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Andrew Motyka is the Archdiocesan Director of Liturgical Music and Cathedral Music for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
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The ratio of voices in modern choirs is usually wrong. Basses should be numerically greatest, then altos, then tenors, then sopranos. One good soprano can carry a high “A” against 30 lower voices.
— Roger Wagner

That Satisfying Click
published 28 August 2013 by Andrew R. Motyka

T MAY COME AS A SURPRISE to you, but I am a fairly odd individual. For example, when most people get furniture or other items from places like IKEA, they hate getting home and assembling them. I am the opposite. I truly enjoy putting these things like that together (my wife regularly reminds me that this is one of the best things about being married to me. Aren’t I a catch?). When we bought a new office desk, I stood in the room, with all the boxes unpacked and the components scattered all around me on the floor, and smiled.

One of the things I enjoy most about these experiences is the tangible feedback when you get a part into just the right place. When you get the right peg in the right slot, when you turn the locknut just the right amount, you hear that “satisfying click.” You just know you have it right. You have gotten the right piece in the right place at the right time.

A while back, I was interviewed by a small town newspaper asking what it was about Church music that appealed most to me. Many people would probably respond, “I enjoy praising God,” or “Giving my talents to the Lord is right,” and these are all fine responses with which I agree. However, what truly drew me into music in the liturgy was singing sacred music in its proper context.

I was like most college music majors. I sang in the choir and performed many staples of choral literature. Many of these were sacred pieces. Especially in our chamber singers, we sang many motets and religious songs. I loved them. They were musically satisfying. I didn’t even feel like anything was missing in them.

The first time I sang a motet in the context of the liturgy, I felt it: that satisfying click. I was doing something beautiful, in the right place, at the right time, and for the right reason. Suddenly, the beautiful piece that I had enjoyed so much before took on a totally different dimension. When the song became prayer, it was so much more than I had ever experienced before. My liturgical-musical experience has been marked by that same satisfaction countless times. I am singing (or playing, or conducting) a fitting piece, at the right time, in the right place.

This analogy extends not only in the corporate, but largely into my personal life of faith, too. My relationship with Christ has that same dimension: the grace of God, through prayer and other works, just fits into my life perfectly. It gives that satisfying click.

Here is where the analogy breaks down, though (as all analogies inevitably do). God doesn’t really fit neatly into an instruction booklet like that. He is not the long-awaited straight piece that allows you to finally complete that Tetris. Rather, His grace is more like a viscous ooze that fills all of the holes in which you are missing pieces, with plenty left over in the end.

Maybe it isn’t a satisfying click. Maybe it’s more of a satisfying blorp.