Musical genre and liturgical function

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CHGiffen
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Musical genre and liturgical function

Post by CHGiffen » 31 Jan 2010 02:17

There has been some discussion at ChoralWiki about such things as "motet" versus "hymn". Because mention of these issues is spread across several pages there, I am opening this topic, hoping that it will receive a wider audience so that we might benefit from what others think.

To see what has already been discussed most recently, I am reproducing some of the discussion from Talk:A solis ortus (Gilles Binchois).
To Hymn or not to Hymn?

I'm not so sure I agree with reclassifying this to motet. perhaps adding to classification so it could be grouped with motets and hymns depending on the search. The text is a poem, all editions on CPDL are classified as a hymn and hymns were quite specifically defined in the Liber Usualis, distinctly different from graduals, responsories etc. The category which defines them is the text and liturgical application, not the type of setting. i have returned the page to its former version. Marchesa 08:43, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
Reply by: Vaarky] 04:45, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
This should at least show up under Motet and perhaps also Hymn, but not only Hymn. Here's my thinking.

Someone looking for this sacred polyphonic Renaissance composition in Latin (even if its text is from the Liber Usualis) would look for a Renaissance motet, not a hymn, especially when they see that there is an option for Renaissance and motet in the Multiple Category Search function. Nobody talks of Renaissance hymns. Similarly, someone looking for Tudor Anthems would look for Anthems. Since the specific category exists for Motet or Anthem, it would not occur to most users that they do not have complete results and should re-run the query using Hymn as a variant. Using the more generic Hymn instead of the more specific terms such as Motet or Anthem guts these more specific genres of their usefulness.

So I think it needs to at least include the more specific genre, possibly also in addition to Hymn if we want to convey some kind of broad information about liturgical function for people who want to request all Hymn texts, regardless of whether they are a Renaissance motet or not.

What do you and/or others think of this reasoning? -- Vaarky 04:45, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
Reply by: Chuck Giffen 04:54, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
Actually, not all editions of settings of this text are classified as hymns. The 3vv Binchois (also a setting of the first stanza) is classified as a motet. The closest to being a setting of the complete hymn text is the Palestrina, which sets stanzas 1,3,5,7 with the stanzas 2,4,6,8 left to be sung in chant. The Coclico also sets only the first stanza. My personal opinion is that a single stanza setting is better styled as a motet than a hymn, although the longer Palestrina setting (with the even stanzas sung in chant) might also seem to be more of a motet because of its multipart (actually multistanza) nature. Originally, I classified (my edition of) the Palestrina as both a motet and a hymn, while I classified (my edition of) the 3vv Binchois as a motet.
Reply by: Paul Marchesano 29 January 2010
I frankly agree that it should be classified in both categories. Since the aim here is to make things easily and most findable by people who search in a myriad of ways, there is no harm in listing it in both categories. I will add hymn to the already listed categories so it turns up in lists of both.
Reply by: joachim 13:18, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
I've been trying to get a discussion started on the forums and some talk pages about these cats, as yet to no avail, so I'm happy to see a start here. We classify (some) scores according to their liturgical season, although no-one would argue that any concert program based on other criteria might use pieces randomly without taking that particular characteristic into account. I think the same reasoning should apply to liturgical use: regardless of how and when you sing it, there is still an 'official' qualification as to its role in liturgy. A gradual is not an introit or a hymn, and vice versa. The Liber is a valid source of information in this respect. The mere fact that a piece is shortened does not alter its function. The problem with 'motet' is of course that basically, any polyphonic work in Latin would answer to this definition. Since its related search terms (renaissance and Latin) are still valid characteristics, but do not by far cover the ins and outs of a particular text, I would favour labelling pieces under multiple categories.
Reply by: Chuck Giffen 17:28, 29 January 2010 (UTC
Hi joachim. ... I'm guessing that what we have here is the contrast between musical genre (musical) and liturgical function (textual) which also have some overlap, at least some of which may be due to having tried to cram the liturgical function of the text into the shoe that is musical genre. Moreover, while the Liber is valid for works of its period, liturgical reforms and other sects (eg. protestant, reformation, Eastern rites) add to the confusion in some cases. Hymns have a particularly confusing meaning, depending upon ones perspective and historical era. I would indeed like to see a deeper discussion of this. As a point of discussion, I'm wondering if (for sacred works) there should be a separate Liturgical use (or function) classification that is apart from the (musical) Genre. I hope we might make this discussion more widely accessible, perhaps in the forums, as joachim mentioned. ...
Last edited by CHGiffen on 31 Jan 2010 02:27, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: reproduce emphasis
Charles H. Giffen
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joachim
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Re: Musical genre and liturgical function

