Catholics veiwing pop music as "inferior"

I was involved in a (hopefully) charitable debate about this with someone in another thread. So as not to hijack the OP’s thread, I decided to start my own.

I was responding to the claim made by a poster that classical music such as Palestrina, Mazart, and Bach is more Catholic than Christian rock or other pop music, even pop music done by orthodox Catholics like Father Stan Fortuna. Personally, I have a hard time understanding how any genre of music can be superior to another, not taking into acccount lyrics but just the music. To me it is entirely subjective. And yet it seems that among Catholics there are many who believe that classical music in inherently better music. Not just that they like it better but that it is objectively better. But yet the word Catholic means “universal” which means that Catholicism does not belong to any one culture.

I have debated about this with my Mom and sister in the past. Actually, when brought along some of my Christian CD’s when visiting my sister once. I brought along a compilation CD I have of Catholic hip-hop artists which features Fr, Stan Fortuna and Righteous B (a great orthodox Catholic commited to evangeling in inner-city.) Anyway, my sister made me turn it off and said she did not want her kids listening to rap, even after I explained it was Catholic. Does she have the say as the Mom of her kids? Yes. Were my feelings hurt? Yes.

Thoughts anyone.

Not superior - just more suitable for formal worship, which is what the Mass is.

I love Fr Stan’s stuff :cool: and would love to go to a concert of his, :thumbsup: … but I wouldn’t want to go to Mass and hear ‘Ain’t No Party Like A Catholic Party’ as one of the hymns :nope: :bigyikes: :dts:

I did not mean for Mass. I agree there. I just mean for listenng at home and such.

On some level, Catholic “pop” music is still in its infancy relative to other Christian pop, and secular pop. However, there are certainly many great artists, and it’s continually improving.

To debate if music is good or bad is subjective; I agree with this. However, to the Lord, I suspect He’s less interested in the sound quality, and more interested if it honors Him. Perhaps we should look at it the same way.

Recently I went to “Creation.” It’s a Christian concert with many different bands. It attracts over 100,000 each year, I believe. (Probably over 95% Protestant)

Anyway, there was one musician by the name of Matt Maher; however, I didn’t know he was Catholic. When he started singing “Here I am Lord,” I said to my brother next to me that I have never heard a Protestant sing this!

Later, I was with a couple Capuchin Friars backstage and Matt Maher was there. I applauded him for singing that song, and then learned that he was Catholic. I was surprised! This was a well-attended event, and I’m sure most of our separtated brethren had no idea he was Catholic.

Anyway, he told me he loved the Catholic Church mostly because of the Blessed Sacrament. I think we can agree with that!

He is a very talented musician. Catholic musicians are on the rise, and I believe this will help bring many of our separted brethren into the flock.

Pop music is like Big Macs. Now I happen to like Big Macs, but no one would take me seriously if I said Big Macs were equal in quality to thoughtfully prepared corn-fed prime rib. Pop music enthusiasts always opt for the nuclear option of subjectivism/relativism and it is a mistake. “Serious” music (for lack of a better term) requires effort and excercise and refinement of the higher faculties to access and enjoy. Pop music, while easy to access and enjoy. can keep us stuck in the culture smog.

I am not a big pop music enthusiast; however, I do enjoy classical music.

Music connoisseurs will inevitably affirm the superiority of classical music over pop; however, what makes them the final word on “good” music? Indeed, there is more talent, but if much of this music is not meant to bring glory to God, does this not relegate its intrinsic worth?

I believe a classical piece (if it has nothing to do with God) is less honoring to God than a mediocre piece of Catholic pop music that directly honors God, even if the quality is poor.

Therefore, if God is the final and objective measure of what is “good,” I firmly suspect the Lord will delight in that which directly honors Him.

If that’s true, should be not embrace His perspective? At the very least, we should embrace any or all music that brings us closer to Him; otherwise, the music in itself is a waste of time. Fortunately, many types of music can inspire us, and bring us closer to the heart of our Lord.

