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Write an account of the Reformation and its effects on music. To what extent are these effects still perceivable today?

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Write an account of the Reformation and its effects on music. To what extent are these effects still perceivable today? The Reformation was a rebellion against the Roman Church, now known as the Roman Catholic Church, which occurred in the 16th century in the wake of the Renaissance. Music was affected in several ways; some merely adapted tradition, others broke away completely and established new ones in line with their particular theological views. In this essay I want to explain what led to the Reformation, how it affected each movement and what change occurred in the music of that group. I will be focusing on Lutheranism, as I believe Martin Luther to be the most important figure in both the theological and musical changes of Western Europe during the 16th century. The Roman Church was the dominating religion of Western Europe at the end of the renaissance. It was a very wealthy, very powerful organisation of men who had control over everything. The public were controlled by the Church in every area of their lives by the very powerful notion of original sin, where everybody is born sinned and we must spend our lives trying to make amends. The best way of doing this, of course, was to pay the church vast sums of money. Redemption was also possible in death if one's relatives were prepared to pay; it was possible to buy oneself or one's dead relatives out of purgatory, the place where Roman Catholics believe they will spend their time until the Second Coming of Jesus. ...read more.


The Choir music was very much influenced by Franco-Flemish polyphony, Luther's favourite style; he particularly admired Josquin des Prez. This was usually a melody of Gregorian chant as the base, with three or four voices woven around in counterpoint. This music was by nature Catholic, but this did not stop Luther drawing from it. Congregational Song was to change the most out of these three; in the middle ages there was virtually no congregational participation. The celebrant and the choir did most of the singing with a few congregational responses in the local tongue. Luther changed it to be thoroughly democratic so that all worshippers sang together. The Liturgy was turned into two hymns; the Creed and the Sanctus. The wording of the Creed was also changed from "I believe in the Father..." to "We believe in the Father...", a more brotherly united idea. The creation in 1524 of a hymnbook containing 23 hymns, 12 free paraphrases from the Latin hymnody and 6 psalms encouraged congregational singing, and churches ran midweek practices to teach the congregation to sing. The most distinctive and important Lutheran feature was the Chorale. Most of us today know them as four part harmonised settings, but in the 16th century they were like plainsong; they only had the melody and the words. It was common for the choir to sing alternate lines with the congregation in unison without accompaniment, but over time evolved into have the congregation singing the melody while the other parts were played on the organ, a practice prevalent in churches today. ...read more.


He achieved this in several important theological and musical ways, the most important of these being the free access to the bible in native tongues and the introduction of hymn singing. The legacy of communal hymn singing still survives today in churches around the world, including our own country and is a very important part of worship to many who attend church. None of this would have occurred without the Reformation, due to the Roman church's policy of control and ignorance, and had it not been for Martin Luther, we would all still be attending church and listening to a Latin mass we did not understand and did not participate in. We would not have the vast hymnal and choral repertoire that has been written since the Reformation by and for Protestant organisations. I think the loss of works such as the Bach Passions, the Mozart Requiem, the Brahms Requiem and many others besides, would be a great loss to us and because of this, I am in no doubt that the Reformation had a lasting and positive effect on sacred music. i Roland H. Bainton: Here I Stand: a life of Martin Luther. ii Grout/Palisca: A History of Western Music, pub Norton & Co The Cambridge companion to Bach, Edited by John Butt, Cambridge University Press. Oxford composer companions; J.S. Bach, Edited by Malcolm Boyd, Oxford University Press. Luther and the Reformation, V.H.H Green. "Reformation" and "Counter-Reformation". Encyclopaedia Britannica 2003. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, accessed 16 October 2003, <http://www.britannica.com> "Reformation", "Catholic Church Music", "Lutheran Church music". Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 16th October 2003), <http://www.grovemusic.com> 0308201 1 ...read more.

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