On church music

1 06 2011

They transform into entertainment that which has been created for no other purpose than to produce in the Christian soul a holy and salutary sadness.

-a French cleric quoted in the liner notes to the CD: Charpentier: Leçons de Ténèbres du Jeudy Sainct

I am just repeating some thoughts that I have been repeating over and over again for years, but I haven’t brought up this quote in a while, so might as well dust it off and post it.

Personally, I think a Mozart Mass is way more traditional than anything I can sing out of a Liber Usualis. Perhaps, by extension, the St. Louis Jesuits are way more traditional than some choir with a newly found hobbyist obsession with Gregorian chant.

I think “On Eagles Wings” makes the baby Jesus laugh with glee. There, I said it. Break out the tambourines and guitars, and let’s praise Jeeeezus!


12 04 2011

Every religion, even Catholicism (in fact, especially Catholicism, precisely because of its effort to maintain a superficial unity and not allow itself to be fragmented into national churches or along class lines) is really a multiplicity of religions that are distinct and often contradictory; there is a Catholicism of the peasant, a Catholicism of the petty bourgeoisie and urban workers, a Catholicism of women, and a Catholicism of the intellectuals.

-Antonio Gramsci, from The Prison Notebooks

Reading this quote now, I go back to my experiences in the Lefebvrist seminary, which I always say was just like an old fashioned seminary back in the good ol’ days. We actually had classes on how we needed to stand in church, genuflect, and even make the sign of the Cross. And of course, there were entire seminars on liturgical, social, and personal decorum. It was a bit militaristic at times, or maybe the military is a bit like a seminary. Shadows of Michel Foucault begin to haunt this post…

In any case, when describing this experience to someone recently, he said that the reason this was done was to prepare us to be part of a civil service class akin to the government bureaucracy of the old Chinese empire: it was to yank us out of our peasant, “undeveloped” Catholicism to put us squarely in the realm of “romanitas” (mind you, I went to seminary in Latin America, so Catholicism down there is much different than it is here). “Romanitas” in the old days was the string that held the Church together, the Catholicism of the clergy that bound so many disparate cultures into one Church. This was outlined to us one day in a spiritual conference, just as I have written it.

Now of course, we no longer have that, and seminary is not the right of passage and transformation that it once was. Now the clergyman is supposed to be just like the rest of the “People of God” (I really do cringe when I have to write that phrase) and Catholicism in many ways and places is indistinct from the modern culture around it. It appears that the way to resolve the problem that Gramsci posed is to dilute all of the “Catholicisms” to the point that they become a bland and amorphous mess with little positive content (other than obedience to the appropriate authority and keeping “it” in your pants). Maybe this is done unintentionally, but the result is still the same.

[This is a re-post. I am lazy this week]

La Pasión según San Marcos

11 03 2011

Osvaldo Golijov

Doux Mensonges

4 03 2011

Excerpt from the ballet by Jiri Kylian

The sacred for sale

6 01 2011

Again, thanks to Wufila for posting this link to the Wall Street Journal article on the return of hoodoo practice in the Internet age. The article and the video were fascinating. Some random thoughts:

1. An anxiety of influence: I think that there is no doubt that there is some sort of flow of rituals and prayers between Mexico, the Caribbean, and the American South. The rose of Jericho ritual seen here is something that can also be seen in Spanish-speaking botanicas and occult shops. I have even seen before a holy card of High John the Conqueror in Spanish. It would probably be impossible to find out who influenced whom in this case. As in social and economic questions, the United States is inevitably tied to Latin America, and vice versa, at least in its undercurrents.
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Los amantes

19 05 2010

image credit

¿Quién los ve andar por la ciudad
si todos están ciegos?
Ellos se toman de la mano: algo habla
entre sus dedos, lenguas dulces
lamen la húmeda palma, corren por las falanges,
y arriba está la noche llena de ojos.