For outside of the mass and just listening at home for pleasure, I think it’s fine. Although I’m a classical musician and have about 400+ classical and opera cds, I still listen to pop and folk music of which I have between 50-75+ cds. We were actually just listening to U2 and now are listening to Edvard Grieg.

“Pop” tunes existed at the time Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. However, even during the time of the music masters their music was considered superior to the pop tunes. Several reasons exist. The masters had an exceptional education in musical theory and form. To produce music with the stringent rules of western music in the time of Palestrina was very difficult. Obeying musical theories such as avoiding parallel fifths in harmony and avoiding dominant to sub-dominant chord progressions to name a couple, and still create original beautiful music is very hard. Now take those same rules and try to make an original sounding work inside the sonata-allegro or Rondo form and you have an explanation of Haydn’s, Mozart’s, and Brahms’s genius.

I can’t think of anyone who would deny the contrapuntal genius of Bach and Palestrina. I don’t really think anyone puts the technical prowess of Mozart and Brahms into the same category as Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In other words, it would take Wolfie Mozart all of 10 seconds to figure out the form of modern pop tunes. How long would it take a pop musician not musically trained to write a fugue like Bach? The simple fact is common tunes with homophonic guitar strums is easy and requires little technique. Most 1st year guitar students are able to do this. That’s what some people find humourous when they are told that classical and pop music are equal in music composition.

This is not to put down pop and rock musicians and I do know musicians who were classically trained and decided to go the rock route, and you can actually hear some of their training in their music, although they would be first to tell you that their music is still “inferior” to that of the masters and don’t feel bad about admitting it. The rock/pop genre has its place and is fine and fun to listen to.

In terms of the tastes of people, you can’t force people to like or dislike a style of music, so in that regard it’s undersandable how someone would view pop music as equal to classical music. But in terms of musical composition, they are not. You can’t compare them because one form is superior to the other. Recognizing the differences helps me enjoy pop music without having the need to analyze it to search for something deeper in its composition. I know the music is “inferior”, but I’m listening for pleasure, but that’s it. It’s hard to find something spiritual in it for me anymore because of my training, although I do realize that other people could find something inspiring in Christian pop.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

I agree with you to a point with this and have explained in my previous post how compositionally-speaking, classical music is superior over pop music. I also understand your point regarding the spiritual feelings in a religious, mediocre pop song to a secular classical work such as something composed for an opera or ballet.

In regards to classical music that is considered “Absolute Music”: This can be used during mass or as spiritual listening at home because it is pure music. I believe it to be a voice of our Creator since no text is used. You hear his love and beauty and utter perfection through the notes of the practically perfect composition without needing words to support it. I believe that it can honour God equally to that of a pop sounding religious piece that has religious text. Objectively and compositionally, it is still “superior”, but subjectively can be equal. For me, Absolute Music does more for me spiritually than what a
"mediocre" Christian pop song could ever do for me mainly because it contains all aspects of spiritual and compositional perfection. Although the pop song was written by someone who did feel spiritually inspired, which I respect and will give that it is “perfect” in that regard, it is missing the second part of the perfection of the scientific composition, which to me is also important since I strive to hear and feel God speaking through the perfection of the composition. If I can’t hear it within a religious piece of music, I sometimes recieve a negative physical reaction, which is one of the reasons why I cannot sit and listen to religious pop music, although can listen to secular pop music since I don’t listen to it for spiritual inspiration. No offense to anyone who does like religious pop.

We do not need to embrace it, since for me, embracing it would make me feign an enjoyment of that kind of music and thus make me a hypocrite. But at least we can understand that there are people who do become spiritually inspired by other forms of music for whatever reason.

Music is a very personal choice for each person. Some people can be very opinionated and their love for THEIR favorite genre of music can be so great as to think that it SHOULD be very everyone.

