Author Topic: American Orthodoxy and Music  (Read 1353 times)

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Offline wgw

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #45 on: March 15, 2015, 08:20:54 PM »
You have no reason to be offended. And the world is packed with folks with classical music educations.

How should I not be offended?  Also I doubt there are more than 500 or so PhDs in music composition and theory; I probably met most of them when my mother was still active.  It's more common for someone to either be into music theory and just an amateur composer on the side or be a composer often with no knowledge of music theory.  I strive not to take offense but the position you've adopted which seems to deprecate all contemporary composers seems to be offensive.

As Lent approaches by the way, I need to confess publically that my prayer life is not what it should be, especially given the wealth of prayer ropes and books that I have.  I am a communicant of the Orthodox Church but an unworthy one, a great sinner, someone who is very weak.  But I do believe the experience of chrismation and partaking of the Eucharist on many occasions since has changed my perspective and made me less doctrinaire and closer to the living doctrines themselves, through the grace conferred by actual reception of the sacraments.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2015, 08:22:25 PM by wgw »
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline wgw

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #46 on: March 15, 2015, 08:41:50 PM »
I'd call the ethos of that languid, as tho something meaning something to us has been lost and there's little we can do about it.

Surely this is a question of aesthetics?  I make a point to try and avoid criticizing monks, which I have admittedly failed in he case of the Monks of New Skete, who I did on my blog refer to as impious based on the liturgical reforms they proposed in a letter to the WCC.  But if I had it to do over I would have used softer language.  But in daring to call them that, the monk I so referred to was a lay monk who wrote the article and not a venerable hieromonk so far as I'm aware, and I did so as a communicant of the Orthodox Church who believed some of the points in the article in question did border on heresy, an extreme case.  And communicants can criticize and hold in check clergy and even bishops when heresy threatens.  But I would not want to presume, being the wretched sinner that I am, to pass a purely aesthetic judgement on the work of a venerable monk unless he solicited my opinion or unless his work was so bad that the Church might be scandalized by it.

And I would be offering that opinion as a brother of the monk in full Eucharistic communion with him, having received the transformative grace of the sacred mysteries by which we were both received.  And correct me if I'm wrong, but tonsuring a lay monk is not a sacrament per se, although ordaining a lay monk to the diaconate or priesthood or episcopate is.  So thus a lay monk is in the grand scheme of things an elder brother, but one who has received the same sacraments as an unmarried communicant.  But he is still venerable having separated himself from wordly things.   And for this reason I would not comment on the aesthetics of his work unless he asked me to or unless it was truly a horror causing scandal, I,e, if some deluded monk composed a rap setting of the Trisagion.  It would have to be that bad.  Because monks by nature or their vocation do not go around as a rule criticizing the artwork of their lay brethren, except in special cases like icon painting, where it is in the context of the monk giving instructions.

Before your baptism, I would urge you to make a pilgrimage to that monastery and see that monk and his brethren and their prayer life, and I suspect you'll find its unimpeded by not purely using Byzantine chant.  And you could furthermore receive instruction in some of the other historic forms of chant and the more recent forms of Orthodox movement from said monk, so as to in that manner prepare yourself for baptism in a state of maximal unity with your brethren.

Now bear in my mind I was correctly described in a private message by an old sparring partner on this forum as a presumptuous gadfly; the chrism on my forehead is scarcely dry, and I readily admit that my prayer life, or lack thereof, is a disgrace.  But I urge you and beseech you to not take an elitist view regarding Byzamtine chant, before having received the illumination of baptism, chrismation and the Eucharist, which has the effect of separating you from the majority of your brethen, as worldwide only a minority of Orthodox monasteries and parishes use Byzantine chant exclusively.  But don't take my word for it; just please, go to any Russian or OCA or other Slavonic monastery and see how they are in fact living an Orthodox life.

By the way, please don't take offense at this post.  I love you as a brother in the Church, Id love to work with you on a typographical project someday, that being our common interest, and I am the least of communicants, but as a communicant I am troubled by the approach you appear to be taking.  I fear elitism; it seems to cause people unhappiness when they become zOrthodox, and the Philokalia warns of the dangers of spiritual pride, and the Russian Farhers warn us of prelest, and such elitism or pride can start with any manner in which one separates oneself from ones brethren.  I so,stokes go to an OCA parish that has had problems forming a functional choir and isn't doing well musically, but I sing with them nonetheless and regard them as my brothers and do not think them to be spiritually impacted or having music devoid of a proper "ethos."  Indeed the ethos of the parish as a whole is admirable and the priest and his wife are most pious.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2015, 08:47:23 PM by wgw »
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #47 on: March 15, 2015, 09:58:52 PM »
I make a point to try and avoid criticizing monks ...