Post by joachim » 31 Jan 2010 12:26

A couple of thoughts on these liturgical categories:
* the category 'liturgical music' seems obsolete to me. I'd be hard-pressed, as I think would others, to explain the difference between the genre 'sacred' and the cat 'liturgical'. By way of an analogy: if you tell someone that a particular object is a book, do you really need to specify it contains words? Sacred music by definition is meant for worship, isn't it? Secondly, the term 'liturgy' is ambiguous, since in orthodox terminology, it refers to the eucharist (albeit with a capital), whereas in other denomiations, it may just as well refer to the divine office.
* as far as genre is concerned: I think we ought to stick to the 'role' the piece might play in the particular liturgical setting it was devised for - I fail to see how the lenght of text, the number of stanzas or other criteria might be of any use in that respect, especially since variable length is just a basic characteristic of liturgical music. Hence: 'Puer natus' is an introit, 'A solus' is a hymn, 'Haec dies' is a gradual, 'Magnificat' is a canticle, etc. If and when texts re-occur throughout the liturgical year (as they frequently do in plainchant repertoire), we just add appropriate categories. In the best of worlds, additional information would then be listed as to the various roles the piece might have.
* the term 'motet' is a difficult one. On the one hand, it obviously overlaps with a piece being labelled as 'Latin', 'Renaissance' and 'voicing', which would make it more or less obsolete. On the other hand, there is the odd chance that a particular piece might be difficult to label as a genre, as would be the case with gospel texts such as this one. Since the gospel isn't part of 'normal' choir repertoire, it could not be labelled with an appropriate liturgical category. 'Motet', in that case, might be as close as it gets.

joachim

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Re: Musical genre and liturgical function

Post by vaarky » 31 Jan 2010 16:36

If there are pieces for which only "motet" is appropriate, then I think it creates confusion to have the category exist and yet to not get complete search results when you input Renaissance motet in the multi-category search, esp. because CPDL applies motet to so many Renaissance pieces already that would arguably fall into some of the other categories mentioned here but have not been classified that way.

If we apply motet to pieces that are only motets and not able to be categorized in some other way, we'd need to make this very clear, at search and at addscore dropdown creation, and we'd still get people editing wiki pages by hand who would add motet when a piece would fit only into some other liturgical-function category if we treat the terms exclusively.

CHGiffen
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Re: Musical genre and liturgical function

Post by CHGiffen » 31 Jan 2010 16:42

H joachim,

In my thoughts expressed above, I take the view that Liturgical use is a characteristic (actually of the text of a work) much like Genre is a characteristic (of the music). Hence, just as Genre is described by various categories (motet, anthem, chorale, hymn, etc.), Liturgical use should be described by various categories (introit, gradual, sequence, etc.). So I am somewhat in disagreement with your thoughts about (musical) genre (in fact, I guess I take the opposite viewpoint). I think you are trying to use "genre" for something non-musical (what I am calling "liturgical use" or "liturgical function").

Hence, to avoid confusion (and fit with what I think is the best description), I have proposed keeping "Genre" as musical genre while using the term "Liturgical use" for what you might wish to call textual genre or liturgical genre (although neither of these are terms I've heard or seen before). To me, as a church musician (among other things), genre has always referred almost exclsively to the music but not to the text (and its place in the liturgy). Yet, perhaps others have a completely different viewpoint to share.

I do agree that Liturgical music is probably an inapt category, given that one already has the Sacred music category.

I have found numerous works classified (or even declared by their composers) to be "motets" even though they are not necessarily Latin, Renaissance, a cappella. One example is Everett Titcomb's charming collection of motets for the church year (including the wonderful "I will not leave you comfortless" and "Christ our Passover"). I have called some of my works motets (eg. "Pange lingua", "Tangum ergo", "Creator of the stars of night"). I hope I'm not a heretic for doing so!!