Myself I like all sorts of music, oldies rock’n roll, Contemporary Country, etc.

My only point here is that one should embrace music that leads them closer to the Lord. If the music truly does that, I believe it honors Him, and helps His children.

In terms of personal preference, this is subjective. Ultimately it’s about what bring others to love and follow Him more; otherwise, the influence has no eternal benefit.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Yes, I understood that and agree that the personal preference part is subjective although the technical part isn’t. One cannot make someone love a genre of music if they really can’t feel anything from it.

Thank you for your thoughts as well!!! I enjoyed the exchange. :smiley:

I heard a priest on Catholic radio talking about what type of music would be appropriate in a Church. Sorry, I can’t remember his name. He said the music should be noble, uplifting, inspiring worship. He also mentioned Gregorian Chants as being particularly worshipful.

As Catholics, we should bring all of our thoughts into obedience to Christ. Pope Benedict talked about the indifference among some people toward looking at things with the Mind of Christ. Just saying, “Hey, what’s the big deal? This guy likes this, and that guy likes that.” To each his own, right? Not where God’s concerned.

Rap is a great example of something that was invented to promote bad behavior. Look at any Rap video and what do you see? Guys dressed a certain way, gesturing a certain way, wearing clothes draped with gold jewelry and surrounded by scantily clad young women and sporty cars. I don’t like stopping at a red light and hearing the words f*** and b****** and h*s coming from the car next to me. A friend of mine was into Eminem and played some for another friend that was with us. His reaction? “Just don’t play any of that stuff around my kids.”

And so what does Eminem do? Stars in a movie called 8 Mile that was a new low in totally immoral behavior.

That is the common image of Rap. I don’t blame anyone for not liking it. But I don’t think Rock or Rap falls under the category of properly worshipful music. And if people do perform it as such, that’s between them and God. If they believe they are praising God with such music, that’s fine. But I cannot and will not listen to anything that sounds like Rap because Rap has been marketed to people as, As Nasty As They Wanna Be.

God bless,

OP here. Here are a few of my thoughts.

First of all, I really know almost nothing about music theory or form. And I do listen to classical music every once in a while but I recognize very few classical pieces. I am not educated about it. I am learning something by reading these posts. I realize I might be sort of ignorant (in the original sense of the word.)

I like dance music, hip-hop and rap for the beat mostly. It is energenitic music and it is good music to listen to if you are exercising or doing housework. I know filthy lyrics are not good for me and there are some songs that I will turn off even the cleaned-up radio versions. But I love the beat. And I have some Christian and Catholic rock, rap, and pop CD’s. I like many, many different kinds of music really-I like the music from my parent’s generation and I think Glen Miller “In The Mood” is one of the greatest songs ever. I don’t like everything-I don’t like screaming heavy metal-but I don’t think that the genre itself is all bad if you like Christian metal.

With all due respect, EdWest, I don’t think that rap music was invernted to promote bad behavior. Not in the very earliest days of the genre. I think that the gangsta stuff and 2 Live Crew came along later, after rap was becoming commercialized. I listen to music around the house but I don’t watch rap videos or any other type of videos. I do not have cable. From what I have seen, I agree most videos are very immodest. Eminem can be very filthy but also very clever, I have not bought any of his Cd’s becuase they are too explicit but there are some of his songs that I like in the radio versions.

Truthfully, I hope that the idea that some music is “superior” to others is not based on elitism. And I hope that elitism, in general, does not prevent evangelization. Just a thought. Please don’t flame me.

I don’t know that it is … I suppose it depends how you define “superior”.

Pop serves a different purpose and operates under a different range of constraints/conventions. I’ve had this discussion with a composer-organist friend and we agree that writing a 3-minute piece that can withstand constant repetition with a hook that has a listener, well, “hooked” inside 10 seconds, is something a great many classical composers are simply not capable of. But they don’t need to be, because they don’t write pop. (Lots of pop writers can’t do it either, but I’m talking in principle. :stuck_out_tongue: ) And the pop writers don’t need to be able to extend their ideas over four movements. (Or four hours, in the case of opera!)