I make a point to try to avoid waving away the Fathers.
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Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #48 on: March 15, 2015, 10:39:01 PM »
I also have to confess the sole respect in which Syriac and Coptic music, which I love, frustrates me, is the lack of any new church music, at least that I'm aware of.  I'm all for preserving tradition, but in the Syriac church for example at several points in the liturgy the same hymns are invariably sung every Sunday. 

Why do you think that is?
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Offline wgw

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #49 on: March 15, 2015, 11:35:01 PM »
Well, I think you have to consider both the comfort of the congregation with the hymns but also the lack of new composition.  So in Russian churches, commonly but not always and not neccessarily a certain familiar melody is used for the Trisagion.  You doubtless know the melody I refer to; but there is new composition and in new settings of the Divine Liturgy composers invariably include a setting of the Trisagion.

Taking the specific case of the Syriac Qurbana, the hymn to Mary at the beginning and Haw Nurone seem two obvious examples of this.  And I love both traditional examples.  The Syriac Caholics use other melodies and I suspect there were regional variations that were lost due to the genocide. 

But I wish there was an active school continuing to compose new music according to the principles of the Syriac church, not to replace but to enrich.  Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has said we must distinguish between Tradition and traditions, and I would point as an example to the variety that exists between the Indian and Moddle a Eastern music.

But I believe that Islamic oppression tends to suppress musical development, so I think in part that's why a high degree of musical invariance in the Syriac and Coptic liturgies exist.  So, I believe, based on my observations, that that in fact is the main reason for the level of invariance, aside from regional and historical variations that are not often heard (for example I have a 2 CD album of the Liturgy of St. Basil sung in Bohairic Coptic that sounds nothing like the usual Coptic/Arabic/English liturgy).   If you know it's for some reason other than Islamic oppression, that would edify me.  To determine it otherwise I think we need to look at the hymnography of the Ethiopian church, which should exhibit a dynamic quality if I'm right and a static quality if I'm wrong, unless there are other common factors to Oriental Orthodoxy and the Greek Church that the Russian Church lacks that account for the musical homogeneity of these, and also for the lack of homogeneity in the Greek church music tradition after independence.

We are of course in the realm of soft science here.  But my guess is that when living under oppression or continual fear, the familiar hymns become more of a source of comfort.  I can't think of any noteworthy Soviet era composers of Russian Orthodox music even in the diaspora where such activity was not prohibited.  But I could be dead wrong on this.
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline wgw

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #50 on: March 16, 2015, 12:28:09 AM »
I make a point to try and avoid criticizing monks ...

I make a point to try to avoid waving away the Fathers.

Indeed, but you're waving away most of your brethren if you think only Byzantine chant is compatible with their views, in that parishes using only Byzantine chant account for a minority of Orthodox parishes, when you consider the huge size of the Russian church and also the use of modern compositions in Greek and Diaspora Greek parishes.   

Now to be clear, I am in no sense opposed to Byzantine Chant, only to an exclusivist view regarding it, which I consider demeaning to other Orthodox traditions and also to contemporary Orthodox composers.  And I also don't consider it a coincidence that Alexander Lingas, arguably the foremost authority in Byzantine Chant, is also an avid enthusiast of contemporary Orthodox music.  And this is the guy who gave a huge boost to English language Byzantine chant, which some people say doesn't really exist, by recording an entire Divine Liturgy in it as a two CD album (which I have, and recommend). 

So I just cannot accept that the music of the Russian Orthodox Church is categorically less Orthodox than that of the ancient Byzantine church, since we're talking about the music that modern day Fathers lived by, such as St. John of Kronstadt, St. John Maximovotch, and most of the New Martyrs of Russia. 

The only music I believe to be fundamentally incompatible with Orthodoxy would be rock music, pop music and derivatives thereof, a view shared by many, so for this reason I have been thrilled to see a crackdown on praise band music in the Coptic Church in recent months.   The reason for this however is due to the obvious dance orientation and sex orientation of such music, which you, as someone who understands the Ethos of the individual tones, should understand.  Although IMO some views regarding the eight tones, like the view that the Plagal of the Fourth was spiritually harmful, were superstitious, and the Church to my knowledge entierely rejected that idea.

Now it is true that tonal music can be emotionally manipulative and that's why in the early 19th century one will find polemics from some Greek bishops against it.  But the fact that the Greek church and the Russian church are still generating saints two centuries later suggests to me these fears are misplaced.

