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Contemporary influences on Syriac liturgical music

qawe

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"Traditionally, the use of musical instruments is avoided in liturgical services. In 1930, at the Synod presided by late Patriarch Elias III at Dayro d-Mor Mattay, the use of an organ was permitted. Today the use of musical instruments is becoming increasingly prevalent in Syriac Orthodox Churches, particularly in the services of the divine liturgy, weddings, etc. While the nominal use of an instrument enhances the spiritual experience, excessive use detracts from it, especially when it discourages the participation of the congregation. Along with the use of musical instruments, innovations on traditional Syriac melodies for hymns, especially in the divine liturgy, are now increasingly common, often influenced by the secular music of the larger society in which the Syriac Orthodox communities reside. While some of these innovations enhance the musical heritage of the Church, and provide a contemporary flavor to the ancient liturgies, departures from the Syriac musical genre and frequent innovations affects participation of the entire congregation in liturgical music and detracts from the sanctity and purpose of liturgical music."

What is meant by this?
 

dhinuus

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in the Syriac Church in India, you can see Bollywood inspired versions of Syriac hymns and Malayalam hymns.
 

Mor Ephrem

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hecma925 said:
That made me laugh.  

In one of my classes, a veteran archpriest (EO) would tell us stories from his past, and he once explained the "electric lights" that you find in some churches as substitutes for candles and lamps or surrounding the icons (like Christmas lights).  We think it's in poor taste from our vantage point today, but according to him, for people at that time, that was something they considered ideal or the best they could offer for furnishing and adorning the church.  I suspect there's a similar dynamic when it comes to synthesizers and other musical technologies: that "really good music" uses these things and so we should offer the really good stuff to God.  I don't think that explains everything, but I think that explains a good chunk.  

And that's probably what the late HH Zakka I had in mind in the quote in the OP (EDIT: at least I think this is something he wrote, it's not attributed one way or the other).  I've heard some adaptations that are good, others that are not so good, and others that are just dreadful.  The really good ones are the ones that have a solid grounding in the authentic chant tradition and then adapt slightly.  The really bad ones tend to divorce text from music as if one is just the medium for the other without acknowledging the intrinsic link between them, and then they just come up with anything they like and plug in the right words.    
 

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Forgive me, a poor faithless miser, for intruding on this topic. I don't know if "Syriacs" exclude the Maronite Catholic Church (if so, my post is entirely irrelevant and a moderator has my full permission in deleting it), but I have been told that musical instruments are actually traditional in the liturgy therein:

The Musical Instruments

Traditionally, only four instruments are used in the Maronite Church: double cymbals, the large cymbal, the naqus and the maraweh. The double cymbals, which have long been in use, can be of different sizes. The large cymbal consists of one suspended disc which is struck with a drumstick.

The naqus can be single or double. The latter is formed of two metallic hemispheres connected to a stem which serves as a handle. It is played with a metallic drumstick. Its tone reminds one of the triangles. Probably this instrument originally had a purely functional role -- that of calling people to prayer, and drawing their attention to certain important moments during prayers. It had the same function as the bell and the hand-bell in the Roman Rite.

The maraweh, plural for marwaha, is a metallic disc having at its periphery some small pieces of metal. The disc is fixed to a wooden handle, about one-meter in length. To the handle is sometimes fixed a colorful flag.

Performance consists of gently agitating the handle, slowly raising and lowering it, which produces a lightly rustling sound.

The use of these instruments is entrusted to experts who have been trained by their elders. Their performance is reserved for certain solemn and joyful occasions, such as Christmas and Easter, and during certain processions.

The harmonium and the organ, which are to be found in some churches or in seminary and college chapels, are of rather recent usage. Other instruments, such as the violin and the accordion, are more recent still.
Source: http://www.maroniteinstitute.org/MARI/JMS/january99/Maronite_Sacred_Music.htm
 

AntoniousNikolas

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dhinuus said:
in the Syriac Church in India, you can see Bollywood inspired versions of Syriac hymns and Malayalam hymns.


The worst part is, some in the Coptic Church might want to use this as an excuse to "contemporize" our liturgy.  Hey, if Bollywood is fair game, why not a Glee or High School Musical inspired liturgy to rope in the fickle North American youth?

hecma925 said:
What a shame to see such a beautiful and holy rite marred in such a way.  Thirumeni is chanting beautifully, the listener is transported to Heaven, and then...

 

qawe

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Mor Ephrem said:
And that's probably what the late HH Zakka I had in mind in the quote in the OP (EDIT: at least I think this is something he wrote, it's not attributed one way or the other).
The author is Thomas Joseph, not HH. Here is the source: http://sor.cua.edu/Music/
 

dhinuus

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Mor Ephrem said:
In one of my classes, a veteran archpriest (EO) would tell us stories from his past, and he once explained the "electric lights" that you find in some churches as substitutes for candles and lamps or surrounding the icons (like Christmas lights).  We think it's in poor taste from our vantage point today, but according to him, for people at that time, that was something they considered ideal or the best they could offer for furnishing and adorning the church.
The following is not from 'that time' in the past. This is from yesterday; when the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Theological Seminary at Udayagiri, Mulanthuruthy, India was celebrating the memory of Late Lamented H.E. Mor Julius Yeshu, the late Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Europe  a big supporter and benefactor of the  MSOT Seminary. The memorial Qurbana was perfect except the following...Christmas lights and plastic flowers.





 

Mor Ephrem

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dhinuus said:
The memorial Qurbana was perfect except the following...Christmas lights and plastic flowers.
I wonder if anyone has ever studied this issue: do people do these things now because they really believe they are appropriate and "the best" they can offer, or do they do them because "that's always how we've done it"?  Whenever I've seen people ask this question, usually these things disappear rather quickly. 

Nice!
 

kijabeboy03

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Mor Ephrem said:
dhinuus said:
The memorial Qurbana was perfect except the following...Christmas lights and plastic flowers.
I wonder if anyone has ever studied this issue: do people do these things now because they really believe they are appropriate and "the best" they can offer, or do they do them because "that's always how we've done it"?  Whenever I've seen people ask this question, usually these things disappear rather quickly.  
I've wondered that too! Here in China that sort of garish/gauche thing seems popular too...
 

AntoniousNikolas

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For me, there's a qualitative difference between plastic Christmas lights and flowers on the one hand and the addition of overwhelming keyboards (with a bassline, in this case) to the Liturgy on the other.  The former might be garish and gauche - as kijabe rightly described them - but the latter crosses the line into jarring and (unintentionally) disrespectful.  Plastic lights and flowers aren't meant to entertain.  They're just a cheap and durable way of showing respect, filling in for candles and real flowers that have to be replaced after each use.  Bollywood keyboards - and any secular music - is entertainment.  I don't think it's right to meld the Liturgy with entertainment.
 
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