I like the Big Mac analogy and use a similar one myself when people dismiss all pop as rubbish. I don’t always want a three-course *cordon bleu *dinner with wines chosen to match each course. Sometimes I do … but sometimes I really feel like fish and chips and a beer. When I’m in the mood for it, really good fish and chips gives me as much enjoyment, so I can’t say the three-course meal is compositionally “superior” if each “does the trick” at different times. The *cordon bleu *is more complex, needs different skills to produce, costs more and is more memorable, but if complex and simple compositions both fully achieve their intended effect (or affect!) then while one may be “greater” than t’other, “superior” probably isn’t the word that springs to mind for me.

I don’t think Christian/Catholic pop is appropriate at Mass. If your sister was concerned that kiddies who develop a taste for rap through Christian rap might then want to listen to other rap, I could understand that. Can’t take it myself, Christian or otherwise, but that is a personal preference.

It’s all a case of symantics and as you said, it depends on how you define “superior”. If you look up “superior” or “greater” in the thesaurus or dictionary, the context is basically the same thing and can be interchangeable. One definition for “greater” is “superior in quality”. Another definition for “superior” is “Of higher grade or quality”. Basically they are the same.

I agree that pop and classical are different forms of compositional writing, although one form is “greater” or “superior” as I explained in my first post. I do disagree with you that many classical composers aren’t capable of writing music that can “hook” a listener with repetitious themes. One of the reasons that many classical composers’ compositions have lasted throughout the centuries is because their music was memorable and catchy. (ie. The Redetsky March) And yes, not all composers had music like that - like some 20th century classical composers, but look at the lieder from Schubert, Brahms, Schumann - the melodies are repetitive with harmonies ranging from extremely simple to extremely complex. They hook the listener within the first few measures and the next thing you know you hear the listener humming or whistling the melody after the recital or concert. The same goes with some symphonic themes or motiffs and especially 1-5 minute arias from operas. Verdi and many other opera composers had to be very secretive with their music prior to opening night because the melodies were so “catchy”. Mozart’s music could also “hook” the listener right away. I could go on and on with many other composers ---- so what I’m saying is that many composers could easily write a “catchy” 3-minute repetitive song if they wanted to. It would be easy for them. For instance… my husband, who, like me and most people, is not a genius like the music masters, takes classical composition lessons for fun. It takes him no time to just pop out a simple repetitive melody for a pop song, but more time is put into composing music in the western art form. And you’re right, pop writers don’t need to extend their ideas for more than three minutes, but most wouldn’t be able to do that even if they wanted to. And let me stress that I have nothing against pop music… like I said in my previous post, I do listen to it for enjoyment and don’t think that it’s rubbish per say especially if you’re just listening for fun and pleasure, but there is also nothing wrong with acknowledging that, compositionally-speaking, one form is superior or greater to the other. :wink:

I do like your analogy, although the only difference is that where a Big Mac or Fish & Chips are pretty much unhealthy for your heart and arteries if you have too much of it, Pop music is most likely not unhealthy for you no matter how much you have of it. ha! :wink:

Thanks for sharing! :slight_smile:

I generally agree, Sarabande. I still don’t, however, believe that many classical composers could write successful blues/pop songs, jingles and so forth one after another, and I don’t think good pop songs are necessarily that quick to churn out. A pop song’s way quicker than a sonata, but to use another analogy, a poem’s quicker than a novel but that doesn’t mean that all novelists can toss off a quality poem in a few minutes. IMO, really good, tight, top-notch popular music requires a knack and depth of experience in the idiom that composers from other genres often don’t have, just as some classical composers excel at miniatures and fail at works on a symphonic scale and vice versa. A classical composer might, for example, study da blues and then write some blues numbers but chances are it won’t ring true to aficionados. (Same with Irish trad - another genre where small, simpler pieces are the order of the day - a pure drop enthusiast will pick a “composed” number a mile off.)