Also, a further clarification to Mor Ephrem on this point: if Syriac and Coptic music did become more variable, I.e. if new schools of Syriac composers came into being, I think they should start from scratch and not by any means import Western musical styles.  The most successful Russian music worked because Russia historically always connected culturally with Germany and Scandinavia, whose territories she historically abutted, and a sort of folk music continuum did exist.  At the same time the best modern Russian church music consists of four part harmony and tonality, or atonality, which were all Western inventions (some believe they were German or Scandinavian specifically in terms of tonality), were layered atop the ancient Russian chant, like Valaam chant.  This in turn traces back to the Octoechos.  But the Syriac Octoechos for example is different, and unlike anything except for Islamic, Persian and some Jewish liturgical music; the latter is related to it, whereas the former I believe is certainly copied from it (the cries from the muezzin which sound so much like Haw Nurone, for example).  So new Syriac music I feel would grow within that framework.

And at the same time, as far as the Malankara Church is concerned, correct me if I'm wrong, but to some degree at least in the style of singing there has been some influence on the music from the surrounding Indian culture, and there have been some variations composed on the hymns vs. the Middle Eastern.  And most of the recordings I see of Syriac church music come from Malankara, and I get the impression, please correct me if I'm wrong, that musical activity in your portion of the Syriac church is more active than in the Middle Eastern portion.

By the way, as it is germane to a thread which I believe boils down to aesthetics, my favorite church music is Slavonic, Syriac, Mozarabic, Anglican, German, Ambrosian Rite, Coptic, Renaissance, especially Spanish, Gregorian, Italian, French, and Georgian, in that order.   That is not to say Georgian is my least favorite, I love it passionately and just acquired a new CD.  But when I'm distressed I listen to Syriac or Russian.  This is in spite of the fact that Syriac is, as I have lamented, relatively static; I basically just want to hear more of it.   Syriac might actually be my favorite, it's just that, counting Assyrian, Syriac Catholic and Maronite variants, my Russian collection is still, on the basis of unique pieces rather than alternate recordings, about a hundred times larger.  So the fact I listen to Syriac as often as I do, which is an eight tone system similoar to Byzantine chant, suggests it's probably my actual favorite.  The first time I heard it in person in a Syriac Orthodox Church was on Holy Tuesday, at the end of Vespers (I arrived late and missed most the service).  And I was enraptured.  But this is pure personal preference, and as my avatar of St. Athanasius demonstrates, (by virtue of being a fleetingly rare Syriac icon), I have a major crush on that church. 

So I can't fault anyone for saying "Byzantine Chant is my favorite."  But where we are at loggerheads, Porter, is that Infeel you're trying to tell me the vast corpus of Russian music and modern music by composers like Tikey Zes is somehow spiritually defective.  I've read this argument before, albeit much more delicately worded, from Fr. Andrew Stephen Dammick.  I respect his opinion, I love his blog and his books, but I disagree.  But, not wishing to even appear to lord it over you as a communicant, because my prayer life and my piety is so sloppy I'm just grateful my priest lets me have communion, I do wish you would partake of the Mysteries, and obviosuly after Baptism, then partake of them again at a Russian church, before making up your mind on this matter.  Because the Eucharistic experience did change me.  I'm still a verbose gadfly but at least I'm  not a vainglorious glutton who obsessively buys enterprise grade computers for personal recreational use and freaks out when they get minor scratches while being installed in the data center or my garage lab.   Really, before I joined the Orthodox Church, at one point I was in such depths of sin that I used to enjoy wearing sleek business suits with elegant neckties so I could enjoy seeing my reflection on the windows of the office building when I went to work.

Now in your case, you have always lived a purity of life given the strictness of your prior religion and are in your catechumenate ascending to still greater heights.  I don't think you've ever in your life freaked out over a 1 mm scratch on your computer or enjoyed looking at your reflection. My only concern is that in your profound piety you might fall into the trap of dividing yourself from your brethren over Byzantine Chant.  And in saying this I don't presume to be your confessor or spiritual director, I am not worthy for that honor by any stretch of the imagination.  But I am convinced your position is wrong, simply because it implies the majority of Orthodox Christians are worshipping defectively, and my instinct from my catechesis is that anything that separates one from ones brethren is undesirable in the extreme (and I will readily admit that I go further than most in this, for example, in my burning desire for reconciliation between the Eastern and Oriental churches, but I will say when I have tried the other approach the results have been toxic).   So I would just beseech you to consider contemporary fathers like St. John Maximovitch, and not write off the music of the Russian church until you've experienced Russians at prayer, for example.
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline Volnutt

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #51 on: March 16, 2015, 01:01:02 AM »
I make a point to try and avoid criticizing monks ...

I make a point to try to avoid waving away the Fathers.

You're not cleaving to the Fathers, though. You're cleaving to the Late Greco-Roman culture that they had available to them by accident of history because of your assumption that Western culture is practically irredeemable. Why not just judge each effort on its fruits and whether it was delivered in prayer and in holiness?

