Friday, November 01, 2013

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

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.

The president of the CMAA, Dr. William Mahrt (Stanford), addressed the conference speaking of the shoulders of Msgr. Schuler, which suffered the many slings and arrows launched at him during the dark ages of the 70s and 80s when almost no one else was holding fast to the Church's heritage of sacred music. Mahrt quotes Msgr. Schuler when he says: 

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.

The very notion of "sacred" stands on the hallowing of previous generations. As Dr. Mahrt says:

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.

Dr. Mahrt's address can be read in its entirety here.

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