Saturday, December 18, 2021

Ever Have Flashbacks?

I had a flashback this morning while working out at the Y. 

During my workout I listened to the music of Palestrina. (Speakers up, especially at the end.) 

My mind went back to the year 1970. I had just graduated from Kailua High School and had begun studying music at the University of Hawaii (Leeward Campus). That semester I was taking four classes: music theory, piano, choir, and trumpet. For the music theory class we were required to go to the library, plug in a headset, and listen to compositions from the different periods of music, including the Baroque and Renaissance eras. There I would sit for hours enraptured by the performances while gazing out the window at Naval vessels moving in and out of Pearl Harbor. 

I knew immediately there wasn't anything else like it out there in the music world. The music of Palestrina really does deserve all the praise it gets, not just for the musical and historical significance, arrangement, and performance, but also for the spirituality of the music. This is truly heavenly music to my ears. Notice that it's all Scripture -- Mary's "Magnificat" from Luke 1. (Be sure to check the video's description to read the Latin text along with an English translation.) This music was so important for the development of western music, and it stays wonderful. What a debt we owe Palestrina. What sweetness, what grace, what eloquence, what beauty of information. I'm in tears. Forgive me for saying so, but modern "church music" is mere campfire songs by comparison. It's simply a sign of our times when people can't be troubled to practice and perfect the performance of singing music like this. Modern music is the consequence of us lifting ourselves up. I'm sure there are plenty of people that prefer that. Gotta wonder, though. It's sad that most of my contemporaries don't know about this style of church music. I am fortunate to able to listen to these songs in Latin. I fall in love with the Lord again while listening. This is the true power of the human voice. 

"Who knows," wrote Will Durant, "but some not very distant age may find again in such music as Palestrina's a depth of feeling, a profound and placid flow of harmony, better fitted to express the soul of man cleansed of pride in reason and power, and standing again humble and fearful before the engulfing infinite." 

One can always hope.