It's like you live at the point at which LARPing meets self-hatred. It's honestly scary, Porter. I'm surprised you don't wear a robe and sandals everywhere and insist that everyone call you Πέτρος
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Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #52 on: March 16, 2015, 05:24:33 PM »
wgw,

It's evident from your posts that you have amassed a great amount of "facts" about Orthodox liturgical rites and traditions.  But I really think you ought to spend more time asking questions and less time trying to piece the "facts" together the way you think they (ought to) fit.  This will free you to learn and absorb underlying principles which will help make sense of "facts".

Also, please try to refrain from posting everything you know that might possibly be of some relevance to a given topic and focus on using only what is useful.  It's less confusing to your readers.   

Well, I think you have to consider both the comfort of the congregation with the hymns but also the lack of new composition. 

...

But I wish there was an active school continuing to compose new music according to the principles of the Syriac church, not to replace but to enrich.  Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has said we must distinguish between Tradition and traditions, and I would point as an example to the variety that exists between the Indian and Moddle a Eastern music.

I'm not sure what the variety in musical styles has to do with anything Met. Kallistos said.  I don't think anyone in our Church believes that musical styles are a "big T Tradition". 

The variety that exists between liturgical music in India and the Middle East is, in some ways, more an appearance than a reality.  The music that is used in India is Syriac music executed in a more "Indian" way.  For example, the recordings of Sh'himo sung in Syriac at Mor Gabriel Monastery are recognisable to Indians who know their own liturgical music fairly well.  It's not a different chant tradition, just a different execution.  The "original" compositions in circulation are, for the most part, horrible and should never be sung. 

Regarding the composition of new music, I'm not necessarily against this, but I agree that it must be done according to sound principles.  Unfortunately, I think your push for new composition ignores or misunderstands some of these principles.  For instance, you advocate different settings for "the hymn to Mary at the beginning" (which is not a hymn to Mary at all).  But liturgical units like that (and much of the rite of the Qurbono) and "cathedral" services like Ramsho and Safro do not have variable music on purpose.  It's not because of Islamic domination or any other fanciful imagination.  Those services have the same music so that the people can join in the singing easily or, in the case of the Office, commit the services to memory in order to sing them even if unable to go to the church.  The use of the eight tones really only applies to Offices other than Ramsho, Soutoro, and Safro and perhaps to two or three variable hymns during the Qurbono on certain Sundays or feasts.  Your average layman will not have mastered the entire Beth Gazo, but will at least be able to sing along at the major services.  If a new composition can respect such principles and be rooted in the tradition, very well.  But variety for the sake of variety is not helpful.  Many of today's "new" compositions are just that: they are meant to entertain, have no roots in the tradition, and often enough are not easily learned and sung by parishioners, which means "choirs" take over and basically hijack the people's worship or at least render them mute pray-ers.  That's not at all what the existing tradition was trying to accomplish.  I'd rather not have anything new than have that. 

Quote
But I believe that Islamic oppression tends to suppress musical development, so I think in part that's why a high degree of musical invariance in the Syriac and Coptic liturgies exist.  So, I believe, based on my observations, that that in fact is the main reason for the level of invariance, aside from regional and historical variations that are not often heard...   If you know it's for some reason other than Islamic oppression, that would edify me. 

I think I've addressed at least part of this above, but I will let a Copt address his own music. 

But the Syriac Octoechos for example is different, and unlike anything except for Islamic, Persian and some Jewish liturgical music; the latter is related to it, whereas the former I believe is certainly copied from it (the cries from the muezzin which sound so much like Haw Nurone, for example).  So new Syriac music I feel would grow within that framework.

Haw d'Nurone can be sung in at least a dozen ways (that I personally know how to sing, anyway).  I know the recording you are referring to, but I would not make a comparison between the hymn and "cries from the muezzin".  It would be better to say that particular recording or that particular way of singing that hymn sounds like "cries from the muezzin" or vice versa or whatever.   

Quote
And at the same time, as far as the Malankara Church is concerned, correct me if I'm wrong, but to some degree at least in the style of singing there has been some influence on the music from the surrounding Indian culture, and there have been some variations composed on the hymns vs. the Middle Eastern.  And most of the recordings I see of Syriac church music come from Malankara, and I get the impression, please correct me if I'm wrong, that musical activity in your portion of the Syriac church is more active than in the Middle Eastern portion.

I don't know enough about the Middle East to say whether India is more musically active.  We are musically active, and not all of that is good (leaving aside the plague of electronic instruments and considering only the compositions). 

Most Indian church music is just Syriac music performed a certain way.  I'm not a musician by training, so I'll simply say that our execution is more "floral" than the standard Middle Eastern style. 

