In This Issue: Yale Journal of Music & Religion, June 2015

Today we add a new journal to this series, and catch up by posting on the first issue (1.1, February 2015) of the Yale Journal of Music & Religion, an open-access (i.e. free) online journal. Robin Leaver describes the scope of the journal in the opening Editorial.

Susan Boynton: Restoration or Invention? Archbishop Cisneros and the Mozarabic Rite in Toledo

As archbishop of Toledo from 1495 to 1517, Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros carried out a multifaceted campaign of support for the Mozarabic rite, which had been preserved in the Middle Ages by Christians living in Toledo under Muslim rule. Although the Roman rite was introduced into the cathedral in 1086, the Toledan Mozarabs had continued to follow their ancient liturgy in their parishes. By the end of the Middle Ages, however, the rite was rarely celebrated. Fearing that it might become obsolete, in 1501 Cisneros endowed a chapel in his cathedral for the Mozarabic rite and established a clergy of thirteen chaplains to celebrate the Mass and Office regularly. Furthermore, he oversaw a committee that assisted a canon of the cathedral, Alfonso Ortiz, in preparing editions of the Mozarabic missal and breviary that were published in 1500 and 1502, respectively. Despite the contemporary descriptions of these actions as a restoration of a partly lapsed practice, the editions produced under Cisneros’s patronage and the choirbooks he had created for the chapel were as much a reinvention of the rite as a renewal of it. The resulting rite, which is more accurately termed “neo-Mozarabic,” gradually became an important component of Spanish national identity, and in this sense can be considered an instance of the “invention of tradition” as described by Hobsbawm and Ranger.

This article focuses on the reception history of Cisneros’s liturgical project in the early modern period, analyzing descriptions of the creation of the neo-Mozarabic rite. The earliest narrative sources are the prefaces to the editions of the Mozarabic missal and breviary, with their nearly identical colophons. Other sources used here include the early sixteenth-century account by Juan de Vallejo, the midcentury biography of Cisneros by Gómez de Castro, the early seventeenth-century biography by Eugenio de Robles, and other writings from the seventeenth and eighteenth century. What began as a philological project in the spirit of the humanist improvement of corrupted texts soon took on other associations. In 1509, a year after the use of the Mozarabic rite in the cathedral was approved by Pope Julius II, Cisneros led the conquest of Oran, which was part of a new crusade to North Africa to convert Muslims as an extension of the idea of Christian reconquest encouraged by the Catholic monarchs. It remains open to question whether the Cisneros “restoration” of the rite was inherently nationalist in inspiration, but it is certain that he commissioned a representation of the conquest of Oran for the ceiling decoration of the Mozarabic Chapel, and the juxtaposition was noted by every writer in the early modern period. By the eighteenth century, the medieval Mozarabic liturgy had become a national symbol. When the Archbishop of Mexico (and future archbishop of Toledo), Francisco Antonio Lorenzana (1722–1804), published an edition of Mozarabic mass for Saint James in Puebla (1770), he showed himself to be a true follower of Cisneros, who had effectively reinvented the rite and ensured its future status.

Jeffrey W. Cupchik: Buddhism As Performing Art: Visualizing Music in the Tibetan Sacred Ritual Music Liturgies

The eleventh-century Tibetan female ascetic, Machik Labdrön (1055-1153), developed a Vajrayāna (Tantric) Buddhist meditation method called Chöd (Tib. gCod, Eng. “to cut”) and associated ritual practices as a means of eliminating “self-grasping,” which is defined as the mistaken instinct of regarding one’s “self” and all phenomena as intrinsically, or independently, existent. Her musical-meditation method became renowned across Central Asia during her lifetime, and Chöd ritual practices and liturgies have been transmitted from teacher to disciple in unbroken lineages until today. The ritual is now well known globally, with Tibetan Lamas, nuns, and empowered exponents teaching widely, across a transnational Diaspora, to Tibetan Buddhists engaging in the practice.

The Chöd meditation practice requires operationalizing the heightened emotions roused from the experience of fear in order to elicit the seemingly self-existent “I,” and “cut” (gCod) the instinctual grasping to the “self.” The ritual that effects this transformation is liturgically based upon song-poetry drawn from the Tibetan mgur tradition, which is itself drawn from the Indian dohā tradition of meditative poetry. The ritualized meditation experience is inhabited musically by several mgur-styled song-poem melodies that are performed in accordance with a liturgy over an underlying and potentially trance-inducing, rhythmic theme.

