Holy Measures

Have any of you seen this effort, Holy Measures, to bypass liturgical publishers and allow composers to sell directly to musicians? Lots of browsing options, so it appears pretty well organized. NPM noted this is the effort of a member, part-time church musicians Matt Wessel.

In the Facebook era, I suppose it is possible to tag something, “I like this,” and give it some measure of endorsement. Personally, I like the old-fashioned way: write for your parish, the people with whom you worship. And if it goes farther, so be it. On the other hand, I couldn’t argue against extra income. That always comes in handy when paying dentist bills, or sending a child to camp.

I haven’t perused any of their music yet. Anything of good quality? I don’t see any recognizable names among the composers. It strikes me that Holy Measures places the consumer in the position of the editing board of a music publisher. Unfortunately, there is no benefit of sending submissions back to the composer for revision. I could see a cooperative venture like this work if composers committed themselves to reviewing each others’ work and urging colleagues to better output. I know I’ve benefitted from feedback from any number of people. I wouldn’t submit an item for publication today without knowing it had gone through the ringer.

Have a look at the site and tell us what you think. What if Vatican II had taken place in the past decade, and this opportunity was here as part of a music reform movement? Would Garage Band, Sibelius, and blogging have overtaken the nascent post-conciliar publishers?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to Holy Measures

  1. AndyMo says:

    Yes and no. I think this would encourage full time music directors to seek out quality music and go around the publishers.

    On the other hand, the main publishers have also entrenched themselves in liturgical planning. Part time directors find the publisher’s quarterly / periodic magazines to be indispensable when planning ahead, especially among directors that don’t have the liturgical education background.

    I think the movement is valuable right here and now.

  2. Todd,
    No mention in your article of the site’s “farmers’ market” presentation of their wares? “Latest Downloads”….”Staff Picks”….”Fugue in G Minor” next to “I’m Mortified By Yer Love, Lord!” etc. Or were you just musing about the ooncept? Well, the concept would have merit if it were undeniably, uh…..CATHOLIC. Or, at least, in union with liturgical praxis. Sure, your tunes, my tunes, a whole unmined glory hole of scores that not only we know have merit, but have been accepted and sung by parishioners powerfully over time, despite they’re being rejected by publisher gatekeepers (did they actually open the envelopes?)- let’s set up a “CanticaNova” without the commercial aspect and diversity that is, somehow, reviewed and monitored for its orthodoxy.
    And, let’s not forget that we already have such cyber enterprises: Corpus Christi Watershed and the Musica Sacra website. And it’s all FWEEEEE!!!

  3. Todd says:

    Thanks for the comments, Charles. Mr Wessel has designed his effort to be broadly Christian, and not exclusively Catholic. I’m not prepared to condemn it on the principle of totus petrus.

    I’ve seen the web sites of the cyber enterprises you mention. Their claim to orthodoxy is probably stronger than their claim to catholicity. I suspect that the process of either commissioning or group review contribute to a higher quality overall than at Holy Measures.

    That said, CMAA remains a specialty outfit, and a rather preachy one at that. I wouldn’t have a problem submitting my compositions with a more plainsong vein to them, but given their treatment of outsiders, I would have to ask: why would I bother? And if a person like myself who believes in plainsong and early music, sings it and promotes it, gets alienated by CMAA, what realistic hope does the organization have for those who are still pounding out organ hymns, let alone playing ensemble instruments?

    I see all of these efforts as having substantial flaws, which is why none of them has a decent hope of overtaking the publishers. More likely is that if there is an online market, publishers will employ people to exploit it and they will take advantage of the ease and convenience of internet preview and sales.

  4. Todd, of course I didn’t call for condemnation of Mr. Wessel’s site, I just thought it would have been in better interest if its nature had been fully disclosed.
    There’s not much point in parcing out the benefits or flaws in CMAA/CCW operations, to each his own. I think the point I was advancing is that Tucker and Ostrowski have crossed the Rubicon that literally proves parishes are not inextricably tied to commercial publishing. Even tho’ technically that’s always been the case, the issue of copyright permission from sources et al virtually made the “parish hymnal” a daunting enterprise; I know, did one in the seventies.
    Then you factor in the issue of copyrights itself, namely “Intellectual Property” and “Creative Commons Licensing,” and I can foresee a future wherein many catholic composers will opt not to economically rely upon the commercial success of their marketed compositions, but offer them freely under CCL. That’s what’s missing from CMAA/CCW, an outlet for your tunes and mine that provide the “consumer” opportunities to scrutinize musical works that are stylistically outside of the chant/plainsong genre.
    I do wish that you’d come to a colloquium, so that you could have face time with CMAA. Why? Because you seem to still carry that weight of resentment over something in the past. You and I are pretty much on the same curve, 40 years converted catholic and loving it. But having left NPM in ’99 after a 20 yr. stint, I don’t begrudge some of the silliness encountered then. Let it go, man.
    I need to somehow talk to you offline about a personal, professional development in my job. Can you drop me a line via email listed?

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