Gregorian chant, polyphony, and "pride of place": contextualizing Roman Catholic liturgical music




Gonzalez, Ramon J.

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Sacrosanctum concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy, is often cited by scholars when assessing and commenting upon Roman Catholic liturgical music in the Council’s reception period, that is, the late-twentieth and early-twenty first centuries. The constitution, however, is only one of four constitutions promulgated by the Council that together create a vision for reform. Conciliar documents state principles which the Church’s teachers—the pope, bishops, pastors, and theologians—continually interpret for specific situations. This essay considers theological and historical factors that affected the Second Vatican Council’s statements about liturgical music. The Council’s overall concern was the Church’s effective proclamation of the Gospel in a world of diverse cultural settings facing modern problems. Liturgical music prior to the Second Vatican Council reflected the needs and concerns of a Church that, in a sense, no longer exists. Current theological methods begin by validating a congregation’s experience of God and placing it in dialogue with tradition. In this context, Gregorian chant and polyphony hold “pride of place” among a variety of musical styles that express the Church’s encounter with God.




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