similarly without historical parallel. Released suddenly into the open pastures of a once-forbidden vernacular, Catholic church music found itself urgently in need of a new musical clothing, and turned whole-heartedly (and under the ready influence of a handful of publishers) to highly-derivative secular musical idioms which not only had been formerly forbidden, but would have been unimaginable in the Church only a few years earlier. Such a turn to secular influences, while motivated in large part on behalf of congregational participation, nevertheless occasioned the demise of Gregorian chant (especially as dreamed by Pius X) in the church’s worship, and flew in the face of centuries of official strictures, not the least of which are found in Tra le sollecitudini. This new “enculturated” musical idiom has by now become the lingua franca of worship music in the American Catholic church, and an identifying feature of the post-Vatican II era. It has in turn exercised a surprising influence and been adopted (both in style and in actual repertoire) to a great extent in American Protestantism.

Ce délicat probléme, however – the delicate problem of church music – is that it retains in Yves Jolly’s analysis a double function: it must serve both as the language of Revelation of the Church, addressed to the believer; and in the other direction, it is an act of believers by which community is established. Both of these acts have corporate natures; the personal, private effect of music (“comme un stimulant interieur”) is far too limited a criterion to employ. If we grant the power of absolute music to speak, then we must ask what language is being spoken – particularly whether music speaks the language of Revelation within the cultic act.

Albert Gerhards makes the point that inasmuch as Gregorian chant largely sets biblical texts, it stands as a hermeneutic, completely within the church’s tradition of text-interpretation; and thereby chant (as other music) carries meaning. Moreover, the meaning is disclosed beyond the level of text alone, taking place within the complex of text, musical setting, and rite. The question then becomes the adequacy of music chosen for the intended disclosure; and Gerhards suggests that the way in which chant presents the texts of faith should be investigated as a measuring-rod for any style of church-music. An Abbot of Maria-Laach spoke along the same lines: The church has restored the chant, not to save any valuable manifestation of culture from oblivion, but because in the chant something of that spirit which taught the church to sing charismatically has been handed down. Chant can still inspire it to sing new melodies . . .

Dom Ermin Vitry wrote in 1958 that, as regards Gregorian Chant, “We are now, after fifty years of futile squabbles, at the crossroads of our musical venture. It will be restoration or disaster. May God grant that the Chant shall not die a second death; for, from the latter, it would never revive.” Dom Vitry’s fear was largely borne out in the US in the years after Vatican II: if chant had been on life-support for some time, the plug was abruptly pulled after the council. “Pride of place” was granted of course in SC, but with qualification – “other things being equal,” caeteris paribus – a phrase, says Chadwick, “with a somewhat oracular effect, which reads like a courteous genuflexion towards Pius X before preparing to abandon him.”

Yet neither Vitry nor anyone could have foreseen the somewhat puzzling re-emergence of Gregorian chant on the secular, popular level some years later. It is a fact that secular “concerts” which feature early music and chant are robustly well attended (the audience doing just that – “attending,” devotedly listening, and at the end, madly applauding). This was a new and unexpected “reception,” intimation of a second resurrection from the second death. Yet it remains a sad fact also that when such music is available in services of worship, the public response is considerably more limited; and it is difficult to rejoice at the popular reception of chant outside its role in worship. It is wearying too that, within the Church, music is largely “politicized,” such that many reject the use of Gregorian chant out of suspicion that it represents an agenda to return to the “old days”; just as sadly, some do profane its use for that purpose.

What is clear is that, for all the ecclesial gains that have been made by congregational singing – gains as significant as they are necessary – and for whatever other positive reasons it may have been eclipsed, the loss of Gregorian still stands on its own as pure loss, as immeasurable loss. Yet after fifty years, only a short time in the life of the Church, we are still in the early wake of Vatican II, and church music remains unsettled and emergent – a highly controversial matter to this day, Snowbird Statements parrying Milwaukee Statements. May God grant that Dom Vitry’s dire prediction not finally prove true, but that the inspired liturgical vision of St. Pius X, and the embrace it represented toward the entire tradition – both for Chant and Active Participation – find a welcome place and abundant future life in the divine liturgy of the church.

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