Music that hurts

Aurelio Porfiri

In recent years, we have spoken (or bad mouthed) a lot of liturgical music (or sacred music, church music, ritual music, music for worship and so on). And in doing so, we often cited documents everywhere to support often opposing or irreconcilable thesis. Not often we have talked of liturgical music having in mind its aesth-ethic value, meaning a morality of perception in beauty.

Liturgical music is called to represent the unrepresentable, the Holy of Holies, the Mysterium that is God that has chosen to become human flesh to get closer to men. This choice did not intend to propose just a lowering of divinity to human level as such, but an elevation of the human to the divine. It was not simplification but exaltation. That’s why the effort of those who make the music for the liturgy is an effort to go beyond, not to achieve. We do not need a liturgical music that refers but that hurts, that is able to make blood coming out from the vein of the Word because it is in-viting (to invite is an interesting verb with multiform meanings, ranging from wanting to forcing). Trying to force a moment the etymology of the word “invite”, we would say that the Word must become even more alive (Latin “vita” means life) and vital to the roar of this blood from the aesthetic wound that music has caused.

That’s why liturgical music is the other, not the music of everyday life because, as Pope Francis docet (March 7, 2015, anniversary of the first Mass in vernacular), we must search for a “syntony”, not a identity. It very important to reflect on this difference in similarity: as in music harmony, C, E and G form a consonant chord, but they not identical. Liturgical music is in the limen, the threshold which leads into the other dimension and is a key that opens the door on the beyond, that force us (and thus hurts) to meet with the Unapproachable that was not afraid to approach us. “For zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me”(Psalm 69, 9). The zeal for the house of God is a devouring that makes us bleed and that exposes us to the opposition of a world seeking the “Other” in others (having more and more), in the excess and not in the access. Here the noble, the highest role of liturgical music, too often mortified in stupid formulas to please weary souls and protect them from the desire of that death that only can give true life.

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