Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Recent hints that the Bishop of Rome may be either curtailing the range of permitted liturgical music or calling for more emphasis on one traditional repertoire naturally recall the endeavors of previous office-holders, and perhaps none more than John XXII, whose

...Docta sanctorum of 1324 criticized modern composers for using hockets, as well as discant and French motets, "for they cut up chant melodies with hockets, make them slimy with discants, sometimes force upon them vernacular tripla and moteti" ("Nam melodias hoquetis intersecant, discantibus lubricant, triplis et motetis vulgaribus nonnunquam inculcant" [Corpus juris canonici 2:256]). (My source is here.)

No hockets? Oh well. Luckily, I wasn't in the market for a job as a a liturgical music composer.

The emphasis on the Gregorian chant repertoire is historically problematic as the Roman Church has traditional been rather catholic in rites and in ritual music. While Gregorian chant more or less replaced some liturgical repertoire -- Mozarabic, Gallician, and Celtic chant among them -- other traditions, among them the Ambrosian rite and chant, associated with Milan, and those of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches survive with official sanction.

Benedict XVI has himself displayed a certain degree of musical flexibility: footage of him ploughing his way through a few piano pieces by the Lutheran composer J.S. Bach are on rather frequent view in German television. Benedict's own older brother, the priest and retired music director of the Regensburger Domspatzen has even recorded liturgical works by Bach and his great predecessor and co-religionist Heinrich Schütz. One suspects that Benedict's reform ideas are based less in a form of religious orthodoxy than simply in conservative musical tastes.

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