Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FW: Formulaic Recitation

With a purpose, let us imitate…


Feed: Lutheran Hymn Revival
Posted on: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 9:04 PM
Author: (Amberg)
Subject: Formulaic Recitation


John Pachelbel

There is nothing more useful for art than formulaic recitation.  Without repetition no painter could perfect the stroke of his brush.  Without a set form of words to start with, a poet is left to the savageries of barbarism.

In fact, the end of art has its source in the insistence that one must be freed from both formulas and recitation.  The abandonment of the Lutheran musical heritage was not inevitable.  It isn't as if Bach came, Pachelbel went by, and besides a Mendelssohn here and there, there wasn't much we could do.  The music since then has embraced a purposeful dissonance from what Bach taught, together with all that Lutheranism offered.  The Church stopped reciting what Bach recited.  The Church abandoned the formula that so enamored Mendelssohn.

Without the formula of the chorale and the recitation of predictable and common notation Bach couldn't be art.  He would be brash and aesthetically retarded.   As it is with music, so it must be with all other forms of art.

If a painter imitates another painter time and time again, one doesn't say that he isn't an artist because he imitates.  One judges his work on the basis of whether he accomplishes his objective.  One could say the artist isn't original, perhaps, if he only paints what another paints - but no artist does that.  He follows a certain formula, and from the rudiments of that formula his own personal qualities shine forth.

The Painter - Van Ostade - 1663

The reason for this is that God makes each individual differently.  I recently heard one of the most popular Indian chefs make the comment that nobody can cook a recipe exactly like another person.  He was very adamant about this.  Why?  Because God won't allow it.  There is to be a diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit.  So also in doctrine we must always follow the same Spirit as He teaches us in the Holy Scriptures, but depending on the circumstances, no two pastors are going to preach the same sermon, even though they follow the same sound pattern of words and repeat what the Scriptures say.

Most art is not as good as the masters.  Most art must necessarily be copies of a greater glories.  This is fine and wonderful.  Most artists produce only a few wonderful works that stand the test of time.  Prudentius was a very prolific writer, but only a small and meager portion of his Hymnus Omnis Horae is known to the Church today in Of the Father's Love Begotten.  Speaking of this hymn, Elizabeth Cruciger's Herr Christ der Einig Gott's Sohn, or The Only Son from Heaven, is itself imitating Prudentius, both as regards formula and recitation.

Publius Vergilius Maro

To say that if the same structure appears time after time after time then one has not revealed art is to deny the title artist to the greatest artists who have ever lived, including Virgil, David, Homer, Shakespeare, etc.  One should rather ask the question of whether one enjoys being engaged in that structure - put otherwise, how many English speakers genuinely enjoy reading blank verse?

To say that art must be spontaneous or free from the restraining formulaic recitations of the past is to adopt the worship of the Corinthians before Paul rebuked them, and is fundamentally anti-liturgical.   We need a sound pattern of words. We build upon the work of others and without it we dare not claim to have any art to offer the Church.  I pray that Christians learn to imitate Lutherans and teach and admonish their brethren in spiritual painting, poetry and music.

Let our imitation not end until the angels imitate us in heaven.

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