Four twentieth-century mass ordinary settings surveyed using the dictates of the Motu Proprio of 1903 as a stylistic guide
In the first half of the twentieth century, major attempts at reform were occurring in music written for the Catholic Church. At the heart of this reform was the 1903 Motu Proprio of Pope St. Pius X. This document sought to bring clarity and focus to sacred music through limitation, as well as causing sacred music composers to make changes in their compositional methods. While still being modern, music had to conform to certain rules and regulations in order to be functional within the Catholic liturgy. The document also provided a great deal of detailed information regarding day-to-day occurrences within the confines of sacred music for use in the Catholic Church. The Motu Proprio of 1903 provided guidance in sacred music composition for well over half a century. Twentieth-century composers of Catholic sacred music used a variety of techniques to fulfill their musical aspirations, combining archaic compositional methods with modern textures and styles. The Mass in G Minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams, the Messe pour double choeur a cappella by Frank Martin, the Mass in G Major by Francis Poulenc, and the Mass by Igor Stravinsky are examples of works that resonate with the Motu Proprio of 1903. While each shows elements of a historical perspective, they also illustrate the continuation of the twentieth-century compositional trend of pushing musical boundaries.