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Monday, April 01, 2013

Paraphrasing the text of the Responsorial Psalm

Paraphrasing the text of the Responsorial Psalm.

I guess you can't please everyone... and only pleasing myself is actually a sinful thought.

My bottom line? I intend to keep it as minimal as possible... and mostly to refrain from doing it.

I must admit to paraphrasing in my compositions, especially to fitting in the music. That's why I prefer chants... but somehow find it difficult to compose chants for various reasons.

I try not to paraphrase but here are some paraphrasing I've done are...

Original: My lips will tell of your help.
My Paraphrase: My lips will tell of your help. I'll proclaim with my lips.

Original: The Lord upholds my life.
My Paraphrase: The Lord upholds, the Lord upholds my life.

Original: O Lord, it is you who are my portion.
My Paraphrase: O Lord, it is you, it is you who are my portion.

I think what I've done is quite harmless and I think some of you might agree with me. I take comfort that others are taking bigger liberties.

Just recently... by other composers...

Original: Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
Paraphrased: Keep me safe, O God, I take refuge in you.

Original: I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!
Paraphrased: I will sing, sing, sing, to the Lord, Lord, Lord, for his triumph is glorious!

However, some are very angry that this is done (see below).

But in the end, if there are check and balance... I think.... at least there's some discernment going on,.. which is good.

Below is an excerpt of a discussion in a forum which triggered this rant from me.


{... And, I am quite sure that the paraphrases of OCP and other publishing houses "have not been approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop...}

{Why, I ask, should priests be strictly not permitted to vary the text of the Mass and yet the Responsorial Psalm which is the ONLY proper to be preserved intact and, the only proper through the strict instructions of the GIRM must be included in EVERY Mass then be mauled beyond recognition by the act of paraphrasing it. The test of any composer...or artist...is the ability to be creative within the limitations of a structure. Masses have been composed for centuries with this understanding, but OCP and others really dropped the ball and the powers that be weren't able to get it together to say, "Wait a minute here..."}

"This may come as shock, surprise and dismay, but chant is the perfect compliment to maintaining text intact while setting it to music. To me, as a composer, paraphrase means, "let's rewrite the text so we can fit it to the MUSIC WE WOULD RATHER COMPOSE." The music becomes the driving force and the text secondary. Now, if we widen this philosophy of thinking to include all aspects of the liturgy this is where being "creative" or "self-expressive" disrespectfully trumps the form and essence of the Mass itself."

{I agree that chant is the perfect complement to singing the text and letting the text be primary. One of the reasons that composers alter the text is to claim copyright to the text and double their royalty. If they set the text of the lectionary, they have to give the 5% text royalty to the copyright holder(s), leaving them only the 5% music royalty. 

Question ~ {what psalm in particular areyou talking about, Noel- 23rd?}
Answer ~ {All of the paraphrased psalms in Breaking Bread, for example.}

{It is worthwhile to distinguish a genuine psalm paraphrase from other Scripture-based songs. A paraphrase would respect the psalm's integrity: it would represent a single, specific psalm without adding imagery, concepts, and phrases from other sources. It would, at least in general, place ideas and images in the order found in the original psalm. In contrast, some songs found in "missalette" booklets are based on multiple psalms or other Scripture texts, and it would not be correct to consider these as a "psalm arranged in metrical form".}

{You make an excellent observation. But who would make the determination on each and every paraphrase? The pastor? The DoM? The Liturgy Committee?!}