Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gregorian Chant's Comeback or Everything Old is Old again, but Hip

Have you heard the news? It seems as though Gregorian Chant is making a comeback in Catholic services. After being thrown out of many Masses when Vatican II said it was perfectly acceptable to hold the Mass in the vernacular, this cornerstone of Western music is experiencing something of a vogue. It seems as though there are two forces at work here:
  1. Catholics my age are growing tired of hearing the same music at home, in their car, at the dentist's office, and at church. They are longing for an experience that transcends everyday life and find that the unmeasured, unhurried, half-understood Latin lines of traditional monophonic chant accomplishes that transcendence. (The question as to why Gregorian chant has a mystical feel to it is best left for another post)
  2. It also seems as though listening to and performing Gregorian chant reduces stress. Hmmm, imagine that - prayer and meditation can reduce stress. But no one has done studies to see if Gergorian chant's use in Halo reduces the player's or the Master Chief's stress levels.
Looking back through history, these trends wax and wane between more traditional forms and newer forms and eventually, elements of both end up in a new fusion (so we don't sing Gregorian chant now the way it was sung 1000 years ago). Still, it is an interesting phenomenon. And since Protestants seem to follow their Catholic brethren in musical use, what's next, are hymns going to make a comeback?


Liz said...

Oh hymns are already on the comeback. The new
"In Christ Alone" and "Before the Throne of God Above" are new hymns that are hugely popular. Many people are tired of trite phrases of so much of our "P&W." Now, I love good p&w, but I also love hymns and always have - at least the ones that are doctrinally correct and don't sound like carousel music. =)

Andrew said...

That's actually the irony of that last link - there have been an equal number of articles on the internet about how hymns are coming back as people tire of cheap P&W. That doesn't mean there aren't good songs in the P&W tradition (just like it doesn't mean there aren't bad hymns - there are plenty) but that people are beginning to expand their horizons again.