"New" music has had to be composed for use in Hindi services, and that is nothing like Syriac music.  It's different.  I like most of it, but I still prefer Syriac music. 
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Offline wgw

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #53 on: March 16, 2015, 06:02:35 PM »
The principles you outline as criteria for the composition of new music I agree with entirely.  But it had not occurred to me the invariant portions of the liturgical music were to facilitate comgregational singing.  But this is because as a convert I come from a tradition where hymns are notated and numbered and sung froma hymnal with an organ accompaniememt, the spiritual merits of which I am indifferent to.  There is a lot to be said for the idea of such memorization as superior to thumbing through a hymnal; the pure distracting workload of Protestant worship is most unpleasant.

There is another factor.  I love the music of the Russian church but admittedly one criticism often made is the lack of congregational singing within that church.  Which I don't neccessarily see as a problem.  But the fact that this singing is prominent and important within the Syriac tradition means that any new compositions I would agree should follow the criteria you outline, that is to say, they should not replace the common memorized invariant portions.

But this dynamic of congregational sing ability vs. musical diversity I have to confess I find frustrating.  It's not a spiritual concern and it's not going to cause me to stop being Orthodox, but rather, it just vexes me that there is an apparent dichotomy between the style of some Russian parishes where the choir does everything and at the same time the undeniable spiritual health of the whole congregation singing together.   

But circling back to Porter, it seems to me that the fact that Byzantine Chant is generally not congregationally sung even though it could be with great ease is a valid criticism.  Surely you made a valid point insofar as the role of singing should not be limited to the psalterion or choir loft. 

But moving back to the original topic of this thread, it seems to me what a dully Americanized Orthodox rite would entail if such a rite were to be authentic insofar as following American cultural norms, is the referring to hymns in hymnals and some form of instrumental accompaniememt.  And perhaps some Western Rite parishes have that.  But this model though I haven't worshipped using it for years is ingrained in my thinking to the point where the invariant portions of the Syriac Loturgy being such to facilitate congregational singing did not occur to me, so I attributed it, probably erroneously, to the comforting effects of maintaining the same hymns in the face of Islamic or other oppression.

So your critique of where I am in my process of learning about the Eastern liturgy is fully accurate.
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #54 on: March 16, 2015, 06:11:29 PM »
I make a point to try and avoid criticizing monks ...

I make a point to try to avoid waving away the Fathers.

You're not cleaving to the Fathers, though. You're cleaving to the Late Greco-Roman culture that they had available to them by accident of history because of your assumption that Western culture is practically irredeemable. Why not just judge each effort on its fruits and whether it was delivered in prayer and in holiness?

It's like you live at the point at which LARPing meets self-hatred. It's honestly scary, Porter. I'm surprised you don't wear a robe and sandals everywhere and insist that everyone call you Πέτρος

You two chaps are just spontaneously participating in a psychotherapeutic exercise at this point. My one-sentence review of the faux-folk musical composition upthread couldn't possibly bear all these bushels of type and excitement.
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Offline gzt

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #55 on: March 16, 2015, 06:57:25 PM »
There is another factor.  I love the music of the Russian church but admittedly one criticism often made is the lack of congregational singing within that church.  Which I don't neccessarily see as a problem.  But the fact that this singing is prominent and important within the Syriac tradition means that any new compositions I would agree should follow the criteria you outline, that is to say, they should not replace the common memorized invariant portions.

But this dynamic of congregational sing ability vs. musical diversity I have to confess I find frustrating.  It's not a spiritual concern and it's not going to cause me to stop being Orthodox, but rather, it just vexes me that there is an apparent dichotomy between the style of some Russian parishes where the choir does everything and at the same time the undeniable spiritual health of the whole congregation singing together.   
One annoying thing to me about this stated opposition is that, done well, they need not be in opposition. It's a false dichotomy. There are a number of ways to get vigorous participation that do not require having only one perhaps stupidly simple setting. Humans are generally capable of carrying a tune and can pick up multiple melodies for the same text if they are well-done melodies. How many settings of the Paschal troparion do you know? If they start up one, how long does it take you to pick up which it is? Okay, some of you are in impoverished traditions, but I've known parishes where you get lusty, full-throated participation from the congregation on over a half dozen different settings in English, not to mention the various other languages. Congregational participation also need not mean "everybody sings everything". I mean, consider the first three antiphons - they are originally antiphons, so one possible way to do them is truly antiphonally and restore the original refrains. This leaves the choir or cantor to perhaps do more involved settings with the congregation responding  with a response they have perhaps just now learned - after a couple iterations, they would certainly have it down. etc etc.

Now, granted, it's easier to just say, "Forget it, we'll either have 'everybody sings everything' and have mediocrity" or "Forget it, we'll just have the choir do their thing, if anybody else follows, good for them." The choir or cantors are supposed to lead the congregation in prayer, it's a liturgical office, and when it's appropriate that this involves the congregation participating by singing along, they should certainly choose settings that facilitate this, but "congregational participation" does not always mean "everybody sings everything" and having only one setting does not necessarily facilitate everybody singing along.

