About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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"Religious worship supplies all our spiritual need, and suits every mood of mind and variety of circumstance."
— John Henry Cardinal Newman

UGLY • Just Plain, Old-Fashioned Ugly
published 7 July 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

UPPOSE YOU ASKED ME to name my favorite composition and I replied, “I like them all.” That’s a rather weak answer. Much stronger would be, “My favorite piece is CONTRAPUNCTUS VII from Bach’s Art of the Fugue.” But when it comes to medieval manuscripts, I really do love them all. For example, look at how the artist used 3D to great effect here:

544 Ms 3d

It doesn’t matter when a particular manuscript was created or by whom. Nor does it matter whether they are highly ornate or plain. They are all incredibly gorgeous:

As you’ve probably deduced, I’m not a huge fan of contemporary Church art. Moreover, it cannot hold a candle to the traditional artwork. Nothing illustrates this better than this sacrilegious addition to a Jesuit church in Vienna:

550 Jesuit Church Vienna

In the years immediately following Vatican II, the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy sometimes met in the following “brutalist” church, and I suspect that location subliminally influenced some of their decisions:

542 Saint John's Abbey Collegeville

I think that church is a travesty. They ought to have looked at the great cathedrals for inspiration, aiming for something BEAUTIFUL. Some will say I’m just too stupid to appreciate a brutalist church. Okay, maybe I am too stupid; but look at the sculpture of St. John the Baptist they have in the same church:

552 Doris Caesar Sculpture

In my opinion, that sculpture is disgusting, and their so-called “Scary Mary” (by the same artist) is not much better. Since that’s a Benedictine community, they ought to have opened up the ancient monastic manuscripts and imitated the beauty therein.

WE WILL CONTINUE to promote traditional artwork and encourage young artists like this one. Congregations seem to appreciate good artwork in spite of what the “experts” tell them. For example, I know of several cities where numerous couples wanted to get married in the old cathedral instead of the new (contemporary architecture) cathedral—and the bishops in those cities got so angry they ended up forbidding weddings in the old cathedrals.

However, I have an important question. Have you noticed that contemporary music was not forced upon congregations the same way contemporary architecture was? Much contemporary music uses “palatable” music, often similar to jingles you might hear in a television commercial. One popular Mass setting is even lifted the melody from “My Little Pony.”

Does anyone know the answer to this question? Why were Catholic congregations never subjected to music that sounds like, say, Milton Babbitt or Arnold Schoenberg? 1 If you don’t know what I’m getting at, search YouTube for Milton Babbitt.


1   I’d better stop here, because I don’t want my fellow CCW contributors to hear what I have to say about icons like Stravinsky, Ives, Penderecki, and so on.