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Letters Extra

The rest is noise
01 May 2014

In John Deehan's Parish Practice article ("Raise the Roof", The Tablet, 26 April) he argues that "the music of one generation or one culture is just noise to others." For some four percent of congregations, all music is noise. I speak of those like myself who have amusia – a lack of appreciation of music – a well-documented, but little-considered quirk, which is often hereditary. To me and many others like me all music is noise, some is offensive, much is innocuous and therefore can be tuned out. I find liturgical music a trial. That is why I prefer the quiet reflective said Mass on Saturday morning over Sunday's offering whatever the musical fare on offer. Of course I go on Sunday too because being a Catholic is about community and so much more, and I like the biscuits and coffee and chat afterwards.

What really saddens me is the turning of liturgy into a musical performance. I was at a Chrism Mass recently which seemed to be less an occasion for worship than a chance for the choir to show off its party pieces in Latin, though I suspect that John Deehan would also not approve of excluding the congregation from participating.

And just in case you feel I am in a minority of one with amusia, I have been collecting the names others with the condition – Sigmund Freud, Che Guevara etc. I find spotting celebrity amusics, whether they know it or not, quite fascinating. Desert Island Discs (the podcast fortunately has hardly any of the music because of rights issues) is particularly illuminating. The giveaway is the use of music as a signifier – "this is the song being played when I met my spouse". A classic recent suspect is Ed Milliband, all of whose choices related to events. Happy listening.

Dr Martin Price, Vale of Glamorgan


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