Sunday, February 26, 2006

Renaissance & Haugenmusik

NY Times article on the L'Homme Arme family of Renaissance masses. It frolicks through the winding turns of Renaissance musical arcana before finally arriving at its ideological destination:
Faced with such examples, Mr. Blachly says, "The best I can offer is that sacred and secular were not such separate categories as they have come to be for us."
That may be true, but as much as the sacred and secular have been polarized, so has our typically dualistic culture been guilty of the other extreme, of anointing everything secular as sacred. The defenders of Marty Haugen, et al, tend to argue that throughout church history, liturgical music has always drawn from popular genres, therefore Marty's music is sacred. But the issue for traditionalist contrarians has never been over identifying a purely sacred genre. Pop music is not per se an evil...but most of it IS and Haugenmusik IS. The test is in the Tradition which does impose theological standards, which Von Balthasar's theological aesthetics has helped us to discern. A single melody without any lyrics has a "form" that must be tested for its seaworthiness and longevity on the waters of divine worship. A Josquin Mass though five hundred years old remains remarkably fresh, capacious, and ergonomically well-designed in terms of its musical structure to contain the unfathomable doctrines and prayers of the Credo or Agnus Dei. As today's Mass reading instructs:
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!’ Mark 2:18 - 22
Pop music tends to keep us caged within the prevailing secular Zeitgeist. Haugenmusik is all about naked "spirituality," an individualistic emotionalism incapable of representing any Christological substance. And that's why it and most pop is evil, not because it's pop. May Haugenmusik be an Augenblick on the stage of liturgical history.