The popes on music

One thing that has to be understood during the history when Mozart and Haydn were around. Masonry was indeed not accepted by the Church in 1733. Those two men were around in the mid to late 1700s. At that point in time, a good number of Catholics were still freemasons and still becoming freemasons during that time period. They used it as a “networking” tool and actually didn’t understand or comprehend what was so wrong about it at that time since it was permitted prior to that. And the various bishops in different towns and cities weren’t really doing anything about it. I don’t know much about Haydn, but I have read a lot about Mozart. He had a wicked and sometimes toilet sense of humour, but when he spoke about music and his belief in God he was all seriousness and reverence. He still considered himself a devout Catholic although he was a freemason. This wasn’t uncommon thinking at the time for Catholics. It just took a while for it to “catch on”, so to speak. We have to remember that things worked much slower back then, than it does today - even in the Church, such as taking centuries to realize that a tritone wasn’t going to conjure up the devil. If it took that long, I think we can give all those Catholics in the 18th century some leeway and forgiveness for not picking up on the freemasonry issue right away.

Not all instruments. Certain instruments were banned, to be sure, because they believed these instruments did have roots in paganism or just in secular music in general. That’s why early church music was only for voice. Organs were accepted into the liturgy until about the late 1300s/early 1400s - also around the same time that polyphony was starting to be accepted for mass, but it was around during the 1100s and holy men and religious back then decried it even for listening to it for pleasure in a secular way because they believe it incited lust and other unsavory things - much like how people found rock music in the 1950s. It wasn’t until Guillaume de Machaut in the mid 1300s totally refined polyphony enough that it could be acceptable as sacred music in liturgy. Before that it sounded too “secular” and the pop music of their time.

Again, to me it appears that any time something was introduced into the mass, it would stick around in the beginning - in its original form. (That’s how polyphony got into the mass). Various popes during that time, will either look the other way, or speak out against it. Then eventually a proper and formal “proclamation” will officially either ban it until it can be properly “refined” or allow it.

You don’t sound like an elitist snob at all. You feel deeply, as I do with this kind of music, and unfortunately we are sometimes misunderstood as being elitist by people who don’t really know you, because there are people out there who truly are arrogant elitists and give the majority of classical musicians and classical music lovers bad names. But you will also find that in reverse snobbery as well. They’re on both sides of the coin and they are just as bad. Neither is right and wish that people can appreciate and enjoy many forms of music.

That said, although I enjoy many forms of music, I do believe in appropriate music for liturgy and what the Church accepts and rejects as acceptable. And as much as some people do not like it when others start to criticize any of the newer types of music coming into the liturgy, we actually need those people. Those kinds of people were around for centuries, which would help prompt the Church to evaluate what was going on in terms of the art being used for in their churches and liturgies. If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t have had such a rich history and repertoire of sacred music.

P.S. Since you’re a Beethoven fan, I thought you’d like this quote of his:
“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” And how true it is!!!

Arguing (or debating) about what the best music (or insert other subjective content here) is, is like arguing about what the best color is.:smiley:

and of course one of the best things in this thread is that Beethoven basically was the rock music of his time…

I do love Beethoven’s music though, I appreciate it all but find myself listening to more Chopin and Scriabin than anyone else. Although these phases of intense interest in just a couple composers often rotates through my whole collection. Sometimes it’s intense Liszt focused, next thing I am all about Vivaldi or Bach.:shrug:

Yes and no. Of course, in subjective terms you really can’t debate most art forms. It is a matter of taste. In technical terms, though, it can be debated. For instance, a jazz or classically trained musician can usually play rock music fairly easily, while a rock musician, who never had much in music lessons, wouldn’t be able to play Barrios Mangore’s original guitar compositions or his guitar transcriptions of other composers. To subjectively say that their works are “better” than a rock song, is just that - a subjective opinion. And people can debate till they’re blue in the face about why it is better, but they will have a hard time in convincing the other side. People can’t help what they like. I love the band, U2. Although I know that Bono really doesn’t have a good voice and is pretty much horrible when I hold him up against someone like my favorite tenor, Placido Domingo, and although I know that their music writing isn’t genius or even remotely close to what Beethoven composed, I can’t help but really like the band and like Bono. That’s me with my subjective idea. But in terms of debating the technical aspects of a piece, it is possible especially if people on both sides know enough theory and performing techniques of western music (which rock and western art music is).

