Some of the most advanced thinkers in the world of music and liturgy have long identified the critical problem in Catholic music today. They have pointed out that the Mass itself provides for the texts and the music for the Mass, but in the General Instruction on on the Roman Missal, there appears a loophole. Musicians can sing what is appointed, or (“option 4”) they can sing something else, and that something else is limited only by what the musicians themselves deem as “appropriate.” What this has meant, in effect, is: anything goes. This is why it often seems that when it comes to music at Mass that, well, anything goes.Read the whole thing. And, like I said, do NOT miss the comment section.
I’m happy to report that the legislative ground has just shifted, and dramatically so. The new translation of the General Instruction removes the discretion from the music team to sing pretty much whatever it wants. The new text, which pertains to the new translation of the Missal that comes into effect on Advent this year, makes it clear beyond any doubt: the music of the Mass is the chanted propers of the Mass. There are options but these options all exist within the universe of the primary normative chant. There can be no more making up some random text, setting it to music, and singing it as the entrance, offertory, or communion.
I have no doubt that the practice of singing non-liturgical texts will continue but it will now continue only under a cloud. If I’m reading this correctly, any text other than an appointed text for the Mass will now fall outside the boundaries provided for by the authoritative document that regulates the manner in which Mass is to proceed.
Why not? Because David Haas (yes, as far as I know, that David Haas) weighs in, with comments like this one:
Dear Transitional Deacon.. there is so much to respond to here, I do not even know where to begin. Perhaps (although all scholars do not agree on this), some of the cantillation patterns go back to the "time of Our Lord." But this still does not prove or imply that these are "embedded in the Roman Rite." In terms of "songs" in today's hymnals being more or not so, keeping with the continuity of the early Church - well, certainly not in terms of genre/style, but YES, in terms of it being music that the community SINGS. I am not sure what your snicker is in terms of my remark about Greek, but the liturgy was in Greek for sometime. Also, it is rather insulting to our Protestant brothers and sisters to refer to their music as "easier, quicker to compose, quicker to teach." Unbelievable. Your claim that the GIRM is undeniably sturdy in stating what is "desirable" in the options. Even if GIRM was so undeniably firm in its wanting "propers only," - then, why did/do they allow for other options? There is no loophole here.. there are options, and there is no rubric or directive admonishing the reader to have a "hierarchical" approach to clarify these documents. Focus on "objectively" what is more "edifying and helpful to the soul?' Where do ANY of us come off telling the People of God, who by the way, have their own spiritual stories and journeys, that one style of music is "objectively more edifying and helpful to the soul?" Are we that arrogant, and that disrespectful of our people - thinking that we know what edifies their soul, and what does not? Geez.....Respectfully, Mr. Haas--if that is, indeed, Mr. Haas--what if my spiritual story and journey is such that if I ever have to sing or listen to "Song of the Body of Christ" again I will probably start bleeding from my ears? The problem with having an "anything goes" style of liturgical music is that the People of God end up being held hostage to musical pablum and happy-clappy would-be pop tunes of no relevance whatsoever to people's lives or journeys for 40 plus years. I'd much rather believe that the Church has spent centuries developing a style of music especially suited to the Mass than believe that syrupy showtunes and "Look at us, now, aren't we special," lyrics are the best we can offer to God each Sunday.
Readers: I have a feeling these kinds of comment box exchanges are the precursors to a looming battle over liturgical music that will yet be waged, probably in the wake of the new translation of the Mass. Stay tuned.