How the Hootenanny Mass Invaded the Church

Why Catholics Must Sing

Family Song-Time vs. Private Phone Music (Ear Buds)

New ideas which you might not previously have encountered

Catholics in the 1960s were vulnerable to a cultural revolution, the Guitar Mass, because they had lost control of their own culture, at home, out in society and even in Church. They had stopped singing their own songs, unlike their grandparents before them. The Hootenanny Mass made an incursion into a cultural vacuum, a starvation of vitality because we had inadvertently allowed radio, talkies, t.v. and stereo hi-fi to technologically co-opt our musical culture. Now many Catholics want to return to fine, devotional liturgical music, but in their private lives, they’re stuck in a time-warp from the 1960s, still passively consuming a cultural substitute, when they themselves should be deciding what music to have in all aspects of their lives, by singing it themselves, as was the habit of all previous generations, cultures, and civilizations prior to end-stage.

You’re frequently listening to music and being influenced by it. But you were created to make music, to sing it frequently (not necessarily to play a man-made instrument, but to use the God-given musical instrument of your human voice), not merely to consume, commercially or artificially produced music. And if you have ceded direct control of your cultural life, by merely, passively consuming music–without actively producing it with your voice–you run the risk of allowing other, possibly deleterious influences to surreptitiously degrade you in your lifelong quest for virtue.

This concept bears upon and is influenced by, the history of the proliferation of the culturally degraded Hootenanny Mass in the mid-1960s. The specifics of this catastrophe were outlined in the account of Msgr. Richard Schuler about the North American, Commission on Sacred Liturgy’s unwanted, unauthorized destructive activity, fomenting cultural revolution in close cooperation with Msgr. Annibale Bugnini.

What were the social and cultural conditions that allowed a dedicated group of liturgical pillagers to attack the Priesthood, the Mass and the Church, degrading the Sacred Liturgy and, along the way, smuggling in an inferior substitute for Sacred Music? It is necessary to move out a little, to envision a higher relationship.

Anti-Catholic Masonry provided the energetic force. It was received more directly “at the broad end of the wedge” by Bugnini (Masonic code-name “Buan”). But the “business end” of the destruction was most immediately effected among the laity by Bugnini associate, Rembert Weakland‘s introduction of the Hootenanny Mass in the middle 1960s. This claim is contestable, but is supported by the laity’s relatively less intense involvement in the particulars of the Liturgy, while the influence of music tends to be more pervasive and immediate among the laity.

Prior to the rise of the electronic entertainment industry in the 1920s, virtually everyone who was not deaf or tone-deaf, was casually yet intimately involved in singing music, on their own, on a regular basis, in the remotest reaches of their personal lives. (The fact that this cultural background is virtually unknown today, can be attributed to its commonality–everyone knew it at the time, so it would not have been considered remarkable, as it would to those today who don’t know of it.)

Portable culture-spam in a container of the size of a pack of cigarettes: Most American families couldn’t afford a radio even as late as the start of World War II–just as most couldn’t afford to own a T.V. in the early 1950s. Pianos were still widely owned, still played, and voices  were still used, for making our own music. But by the time of the Hootenanny Mass, millions of inexpensive transistor radios were pedaling junk-culture to a people, whose ancestors had never known such a thing…and who themselves knew nothing else.

But by the time in the 1960s of the intrusion of the new Mass and the introduction of culturally dumbed-down guitar music and inane, non-devotional or catechetical lyrics, most people had already ceased personally singing in their daily lives. Their formerly vigorous, if informal involvement with the musical aspect of culture was reduced to passive consumerism, rendering them vulnerable to consciously planned harm against their religious culture.

A solution, for Traditional Catholics, as they face possible dispersion by wayward higher authority, is to consciously take up the banner of the restoration of Christian culture, even, and especially, in its most everyday forms.

This adverse turn of circumstances, the degradation of cultural life under conditions of poor religious and ethical formation—actually, a vacuum of proper catechesis—necessarily exposed the laity to certain latent, dangerous breakdown-products to which the musical and poetic arts are inherently at-risk, to which the specialized music of the Church was not immune in a time of the decline of zeal and rise in the desire for accommodating the spirit of the world.

History found in original sources can be condensed into a simple thought-picture of ancient Greek philosophy’s warnings about the dangers of certain scales, rhythms and tempos. These attributes are not abstract technicalities, they are the most immediate, tangible and visceral aspects of music.

Greek philosophy warned about certain musical modes & rhythms subverting the ordinary, proper control of the passions by the well-formed intellect and the will. In our time, the process has been automated, even given over to algorithms.

In the most important part of our lives, at Holy Mass and while engaged in personal prayer, we may frequently listen to morally good, sacred music, even Gregorian Plainchant. But that salutary, ethical effect is commonly subverted, in other, less well examined parts of our lives, of only marginally less importance, instead of our choosing to directly, actively sing ethical and culturally full music in our daily activities, as we were created by God to do, whether at prayer, at work or at leisure. In this more private and unheralded part of our lives, we may rather, by privately, passively listening, on the cell-phone or in the car, to less exemplary music, suffer smuggling in truly malevolent influences not so easily detected.

