Frank La Rocca: A contemporary composer on the countercultural duty of sacred music

Recently I discovered the contemporary composer Frank LaRocca. From his online bio:

Trained as an academic modernist during his degree studies at Yale and University of California, Berkeley, La Rocca came to see this approach as a barrier to authentic musical expression, and spent many years in search of a personal creative language. His catalog includes works in all genres, with an emphasis on a cappella sacred choral works.

The bio refers to a talk LaRocca gave, “The Apologetics of Beauty”, at Notre Dame University, but the link is alas broken. I would love to read/see this lecture, as from this interview LaRocca seems an interesting guy:

CWR: How would you describe the role of the composer of sacred music for the Church? Do you approach the composition of liturgical music differently than music for the concert hall?

Frank La Rocca: To create sacred music for the liturgy, the composer has to internalize a discipline and restraint that is quite foreign to the present-day understanding of the “artistic temperament.” Complete subjective freedom, the breaking of restraints, unrestricted projection of personality and ‘originality’ are values inculcated into aspiring artists during their training and have been since the 19th century, reaching a new level of radicalism in the early 20th century.

This kind of approach is antithetical to authentic liturgical music, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has pointed out in many different reflections on sacred music. Pope Pius X, in his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, laid out with great clarity a very different set of criteria: “Sacred music, being an integral part of the liturgy, is directed to the general object of the liturgy, namely, the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful.” It must have the qualities of holiness, beauty and universality. The music must not be an end in itself as it may be—quite legitimately—in the concert hall.

One tends to forget how influential the idea of the “artistic temperament” is, even (especially?) on pseudosophisticated postmodern hipsters…. anyhow, here are some examples of LaRocca’s work. First, we have two choral pieces:

O Sacrum Convivium:

Expectavi Dominum:

La Rocca’s work is not only choral – here is the piano piece “Meditation” performed by Audrey Andrist

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