Item description for Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste by Thomas Day...
Overview Thomas Day, a Catholic professor of music, energetically and passionately attacks the question of congregational participation in liturgy, framed in a provocative explanation of "Why Catholics Can't Sing.
This book is about the culture of American Christianity and what it does to our understanding of God, self, and community as reflected in the way Christians worship.
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Thomas Day is the chair of the music department at Salve Regina University where he teaches music and humanities courses. He is an active composer and member of the American Guild of Organists, the American Musicological Society, and the College Music Society, and is the author of "Where Have You Gone, Michelangelo?: The Loss of Soul in Catholic Culture." He lives in Newport, Rhode Island.
Reviews - What do customers think about Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste?
It's true. We can't sing worth a darn. Now learn why it's so. May 13, 2008
I was a child of the 80's and my pre-Vatican II parents dutifully attended church with my younger sister and me. However, my mom always spoke wistfully of "the way things used to be" and lamented the lack of dignity, harmony, and people singing on key. Mom likened a guitar Mass to "an abomination...like cats being tortured to the strumming of guitars".
Thomas Day really cleared up for my why Catholics can't sing. I just thought it was a part of our cultural DNA. What a relief to realize that this can be treated and corrected! However, I won't see it happen. I joined a Lutheran church and yes, initially it WAS because of the music. I'll take Bach over yowling and tambourines on any given Sunday.
good idea, poor execution Apr 21, 2008
I read this anticipating a vigorous criticism of the vulgar, irreverent excuse for music that has dominated Catholic services, particularly in suburban parishes, for the last 35 years. It was a disappointment on many levels, beginning with the title. A book purporting to give explanations for the lack of musical participation in Catholic services would be better titled "Why Catholics Don't Sing". "Why Catholics Can't Sing" implies an absence of vocal talent compared to their Protestant counterparts.
The text itself uses a verbose, pedantic and eggheaded style which plays right into the hands of the objects of this book's criticism who would claim that Day is a naked elitist who wants church music to be as needlessly complex as his writing. If you are ambivalent about purchasing this, I would recommend against it since I can easily summarize his thesis in less than 200 words:
Day outlines three reasons for the ubiquity of the limp-wristed tripe of the "St. Louis Jesuits" in American Catholic services:
1. Because Irish clergy regarded Anglican hymnody as a symbol of English persecution, their dominance of the American episcopate from 1860 to 1960 resulted in a near-total absence of liturgical music in the U.S. Church during that period. When Vatican II supposedly "mandated" lay-sung hymns, the vacuum was filled by the pushiest - meaning the fans of Haugen, Schutte, et. al.
2. By browbeating bishops into believing that "active" Catholics demanded modern music, Oregon Catholic Press pushed aside reasonably priced hymnals with selections from the public domain in favor of their all-copyright (meaning expensive and profitable) "Glory and Praise" series.
3. "The Spirit of Vatican II", the Novus Ordo, and the general feminist agitation of the time emboldened loudmouth dykes like Frances Kissling and Jeannine Gramick to declare that all church songs that were not newly composed and "gender-neutral" were instruments of "patriarchal oppression" and that all bishops who did not conform to their thinking on the subject were male chauvinist pigs. Unfortunately, women like this found sympathetic ears on the likes of Joseph Bernardin, Roger Mahony, Rembert Weakland, etc.
I would go beyond this to claim that these are songs by homosexuals for homosexuals (check this link: www.marysremnant.org/Friends/DBK/BKSchutte.html). I believe that their use is part of a concerted effort by dissident university faculty, chancery bureaucrats and bishops of the type I mentioned to develop a more effeminate atmosphere for Catholic services to increase their appeal to homosexuals thus increasing their interest in seminary enrollment.
Some heartening articles of recent vintage have described a newfound preference among Catholic adolescents and young adults for traditional liturgical music forms rather than 'Life Teen' crap. I hope one of these articles serves as a jumping off point for another book on this topic which will be easier to read than this one.
Some interesting ideas, but a bit vitriolic at times. Mar 28, 2007
Thomas Day seems to take pride in offending people. I agree with most of his ideas and find myself laughing at the ridiculous stories he tells, yet I know he probably skews the stories toward his own goals.
One particular metaphor that really didn't make sense to me was the magazine rack representing different cultures in the United States. Yes, magazines do represent different interest groups in America, but Day's comparison doesn't really work.
I still recommend this book for all interested in this subject matter.
Offer it up! Feb 23, 2007
Yes, the music is bad and the situation is very serious. I have known people who have left the church for other denominations or for nothing at all because of bad music and desacralized liturgy. I have known other people who have tried to become Catholic but find the music so awful that it's a form of torture that they decide not to endure after all. So, yes, it's important; souls are at stake!
As for me, I try to sing what I know, even the schmatlzy stuff, but sometimes when those melodies just jump around so illogically (and I can sight read music!) I just shut my yap, pray, and offer it up. Our suffering can be consecrated to the Lord for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ!
I get my good church music outside of church. I buy it on CD and put it on my iPod. I have no objection to modern music per se: I absolutely adore Dana Scallon's We Are One Body from World Youth Day. It is so eucharistic and communal and theologically solid, yet easy to sing! I like the old Latin stuff and I like contemporary praise music that is vertical and reverent and heartfelt.
Amazingly, my parish of mostly converts sings plainchant Latin vigorously and well. They like it.
I am praying for a wave of good liturgical musicians to break forth and liberate us from this oppression! St. Cecelia, pray for us!
True and funny Jan 17, 2007
As a convert from Anglo-Catholicism one of my biggest challenges was abandoning the asthetic of the Sarum Rite and the Church's traditional music executed well for the saftey of The Rock. Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste is an excellent indictment of the "happy clappy" liturgical lowest common ddenominator culture shoved down the throats of Catholics today by the swinging 60s Parish Council worship committee rats. Funny in the sad horrible way we all suffer under weekly for clinging to the Ark of Truth.