A Theology of Kolinahr

Perhaps it is emotional constipation, a distrust of one obvious way God made us, that has damaged the Church. We are not aliens, after all, devoted to a fictional philosophy of Gene Roddenberry. God has given us minds, certainly. But often our pride in our intellect can be that which trips us up.

Friend and frequent commentator Charles rejected the anti-feeling Mr Jones with some vigor, but missed on the inner impulse of 60’s composers:

You are spot on correct with the intent of folks like Wise in that era “composing” music to primarily move the heart rather than all of our faculties/senses.

Ray Repp, for example, acknowledged his early music was written for catechesis, not liturgy. In addition, a good chunk of original texts composed in the 50’s through early 70’s were explicitly catechetical–telling people what to think and do. I think of titles like “The Mass Is Ended” or “Sons of God” or even “They’ll Know We Are Christians.” Tom Conry, perhaps the most obvious example who advocated “catechesis,” was less about generating feelings and more about converting minds to social justice.

I think people like Joe Wise and many others composed music for one main reason: there was a need and they could fill it in their local church. Publishers came later.

My sense is that the distrust of the affective side of human beings is related not to Church tradition as much as it might be rooted in modernism, and the notion that human intellect will triumph over everything: our basic drives, our mistakes, and even our feelings (whether they are misplaced or not).

As for me, I treat the theology of Kolinahr with skepticism. There’s nothing wrong with music generating or inspiring great feeling in people. Just as long as it leads to the Lord, and isn’t just a mountainous way station that allows us blinders to those needy in the foothills. That cool, aloof musical style likewise keeps us in our lofty heights.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to A Theology of Kolinahr

  1. charlesincenca says:

    If one needs proof that I straddle the line leading to common sense, I freely admit that I’m not sure what you’re getting at in this post, Todd, but that doesn’t bother me. I wonder if, beyond the link to the MSF thread, it would’ve been more clear if you’d offer more context of Noel’s original thoughts. I had intended to point out to him that he was phishing yet another blanket indictment of early songwriters in the post V2 era, and that for wont of guidance they wrote, as you say, out of need. I also mentioned that very vacuum in my reply. I don’t adhere to the rigorist view of repertoire programming. And I certainly don’t preclude the presence of emotional triggers even in the most pristine examples of chant and polyphony, hence the reference to Palestrina, Bach et al. But I’m sure we could joust all the doodah day with didactic, catechetical titles as you listed, and pure heart string titles such as “But then comes the morning,” “Yesterday, today and tomorrow,” “It’s a brand new day.” Unlike a segment of my CMAA friends, I don’t find that entertaining the past is a bothersome, worthless burden, or an “inconvenient truth.” I do like Mahrt’s remedy for opinions like Noel’s- he just doesn’t go there.

    • Todd says:

      My point was twofold.

      First, that Joe Wise (or any of the other modern songwriters and composers) weren’t trying to get an emotional high out of people any more than “the architect” was. Both were following their inspiration. So on that point, I would disagree with Mr Jones that somehow it was all a plot to undermine our cool Catholic reserve and indulge forbidden love.

      Second, a general swipe at those who swipe at the affective side of human nature. On that point, I think you and I are in agreement. On Mr Jones point, I think it betrays spiritual immaturity, not to mention impossible aspirations. Even if he were a Vulcan.

  2. charlesincenca says:

    I should have just commented “Move on, nothing to see here.” Of course, when I do say something of that sort, I get a thousand rejoinders about trying to stifle free discussion. No wonder I straddle.

  3. Melody says:

    Discussions about church music are fraught with angst. We think politics is bipolar and divisive. It however has nothing on liturgical music. It’s like Athanasius and Arius duking it out. Or something. However with all the musical styles and genres out there, why would we think there would be consensus? The best we can hope for is courtesy and patience with our differences, and a mutual resolution not to devolve into bullying, even if it’s “for their own good”.

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