Obviously, there is plenty of food for thought here.

Best wishes,

Chuck
Charles H. Giffen
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Re: Musical genre and liturgical function

Post by marchesa » 31 Jan 2010 21:16

I would like to take a stab at some things here, albeit not in any particular order or ranking. This can be a confusing and/or applicable/inapplicable problem, depending on the denomination, usage setting (concert, church service [i.e., nondenominational, liturgical, non-liturgical, etc.], traditional Roman Catholic Mass [i.e., Tridentine Rite or Extraordinary Form], etc.). In the end, it becomes a discussion of cataloging, classification and search standards. Not an easy topic as people have varying viewpoints on these and librarians and cataloging experts often disagree. So, my point in starting this discussion was to inspire an agreement for a creation of a CPDL category and search standard that could be implemented to guide new contributions and to possibly apply a bot or volunteers to systematically revise several contribution pages. We have issues about pages, opus lists, lists of compositions to deal with as well which are dealt with in other discussions.
I do agree that Liturgical music is probably an inapt category, given that one already has the Sacred music category.
For my part, I agree strongly with the above statement. Essentially Sacred Music captures all of Liturgical Music. I also agree with Chuck that it is a matter of genre versus application. I'd like to suggest renaming Liturgical Music to another category with subsections: Liturgical Use: Introit Gradual Offertory Hymn etc. All things categorized Liturgical Music be recategorized Motet. They have already been categorized Sacred Music. Since we have electronic searching with so many variants and browsing options possible, this delivers the greatest results for the broadest searches. Most people do not in fact search for a "hymn" or a "motet" if they are stuck looking for a piece of music to use for a church service or concert they are planning. But it can be useful to search, say, for French Romantic composers who set gradual texts. Motet has been applied in modern usage to several languages. Anthem still seems to imply "English" although in modern use it seems a moot point and essentially can be identical to motet for a newer composition. This is not a small undertaking, but it will clarify genre vs. usage or application and will lend greater flexibility to CPDL searching capability.

Briefly, in response to Joachim, for some people "liturgical" may be out of date or inappropriate, but for now, there are still very many people employed in liturgical[-style] churches where the usage of a text is important because of how it fits in the service, or how applicable it is to the assigned readings of the day.

All of this is in addition to regular searching. I may be incorrect, but I believe most people search CPDL either by composer name or by, at least keywords if not the complete, title of a piece. Most people know what text they are looking for, and are often looking for another setting to use or to see which settings exist of which they were not aware.

Cheers,

Paul

joachim
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Re: Musical genre and liturgical function

Post by joachim » 01 Feb 2010 08:09

Hi Chuck and others

When I was in college, the most feared and hated course was 'Introduction to the Principles of Automated Semantics' - basically a course where you learnt the definition of 'definition'. I flunked it, and have hated semantics ever since, which probably explains why I'm having a hard time understanding some of the concepts launched in this discussion. :D

I'm afraid I'm finding the proposed division unsatisfactory. Liturgical function is defined by the lyrics, genre by musical characteristics, if I understand correctly. Surely that means that all pre-1700 music would be labelled as 'motet', since I can't think of any valuable technical analysis that would distinguish Victoria's Aurea luce (a hymn) from his Tradiderunt me (a responsory) in musical terms. And if we go on to extend the 'motet'-concept to contemporary settings, as you have done, that expands the concept to an extent where it becomes unworkable in my view. What purpose could it serve to have 'motet' as a search term when it yields half the database as results, covering all texts, all eras, all languages...?

Moreover, I'd disagree with the text=function idea. Apart from the obvious ones such as "Resurrexi" for Easter, there are hundreds of examples in Mass and Office where texts are recycled throughout the church year. Besides, musical structure also defines functions: an antiphon with a single psalm verse set in solemn tone can only be an introit, never a Tract, to give but one example.

If we do want to categorize sacred music based on musical elements (which I think we don't, since 'era', 'voicing' and 'instrumentation' usually cover that aspect fairly satisfactorily), I'd be interested to learn what other cats apart from motet we ought to introduce, not to mention the musical technicalities that would need to be considered when applying those cats to pieces.

Cordially

Joachim

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