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It is also important for promoting music in churches. It is relevant to all church musicians, clergy, and public who wish to deepen their understanding of music's place in their faith and rituals. My secondary research aim was to develop a theological approach to composition, through reflecting upon and applying the information I had explored in the primary research question.
A theological approach to composition operates at the first stage of the above model: between composer and manuscript. An audience may not experience this approach. For example, they may not connect O Nata Lux to Calvin's model of prayer. However, the approach provides me, the composer, with a wealth of inspiration and a fascinating beginning point for composing church music. Brown C Where do I stand? Some informed reflections.
As stated in the Prelude, I do not consider myself to be attached to a church, yet I compose church music. Furthermore, perhaps because of my background in musicology, I want to be taken seriously as a composer of art music, and not placed in the camp of popularist composers such as John Rutter and Antoine Oomen. However, the recent Zeitgeist gives church music lower status, and therefore by choosing to write church music I feel my reception is compromised before I write a single note.
I therefore read about the historical role of composers of church music, the snobbery about certain approaches to composition, and reflected on my place in the contemporary music scene. Historically, composers of church music have been attached to churches themselves. Palestrina, Victoria, Buxtehude, Bach, Bruckner, Howells, MacMillan, Chilcott worked variously as organists, singers, and directors of music in cathedrals and city churches.
It is a small group of composers indeed that write music for use in churches without themselves holding positions in a church, cathedral, or chapel. This reflects several musical and institutional developments during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Until the nineteenth century, churches were the main patrons of musicians. However, as opera developed and concert halls were built, entrepreneurs took over patronage. Composers no longer had to rely on churches for commissions, or a stable work income as performers.
Therefore, composers of sacred music became freer and could detach themselves from institutions.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries also saw the development of a rift between church music and other art music3. Orchestras grew larger and music was composed on a larger scale, and churches simply could not afford to accommodate this lavish new music. There was reluctance from clergy to allow musical idioms of the concert hall and opera house, with their secular associations, into the sacred realm of churches.
Wilson-Dickson points to two effects: first, that church music became 'the handmaid of religion' - a restricted genre that was unappealing to ambitious composers, and second, that composers wanted to detach their identity from the church in order to be taken seriously as artists. High art music was considered to be largely the music of the concert hall. The twentieth century continued this 'deep division between high and low culture that crept in with the Romantic era. In academic circles, recent church music is rarely given high status. Brown C programmatic nature.
Church music is never purely absolute music: there is always a programmatic agenda, be it to do with text, the place of the music in the liturgy, or the atmosphere it creates. However, musicologists, particularly from the analytical tradition, have given higher status to purely absolute music, in particular from the Second Viennese School. A second reason for the low status of church music is its focus on people: both on the biblical figures who are the subject or speaker of texts, and on the clergy and congregation. In the twentieth century, it has been argued, there developed a schism between musicians and their audiences.
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Precisely because of this snobbery, some contemporary art music in the twentieth century alienated its audiences. Audiences turned instead to older music and popular genres. The revival movement, which, according to popular belief, flourished from Mendelssohn's performance of the St. Matthew Passion in , gradually provided audiences with a rich repertoire.
By the twentieth century, a great deal of classical music was being 'revived' in concert halls. Popular genres, such as operetta, musical theatre, jazz, pop, and rock, flourished. Contemporary art music became a minority genre.
One need only flick through the annual programme of a major concert hall to see the dominance of non-contemporary music and popular genres over contemporary art music today and in recent years. The schism between contemporary art music and contemporary popular music seems still to exist. However, recently there have been attempts to close this schism. The Minimalist movement grew from a desire to reconnect art music with audiences.
Tonality and repetition were key characteristics: features which make the music widely accessible. Indeed, in rebellion to contemporary art music, minimalist pieces were ostentatiously accessible for all, rather than restricted to an exclusive, high-minded audience.
Audiences with a preference for historical music, who willingly attended concerts of Bach and Beethoven but perhaps not of Berio and Boulez — even audiences who preferred pop music — were drawn into the concert hall. For example, John Cage was concerned about 'the divide that modernity had opened up between music and life more generally'9 and wrote 4'33'' to attempt to erase that boundary. Style and Idea London, p. However the snobbery remains the same: a preference for music composed for music's sake, rather than in a dialogue with the listeners.
Brown C which the instrumentalist s does not play. The audience are therefore forced to listen to the sounds of the environment. The question we confront, therefore, is 'is this music? But in fact, Cage wanted to bring music back into the realm of people's lives. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.
The division between the audience and the music has been challenged in post-modernist thought. Cage's 4'33'' could be interpreted as a musical challenge to the Cartesian division between subject and object, a distinction that post-modernists argue is hermeneutic. Thus, in music, to think of a division between the sound waves of the music and the listener is redundant. There is no division between the music and the listener: when we listen to music we do not experience ourselves and the music as separate entities.
Post-modernist thought suggests that we and the music are one: there is no duality. This line of anti-dualistic thought also applies to composers and their music. There is no longer a division between 'Me' and 'My Music'. Indeed, there is a deep question of agency here.
However, when you play it, it becomes part of you because you play it. And when someone else listens to it, it becomes part of them, because they are listening. Who, then, is the agent is this music?
This is good news for church music. Now that divisions between audience and music, and composer and music, are blurred, the snobbery about programme music and music designed to take consideration of audiences' tastes should disappear.
Composers who wish neither to alienate nor to please, who sit in between the hard-core absolutist and popularist approaches, and who compose from a need or 'interior pressure', may now be accepted in the contemporary art music scene. Their interior pressure stems from deep spirituality. For music is intimately concerned with transcending that dichotomy, with healing Descartes's ontological separation of self and world and Kant's epistemological separation of self and certain knowledge. Brown C spirituality can guide a composer in his choice of texts. The connecting thread is the music I write.
I guide the music, and it guides me it often seems to come through me semi-autonomously This double process defines the religion of a composer, I suppose; it is always a quest, for music and through music.
Many current composers being performed in cathedral choirs in England are themselves organists or lay clerks.
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