Contemporary styles in church music choral writing
Thomas, Leonard Merrill
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It was the purpose of this study of church music to discover contemporary trends in choral writing through a detailed analysis of some representative choral works. In the first chapter, the stylistic trends of the anthem showed an added interest in the rich musical heritage of early church music. Plainsong and Gregorian chant have influenced composers to utilize these styles clothed in modern dress. Modality seems to have gained precedence, and the text once again has gained much importance. The anthems today have almost completely divorced the sentimentality of the nineteenth century. Some of the larger choral works include the Cantata, Mass, and Jewish Sacred Service. The purpose of chapters two, three, and four was to establish a musical criterion to actual sacred choral music and to observe some of the more interesting techniques of choral composition. Representative composers of today who have written music for Protestant worship are Joseph Clokey, Normand Lockwood, David Diamond and Leo Sowerby. Their tendency is an increased interest in the enhancement of the text. They utilize polytonality, modality, sharp dissonance and multi-rhythms; but above all, they each realize the importance of the inter-relationship between text and music and that liturgical music must be an expression of truth and beauty. The study of the setting of the Mass in the twentieth century is also a study of the cultural development of man, just as in any other music. Composers of today reflect ideas of each preceding era, including polyphony, plainsong, classicism, and romanticism. The men, representative of today's settings to the Mass Ordinary are Villa-Lobos, Stravinsky and Flor Peeters. Their tendency is away from large forms for chorus and orchestra. These masses are written for smaller groups, usually a cappella, with organ accompaniment or with a small chamber orchestra group. Very few masses have been written because composers do not feel the urge to write works when they see little opportunity for their performance. The twentieth century seems to be another transition period which points toward objectivism. It is not possible to know what label future generations will attach to the present period. Jewish liturgical music is returning to its original ancient, Oriental character. Ancient modes have been reconstructed, the foreignness of the service has been underlined and harmonic accompaniment reduced to a minimum. The representatives of Jewish liturgical music, Ernest Bloch and Leonard Bernstein, have developed this newest trend in the Jewish musical renaissance in a new musical mode of expression. The Jewish masters of the western world, the pioneers of the national idea in eastern Europe, the Ernest Bloch as the creator of the Hebraic form in music represent the characteristic contemporary trends in the music of Israel. Leonard Bernstein represents a leading exponent of new trends which may open a new chapter in American musical history. Contemporary music opens a new mode of expressional The composers have developed new ways of expressing the sacred liturgy. Even though the future seem unpredictable, more and more prominent composers have taken an added interest in composing music for the sacred liturgy. The future looks brighter because man is once again searching outside of himself for the answers to eternal truths.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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