Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gregorian Chants vs. Secular Rants

It stands to reason that any secular music that openly and proudly sings the praises of mortal sin (or any sin) is something to be avoided entirely, but what of popular music whose lyrics and rhythms are seemingly harmless?

I recently finished The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton; a fascinating autobiography of a man that went from Atheist to Trappist in the first half of the 20th century. The book made a brief mention of music that gave me pause. The author described the austere warmth of Gregorian Chant. He describes it as something glowing, like a living flame which draws you within yourself. Here you are lulled into a peace and recollection and where you find God. This is why some never grow tired of it. Perhaps this is also why some can’t stand it.

In sharp contrast, Merton described other types of music that seem to do the opposite. They wear you out by making cheap demands on your sensibilities, toying with your soul so to speak. Once your feelings are drawn-out in the open, the devil, together with the vulgarity of your own corrupt nature & imagination, can get at you with their blades and cut you to pieces.

Thomas Merton
Trappist Monk
1915 - 1968
This is about where I paused in the book and recalled certain songs or types of popular music that may contain nothing objectively wrong, but somehow drew me out of myself in a bad way, to a place where peace is disturbed and God is forgotten. Impetuous rhythms can take up residence in the mind without any conscious effort on our part. Vulgar or perhaps just senseless lyrics repeat in our heads over and over. This makes it all the easier to lose God, and if God is lost, what will boogie-on-in to fill the void?

Is that what a fox says? Really?
Prayer, simply put, is directing one’s life toward God and I’ve heard it said that he who sings “well” prays twice. If this is the case, perhaps he who sings “badly” directs his life away from God twice as fast as he who does not sing at all. Certainly, listening to morally neutral music is not objectively wrong, but maybe having ear buds in your head all day long is. Just like eating candy, moderation and temperance is in order with an awareness of its effects. Perhaps with music, just like with anything else, we should ask ourselves now and then, “Is this bringing me closer to union with God or further away?”


  1. So...yeah. I'd say listening to the Ramones is like riding in the back of a noisy city cab, while listening to Mozart is like reclining on a sail boat in the middle of the ocean. My wife is a music nut and she has taught me the amazing power of music to stir the soul and kind of open up our higher senses. Chant does it. I once heard a three piece string trio perform out in the crisp cool forrest and I swear the trees grew 50 ft higher and I could almost breath through my eyelids. The most amazing thing I've ever heard.

  2. Well As Pope Benedict stated " Tradition has been replaced with Progress" Father Z. said in Rome, March 2013, "When you change the way People Pray, you change what they believe"...the replacement of Gregorian Chant is the Most Horrid thing that came out of the council.....besides Bugnini's Invention of the Novus Ordo.....in short the "MODERN CHURCH music if you want to call it that, is in need of replacement......