And that’s the thing - the Popes are much like us when it comes to subjective and objective terms of music.

Well, no. During his day, the folk songs, pub songs and other popular melodies you’d hear in the streets, were actually the “rock” songs of the day. Even in that time, they were considered “common art” music. Beethoven’s music during his life was still considered high art music and some people even at that time and before, as there is today, had a “reverse snobbery” towards it. Benjamin Franklin, for instance. Although he wasn’t around during Beethoven’s jewel years, when Franklin was in London and Paris and was able to hear the beloved high art music of the day with Handel, Gluck, etc. (all of the same genre as Beethoven, just at an earlier time), he was totally turned off to it. Thought it was a high-falut’n type of music and was proud to be considered a “philistine” as some people thought of him. But the man had enough charisma to allow everyone to overlook his “philistine” tendencies.

That all said, in terms of celebrity status, Beethoven certainly did have something equal to the celebrity status of a beloved rock star. And I’d say Liszt even more so was a true “celebrity” in that regard. Overdramatic, big, sexually attractive to the ladies, a humanitarian of his day, women were his major “vice”. He was so religious, but just had a hard time keeping it in his pants. But still, his music would have still been considered the high art music of his time and not the “popular” music. Actually these composers would many times take a pop/folk melody and then incorporate into their classical compositions.

That isn’t unusual. My husband and I own an enormous collection of classical, opera, early music, rock music, celtic, you name it. We rotate all the time. Liszt is one of my husband’s favorites as well. We have a portrait of his hanging on the wall watching over our piano, he likes him so much. hahaha! :smiley: When I try to play the only piece I ever learned of his, “Consolation No. 3” I imagine him looking down at me and telling me that I’m such an embarrassment. I do this laughing because I know how horrible of a pianist I am. But I do sing his art songs pretty well. :slight_smile: So, hopefully, he’s smiling from the painting when I practice them. hee! hee!

Wow, Sarabande, you said a lot of useful stuff! Thanks! :thumbsup:

haha! You’re welcome! As you can tell, I’m really passionate about this stuff, and I probably know more and share more than I should. :stuck_out_tongue: Whenever I’m passionate about anything, I always overdo it with imparting too much info and possibly jam too much information into my friends’/family’s heads. :smiley:

Yes, he is. If anything it’s Beethoven who is beginning to move into Romanticism. The “classical” period in the strictest sense was pretty short.

but I prefer Mozart.

Mozart is actually the Pope’s favorite composer, I believe. And he was Karl Barth’s as well. That’s two of the best theologians of the 20th century agreeing with you!


so is the popes reasoning behind why we shouldnt listen to rock music like only cuz he doesnt like it

i dont think so

why did he make such a bold statement on something so many people love?

Again, these kinds of statements regarding music is nothing new for our popes. If the Pope did say that he believed rock music is the work of Satan, he probably does believe that. Does it mean it is? Maybe, maybe not - it all depends on how individuals take it in (just like in any form of music.) Has he banned it for Catholics? No. He has stated his opinion, though, which is up to Catholics to discern for themselves.

Remember, as I stated in my previous posts, we’ve had popes ban polyphony for mass and the usage of the tritone. The tritone because it was believed at the time that it was the Devil’s Chord and could possibly conjure Satan. Polyphony, because at the time, it had a much more secular feel to the rendering of the music, which was believed would incite lust and lascivious behaviour and also because many times polyphonic music used tritones. Now, we are permitted to use both in sacred and secular music. They realized that the tritone won’t conjure the Devil and that people were able to refine polyphony in such a way that it would be acceptable in sacred worship. (And although I love listening to polyphony, I think I’m safe to say that the majority of people today would not be incited to think lustful thoughts when listening to polyphonic music today. They probably weren’t even back then. But anyone can turn something beautiful or good into something bad or perverted.)

