Skip to comments.Music scholar says chant is for everyone, not just elite
Posted on 05/09/2013 5:41:50 AM PDT by NYer
.- Gregorian chant is freely available and a music of the people – not the domain of a stuffy, Catholic elite as it is often perceived, says a music scholar from Alabama.
“You can listen to it, download perfect editions, you can make your own editions, it's freely shared with the world,” said Jeffrey Tucker, managing editor of “Sacred Music” and founder of “The Chant Café” blog.
Chant is “distributed on an open source platform” and “available to everybody – just like the Gospel, and just like the graces of God,” he said in a May 8 interview with CNA.
The “free culture” aspect of chant is the subject of a paper Tucker will discuss at the Sacra Liturgia 2013 conference in Rome this June. His topic, “The Liturgical Aposto late and the Internet,” will survey how chant suffered in the early 20th century when it was copyrighted, and how it has experienced a resurgence in recent years thanks to entering the commons.
“You went through essentially 1900 years of Christianity with the chant being an open source framework, an open source form of music that flourished in the first millennium through the oral tradition of copying, imitation, and free use,” Tucker explained.
Chant was then was built upon during the second millennium with organum, polyphony, the great works of the Renaissance, and then further inspired the Classical composers, he said.
By the 20th century, however, chant had fallen into dis-use in most parishes. In 1903 Pius X, who sought “to restore all things in Christ,” issued a document by which “he wanted a big push for chant to become truly universalized throughout the Catholic world.”
Tucker's recent research, which he will highlight at Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome, shows that Pius X wanted Gregorian chant to be “a free gift to the whole Church, and that any publisher should be free to publish it.”
Yet when a new edition of the Graduale Romanum was published in 1908, it was copyrighted. This was a “catastrophic change” in chant's status, Tucker said.
For next 50 years, it became “a kind of proprietary product, held by one institution” with an elite controlling it. “It was all kind of stifling, really,” and by the mid-60s Catholic musicians were “fed up.”
By the 1960s chant was perceived as “owned,” and “a kind of corporate product.” Churchgoer's wanted something “more free and authentic...and that's a big part of why the folk tradition appealed to that generation.”
Yet today, the situations have reversed, Tucker remarked. In the present-day liturgical environment, “you have exactly the opposite having happened.”
“All the successor music to the folk music that came of age in the 60s, is heavily corporate-controlled, heavily copyrighted, and under proprietary distribution.”
“You have to sign up and be a member, and your parish has to pay ghastly fees for the right to sing the music, and on and on and on,” he said.
“It's more or less in the same position that chant was in in the 1950s, whereas the chant is now completely open source.”
Five years ago, Tucker was responsible for putting the first big edition of Gregorian chant online, noting that the internet has greatly contributed to the dissemination of chant and its open source status.
“In the course of a year, we saw the usual pattern take place: derivative works were created, new software platforms emerged, new fonts came to be created, and it seems incredible that that was only five years ago, because now you can download an app for your digital device.”
The development of apps, such as Liber Pro, are demonstrative of the “free culture” and “folk” nature of chant, and “how the open source Liber (Usualis) is being used,” Tucker said.
“All these derivative works came about – recordings were newly posted, now all the chant books are online, you can go to YouTube and listen to any chant, multiple recordings and multiple interpretations, and new chant books came to be written, thanks to the fonts that were written, again on an open source basis.”
“So this thing that used to seem remote, snooty, unfamiliar, spooky, and weird, is now super familiar and available in many different formats, for all people in the world.”
Tucker said that having chant at parishes “changes people's liturgical experience dramatically.”
“When you show up at Mass, would you rather hear a chanted version of a scriptural antiphon that speaks directly to the liturgical year and season and day – all the way down to the precise reason you're there that day – or do you want to hear 'Gather us in' again?”
“The changes make a big difference in the way people experience the faith, week to week.”
Blessed are you, holy and most faithful Church
for the Groom, betrothed to you, brought you into
pastures green. At your feast, he mixed a cup; those who drink it
thirst no more. Come and eat fire in the bread. Drink the Spirit
in the wine. Clothed in Spirit and in fire, you shall be with
Him, his bride.
I was amazed at the feast that Christ prepared
for the blessed Church, his bride. As I entered,
I saw there: prophets, martyrs, and the just, the apostles
with the priests; then Baptism, and the cross; on the altar
there was placed Christs own Body and His Blood, for the pardon
of all sins.
Grant peace, O Lord, to your Church throughout the world.
Keep all scandal far from her. Guard your flock from
harm and strife. Send good shepherds who will lead in accordance
with your will. Gather and unite in love, all her children
in true faith. Then she will rejoice with you in your kingdom
when you will come.
Bookmark. I listen to Gregorian chants daily.
I have met Jeffrey Tucker, and he is a straight-up musician and all round good guy.
He gave a seminar at the archdiocesan music conference a couple of years ago. He knows his business and he's a good teacher and coach.
ANYBODY can sing chant. If a bunch of illiterate monks in monasteries all over Europe can learn it by heart, we can learn it with the aid of the notation and good will.
Incidentally, while I have a good music background I had never seen Gregorian notation until I converted. It is NOT hard to learn, and once you get the idea of the modes straight, it actually is a more informative notation wrt performance practice than traditional staff notation.
Everybody, get your "music minister" to give it a shot. It is most certainly better than hearing "Gather Us In" for the 100th time.
It was the damnest thing - almost as odd as William Shatner singing "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds".
They played a few other pop-type tunes by this chanting group, so I knew I wasn't just having a 60's flashback....
I have long ago grown tired of the thumping guitars, rattling tambourines, pounding drums and idiotic kumbayas that have been mainstay of Catholic liturgical music since Vatican II. I fortunately have had the opportunity to attend mass in monasteries where the chant was still practiced. The experience of the chant is truly spiritual.
We do it at EVERY Divine Liturgy .... and we do it without notation. Hearing the same chants at each liturgy enables the congregation to formulate an "ear" for it and join in, even on those occasions when we are without an organist.
I looking forward to a new music minister and increasing the chant at my church. We have one Mass with quite a bit right now, but I can’t wait to get it at the other Masses!
Also, please pray for Archbishop Alexander Sample or Portland, Oregon, for he has control over this.
Over the weekend I got blasted by a former music director about the “good” hymns in OCP — and that it is also printed for Protestants. The example given by this person was the 4th verse of “Amazing Grace” (a non-Catholic hymn, I know.) that is ONLY in the Catholic version of the OCP hymnal.
That was probably the group called Gregorian. They sing lots of popular songs in the style of chant. Check out their videos on youtube; it’s pretty cool.
Nope, I was wrong. It wasn’t Gregorian, it was another group called The Benzedrine Monks of Santa Damonico.
Thanks for the heads-up.
Don't think I'll be buying their CDs, though.
I didn't buy "William Shatner sings the Beatles" either, but it's still cool to listen to once in a (great) while.
Which verse did he have in mind? The 7th verse was not written by John Newton, but it is old - 19th century.
Jeffrey Tucker’s outfit has published a “Parish Book of Chant” which you could present to your music minister. It’s very inexpensive and very informative.
Thanks for the tip.
We have a new music director who will undoubtedly be singing chant. I am so excited, and to think it’s at a Novus Ordo Mass!
We chant the heck out of our NO Mass. In Latin, too. And I’d say over half our motets are in Latin.