You know, I can’t tell you how excited I get hearing a newly composed sacred choral composition hot off the press, written in the slow, modal style of Pärt or MacMillan or Whitacre. Fast, upbeat, cheerful music with texture and forceful rhythm and gripping harmony—it just doesn’t fit Christian texts, you know?
It was great the first time Pärt did it, but it makes me wonder, what happens when someone commissions a sacred song with more than one verse of the Bible in it? Given how long it takes Whitacre to get through one verse, I’d need some popcorn. Imagine what would happen if Whitacre decided to set three verses of Paul from Romans 5. I might have to bring a little ethanol eco-friendly stove with French press, a “shade-grown, ethically-produced third-world roast”, and maybe a tent and sleeping-bag too, just to keep me going. I don’t know, over the course of four verses, what emotional turmoil I’d be in by the end or how many Kleenex boxes would be trashed. If he ever set five verses, why, undoubtedly the length would justify his choir unionizing. Maybe in between certain teary-eyed pan-diatonic chords he could allow for lunch and bathroom breaks.
But, hey, if composers of sacred texts decide to cheer up any time soon, maybe we could actually not make it sound like the world has just experienced nuclear war. Maybe even get through one verse of the Bible in a record-breaking 15 seconds of music and be upbeat about it too. But, hm, I think you have to be a reform Jew to compose with that much regard for the text. It’s unlikely reformed Christians or classical Protestants would ever think to be text-centered and joyful in their music.