Quick Hits: the disappearance of melody, an app for chant, and more

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | May 04, 2017

Does it ever seem like there just aren’t any good melodies in contemporary pop music—say, since the 1970s? Or that there often aren’t any melodies at all? Well, it’s not just your imagination and you aren’t just getting old. Kurt Poterack, organist, composer and professor of Sacred Music at Christendom College, always worth reading on the topic of pop music, traces in his latest article the rise and fall of the American pop tune. What sets Dr. Poterack’s pop criticism apart from most conservative screeds is that he truly appreciates it when it’s good, and he comes at it from a trained musician’s perspective rather than an ideologue’s. His analyses of everything from Adele to Celine Dion are not just spot-on, but highly entertaining and accessible to the layman. Read!


Speaking of melody, if you’d like to start taking advantage of the Church’s extraordinary treasure trove of Gregorian chant—whether by yourself, with your family or in a choir—there’s an app for that. Square Note offers a library of over 600 chant scores, from hymns to antiphons to Mass propers, for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Mass and searchable by liturgical season. The scores are beautifully laid out, and the app has an audio playback function to aid learning (you can even change the speed or transpose the music into your vocal range). Square Note is available on both Apple and Android platforms. (If I owned a smartphone, I’d download it in a heartbeat.)


I have a sneaking suspicion that quite a few people who stick only to the accepted canon of Great Art and won’t have anything to do with anything else do so because they actually have no idea how to tell good art from bad. They are afraid of being fooled so they play it safe, effectively contributing to the demise of art in our time. These same people often approach art as though it were merely a vehicle for some edifying message. In a 2015 Ethika Politika article entitled “Poetry Is Not Important”, Fr. Gabriel Toretta both aptly describes this unfortunate (fear-based) attitude and shows the way out.


One must, of course, make time for J. Budziszewski, CatholicCulture.org’s favorite natural law philosopher. In this case, you’ll want to read two essays he contributed to First Things way back in 1996: “The Problem with Liberalism” and “The Problem with Conservatism”. Whichever ideology tempts you, you’ll be sure to have a new perspective on it after reading these. (It’s worth noting that J-Bud’s stance on at least one point has changed since 1996: were he writing about the liberal error of “expropriationism” today, he would no longer so strictly limit the function of government to “punishing wrongdoers and commending rightdoers.”)


For your spiritual edification: In National Review, a story about a new study which further authenticates the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo, in part by linking the two together. In other news, relics of St. Padre Pio will be touring the U.S. from May through September. The first of twelve stops, May 6-8, is the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in Philly.

Thomas V. Mirus is an administrative assistant and writer at CatholicCulture.org. A jazz pianist with a music degree, he often takes the lead in our commentary on the arts. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: winnie - May. 12, 2017 11:53 AM ET USA

    "Poetry is not Important" reminds me of all the beautiful and also tragic lines of poetry that live in my heart and often bubble to the surface. Archibald MacLiesh said it best in Ars Poetica: A poem should not mean, but be.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - May. 06, 2017 9:51 AM ET USA

    Thomas, I enjoy all this so much. Thank you!