Largely as “consumers” of music, we tend not to make very conscious choices about what we’ve been programmed to think of as “our” preferred musical genres, instead being influenced, against our autonomy by a sector of the economy called “the manufacture of consent”, so that, without a high level of awareness of the fact, we merely, unconsciously “go with the flow” of background music which we tend to ignore as mere, ambient, mood inducing sound of a neutral, inconsequential character. But our passive, more nearly negligent reception of such programmed culture-substitute, without fostering our own, active participation, can be the vehicle of hidden corruption which affects us directly, irrespective of our lack of awareness of the issue. All the while, we ourselves do not commonly maintain control of our own music lives, failing to directly sing, ethical and culturally full music of our own conscious choice.

“What would you have us do?” Appoint one of your family members, a young person of middle-school age or older, as the family pianist. Institute family song time as a regular part of your week. Or, if it is your preference, learn Irish music; a few children can play instruments, but everyone has fun singing. Using any effective accommodation, develop your family’s cultural acuity–having tremendous fun in the process–in the recovery of Christian culture, and assert your own control over your cultural content.

With all the joyous potential of music, it is this vulnerability, the tendency toward cultural passivity, that indisputably dominates the broader, present-day secular culture. And its worst potential bears similarity to an historical precedent, to the contemporary weaponization of degraded culture in the service of disrupting the ancient Latin Mass. This precedent was in the case of the culture war of the ancient Arian heresy, which denied the Divinity of Christ.

St. Nicholas of Myra slapping the heretic Arius at the First Council of Nicaea Arius devised what would be the contemporary equivalent, of an heretical advertising jingle for his culture war, a popular tune titled Thalia (the name of a Muse). While it was easy for people to sing a catchy tune, they were not equipped to examine the underlying theology, and tended to be swept up into beliefs which they couldn’t properly evaluate.

Contemporary, Personal-Experience Examples of Unconscious, Adverse, Passively-Consumed Musical Influence (Click-Expand or Bypass)

 Click ^ again to contract 

  1. A devout, traditional Catholic family, with whom I said the Holy Rosary nightly, routinely played a Pandora channel dedicated to Aretha Franklin, on which, every day, multiple times, they failed to note that a Ray Charles song, “What’d I Say”, had female background singers making suggestive moaning sounds integrated musically with the piece. Their young teenage daughter was exposed daily to this corrosive, morally degrading experience, without their awareness. (These people were each accomplished amateur musicians in their own right; but they rarely, if ever, played or even sang music directly–they were dedicated enthrallees of popular culture, unaware of adverse cognitive and moral content being smuggled into their consumerist musical experience, to the detriment of their autonomy.)
  2. At the 40th anniversary celebration of the founding of a religious order’s local novitiate and seminary, which celebration the local Ordinary Bishop attended, a musical piece was played in the background several times, which took God’s name in vain, without any notice, comment or objection by other attendees. The piece is known as “[Trying to Make It Real] Compared to What?” by Les McCann and Eddie Harris from the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival. The taking of God’s name in vain is at the dynamic and dramatic height of the piece. When complaint was posed to the seminary and novitiate authorities, the reply, from a well known, very glib radio Priest, was that “we just didn’t hear it”.

Our near-historical ancestors would not have been so easily influenced by the artificial culture-substitute that held sway in the mid-1960s, when the Hootenanny Mass ejected the Church’s ancient, priceless cultural patrimony that had been embraced by many generations of ordinary Catholics. Within the lifetimes of our own great-great-grandparents, people whose names we might know, the majority of music was actively produced by people themselves. This had the effect, that they fully knew the content, and the ethical implications, of music with which they were actively involved.

Prior to the intrusion of radio (1923) and sound-cinema ‘talkies’ (1929), there were 300 piano brands in the U.S. alone, and ten × 1 million-selling sheet-music printings per year, with many other songs printed in smaller runs, in the decade leading to the end of the First World War.

Observe, not the foreground in the video clip, but the background–what’s happening in the parlor, with the people you can hear singing?

They are doing what people routinely did, before electronic media began to outsource their direct, authentic practice of culture–they are having a terrific time singing, with their own voices, not being force-fed an artificial, culture-substitute.

In their time, and for all previous ages (though with less medium-tech commercialism than in that time), that was “music”. But with the radical distinction from the sense of “music” of our time, that the people themselves were the producers, the authors, the active participants in culture, not passive, drooling thralls.

