ORE THAN FIVE YEARS AGO, I decided to stop 1 composing music—and I can still remember the very day it happened. Dr. Calabrese was visiting Los Angeles, conducting the KYRIE from Father Guerrero’s Missa Beata Mater. Hearing that brief piece with only four voices, something powerful struck me. I realized Guerrero was composing “on a different level.” What I heard was the RESULT of a genuine genius—from boyhood immersed in the world’s most powerful music—composing in a way that makes the human voice sound as magnificent as it can in this world.
Physically Present • Recordings don’t count here. Nor do notes on a page. It’s all about being physically present and hearing Father Guerrero’s pristine counterpoint, his manipulation of overtones, his astounding use of imitation, his uncanny control of dissonance & consonance, and his incomparable rhythmic mastery. It required 400 years of musical experimentation all across Europe to produce the polyphonic miracle of Francisco Guerrero. I realized my efforts at composition were akin to demanding that I play alongside Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, and Michael Jordan.
A Tiny Piece • The following is not even a real piece. Rather, it’s a brief excerpt of a very long composition by Father Guerrero. Nevertheless, I find it utterly captivating, and here’s my attempt at recording all the voices myself (to approximate how it sounds):
Sadness: Most readers won’t click on the individual voice parts, and that makes me sad. When we post a “scandalous” liturgical video, we get 40,000 views. I wish we could garner as many views for the rehearsal videos because it’s incumbent upon us to revive authentic sacred music!
1 Technically, I have not completely stopped composing, but the small things I do compose—such as Gregorian accompaniments and short antiphons—are not “composing” in the sense of writing large-scale works (such as symphonies). Once in a blue moon, I still compose a larger work, but always under a fake name. I find that when I use my real name, people don’t tell me the honest truth vis-à-vis their feelings about my compositions. But when they believe somebody else wrote the piece, their praise (or criticism) tends to be more sincere.