Wednesday, July 16, 2008

When Scottish minds go wand'ring.....especially downunduh in Sydney

Neil at Catholic Sensibility posted the following today:

"I recently was glancing through some back issues of Worship and came across a 1976 address by the late Fr Aidan Kavanaugh, OSB upon his reception of the North American Academy of Liturgy’s first Berakah Award. Fr Kavanaugh used the occasion to report “on the liturgical business I personally have not finished nor even begun.” And, thus, he spoke about “liturgical music.” Kavanaugh tells us that music is important because of rhythm. Without sonic rhythm (to which liturgical music obviously contributes), there can be no visual rhythm. And without rhythm, there is no ritual.
So, perhaps we need to discuss rhythm. What do we mean when we speak of rhythm? Have we lost our sense of rhythm?"

To which I whiled away a quarter hour's ponderings upon: "Compelling questions and notions, Neil.And, doubtless, most answers and reflections on those notions will be inter-related.Of course we know that phonation among primates, proto-humans and homo sapiens existed before their “discovery” of other methods of making sounds and noises into organized, specific and imitative constructs.The hollowed out femur that inadvertantly becomes a flute, which imitates the voice of birds and humans; the hollow log drum, whose sonority is most pleasing when measured and played in rhythmic patterns (this is where Fr. Kavanaugh’s analogy lines up with mine.) But, I tend to imagine the more likely scenario is that dance was the primeval form of corporate “worship” to the “Other.” And if that is the egg, then music was the chicken. Music is quite at home, probably most consonant with the cosmos, within the mensurate structures of rhythm; you cannot have a melody that does not have some form of rhythmic component (sorry, diehard chant enthusiasts.)Now as regards as how measured rhythm corresponds to visual rhythm, that’s a very large elephant for this, and two other blind guys to describe. I know that the arsis and thesis of the opening Mass at WYD in Sydney was suffering from great cori interruptus. It stumbled and staggered because the various “officers” seemed to have prepared the liturgy like it was a checklist on a clipboard, rather than like storyboards or the markings of a choreographer. And when such behemoth spectacles lumber on, there is a feeling of tension among all; hell, I felt it watching it in my den. I saw it on the faces of the clergy, the director/conductor, the faces of dazed and confused kids in the congregation. That’s not to say joy and reverence were absent. It’s just that the “stunning modesty” in such liturgies is conspicuously absent, and leaves one to think “Now what?” instead of “Oh, yes!”The argument that the chant is the most sublime and suitable form of music for our Roman Rites because its rhythmic character is totally subservient to its only need to serve the aesthetically beautiful delivery of sacred texts is a very potent and attractive one. It eschews “timeliness” for “timelessness” in all meanings. But, because it very well be a singularity among all the sacred forms of music humans have engineered in that respect, that doesn’t mean we need to dismiss the rhythmic attributes of the majority of other forms as being alien to our liturgies."

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