Tuesday 16 August 2011

les biscuits know no modernism

Earlier with mulier fortis, whilst chatting over a cup of tea and a biscuit, purchased on my recent trip to Normandy, I noticed that the manufacturers had not gone for the borg church to decorate their buttery offerings.

Biscuit manufacturers know it.

In the wacky world of liturgical music, the stuff we want to consign quietly to oblivion is not actually modernist. Modernism in music means atonal or serial, devoid of the attributes one usually associates with melody - like keeping the interest in one line, using repetition, memorable short motifs of pitch and rhythm, keeping to a smallish number of pitches (7 seems like a popular number), avoiding angular leaps, periodic phrasing, or indeed phrasing at all, that sort of thing. Thus, even if Webern had not been shot dead by a nervy GI in August 1945, it's unlikely that he would have contributed to the oeuvre that is the folk mass, especially since he edited the complete works of Isaac. Not too much vocal music on that one boxed set of CDs that is the complete works of Webern. Shame really because I could imagine a pointillist orchestral version of Colours of Day. Instead recorders. Sigh.

Instead Israeli Mass, Geordie Mass...

A while back there was a great article about the so-called folk music that we have been lumbered with in church in Sacred Music. Its genesis is a very short space of time when people were strumming acoustically in the late 50s and early 60s. Ethnomusicologists would find it hard to pinpoint where the folk came from. The main points from the article were that it's rubbish, the people who wrote it seem to have a hold on the publishers and a large proportion of them are now lapsed. Yes, so they don't have to hear it or sing it and get paid royalties. Proof indeed that that we do not live in a just world. And then to cap it all bullying types try to make you sing it.


Patricius said...

I think you are addressing two kinds of modernism here. There is the highbrow modernism of the Second Viennese School and the populist(lowbrow) modernism exemplified by the "folk mass". They represent the two poles of a fragmented culture. The one has no tunes and the other has no brains.

leutgeb said...

'The one has no tunes and the other has no brains.'

Like it.

Both reject the past, but in different ways, I guess.

The latter is, I think, trying to hook up with some 'authentic' culture. I'm just not sure from where.

The reason the latter is not referred to as modernist by musicologist is because the folk mass is entirely ignored as a genre. I wonder why?