Pope Benedict hasn’t placed an official ban on rock music that I know of. Although if he truly believes that this form of music is of the Devil, then perhaps we’ll be hearing about a ban of religious rock music being used either for outside of mass or in liturgy. (Actually, I read an article 2006 that apparently had the Pope calling for an end to rock music in mass. The title uses the word “ban”, but the article goes on saying that he called for an end to it. If he did ban it for mass, I haven’t seen any action. I personally don’t think rock music is appropriate for mass, either, but I’ve never read anything that officially stated the Pope actually banned it for mass yet.) I have never read anything official about the Pope’s statement on his beliefs regarding rock music in general, or at least the complete statement not taken out of context. All I have seen is one quote with rock music being the “instrument of the devil”, and then I’ve seen another quote with him singling out heavy metal as devil music - not all rock music. I would prefer to read or listen to his entire statement in context.

You are exactly right. Do you know what, it was Beethoven’s piano sonata no. 17 that brought me as close to God as I am now. Listen to it- you might understand. Some do and some don’t. I’m so glad I do!:harp::yup:


BTW, I didn’t mean that “some do and some don’t” in a snobbish way, I was just stating a fact- the majority of my friends who are all in their teens would hate Beethoven. But that’s pretty much all that’s on my iPod:blush:!
haha I never let anyone see my iPod- not because I’m ashamed, but I can’t handle any more “yuk, classical music” when they don’t know anything about it.

Here is Cardinal Arinze addressing the subject of rock music in worship:

For anyone curious enough to read about rock music, it’s history and what many of the musicians have to say about it’s occultism, a great book to read is:

“Can We Rock the Gospel?” It is much more than just the CCM movement. It will definitely shake you up in your beliefs about the harmless-ness of rock music and it’s other derivatives. Rock was born out of the Blues. Very, very good book. Please look it up and buy it or see if you can get from a library. But I think every single Christian (especially those with kids) NEEDS to read this book!!! I personally don’t even believe it is for entertainment any more, either. Has nothing to do with the words but the beat of the music and how it affects the human brain.

The challenge is on . . . . I would love to hear from some of you after reading the book.

In joy,

Laura J

I do not think that you have the right intepretation of whfat Pope John Paul II noted on music. Please read his Chirograph on Sacred Music, an official document that he wrote in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Motu Propio on Sacred Music written by Pope St. Pius X:

  1. On various occasions I too have recalled the precious role and great importance of music and song for a more active and intense participation in liturgical celebrations[9]. I have also stressed the need to “purify worship from ugliness of style, from distasteful forms of expression, from uninspired musical texts which are not worthy of the great act that is being celebrated”[10], to guarantee dignity and excellence to liturgical compositions.

In this perspective, in the light of the Magisterium of St Pius X and my other Predecessors and taking into account in particular the pronouncements of the Second Vatican Council, I would like to re-propose several fundamental principles for this important sector of the life of the Church, with the intention of ensuring that liturgical music corresponds ever more closely to its specific function.

  1. In continuity with the teachings of St Pius X and the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary first of all to emphasize that music destined for sacred rites must have holiness as its reference point: indeed, “sacred music increases in holiness to the degree that it is intimately linked with liturgical action”[11]. For this very reason, “not all without distinction that is outside the temple (profanum) is fit to cross its threshold”, my venerable Predecessor Paul VI wisely said, commenting on a Decree of the Council of Trent[12]. And he explained that “if music - instrumental and vocal - does not possess at the same time the sense of prayer, dignity and beauty, it precludes the entry into the sphere of the sacred and the religious”[13]. Today, moreover, the meaning of the category “sacred music” has been broadened to include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself.

St Pius X’s reform aimed specifically at purifying Church music from the contamination of profane theatrical music that in many countries had polluted the repertoire and musical praxis of the Liturgy. In our day too, careful thought, as I emphasized in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, should be given to the fact that not all the expressions of figurative art or of music are able “to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church’s faith”[14]. Consequently, not all forms of music can be considered suitable for liturgical celebrations.

  1. Another principle, affirmed by St Pius X in the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini and which is closely connected with the previous one, is that of sound form. There can be no music composed for the celebration of sacred rites which is not first of all “true art” or which does not have that efficacy “which the Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her Liturgy the art of musical sounds”[15].

He was not advocating the use of every conceivable form of music for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He was not advocating leaving the barn door open to let everything inside. As he noted, when quoting his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, not everything is suitable for crossing the threshold."

Now, this is what Pope Benedict XVI said as Cardinal Ratzinger:

Then there are two developments in music itself that have their origins primarily in the West but that for a long time have affected the whole of mankind in the world culture that is being formed. Modern so-called “classical” music has maneuvered itself, with some exceptions, into an elitist ghetto, which only specialists may enter – and even they do so with what may sometimes be mixed feelings. The music of the masses has broken loose from this and treads a very different path.