Son los amantes, su isla flota a la deriva
hacia muertes de césped, hacia puertos
que se abren entre sábanas.
Todo se desordena a través de ellos,
todo encuentra su cifra escamoteada;
pero ellos ni siquiera saben
que mientras ruedan en su amarga arena
hay una pausa en la obra de la nada,
el tigre es un jardín que juega.

Amanece en los carros de basura,
empiezan a salir los ciegos,
el ministerio abre sus puertas.
Los amantes rendidos se miran y se tocan
una vez más antes de oler el día.
Ya están vestidos, ya se van por la calle.
Y es sólo entonces
cuando están muertos, cuando están vestidos,
que la ciudad los recupera hipócrita
y les impone los deberes cotidianos.

-Julio Cortazar

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Verklärte Nacht

30 04 2010


14 04 2010

A folk phenomenon among the Creoles of color of southern Louisiana, the cauchemar is an evil spirit that comes to ride on the chest when its victim is asleep. The evil spirit or witch is not visible, but can be felt pressing on the chest, not allowing the victim to be heard. In contemporary French, “cauchemar” is just another word for nightmare, but for the Creoles of southern Louisiana, it was interpreted as a preternatural phenomenon, often sent as a warning not to commit a particular kind of transgression. AG’s aunt once told her as a child about it, although AG thought that she was just making all of it up. It was also known as “witch riding”. Remedies for the cauchemar have much in common with other methods of “fooling” preternatural spirits found in other places:

…what my mamma said for me to do is put some stones or some beans under my bed, under my mattress, and put them in a circle ’cause he can’t count and, ’cause he doesn’t come in the daytime. He only comes at night. And, uh, she said cauchemar’s gonna see the stones under my bed, and he’s gonna keep counting in a circle, and he’s so dumb that he won’t know to stop, and then by the time he finished keep counting it’s gonna be daytime. Or he counts the . . . put a fan in your window and he counts the little holes in the screen and by the time he finished counting it’ll be daytime.

More information of the cauchemar can be found in Katherine Roberts’ essay on the subject

More Tenebrae music

19 03 2010

Super flumina Babylonis

2 03 2010

image credit

Encima de las corrientes
que en Babilonia hallava
allí me senté llorando
allí la tierra regava
acordándome de ti
¡o Sión! a quien amava
era dulce tu memoria,
y con ella más llorava.
Dexé los traxes de fiesta
los de trabaxo tomava
y colgué en los verdes sauzes
la música que llevaba
puniéndola en esperança
de aquello que en ti esperava.
Allí me hyrió el amor
y el coraçón me sacava.
Díxele que me matase
pues de tal suerte llagava
yo me metía en su fuego
sabiendo que me abrasava
desculpando el avezica
que en el fuego se acababa
estávame en mí muriendo
y en ti solo respirava
en mí por ti me moría
y por ti resucitava
que la memoria de ti
daba vida y la quitava.
Gozábanse los estraños
entre quien cautivo estava.
Preguntávanme cantares
de lo que en Sión cantava
—Canta de Sión un hynno
veamos cómo sonava.
—Dezid, ¿cómo en tierra ajena
donde por Sión llorava
cantaré yo la alegría
que en Sión se me quedava?
Echaríala en olbido
si en la ajena me gozava.
Con mi paladar se junte
la lengua con que hablava
si de ti yo me olbidare
en la tierra do morava.
Sión por los verdes ramos
que Babilonia me dava
de mí se olbide mi diestra
que es lo que en ti más amava
si de ti no me acordare
en lo que más me gozava
y si yo tuviere fiesta
y sin ti la festejava.
¡O hija de Babilonia
mísera y desventurada!
Bienaventurado era
aquel en quien confiava
que te a de dar el castigo
que de tu mano llevava
y juntará sus pequeños
y a mí, porque en ti esperava
a la piedra que era Christo
por el qual yo te dexaba.

Debetur soli gloria vera Deo

-San Juan de la Cruz