It’s one thing for any of us to knock out a simple and catchy tune for fun, but to do it professionally and successfully is a different kettle of fish. Many classical pieces are indeed catchy and memorable, but even so, very few (again, IMO) bite as quick and as hard as some of the best blues/pop hooks. But they don’t need to, in fact it’s better they don’t.

Happy with the definition of “greatness” but one of the things I remember from Dead Poet’s Society is Robin Williams’ character telling his students that perfection and greatness are not the same thing, that something great may not be perfect and something perfect may not be great. Maybe what I’m really getting at here is that for me it’s hard to make a general statement that “greatness” is always superior to “perfection”. (Contrary to what some think, not all classical music is perfect!) But “great” music that is also perfect would be superior to music that was merely “perfect”.

I think. :juggle:

We should meet for a pint sometime. :wink:

Perhaps inferior because of the musical notation?

I think, Guitar, we probably agree on more than we disagree. :slight_smile: I see your point, although the fact remains that where those composers could write in that form very easily with technical abilities (even if it may not ring true to some pop afficionados), most pop writers could not do the other way around. To me, if you can do both, even if you are better at writing pop music than in the classical genre or vice versa, I believe there is a fuller understanding of the music - at least in the western music scale. I think it probably explains why I tend to gravitate to pop singers and rock bands which contained someone who had formal musical training. You can definitely tell the difference. And if you got someone who could write in both forms or at least understand the composition of both forms, it’s even better.

I also don’t believe that greatness is superior to perfection and actually don’t believe there is hardly any piece of music that is perfect. Almost every composition in whatever genre strives for perfection. That’s what make great music so “great”, but never perfect.

Thank you again. I really enjoyed our conversation. Yes, we should meet for a pint. During the year, our friends will actually meet for a pint on Thursday nights to ponder such subjects - music, politics, religion, philosophy, etc. It’s good fun. If you’re ever the University of Penn area in Philly, we’ll be there. :slight_smile:

Pop music is worthless, immoral, unintelligent & one of the major causes of the wretched state of modern society.

Even to compare it with classical music is to praise it too highly. :eek:

Pop music is best left to those who imagine that breaking musical instruments, ingesting drugs, & generally behaving themselves as thugs & savages counts as civilised & decent behaviour. It is a sign of a society that is very sick indeed - it is to music what abortion is to pregnancy. :frowning:

“Inferior” ? Yes indeed.

Whoa. It is to music what abortion is to pregnancy. Not sure I understand that. Abortion ends a pregnancy and snuffs out innocent life. How does pop music end music?

Pop music worthless and immoral? Not always immoral. There are Catholic pop artists and good Christian pop artists. You don’t like any Contempory Christian or gospel? I sort of pity you. Even when morally questionable, music is never entirely worthless (I don’t think). Music reflects the lives of those who write the songs. Even people whose lives are very immoral, there lives are not worthless.

I have learned a lot about classical music and music theory by reading people’s responses. I sort of agree that classical music can be more bueatiful that pop music kinda like a evening gown is more bueatiful than my work clothes but I don’t wear an evening gown every day. it would be kind of hard to do my work in a nursing home wearing an evening gown. Popular music is everyday, stuff-of-life music.

It is a sign that are society is sick indeed. Yeah, when you listen to music with very explicit lyrics it is a sign that our society is sick. If you listen to some violent rap music, life is very cheap and women are to be used and tossed aside. Where does that come from? Becuase life has been made to seem cheap becuase of the Culture of Death around us and especially abortion. It is really sad when you hear little kids who know the lyrics of really explicit songs, but I think it is the effect, not the cause. We have to work to build a culture of life.

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