Monday, September 22, 2008

Sacred Music, Fall 2008

I'm pleased to report that the Fall 2008 issue of Sacred Music is arriving in mailboxes. This issue has a focus on the role of music in teaching the faith. William Mahrt's lead editorial discusses the issue of ideals vs. relative goods in liturgical music.

This, I believe, is his unique contribution to the modern struggle over liturgical music. He has added to the issue of music a level of complexity that we associate with Catholic ethics, for example, thinking along a continuum rather than in terms of strict absolutes while not embracing a sort of musical agnosticism.

What is usually missing in this entire debate is notion of the North Star of liturgical practice, which he finds in the Graduale Romanum. But as he says, few of us can ever achieve this and we must look at the pacing and direction of change as the measuring stick for our own parish programs. In this way, we neither despair nor lose direction.

Musicologist Joseph Kerman examines how the tension between ideals and practice affected the career of William Byrd: the Catholic who was the composer for Queen Elizabeth. It is a remarkably dramatic story. Br. Lawrence Lew offers a full cited and extended treatment of the role of music in releasing the fullness of preaching and teaching. John Hortman provides a wonderful example of this very thing in his close analysis of the musical rhetoric of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Alma Redemptoris Mater. Helen Harrison discusses the opportunities and obstacles of using hymns as a replacement for propers in the Mass—a very practical piece.

The archive section offers a compelling piece by Dom Joseph Gajard that explains Gregorian rhythm in light of the idea of movement in general—a contribution that has been overlooked in all the current discussion of this issue.

There is detailed coverage of the popular selling CD of chant by Stift Heiligenkruez, as well as two extended reviews of Anthony Ruff's extremely important new book on music in the Roman Rite. One is by chant scholar William Tortolano.

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