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TAN Books

Good Music, Sacred Music, and Silence

Good Music, Sacred Music, and Silence

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More is at stake in the music we listen to or perform than most people are aware. In this vivacious and challenging work, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski—a philosopher, theologian, composer, conductor, and singer—explains why the great classical music of Western civilization is morally and intellectually good for us, as well as why certain other forms of music can actually be harmful.

Kwasniewski then offers a defense of the magnificent treasury of sacred music in the Latin-rite Catholic Church and shows how well-suited it is to divine worship, especially the incomparable art form known as Gregorian chant. Questioned and abandoned in recent tumultuous decades, this outstanding heritage of beauty deserves to be restored for profound theological and spiritual reasons, a restoration our times are at last beginning to see as old prejudices fade away. Kwasniewski issues a poignant crie de cœur in favor of restoring the glorious sacred music of our tradition to every Roman Catholic church on the earth. No genuine liturgical renewal or deep Eucharistic revival can occur until this happens: music is that important.

Finally, Kwasniewski shows how silence is as valuable as—indeed, at times, more valuable than—even the greatest music, precisely because music at its best opens the way to encountering a reality that transcends all we can say or sing.

Written to be accessible to the non-specialist, Good Music, Sacred Music, and Silence: Three Gifts of God for Liturgy and for Life will benefit all Catholics, other Christians, and even aesthetically curious nonbelievers who wish to explore the art of music in general, its role in human life, its effects on morality, and its inspired and inspiring function in religion. Kwasniewski's wide-ranging erudition and sound argumentation provide essential musical guidance for clergy, musicians, teachers, and parents.

Editorial Reviews

“With his uniquely keen and learned insights, Peter Kwasniewski clearly lays out the foundational power of music, especially in the Church’s worship: how it forms the soul, the character, and the faith—or lack thereof—of the listener. Good Music, Sacred Music, and Silence is a much needed and timely gift for the Church at this precise moment of her history. I pray many will read it and apply the principles it articulates both for the good of our society and for the Church’s effective accomplishment of the mission entrusted to her by her Founder: the glorification of God and the salus animarum.
—Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco
“The aesthetic amnesia of our time is debilitating, and therefore the question of our perception and use of music is one of great importance. In this book, the indefatigable Dr. Kwasniewski gives a rousing explanation and defense of the primary beauty and powerful spiritual utility of our musical patrimony, which we forget to our peril. His honest critical treatment of pop music is also something that needs to be considered widely in the Church. His discussions move past knee-jerk opinions and into the area of aesthetic discernment in the light of Catholic teaching and tradition, making this book an immediately invaluable resource.”
—Mark Nowakowski, Composer and Professor
“Sacred music is an art integral to the sacred liturgy as the vehicle that proclaims the Word of God in beauty and the highest dignity. In recent years, it has become the custom to sing 
at Mass and not sing the Mass. This is contrary to right order, for we should sing the Mass in Gregorian chant, which has first place, joined by sacred polyphony and then other forms of worthy music with the qualities of sanctity, goodness of form (true artistry), and universality, spanning every culture. Dr. Kwasniewski has written this valuable book to emphasize the importance of the music proper to the rites of the Church and his message must be proclaimed from the housetops. Now is the time for a new and profound formation in sacred music. Let the longed-for renewal begin!”
—Fr. Robert C. Pasley, KCHS, Chaplain, Church Music Association of America

“Readers will find in this work an impassioned but rational defense of the best music in our Western (Catholic) tradition—that is to say, classical or art music—along with a defense of the role of silence. Fittingly, Dr. Kwasniewski devotes the lion’s share of the book to sacred music. As a polymath, he has the background in philosophy, theology, music, and art history to present readable, cogent, and convincing arguments. A veritable 
apologia for Catholic sacred music. Highly recommended reading!”
—Susan Treacy, PhD, Professor of Music, 
Emerita, Ave Maria University and Author of The Music of Christendom: A History
“It is my sincere hope that, thanks to Peter Kwasniewski’s help, many Catholic households will grow in the great task of passing on the wonder and genuine joy of music.”
—Michael Pakaluk, PhD, Professor of Ethics and Social Philosophy, The Catholic University of America
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