Blog #5

These two Masses present a different theological understanding of worship because as we listen to them, we notice elements such as polyphony or chant or other materialities of music that make themselves manifest to us and open us up to the presence of God where space allows us to encounter him and all his glory. Specifically, in Missa De Sanctis — Lord, Have Mercy, we hear the unison at first then a repetition of “Lord, have mercy” and it slowly tapers off. This leaves space for the music and loudness to grow and enter this divine space of God and Christ respectfully but also showing this religious stuttering. This stutter occurs because our voice is naked to God and the very fact that we are singing to him, we know it’s a big ordeal and not something to be taken lightly. It is done with respect and awe that is made manifest through the tension and release of the music, the melody, and pitch, how loud the voices get at the end, the speed, etc. The materiality of the music is made manifest in God’s presence and allows us to feel his presence and be overtaken by it. In Holy, Holy, the pitch towards the end gets quieter but more powerful as they sing “highest”, emphasizing God’s great presence but they slowly build and lead up to it at the end showing a release from the tension that was built up throughout the song. That respectful and slowly inching pitch raise signifies getting closer to God and the struggle/transformation towards the end of the song when we hear a sense of relief. The words together with the music help distinguish meaning such as singing louder with “highest”.

In Missa Wellensis, John Tavener, we hear a slow entrance into getting loud, and then it goes back down to being quieter, almost with less force and voices, and then goes back up again with his back and forth of power and slowly tapers off. There are also little whispers of breath in between showing this stutter again as they sing before God. The harmonies add layers to the song and show this slight progression towards God throughout hearing it. At the end of it, we hear only female voices where they change from note to note in a back and forth the manner and then slowly descend in the same pitch showing this change again and transformation before God, then male voices enter alone singing softly and rising slowly. They are live waves, flowing back and forth laying on top of each other and coming together at the end for this grand resolution after tension between both parts. They hint there is an end approaching to feel complete bring closure. Like Begbie argued, the music and its materiality with the notes, pitch, melody, rhythm, and meter, is playful in a serious manner that is brought from disorder to order when put together and allows for the worship of God. It isn’t for the purpose of escapism, rather it receives back time and we are able to dwell with God when the two: music and time are brought together.

These masses help the human person understand oneself in the relationship to God’s time by showing us that both the materiality of music and how it doesn’t escape time allows us to understand the importance of the eucharist. The music and words combined in this religious space and performing mass/prayer, the music enriches it and makes these words and feelings manifest. To pray and to sing is to have God listening to you and the comfortableness of the silence is what allows us to listen to the voice of God. God listens to the cries and prayers of humanity, especially through song in prayer during mass and other worship rituals. The author Chretien argues that prayer isn’t just us communicating with God our thoughts and feelings but it is us manifesting ourselves and our identities right before God, directly to him. We are able to bring our whole selves to him and fully surrender in his presence, bringing ourselves to revelation and God. That is why singing is such a beautifully vulnerable act of surrendering oneself to the presence of God because you are struggling and transforming right before him through Christ who is made manifest during this worship. Christ speaks through us with divine love and singing or music allows us to make an order of such things. We can use our voices for those who are not with us which is beautiful. Our voices and music are made manifest for those who can’t be there to sing with us or pray with us and it is that materiality of our voices with time that allows us to dwell with God and feel his presence illuminate us.

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