The conference was very interesting. Here are some of my reactions to it.
Cantor Beer, using standard, well-known tunes as taught in the Baal Tefillah track at the Belz school, gave some nice background on the modes and moods helping us to properly "interpret the words" (to use Rabbi Lookstein's phrase). There was a strong emphasis on the need to stick with nusach hatefillah, which has tied together Jewish communities for centuries. While Musaf Kedushah is often the "hit parade", one should bear in mind the nusach, the modes that have been used for centuries - minor (Mogen Ovos), "Jewish major" (7th step depressed a half-step), etc. when selecting tunes for the different lines of kedushah.
Also, each chatzi-kaddish in the davening has its own tune. As Cantor Goffin has noted before, the chatzi-kaddish before Shabbat musaf is not the same as the one after leining. Neilah is not the same as Tal/Geshem. Etc.
The Modzitz presentation was fascinating, I hadn't known so much about the conscious musical training of the Modzitzer rebbes. One even called his sons before him to test them on which knew the nusach and niggunim (yes, Modzitz emphasized their variant of standard nusach, not just the niggunim) to decide which should get the rebbeschaft. Cantor Motzen gave us a sample of a Modzitzer Friday night service, that could be "real"-chasidic, as opposed to the somewhat contrived Carlebach service. Also, Cantor Motzen feels that the Modzitz niggunim fit the words better, or can be made to fit better, than the standard Carlebach tunes.
For example, the Carlebach Mizmor leDovid is done in a gloomy minor mode, while Cantor Motzen uses a major, hence more cheery and fitting the words, tune. [Yes, people can argue, majestic not gloomy, still, both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic tunes that I know for returning the Torah, are major, hence upbeat. -jjb] Enough with the crying all the time. It doesn't always fit. Even with the niggunim, though, nusach is emphasized - each psalm is sung, but the closing verses are done in the normal Shabbat night nusach, as appropriate to the community.
This is just another example of a repeated theme: do not sacrifice the text to the tune. The tune should fit the words. The tune should not mangle the grammar, or the emphasis of each verse. This is a problem many people have with the Carlebach davening - the tunes are adapted from other words, and don't quite fit the less-rhythmical meter of the psalms.
[This just in - Blog in Dm also discusses the Cantor Motzen's presentation]
Cantor Malovany's presentation was impressive as always, but by the same token, less useful to most cantors and baalei tefillah today. For example, a tune which he presented as simpler than his own compositions, from a chazan who was not into coloratura, well, he sang it in his usual ornate style. Further, as Cantor Goffin and Cantor Beer note, chazzonus has largely fallen out of favor, making way for the simpler baal-tefillah style.
Now, one can draw congregants into a space where they may appreciate chazzonus, says Cantor Malovany, by periodically interrupting the recitative with a simple sing-along melody, then you've co-opted them, and the chazzonus may reach them; but the current trend against repetition of words and phrases militates against trying this.
For example, when I was growing up, the High Holidays cantor would sing "berosh hashanah yikatevun, uvyom tzom kipur yeichateimun (2x)", three times during that paragraph of UnesanehTokef, as a sing-along refrain; today, because repetition has fallen out of style, most won't do that, and the paragraph becomes either a long tiring stretch of pure chazzonish recitative, or the chazan rushes through it so as not to bore people. In either case, some of the impact of its solemnity is lost.
Interestingly, all of the speakers noted that "this is how you can do this or that without repeating words." Clearly, for all of them, repeating words is not completely anathema, but one has to fit the style of the time. The conflict between the cantors' mesorah of repetition and the rabbis' textual opposition to repetition goes on.
Cantor Goffin and Cantor Joel Kaplan gave a good discussion of their issues with nusach hatefillah and its fading from prominence on the Nachum Segal show, JM in the AM. Give it a listen.