Mass of Psalms

version for men’s choir, 8 winds and organ [1999] | duration : 31’00”

Originally conceived for male choir, the Mass of Psalms, commissioned by the Tyrolean Singers’ Association, was initially intended to be applied music, admittedly in the best sense of the word. First and foremost, it was an impulse to expand the sacral repertoire in the area of contemporary choral literature, as practiced in larger congregations. Accordingly, the basic conditions were clear: technically as well as musically moderate requirements for a choral and instrumental setting corresponding to the current practice of church music in Germany and Central Europe.

The mass stands as an attempt to combine the limitations of these specifications with contemporary artistic standards. This should be achieved, in particular, by integrating musical elements originating from the 19th century, which still play a dominant role in current church music, into contexts of contemporary art. In this respect, triads take on a central role. The choral part is consistently triadic and sounds familiar in this respect, while the connection of the triads and their instrumental coloring by characteristic dissonances give the music its contemporary touch.

In the overall disposition, the greatest possible flexibility should be achieved. The ten mass parts are absolutely modular in their liturgical setting and only secondarily conceived as a cycle. Individual parts can certainly be omitted, or else a different order can be chosen (e.g. the possible switch Sanctus/Benedictus). The parts EröffnungGloria – Sanctus – Schluss represent the core of the mass, but the Gloria and Sanctus, in particular, can also be used as individual pieces, for example, as the conclusion of another musical mass arrangement. For the concert performance of the organ toccata, a separate version with an introduction is provided.

The organ part follows the colla parte tradition of classical masses and, with a few exceptions, is primarily intended to support the other instruments. The registration is deliberately kept abstract. The few indications are to be understood as suggestions, not as restrictions.

The choice of texts was quite deliberate: here, Oriental poetry meets European religiosity. The ecumenical and multicultural background proved to be reflected most impressively in the language of Martin Luther.

Martin Lichtfuss, 2000/2011.


about new church music in general:
When we talk about “contemporary church music”, a presumable minority of people only realizes that “church” and “contemporary music” share essential qualities – and probably more extensively than they prefer: they are both raddled by ominous manifestations of “hereditery sins”. These unfold their effect in the jerk by which the majority of people in our society almost reflexively withdraw the moment the terms “church” or “contemporary music” are mentioned …

Should a composer of contemporary sacred music scare away even the last church-goers by the maintenance of established expectations proclaimed by a sworn in minority of specialists? Or is it not rather the function of church music to attract people and to “seduce” them to attend religious ceremonies – for example by conceding that contemporary music, regardless of the materials and techniques involved, might be “beautiful”?

For basically open-minded listeners, the dazzling variegation of a cluster may well correspond with the colors of a triad. Or the magic of a melody may also unfold within the realm of harmonics.

It appears to be a “square of the circle” to apply comprehensive and widely accepted sounds while maintaining artistic claims presupposed in the field of contemporary music. However, is there a more important determination of art than that to strive for utopias?

Martin Lichtfuss

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