I have always loved the Catholic Mass. Always. Even when, for a while, I was subjected to celebrant priests who obviously lacked charisma and communication skills and I ventured to other churches and other faiths to simply find where I belonged. I ended up back with the massively historical and tradition-filled Catholicism I grew up with. And I ended up savoring it even more.
I have always loved classical music created with the Mass format in mind. Bach, Beethoven and Mozart had magnificent works which followed the Mass proper in Latin: Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Alleluia, Agnus Dei, etc. And this intrigued me as a composer of liturgical music, and now, as a producer of electronic music.
I came up with this idea sometime in 1998: to stage a theater production in the same vein.
In the centre of the stage is a raised dais or platform where 2 electronic musicians are surrounded by their samplers, keyboards, laptops and mixers. A drummer/percussionist sits at an electronic drumkit nearby. A guitarist also.
Behind this band platform are the risers which hold a mighty gospel choir 40-person strong (10 each of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses) and conducted by a man with wildly flailing hair.
Everywhere else, the dancers infiltrate. They are dressed in minimalist leotards, and move with a combinaton of modern dance and classical ballet.
The band coaxes beats out of their samplers, slowly weaving sonic textures on synthesizers and effects units. The silence is broken by sci-fi bleeps and filtered beats. The drummer and guitarist then kick in and turn it into a frenzied opening number. The choir starts belting out a joyful song of preparation, a song of invitation to the celebration of bread and wine transmuted into body and blood. The dancers enter like rigid marching soldiers ready to go to war, only to explode into little nuclear bursts of joy and light and passion. And the entire theater transforms via light and sound, from a dark cavern of modern sterility (the dance club) into a warm enclave of vibrant spirituality and peace (the church). Projectors to the left and right of the stage beam the important lyrics on the walls, so the gathered audience can sing. Ideally, there are no seats. Ideally there is no raised stage. There is only an invisible line between performer and audience so that the dancers can weave in and out of the audience; so that the audience is immersed in the experience.
And the music proceeds into the mass proper, weaving traditional Latin lyrics with English and setting it to a backdrop of indigenous Philippine percussive and western dance music. Meshing the sacred with the mundane, the spiritual with the physical, the faith with the body.
Everything becomes a prayer of thanksgiving. The dancers give praise through the workings of their bodies, the musicians give praise through their musical talents, and hopefully, the audience is drawn into that infectious joy, and comes to realize that whatever their faith, God is present.
My head reels with the images. But I cannot hear the music yet. I have yet to unlock it from somewhere. Maybe the time has come to begin work on this.
ELECTRONIC MASS: initial research: it’s been done before!
And the first step is research:
I fire up google and find out…. it’s been done before.
+ Leonard Bernstein, magnificent composer of West Side Story, came up with his Age of Aquarius-type Mass in 1971. It was preserved onto a 2-disc CD.
+ A composer named Matthew Davidson came up with a percussive, world/new age version in his Blue Forest Mass.
+ And artist musician Thierry Zaboitzeff, co-founder of the group Art Zoyd, came up with his La Missa Furiosa which pits 3 opera singers against drum loops and a techno-pop band.
I think I will email my wife and ask her to buy some of these albums
off Amazon if she has any money left over from paying the rent. I am
deadly curious as to how these compositions sound.