This phrase kept coming up at the recent CMAA conference in Saint Paul, and rightly so for an event dedicated to the legacy of Msgr. Schuler at the Church of Saint Agnes.
Every age must stand squarely on the shoulders of those who have gone before; creation ex nihilo is a prerogative of God alone. Musical styles develop with their roots in the past; eliminate the past and one finds that the wellsprings of musical inspiration and composition dry up too.
Our comprehension of a piece of music depends upon our having heard its predecessors and having thereby established a framework of hearing and of meaning in the context of which we receive the new work. This means that the deepest meanings of music are accessible in those works which are founded upon the deepest living traditions of musical language.