Offline Volnutt

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #56 on: March 16, 2015, 07:12:02 PM »
I make a point to try and avoid criticizing monks ...

I make a point to try to avoid waving away the Fathers.

You're not cleaving to the Fathers, though. You're cleaving to the Late Greco-Roman culture that they had available to them by accident of history because of your assumption that Western culture is practically irredeemable. Why not just judge each effort on its fruits and whether it was delivered in prayer and in holiness?

It's like you live at the point at which LARPing meets self-hatred. It's honestly scary, Porter. I'm surprised you don't wear a robe and sandals everywhere and insist that everyone call you Πέτρος

You two chaps are just spontaneously participating in a psychotherapeutic exercise at this point. My one-sentence review of the faux-folk musical composition upthread couldn't possibly bear all these bushels of type and excitement.

It must be nice to be a Holy Snob.

Whatever. I'm out.
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Offline wgw

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #57 on: March 16, 2015, 10:17:39 PM »
I make a point to try and avoid criticizing monks ...

I make a point to try to avoid waving away the Fathers.

You're not cleaving to the Fathers, though. You're cleaving to the Late Greco-Roman culture that they had available to them by accident of history because of your assumption that Western culture is practically irredeemable. Why not just judge each effort on its fruits and whether it was delivered in prayer and in holiness?

It's like you live at the point at which LARPing meets self-hatred. It's honestly scary, Porter. I'm surprised you don't wear a robe and sandals everywhere and insist that everyone call you Πέτρος

You two chaps are just spontaneously participating in a psychotherapeutic exercise at this point. My one-sentence review of the faux-folk musical composition upthread couldn't possibly bear all these bushels of type and excitement.

Just so,we're clear I am in no respects in cahoots with Volnutt on this issue and would not regard your,praxis of Orthodoxy, or anyone's, for that matter, as LARPing.  I'm not fond of LARPing as a neologism and I see a lot of people using it on this forum, which makes me unhappy.  I don't believe anyone's religious practices even if they are outright bizarre,Moff example in the case of Wiccans, should be subjected to that degree of criticism.  Recent decades have seen the emergence of "life style fantasy" which in a secular context is unhealthy, but I refuse to apply this criteria in any respect to religious praxis.  There are I believe a small handful of people who have converted to the old order Amish because they value the simplicity of life therein from a religious perspective.  And there is a Japanese man who became a me,her of the Turkish Alevi ethnoreligious group.  And lots of people have become Buddhist or Hindu renunciation complete with saffron robes et cetera.  And the idea that this is live action role play is entirely foreign to my way of thinking.  I make it a point not to doubt the sincerity of people's religious convictions even when I believe they're wrong, and the very idea of a religious practice being a form of role play strikes me in that way.

The conversation I was having was rather with you and Mor Ephrem.  And I was astonished to learn the reasons for the homogenous nature of Syriac Orthodox chant. Which just goes to show that I am an unworthy communicant, but the church in her graciousness continues to provide me with grace.

But Porter my point to you was not a criticism of your idea as such, which is shared by some respected clergy, rather, a plea that you experience Russian Orthodoxy before writing off newer Orthodox musical composition.  Especially before having received the Eucharist which is as an action about unity with our Orthodox brethren.  By the way, I did not listen to the recording of the monk in question, but if he was trying to synthesize folk music then in fact your criticism may have been invalid.  But my view is that catechumens should defer to monks just as junior communicants defer to senior communicants; for example Mor Ephrem leveled a number of accurate criticisms at me of my approach and I accept all of these without question, because he's a cradle Orthodox with an MDiv and I was only chrismated a few years ago, and am a mere amateur when it comes to liturgics.  So just as I was astonished to see the simple and obvious reason for the invariant nature of Syriac chant, you yourself might be very pleasantly surprised to see Russian Orthodox worshipping to compositions made since the fall of the Soviet Union with the same level of piety as the Greek monks at Simonopetra.  Indeed the Athonite monks had a few years ago a joint Christmas service where Byzantine chanters and a Russian choir took turns singing the service, and those who were present felt it to be very moving.  Likewise on YouTube there's a wonderful video of a Christmas liturgy at the Church of St. Marys in Bethelehm, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity, presided over by the Syriac Orthodox bishop, in which a Syriac and Coptic choir took turns singing the different parts of the service.  I can get the URL if desired.  I found it profoundly uplifting.

