At the beginning of Chapter 15, your textbook asks this question:
“Does elaborate music in church distract worshippers from their focus on the scriptural text? Or does the sublime power of sound convey ultimate praise, and help the faithful envision the blessings of heaven?”
If we translate this concept to music and life in general, we might ask:
Does elaborate music at social gatherings distract participants from the purpose of the gathering? Or does the sublime power of sound convey the ultimate feeling and spirit of the gathering, and help the participants experience it to the fullest?
Your textbook continues:
“To this day, many consider unison song essential for building collective purpose, whether in worship or in other group activity — while others rely on the grandeur of polyphony to convey magnificence and glory, whether in church or in other places of celebration.”
For music and life in general, we might ask:
Which is the fullest experience: participation or spectatorship?
Think of examples where you participate directly in an event, and examples where you go to an event as an observer or audience member.
7th-inning stretch at a baseball game: everyone sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”
Superbowl half-time show
Both types of experience are useful and effective at different times and places!
Given what we know about how musicians are, do you suppose anyone ever got carried away anyway?
The Ordinary of the Mass: five movements with contrasting moods, giving a shape to the whole:
Kyrie: mercy, hope
Credo: purpose, unity
Agnus Dei: mercy, hope
Historical significance: composers keep writing masses and using chant tunes throughout classical music history
Also, multi-movement works use contrasts to create an overall shape:
Minuet & Trio: dance
Another important religious expression: the Requiem Mass, or Mass for the Dead.
Themes: mercy, hope, forgiveness of sins, praise
Opening and closing line:
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
WHY DO WE CARE??
Because, like Pachelbel’s Canon, this song is everywhere…
Franz Liszt, Hungarian 1811-1886
Totentanz (“Dance of Death”)