On the one hand, there is pop music, which is certainly no longer supported by the people in the ancient sense (populus). It is aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. “Rock”, on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit’s sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments.

Both Popes were referring to the type of music used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Now, I love listening to Duran Duran; however, I am not in favor of having their particular genre used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I am sure that there are U2 fans out there who love their style of music; however, it is not fitting for the Mass, no matter how much of a “spiritual feel” people may think that Bono’s music has.

I don’t believe rock music is appropriate for mass either and believe it is a secular style that has not been refined to be used for liturgy. (I personally believe that rock music cannot be refined to the point that can be used for liturgy without changing the entire style. Therefore, it would no longer be rock music, and what would be the point to those who actually want it.) At the same time, we have to remember that polyphony was also once considered a secular style of music which the popes and the people of the time believed that the way secular polyphony was performed, it incited lust and other immoral activities - and thus official bans were made against listening to and performing it. I wrote a little about the history of it on this thread and other threads.

My point in this post was in response to the original question, and to show that these statements regarding music has occurred over the centuries. Bans were made when it was thought to be too immoral or the conjuring up of Satan. Popes/Bishops/Priests/lay people have argued over the appropriateness/morality/immorality of certain styles of music for mass (and even outside of mass) throughout the centuries. I’m sure that if the Pope did believe this music was the “devil’s music” he would place a ban on it - especially at mass, like past popes have done with other forms of music. Although I have read many things about why rock music isn’t appropriate for mass and about what should be appropriate music for mass, I do not know of any official bans on rock music. If there is one on rock music, I do know that it would make life a bit easier for many of the church music directors I know. BUT, like in the past, I also know that there would be people who’d ignore the ban and do what they want. That’s what they did with polyphony before it was refined and permitted at mass.

I haven’t read the book and would be interested in reading it. But the “beat” of music is nothing more than what you would hear on a metronome - tick, tick, tick, tick. EVERY form of music has this and does not change, except for how fast or how slow you take the beat. What did the author of the book mean by “beat”? Did he/she mean the various rhythms?

This will get long as I take from the book. The info and history and the studies are so extensive and I’m going to try and summarize key points. I’m typing straight from the book:

In 2006, the "All Music Guide" listed no less than 187 variations of rock music, grouped under 12 main headings:

(I won’t list these and it’s not that important but on page 52 of the aforementioned book.)

One of the basic characteristics of rock music is constant repetition . . . repetition of chord patterns, beat, a narrow range of notes or a rhythmic figure. …

This insistent repetition immediately raises warning flags about the suitability of rock music in worship or evangelism because constant repetition has a hypnotic effect. Mickey Hart, formerly of Grateful Dead, has made the study of drumming his life’s work. In his book “Drumming at the Edge of Magic” he explores the impact of drumming on people’s spiritual lives and writes:

“Drumming is made for trance and for ecstatic states. The basis of percussion is redundancy and redundancy is the basis of trance.”

Professor Wm Shafer: “What is undeniablel about rock is its hypnotic power . . . .”

Dr. Granville Knight:
“There is no question in my mind about the hypnotic effect of these songs.”

Dr. W.J. Bryan: “children are being hypnotized without their knowledge . . .”

In the course of his specialized study on hypnosis, Andrew Salter indicated that “rock music is an ideal vehicle for individual or mass hypnosis.”

(still from the book and this is more direct to your question)

As with constant repetition, a driving beat is an indispensable ingredient of rock. The backbeat is one kind of drum groove; it’s the ESSENTIAL one for rock and roll; wrote Mickey Hart. This rhythm technique sounds a strong accent on the 2nd and 4th beats (or the backbeats) in a 4/4 time and is usually played on a snare drum. The tension between the normally much stronger first and third beats (the downbeats) and the backbeats creates the interest. This distincive rhythmic style emerged in the late nineteen-forties in rhythm and blues recordings and is the backbone of rock and roll music, used today in virtually all pop music. . . .

Since drums are primarily rhythm instruments, “They affect the body directly,” says Don Saliers, professor of theology and worship. "They are somatic (affecting the body as opposed to the mind or spirit) in that sense.

