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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/717

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MUSIC


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MUSIC


them, and which is adrairabl}' expressed in the Gre- gorian chant." By retaining her musical form for her various chants (e. g. for the Sanctus, the hymns, the psalms), or admitting of its modification only within certain limits, the Church protects her own music against the destruction of that character which is proper to it. The relation of church music to the text on the one hand and to instrumental music on the other is what distinguishes it essentially from secular music. The attitude of reserve maintained by the Church on this point is expressed in the "Motu pro- prio" as follows: "Although the music proper to the Church is purely vocal music, music ^\'ith the accom- paniment of the organ is also permitted. In some special cases, within due limits and within the proper regards, other instruments may be allowed, but never without the special licence of the ordinary, accord- ing to the Ca?remoniale episcoporum. As the chant should always have the principal place, the organ or in- struments should merely sustain and never suppress it. It is not permitted to have the chant preceded by long preludes or to interrupt it with intermezzo pieces." The pianoforte and noisy and frivolous in- struments (e. g. drums, cymbals, and bells) are abso- lutely excluded. Wind instruments, by their nature more turbulent and obtrusive, are admissible only as an accompaniment to the singing in processions out- side of the church. Within the edifice "it will be per- missible only in special cases and with the consent of the ordinary to admit a number of wind instruments, limited, judicious, and proportioned to the size of the place, provided the composition and accompaniment to be executed be written in a grave and suitable style and similar in all respects to that proper to the organ." The restrictions imposed by the Church in this regard were formerly still greater. Although Josephus tells of the wonderful effects produced in the Temple by the use of instruments, the first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice. Clem- ent of Alexandria severely condemns the use of instru- ments even at Christian banquets (P. G., VIII, 440). St. Chrysostom sharply contrasts the customs of the Christians at the time when they had full freedom with those of the Jews of the Old Testament (ibid., LV, 494-7). Similarly write a series of early ecclesi- astical writers down to St. Thomas (Summa, II-II, Q. xci, a. 2).

In Carlovingian times, however, the organ came into use, and was, until the sixteenth century, used solely for the accompaniment of the chant, its inde- pendent use developing only gradually (Scarlatti, Couperin, Bach). Perfected organ-playing found in- creasing favour in the eyes of the church authorities, and only occasionally was it found necessary to cor- rect an abuse. The Council of Trent (Sess. XXII) says: "All musical forms, whether for the organ or for voices, which are of a frivolous or sensuous character, should be excluded from the Church." The nature of the organ is, to a great extent, a protection against its misuse; its power and fullness lend themselves admir- ably to the majesty of the Divine service, while other instruments more readily serve profane purposes. After the sixteenth century, orchestral instruments found admittance into some churches and court chap- els, but restrictive regulations soon followed. While Lasso in Munich, IMonteverde in Venice, and Scarlatti in Naples had at their disposal large orchestras, smaller churches with more modest resources satisfied themselves with the use of the trumpet or trombone in addition to the organ. The cultivation of both sa- cred and profane music by the same musicians proved detrimental to church music, and finally the Church had to wage open war on modern theatrical music in church services. Mozart's insinuating sweetness, Haydn's pious hilarity, Beethoven's violent pa-ssion- ateness, and Cherubini's dramatic intensity stand


in too strong contrast to the lofty religious dignity and gravity of Palestrina. Maurice Brosig, although rather unrestrained and subjective in his own compo- sitions, always excluded their works from church. Concert instruments may, under certain circum- stances, produce in church a very brilliant effect and an exalted mood. In general, however, they are rather obtrusive than devotional. Their tendency is to predominate, and they are apt to obscure the dec- lamation of the text.

Richard Wagner says a vigorous word in favour of purely vocal music in church: "To the human voice, the immediate vehicle of the sacred word, belongs the first place in the churches, and not to instrumental additions or the trivial scraping found in most of the churches pieces to-day. Catholic Church music can regain its former purity only by a return to the purely vocal style. If an accompaniment is considered abso- lutely necessary, the genius of Christianity has pro- vided the instrument worthy of such function, the organ" (Gesammelte Werke, II, 337). There is no doubt but that those qualities absolutely necessary to church music, namely modesty, dignity, and soulful- ness, are more inherent in the purely vocal style than in any other. Reserve and humble restraint befits the house of God. Sentimental and effeminate melodies are incompatible with the dignified seriousness of the polyphonic a capella style, and a composer's tempta- tion to indulge in them is more easily counteracted by this style than any other. Like the external attitude of the worshipper in church, the vocally interpreted liturgical word and the organ-plajdng must be respect- ful and decorous. That vocal music is in general more expressive than the mechanically produced tone of instruments is undeniable. Religious feeling finds its most natural expression in vocal utterance, for the hu- man heart is the source of both devotion and song.

From these considerations it follows that the tone quality, tempo, and rhythm of vocal music accom- panied by the organ are more in conformity with the religious mood than is the character of orchestral in- struments. The organ can indeed be sweeping and powerful, but its tone volume is always more even, and is not so subject to the arbitrary will of the player as is the orchestra. Orchestral instruments permit of a wide range in the division and subdivision, retard- ing, and acceleration of time — subtleties which are not conducive to the calm necessary for prayer. The same holds good with regard to rhythm. Just as the great flexibility, the frivolous or passionate character of irregular rhythm in general are expressive of a worldly, superficial, and restless mood, so is reposeful and sym- metrical rhythm expressive of and conducive to a prayerful mood. A slow and orderly movement is more in keeping with the nature of the organ. It was not by accident that the measured rhythm of Grego- rian chant was early abandoned, nor is it desirable to interpret in too mechanical a rhythm even the poly- phonic works of the old masters. The more the purely mechanical element yields to the expression of the religious mood, the more suitable the performance becomes for church. On the other hand, a delicately defined measure is aesthetically preferable to excessive freedom. Another element of the highest importance in church music, which is indeed generally suggested by the text, is the interrelation between the melodic phrases, the rhythmical proportion or symmetry be- tween the various parts of the composition: these seem to conform externally to the breathing of the singers and internally to the emotions of the pious heart, while the measure is solely a means to regulate time.

Finally must be considered, as one of the distinctive attributes of church music, the character of the Gre- gorian modes. The modes, which have most in com- mon with our modern niinor key and contain the inter- val of the minor third, llir symbol of moderation and restraint, greatly predominate in Gregorian chant.