A few Sundays ago I had a chance to talk to Terry, one of the choir directors at our Latin Mass parish, about something that was on my mind. Recently, I had been listening to a series of lectures on tape about the history of music, and this had clarified my thinking a good deal about liturgical music. So I put it to Terry:
Dutchman: Don’t you think that modern music is too worldly for liturgical use?
Terry: How do you mean?
Dutchman: Well, liturgical music should keep you focused on the meaning of the Mass, shouldn’t it? I mean, when you start noticing the nuances of the music, when composers start introducing novelties that draw attention to themselves, when you find yourself impressed by the virtuosity of the performance — well then you’ve been distracted from real participation in the sacrifice of the mass.
Terry: I guess, but that all depends on what you mean by modern ...
Dutchman: Well, this Ars Nova of course!
Terry: Oh I see exactly what you mean! Those isorhythms are just too cosmopolitan and worldly for use in the mass!