My view is that ultimately, the actual style of chant employed in the liturgy is irrelevant, a superficial matter connected with national identity.  What matters to my limited understanding as a newly minted communicant is that this chanting and psalmody be done, as the Apostle Paul said, "decently and in order."  And I beg for tolerance of the different musical styles of the church provided they comply with this ancient prerogative.  The only thing that seems not to work is the praise band music used in the megachurches in the US.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2015, 10:21:50 PM by wgw »
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline wgw

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #58 on: March 16, 2015, 10:20:39 PM »
There is another factor.  I love the music of the Russian church but admittedly one criticism often made is the lack of congregational singing within that church.  Which I don't neccessarily see as a problem.  But the fact that this singing is prominent and important within the Syriac tradition means that any new compositions I would agree should follow the criteria you outline, that is to say, they should not replace the common memorized invariant portions.

But this dynamic of congregational sing ability vs. musical diversity I have to confess I find frustrating.  It's not a spiritual concern and it's not going to cause me to stop being Orthodox, but rather, it just vexes me that there is an apparent dichotomy between the style of some Russian parishes where the choir does everything and at the same time the undeniable spiritual health of the whole congregation singing together.   
One annoying thing to me about this stated opposition is that, done well, they need not be in opposition. It's a false dichotomy. There are a number of ways to get vigorous participation that do not require having only one perhaps stupidly simple setting. Humans are generally capable of carrying a tune and can pick up multiple melodies for the same text if they are well-done melodies. How many settings of the Paschal troparion do you know? If they start up one, how long does it take you to pick up which it is? Okay, some of you are in impoverished traditions, but I've known parishes where you get lusty, full-throated participation from the congregation on over a half dozen different settings in English, not to mention the various other languages. Congregational participation also need not mean "everybody sings everything". I mean, consider the first three antiphons - they are originally antiphons, so one possible way to do them is truly antiphonally and restore the original refrains. This leaves the choir or cantor to perhaps do more involved settings with the congregation responding  with a response they have perhaps just now learned - after a couple iterations, they would certainly have it down. etc etc.

Now, granted, it's easier to just say, "Forget it, we'll either have 'everybody sings everything' and have mediocrity" or "Forget it, we'll just have the choir do their thing, if anybody else follows, good for them." The choir or cantors are supposed to lead the congregation in prayer, it's a liturgical office, and when it's appropriate that this involves the congregation participating by singing along, they should certainly choose settings that facilitate this, but "congregational participation" does not always mean "everybody sings everything" and having only one setting does not necessarily facilitate everybody singing along.

You raise a valid point, although the ease with which the approach you outline could be implemented varies between the liturgical rites.  But it does make sense to me, and I appreciate it, because that was frustrating me, and you've shown me that it is a false dichotomy, so for that I'm very grateful.   This thread has been beneficial for me, so perhaps Porter was spot on in saying Im engaging Ina psychotherapeutic exercise, even if he misidentified my interlocutor as it were.   :P
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline Volnutt

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #59 on: March 16, 2015, 10:32:52 PM »
Calling someone a LARPer is not to impugn their sincerity, but the pathological idea that finding truth and peace means willing yourself to become something you aren't (in Porter's case a 3rd Century Greek peasant, apparently).
Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words. -Goethe

I once heard a monk say, “The person of prayer does not need to go any further than his own heart to find the source of all violence in the world.” -Fr. Stephen Freeman

Offline gzt

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #60 on: March 16, 2015, 11:29:29 PM »
There is another factor.  I love the music of the Russian church but admittedly one criticism often made is the lack of congregational singing within that church.  Which I don't neccessarily see as a problem.  But the fact that this singing is prominent and important within the Syriac tradition means that any new compositions I would agree should follow the criteria you outline, that is to say, they should not replace the common memorized invariant portions.

But this dynamic of congregational sing ability vs. musical diversity I have to confess I find frustrating.  It's not a spiritual concern and it's not going to cause me to stop being Orthodox, but rather, it just vexes me that there is an apparent dichotomy between the style of some Russian parishes where the choir does everything and at the same time the undeniable spiritual health of the whole congregation singing together.   
One annoying thing to me about this stated opposition is that, done well, they need not be in opposition. It's a false dichotomy. There are a number of ways to get vigorous participation that do not require having only one perhaps stupidly simple setting. Humans are generally capable of carrying a tune and can pick up multiple melodies for the same text if they are well-done melodies. How many settings of the Paschal troparion do you know? If they start up one, how long does it take you to pick up which it is? Okay, some of you are in impoverished traditions, but I've known parishes where you get lusty, full-throated participation from the congregation on over a half dozen different settings in English, not to mention the various other languages. Congregational participation also need not mean "everybody sings everything". I mean, consider the first three antiphons - they are originally antiphons, so one possible way to do them is truly antiphonally and restore the original refrains. This leaves the choir or cantor to perhaps do more involved settings with the congregation responding  with a response they have perhaps just now learned - after a couple iterations, they would certainly have it down. etc etc.

