Musical Progress and Decline
In this series of talks given at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Dr. Childs discusses the importance of music and the need to be informed about what distinguishes good from bad music. Dr. Childs also gives a brief outline of the history of music, showing how modern rock music has come to be so dominant and popular.
Unfortunately, most of us have a warped idea of what is good music, and what is worse, we are unwilling to acknowledge that we have childish addictions to low forms of music. To tackle this important issue, we first need to understand the origin today’s music and its harmful nature by gaining a historical perspective of the development of music. Originally there existed only monophonic or “Gregorian” chant. This form of music was developed by the addition of a second voice, from which beautiful polyphonic music emerged. After the coming of polyphony, the emphasis in music began to shift from melody to harmony, from intellect to emotion, and most importantly, from God to man. By this time in history, man is starting to establish himself more and more as the source of truth by revolution in both the political and social realms. This can be best seen in opera, which emerges as a powerful means of social engineering. In the plot of Mozart’s Barber of Seville we see the slave getting the better of his master and the wife getting the better of her husband. The spirit of revolt is becoming more and more obvious.
A major phenomenon that has contributed enormously to the state of music today is the fact that in modern times deceased composers became more popular than those currently living. The living composers, seeing this happening, became resentful. Such artists no longer had any reason to compose for the average person, and therefore quit doing so. Modern artists began to compose solely for themselves and the “brotherhood”, creating works of such magnitude that they only they could comprehend.
As a result of this, true modern “high art” ceases to exist. After “high art” had removed itself from the picture, “low art” was forced to fill the void. Dr. Childs compares this process to replacement of the main course of dinner with dessert. Not only has “high art” left its post, but also “low art” now pretends to be “high art” and the average person cannot tell the difference. Nevertheless, they still pay the detrimental consequences of listening to such music. Dr. Childs stressed the point that as future priests (and, by extension, future parents), we have the obligation first, to listen to good music ourselves, and secondly, to become educated about music so that we will be able to instruct and guide our faithful (and our children).
Too many Catholics view music as one realm of utter indifference, whereas in reality music affects us immensely for the better or the worse. Thus, it is far too important to ignore if we desire to become the healthy, well-balanced people God desires us to be.
released May 9, 2015
Dr. Andrew Childs serves currently as Associate
Dean and Chair of Humanities at St. Mary’s College,
and Assistant to the Director of Education for the United States
District, SSPX. Previously, he taught at the Yale University School
of Drama, Missouri State University, the Thames Valley Music
School at Connecticut College, and served as Managing
Coordinator of the Department of Voice and Opera at the Yale
School of Music. He earned his Bachelor of Music Degree from the
University of California, Irvine, and his Doctor of Musical Arts
degree from the University of Washington. A convert to the faith,
he was received into the Church at St. Thomas Aquinas seminary,
Winona, in 1996.
His scholarship includes analytical consideration of the music of American composer Charles Ives, and more recently, the
understanding of culture as a reflection of ideas, and the
importance of integrating substantive art into Catholic education.
As a professional performer, Dr. Childs has sung over one hundred
performances of nearly thirty operatic roles with established
companies throughout the US, and has sung with symphonies, orchestras, chamber and new music ensembles throughout the country. He made his Lincoln Center debut in the workshop performances of Glimmerglass Opera’s commissioned premiere trilogy “Central Park” in 1999. His numerous premieres include works by Pulitzer Prize winner Yehudi Wyner.
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