In our time, and extending back to the break with active culture during the radio- and talkies-age, we listen to ear-buds, streaming from some website with content from authors from whom we are largely disconnected, probably sponsored, frankly by shadowy social-control groups whose existence we completely fail to suspect, often with a very subtle immorality control agenda completely oblivious to us, appealing to the lowest-base passions to ensure that we don’t cause any trouble resisting the dominant narrative.

The stride-style piano in the sound sample, is being played, for fun, by a talented amateur, not being “performed” by a music-school student. The pianist is playing from one of those tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of sheet music printings.

But everybody is singing to it.

Many singers, for every one pianist playing those thousands of songs.

Everyone “knew how” to sing.

Elderly, bachelor professors were able to get their noses out of a book long enough to sing, rather credibly, in three-part harmony, on the basis of experience with common music education in schools, and of early childhood music practice learned at their mothers’ knees. But, surprise!, virtually everyone could do as well.

The gangster is able to assume that the bartender knows how to sing, extemporaneously, the chorus of any one of perhaps 200 random, popular songs. (A murder solved by a song-contest souvenir.)

The fault is in wholesale adoption, without taking stock of profound changes to the fundamental way of life, of various technological innovations that disrupt societies and displace personal involvement in culture: the automobile—breaking up families, neighborhoods and societies—, sound-movies, radio and television, causing people to allow technological systems which bypass involvement of the the voice, to force-feed them a shabby imitation of culture.

That is a lost civilization of music, only 125 years ago–but stretching out into the remotest past of human culture, of all cultures, except ours.

Yes, that music was popular—but every parlor music publication had its operatic and church music sections—yes, common culture even with the remote, unlikely potential for inappropriate or immoral lyrics and rhythms. But the fact of the people singing the music themselves, at least afforded them the means of deciding the matter, consciously themselves, rather than allowing unknown programmers to unconsciously influence them for purposes of political and cultural control.

In many hundreds of pages of home, ‘parlor’ music, not a single word or note of lewdness or subversive immorality can be found. The worst piece is ‘There is a Tavern in the Town‘ which fails to object to excessive alcohol consumption. Immoral or subversive music would not have sold, or have been accepted by people 125 years ago.
Evidence in Support of The Idea that Immorality was Not Generally Accepted in Popular Culture a Century Past (Click or Bypass)
 Click ^ again to contract 
Regarding the assertion that open immorality was not publicly accepted in middle-class culture in the early 20th century: A girl named Rita Antoinette Rizzo was born in 1932 in a working-class Ohio town; she would be known to the world as Mother Anglica, of the EWTN broadcast network. She suffered intense prejudice from children of intact families, with whom she attended school, because, not through her own fault, her parents were divorced. During her young childhood, a controversy arose in public, of the marriage of English King Edward VIII to a divorced woman, Wallis Simpson, and his abdication from the throne. The adverse impact of Mother Angelica’s family situation, growing up under divorce, is negative evidence that, yes, middle-class people could be lacking in sufficient charity. But it also points up to the fact that, apart from popular culture’s near-obsession with defending divorce and re-marriage, even since the life of Lord Horatio Nelson in the early 19th century, when his wife Fanny was vilified in the popular press for seeking reconciliation with her husband after his taking and publicly living with a mistress; at the time of Mother Angelica’s birth, a Catholic-led boycott of Hollywood films which tended to soft pornography, led to the formation of the Hays Code, the prohibition of explicit sexual themes in film and, in general, nudity, and prohibition of adverse depictions in film of Christian ministers. This, then, shows the regard for public morality a century past, for better or for worse, sometimes actually with charity, often with hypocrisy. (In the words of La Rochefoucauld, “hypocrisy is vice’s tribute to virtue.”) But, in principle, open immorality in media and public life, was not generally, socially accepted.

Music lived at home can cease being a revolutionary subversion, and contribute instead to family cohesion and the transmission of one’s own traditions—including the environment of sacred traditions.

If we will foster family singing, our children won’t have to be suffering the corrosion of a private music life, quarantined off by ear buds from relationship participation, that degrades their families’ religious, moral and cultural traditions.

A practical solution for this issue would be for one of your children to study traditional-popular music for piano, and for your whole family to engage in group singing as an entertainment pastime.

It would require the compilation of a kind of musical equivalent to John Senior’s 1,000 good booksthe good songs.

“…the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy…” – Job 38:7

The Almighty’s acts of performative speech, making creation out of nothing, saying “let there be … and it was”, were once conceived as song; and our inheritance as being made in the image and likeness of God, needs to follow, expressing holy joy in song.

JRR Tolkien presents this history using a musical analogy:

“God made first the angels, that were the offspring of His thought, and they were with Him before anything else was made. And He spoke to the Angels, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before Him, and He was glad. But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of God from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. … But as the theme progressed, it came into the heart of Satan to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme of God, for he sought therein to increase the power and glory of the part assigned to himself.” – The Silmarillion.

Satan is highly adept at disguising his subversion in music. Only by taking up the reins of our own cultural lives can we deny him this power.

This shortlink