Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Let Them Enjoy Medieval Music

I am dumbfounded by an article I read today. Apparently the pope has decided to ban the use of guitars in the Catholic Mass. It is really hard for me to believe that this story isn't a farce. Here is a quote from the story:

"It is possible to modernize holy music," the Pope said, at a concert conducted by Domenico Bartolucci the director of music at the Sistine Chapel. "But it should not happen outside the traditional path of Gregorian chants or sacred polyphonic choral music."
Full article at -

Well I guess Gregorian Chants worked for the early 90s group Enigma, but I can't see the Catholic church maintaining any kind of relevant connection with the modern world by pushing medieval music.

I remember reading a story about 10 years ago on the subject of ethnomusicology. It's a big scary word for the study of ethnic music. Anyway the story was about ethnomusicologist missionaries that would travel to secluded people groups in remote areas to study the music of these ethnic peoples so as to help them create worship music in their own cultural/musical language using their indigenous instruments. These musical missionaries represented a paradigm shift in missions. For hundreds of years missionaries would come into new territory and get to the work of evangelism. The problem is that in addition to translating the Bible they did a great bit of imposing of white western European culture on the natives. Part of this imposing would be in the form of music. So even though the native folks would have songs in their language they weren't songs that were from their culture. I can imagine how difficult it would be for me to worship in the style of music from India even if the words were English. I just don't feel Indian music the way the people of India do. So imagine how wierd trying to worship with music from Western Europe if you grew up in the jungles of Africa.

Back to the article on the ethnomusicologist. There was a quote in the article by a woman from an Indian tribe in the Amazon rain forests of Brazil. She said with tears in her eyes, "When they translated the Bible they gave us a way for God to speak to us, but when they (the ethnomusicologists) gave us these songs they gave us a way to talk back to God."

Back to the Pope. His recent statements against guitars in the Catholic Mass are sad not just because of how out of touch they make the Catholic church seem but because they erect yet another barrier for certain people trying to connect with God in a meaningful way.

In my opinion the church should be about helping folks connect with God from within their cultures not by imposing some ancient European culture on them.

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