Russian composer Igor Stravinsky: * “Rhythm doesn’t really exist (in rock), because no rhythmic proportion or relaxation exists.” * There is evidence to suggest that when the beat overrides the other elements in a song the communication level is significantly changed to one which is primarily physical and often specifically sexual.

In his book “New Singer, New Song” David Winter openly admits that 'An incessant beat does erode a sense of responsibility in much the same way as alcohol does . . .

[end book quotes]

This is just a teensy sampling of history and stuff from the book. Highly recommend reading the book at which time you can conclude on your own how you feel about rock (in any form as there are many). I think we all agree it is completely inappropriate in worship and after reading this book you can see how alarming the huge growth of the mega-churches really is. Sheep led to slaughter. But you will also have to decide on your own if you are going to listen to it even for “entertainment” value.

Hope this helps. I know it’s probably way more info than you asked for ! Sorry!

Thanks for your in depth reply. :slight_smile: From on the quotes you printed, I believe I see what the author (or the people he was quoting) was trying to say. Based on those quotes, I can say this…

People misuse the word beat to imply the tempo, percussion timbre, and the base “ground” of rock music all of the time - which appears to be the case with some of the people quoted in regards to the word “beat”. We have a friend who always jokes with his students when they say the song has a good beat, by slapping his knee and singing Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nacht Musik” to the same tempo. I’ve done similar things with my own students when I used to teach music. By that logic, anything that has a “driving” beat could be considered wrong or any kind of music is great music because it has a “good beat”.

It seems as if the author was trying to argue that the actual beats and rhythms of the music is wrong. The components of music aren’t bad by themselves and cannot be used as an argument against the music itself. The works of Palestrina and Tallis have more syncopation than rock music. J.S. Bach has been considered the grandfather of Jazz because of his complicated syncopated rhythms. Yet there is no question that their music is considered appropriate either for mass or for pure entertainment value. The use of back beats is not necessarily bad either. The masters included hemiola all of the time, which has also been used in rock music. Basically, if the fundamental components are used as an argument for or against a style of music, it would make it seem as if all music is equal, which the Church has said, herself, that this is not the case.

It is no secret that rock music is meant to be repetitive and redundant. That is the style so that it can be catchy and be memorable and perhaps hypnotic. It is usually not supposed to be super complex. I tend to listen to rock music when I don’t feel like thinking too much because it is just simple and non-complex music. There is nothing really that compositionally “cool” or “interesting” in most of the music. I just like it for what it is. I suppose people can make the argument that my own personal reasoning should make it wrong to listen to it. I guess in terms of not using my brain I would agree with not encouraging that kind of music alone for a person’s development. But is rock necessarily immoral to listen to? If you listen to many early sacred works, they also can have a hypnotic and meditative effect, including and especially chant, which is a purpose of chanting. I have gotten lost in a meditative state from hearing chant numerous times. Many of the simple hymns (old and new) and regional folk song melodies also are similarily repetitive and redundant. In regards to the “driving beat”, I think I understand what the author was trying to say there. I believe he is talking about how an instrument will take over as the audible beat of a song, to help keep the other musicians in time or for an effect with the music. That said, there are many sacred compositions which contain similar things. For example, you can hear it in “Crucifixus” from Bach’s b-minor mass. There is a “driving beat”.

I suppose I would have to read the whole book to really see what the author is trying to theorize. But to me, I think the main thing is how that music is rendered rather than the actual musical components, paired with the intent behind the music. That is what makes a piece of music inappropriate or appropriate for liturgy. I think this is what the Popes and the Church have been doing for centuries as well. Thanks again for sharing.

The problem I have with the argument ljsedivy reports (and repeats) is that it assumes a very middle-class white Protestant view of worship, whereby worship is all about intellectual contemplation and mustn’t involve the body or an ecstatic state. Too much of Western Catholicism has bought into this as well (and admittedly the Orthodox are extremely conservative culturally in terms of what kinds of ecstasy or bodily movements they allow). But I don’t see any Biblical basis for this, and I think that Christian Tradition points in a different direction, although in practice the influence of Platonism has no doubt led us to play down the incarnational nature of our worship.

I don’t like rock music in worship, but that’s largely because I don’t like rock music that much in any context. I don’t think music that causes our bodies to move is bad. Nor, surely, would any Catholic say that repetition is bad!


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