Now, granted, it's easier to just say, "Forget it, we'll either have 'everybody sings everything' and have mediocrity" or "Forget it, we'll just have the choir do their thing, if anybody else follows, good for them." The choir or cantors are supposed to lead the congregation in prayer, it's a liturgical office, and when it's appropriate that this involves the congregation participating by singing along, they should certainly choose settings that facilitate this, but "congregational participation" does not always mean "everybody sings everything" and having only one setting does not necessarily facilitate everybody singing along.

You raise a valid point, although the ease with which the approach you outline could be implemented varies between the liturgical rites.  But it does make sense to me, and I appreciate it, because that was frustrating me, and you've shown me that it is a false dichotomy, so for that I'm very grateful.   This thread has been beneficial for me, so perhaps Porter was spot on in saying Im engaging Ina psychotherapeutic exercise, even if he misidentified my interlocutor as it were.   :P
Sure, it is certainly only one example and is not always appropriate - though there are a couple other places with antiphonal responses or call-and-response where something similar could be done. Prokeimenon, alleluia, and koinonikon, for instance. (for all of these, one could have a solo sing melody followed by choir response - this magically improves congregational participation) At litanies, while a few different settings could be used, care should be taken so that they are melodic and repetitive (eg, in one litany, only a couple different melodies are used with repetitive themes and memorable themes), so that by the end, anybody who wants to can join in. People who don't really know about these things have a tendency to think that plodding chords are easier to join into because they are melodically flat and therefore "simple" and therefore "easy", but that is exactly wrong.

Anyway, the consideration of what music to use should always be completely driven by the liturgy itself. What is the liturgical action being accomplished, and how can the music support and enhance it? When the liturgical action demands the participation of all, the music should be selected to support that, but that's not always the case, and it definitely isn't the case that "full participation" requires using the same thing every time.

Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #61 on: March 17, 2015, 01:03:01 PM »
I make a point to try and avoid criticizing monks ...

I make a point to try to avoid waving away the Fathers.

You're not cleaving to the Fathers, though. You're cleaving to the Late Greco-Roman culture that they had available to them by accident of history because of your assumption that Western culture is practically irredeemable. Why not just judge each effort on its fruits and whether it was delivered in prayer and in holiness?

It's like you live at the point at which LARPing meets self-hatred. It's honestly scary, Porter. I'm surprised you don't wear a robe and sandals everywhere and insist that everyone call you Πέτρος

You two chaps are just spontaneously participating in a psychotherapeutic exercise at this point. My one-sentence review of the faux-folk musical composition upthread couldn't possibly bear all these bushels of type and excitement.

It must be nice to be a Holy Snob.

Whatever. I'm out.

Volnutt,

I'm increasing your current warning by twenty (20) points for the ad hominem above. 

If you would like to appeal this decision, please PM me. 

Mor Ephrem, section moderator
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Mor no longer posts on OCNet.  He follows threads, posts his responses daily, occasionally starts threads, and responds to private messages when and as he wants.  But he really isn't around anymore.


Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #62 on: March 17, 2015, 01:10:00 PM »
One annoying thing to me about this stated opposition is that, done well, they need not be in opposition. It's a false dichotomy. There are a number of ways to get vigorous participation that do not require having only one perhaps stupidly simple setting. Humans are generally capable of carrying a tune and can pick up multiple melodies for the same text if they are well-done melodies. How many settings of the Paschal troparion do you know? If they start up one, how long does it take you to pick up which it is? Okay, some of you are in impoverished traditions, but I've known parishes where you get lusty, full-throated participation from the congregation on over a half dozen different settings in English, not to mention the various other languages. Congregational participation also need not mean "everybody sings everything". I mean, consider the first three antiphons - they are originally antiphons, so one possible way to do them is truly antiphonally and restore the original refrains. This leaves the choir or cantor to perhaps do more involved settings with the congregation responding  with a response they have perhaps just now learned - after a couple iterations, they would certainly have it down. etc etc.

Now, granted, it's easier to just say, "Forget it, we'll either have 'everybody sings everything' and have mediocrity" or "Forget it, we'll just have the choir do their thing, if anybody else follows, good for them." The choir or cantors are supposed to lead the congregation in prayer, it's a liturgical office, and when it's appropriate that this involves the congregation participating by singing along, they should certainly choose settings that facilitate this, but "congregational participation" does not always mean "everybody sings everything" and having only one setting does not necessarily facilitate everybody singing along.

:)
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Offline orthonorm

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Re: American Orthodoxy and Music
« Reply #63 on: March 17, 2015, 01:47:09 PM »
Nvrmnd, this thread already has its share of fun.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2015, 01:48:58 PM by orthonorm »
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