Carols of the Christmas season, from the classic English choral tradition.
He is an Englishman!
For he himself has said it,
And it’s greatly to his credit,
That he is an Englishman!
What more need be said…?
The history of modern music is a history of deliberate rebellion and revolt against the great tradition of Western music. – Peter Kwasniewski
In which it is pointed out that “the music we employ in church always embodies and communicates an ecclesiology, a Christology, and an anthropology—it is that significant! There is no escaping it: Every bit of music we perform in church is expressing a vision of the whole and inculcating it in those who listen.”
Therefore the music which becomes part of the liturgy – the “worship experience,” if you will, though I dislike that terminology for its focus on the worshiper and not on the God who is worshiped – is not something extrinsic or incidental to that liturgy. It is, if used at all, intrinsic to the liturgy, for better or for worse: often, what is sung is often remembered better than that which is merely spoken. Therefore the music that we use matters, and matters deeply.
The author contrasts the Church’s tradition of adopting and “baptizing” elements of Pagan culture, including its musical traditions, with the situation in today’s world:
“Today’s Westerners, in contrast, are post-Christian aliens, estranged from their own history and the great cultural synthesis that could and should be theirs. The history of modern music, whether atonal or jazz or rock or pop, is a history of deliberate rebellion and revolt against the great tradition of Western music, against its high art forms, its slowly-developed musical language, its explicitly or implicitly Christian message. In its origins and its inner meaning, much of modern Western music is a rejection of the Catholic (and European) tradition.
“As a result, it is not morally, intellectually, or culturally ‘neutral’; it is already laden with an anti-institutional, anti-sacral, anti-traditional significance. This music is not naïve raw material waiting to be Christianized, but highly articulate anti-Christian propaganda. It rejects the ideals of lofty beauty and grandeur, spiritual seriousness, evocation of the divine, openness to the transcendent, and artistic discipline, in favor of vapidity, frivolity, profanity, sensuality, and banality.”
There are exceptions to this characterization, of course, but they are exceptions which, to my mind, prove the rule. There is more, of course – much more, and all of it worth reading. The modern world is obsessed with many things, but one of them is “relevance”: if a thing, be it music, liturgy, morality, etc., is not “relevant,” it is suspicious at best, easily-dismissed, at worst. Unfortunately, as this article points out, the result is that
“Today’s popular culture… to the extent that it has grown up in revolt against the unifying principles, certainties, and demands of Christianity, is a veritable melting pot of conflicting fashionable ideologies, a volatile mishmash of tribalism, globalism, and techno-barbarism. Its underlying anthropology is suited not for saints and heroes, but for narcissists and manipulators.”
With so much drama and frustration circulating around the situation in Europe these days, let’s take a break and enjoy this medley of traditional European music!
And let’s not forget the beautiful Marilena:
And “Europeans have no culture.” Uh-huh… riiiiiiiight.
I have been listening to more classical music, of late, than I had for a while, and aside from the sheer beauty of it, there is one thing that strikes me quite dramatically: classical music, especially but not exclusively the great Baroque classics by composers like Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel, was above all supremely confident music! Like Baroque art and architecture, in their spheres, it was the music of a people who honored their past, rejoiced in their present, and had great hope and expectations for the future.
How different from much of what is written now (the “industrial” music popular a while back was called by one commentator “the sound that civilization makes as it’s coming apart,” and that could describe much of the contemporary oeuvre). I am not saying that there is not some great music being written today, or even that I do not like some contemporary music in the more “popular” genre (although if I have to listen to contemporary music, I’ll take country, thank you). But it is almost without exception nowhere close to the great classics in either musicality or the confidence in the future it expresses.
And that leads me to my sad observation: that we in the West, who value the civilization of the West, need to somehow recapture that confidence, or the decline of the West will continue until we are irrelevant, if not extinct. A culture which does not believe in itself, and its prospects for the future, has no future; if we continue down our present path, we are doomed to replacement, either by invading alien cultures such as Islam, or by something new and inferior springing from within, but lacking a sense of connection with, or respect for, our cultural heritage and inheritance: what Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork called “the vertical invasion of the barbarians.”
The problem is that downward spirals, whether in an aircraft or a culture, are fiendishly hard to pull out of, and the further down you get, the harder it is. We need to revamp our educational system away from “political correctness” and neophilia (*) and back to respect, appreciation, even love for our customs, traditions, history, and heritage; we need to return, not to Taliban-like rigid enforcement of moral purity, but certainly away from the absurdities of obsessive sexuality and rampant gender confusion characterizing the present age; and we need to regain our ability to draw borders and boundaries to protect our cultural integrity and distinctiveness: gardens need fences, and those who attempt to be all things to all people end up being nothing to anyone.
How that is going to come about, though, I confess I do not know. Will it require complete bottoming-out, and (hopefully, painfully and over time) rebuilding from a “faithful remnant”? Or is it possible that some new idea, some new and powerful personality, might serve to inspire us to recapture our sense of our own possibility? I hope so, although I don’t see any such on the horizon. The alternative is almost too painful to consider.
* Neophilia: the love of the new simply for its own sake, combined with the belief that what is newer is automatically and necessarily better than what is older / more traditional.
Just for fun! Beautiful Bavarian folk-singing by some young women whose voices are just as lovely as their persons.
While all things were in quiet silence, and night was in the midst of her swift course, thine Almighty Word, O Lord, leapt down from Heaven, out of thy royal throne. Alleluia! (traditional Christmas antiphon)
O God, who hast caused this holy night to shine with the illumination of the true Light: Grant us, we beseech thee, that as we have known the mystery of that Light upon earth, so may we also perfectly enjoy him in heaven; where with thee and the Holy Spirit he liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ, our Saviour, is born! Alleluia!
Wishing all my readers a merry, holy, and blessed Christmas.