In this paper, I show what I have found to be correspondences between the “internal” performance of meditative visualizations and the “external” performance of the liturgical song-poetry and musical gestures within the Chöd rituals. Indeed, the musical parameters themselves carry meanings that not only enhance or reinforce the effect of the liturgical song-poetry but also directly assist in the meditative journey and spiritual catharsis of the Chöd practitioner. When a melody has been composed to symbolically represent a visualized scene in a subritual section of this religious rite, it illustrates an instance of what I call, “sonic iconography”—at once, a melody serves to embody a meditative complement to the sung text, enliven the psychophysical drama, and provide an atmosphere, or mood, akin to an Indian rasa. According to the Tibetan oral tradition, the melody composed by Machik Labdrön for the subritual section at the height of the dramaturgical narrative of one Chöd liturgy is designed to conjure an image depicting the “sound of vultures’ wings as they arrive at a sky burial.” By exploring the purposeful use of melody–as an aid in meditative visualization–at this climactic moment in a Chöd ritual, it provides a unique window into the interwoven aspects of music and religion in this important Himalayan tradition.

Robin A. Leaver: More Than Simple Psalm-Singing in English: Sacred Music in Early Colonial America

Histories of American sacred music frequently begin with the pilgrims’ arrival in Plymouth, bringing with them their Ainsworth’s psalter, published in Amsterdam. In subsequent decades other English-speaking colonists brought with them copies of the Sternhold and Hopkins psalter published in London. But both these psalters were increasingly deemed unsatisfactory for English-speaking colonial life, so the attempt was made to create a new American psalter, the so-called Bay Psalm Book published in Cambridge, Mass., in 1640, which in later editions morphed into what was called the New England Psalm Book. Thus English colonialism and its distinctive New England psalmody is frequently the focus of attention. But Central and North America had other colonies, some of which had been settled in the century before the English colonists arrived, colonies in which sacred music was more diverse and more developed and associated with different European languages: New Spain, New France (in the north and Huguenots in Florida), New Netherland, and New Sweden. The sacred music of these colonists is explored in this article, showing that singing the substance of religion and life was a common experience in all the these pioneer colonies, whether it was expressed in Latin, Spanish, French, Dutch, Swedish, as well as English. Music was the vehicle of faith, personal and public, that was far more diverse and rich than the simple English psalm-singing that is often portrayed as the essence and substance of early American colonial religious music.

Daniel R. Melamed: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, and the Jews

It has been recognized since the nineteenth century that most of the poetic arias and choruses in J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 are parodies of music composed to other texts. In the early twentieth century it was claimed that at least one gospel narrative chorus was also derived from extant music, a hypothesis subsequently expanded to include several such movements said to be parodies as well. The claims are flimsily argued and are unlikely on source-critical grounds, but they have stuck, persisting in scholarly writings, reference works, and popular literature.

The origin of this idea is a 1916 article by one Gerhard Freiesleben, a Leipzig lawyer, Thomasschule graduate, and Wagnerite who asserted that the wise men in Part 5 of Bach’s oratorio sounded not like kings but like cacophonous Jews, and that the setting of their words, unbecoming royalty or Bach, must therefore be parody. He proposed that the origin of this music was one of the “Jew choruses” from the lost St. Mark Passion BWV 247. Later authors took up Freiesleben’s results while sidestepping his crazy argument.

In fact the persistence of this theory owes a great deal to an inherited view of the Christmas Oratorio that approaches it primarily in relation to Bach’s passion settings.

It is entwined with a scholarly and practical obsession with the St. Mark Passion and to the futile search for its recovery. And it is tied disturbingly to stereotypes of Jews and their musical depiction, even in literature that does not explicitly invoke Jewishness. The claim—the supposed origins of gospel choruses from the Christmas Oratorio in the St. Mark Passion—can safely be set aside as wrong. But its perpetuation calls attention to an unsettling legacy of interpretation of the Christmas Oratorio and other narrative works that we ought to confront, and tainted research that we need to step away from.

Don Saliers: Psalms in Our Lamentable World

Where are worshipers in Christian communities to go with their experiences and observations of violence, injustice, and other forms of suffering? Historically, a central source of realistic faith-based responses to tragedy has been the Psalter, broadly defined as a set of biblical psalms arranged by date to be individually and collectively read, sung, and prayed. Recent scholarship on psalms has focused on lament and complaint, and questions regarding the presence of trauma and violence in religious traditions have shown such psalms to be particularly relevant to contemporary culture.

This article examines three “psalms of lament,” Psalms 13, 42/43, and 88, discussing their implications for communal acts of worship, the development of critical theological skills in worshipers, and neglected dimensions of liturgical theological work. It argues that psalms of lament and protest, used liturgically, can enhance a congregation’s practices of truth telling, integrating life events with expressions of faith, and situating individual and communal experiences of suffering within the context of church history. Issues affecting the “performance practice” of liturgical psalms are also addressed, such as problematic content in imprecatory psalms (i.e., Psalm 137), discrepancies in the musical settings of lament and praise psalms, and styles of prayer and scripture engagement with or without the influence of lament psalms.



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