Well poo. So I had a nifty idea to link the individual pieces of my dissertation to the mysteries they represent by using snippets of chants corresponding to the feasts in the liturgy. I’m currently on the Crucifixion (sketched out on Good Friday, didn’t get a chance to start putting notes down–or lines of LISP code down–until now, though.) I’m bouncing around a bit in the ordering. This one’s also a mini-setting of the seven last words. I’m not sure how much of it will be audible to the listener without program notes.
Somehow I got the chorus for the Improperia stuck in my head. It’s one of the few instances of Greek left in the liturgy, and it’s some pretty music. Unfortunately the whole thing has been used to justify anti-semitism. There’s also no beating around the bush on the matter–the lyrics are pretty nasty.
But I’ve been raised with the notion that the anti-semitism of years past is part of the collective guilt associated with Good Friday and the reading of the passion narrative on Palm Sunday. It’s a time to own up to and take responsibility for the crap one’s done during the year. In a sense, we’ve all crucified Christ, where Christ is present in the pogroms, Sudan, Darfur, Iraq, Bosnia, and so on.
However, this may not be readily apparent in the music. This is also for my dissertation, and I’d like to avoid controversy as much as possible, since one’s dissertation defense isn’t the time or place for really controversial stuff. But…art is by nature controversial (although I don’t know if I’d call what I do art.) It’s also part of political and social action, whether you want it to or not. The very fact that I’m doing a set of 15 pieces on the mysteries of the rosary is controversial and very much a political statement. Art should challenge and provoke. I’ve seen plenty of art I’m offended by, but I strongly defend the artist’s right to make it. I’m sure someone will be offended by the pieces I’m writing.
On the one hand, this nastiness is a part of my religion. We’ve done some horrible things to people; and people still do horrible things to people in the name of religion. There’s something redemptive in taking something associated with nastiness and making it into something that (hopefully) transcends it. But…on the other hand, there’s also the social responsibility for not being an asshole and being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.
Or compromise: take the part of it I really like (the response) and not use the rest. It’s the verses that are the nasty bits…ETA: I wouldn’t be using any of the text, just the music.