As the decline continues its downward trend, there follows the cheap musical material adapted under the pretext of “folk traditions” (which in actual fact are known very little, or only superficially). I explain in the last chapter of this book that the melodies in the actual “folk tradition” consist chiefly of secular musical material or – in the best cases – paraliturgical popular repertory. The number of surviving ethno-musicological remains or “relics” which meet the standards governing liturgical use, is insignificant. But deep and careful analysis of such musical data can indeed call our attention to certain “universal” musical factors, attitudes and archaic forms, which can also be instructive for church music.

Finally, the principle of alius cantus aptus has opened the door to light or beat music, which at first was used only as a means of religious propaganda (similar to the usage of some sects), and then gradually penetrated into the liturgy itself. It should have been clear to everyone that we are dealing with secular music here, something far beneath the level of verae artis formas (SC 112), and with texts theologically cheap (if not heterodox) and independent of the message of the liturgy. The only argument brought forth by its advocates, is its attractiveness to some groups of young people. But if the majestic principles of the Conciliar Constitution and the post-conciliar Instruction (both of which call for a music worthy of the sacred precincts of the chuch, worthy of the heritage of the past, etc.) did not, even in this instance, supply motives for the prohibition of secular music, then we are quite right in saying that the ringing phrases of ecclesiastical documents have no regulative force and indeed, no meaning at all.

I have yet to hear any protest by ecclesiastical authorities against this destruction of sacred music, this abandonment of the musical dimensions of the liturgical renewal. And yet one reads glowing reports about how good and warm-fuzzy even the very highest prelates feel today at hearing the juvenile music which resounds in the Masses of young people! Such is the real value of the vague “principles” which do not go beyond quaedam sanctissima verba, venerable but absolutely ineffective verbiage. This is the ultimate logical consequence of article 32 in Musicam sacram, and of those four small innocent words in the Missale Romanum: “vel alius cantus aptus.”

Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003)


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