Protestantism: Music as a Means of Ideologic Hegemony

  August 16, 2021   Read time 2 min
Protestantism: Music as a Means of Ideologic Hegemony
On the whole, the Reformation tended to awaken a new energy in society, whence the art of music on all its sides received benefit.

But the political confusions and distresses that accompanied it were unfavorable to all art, and these were not overpast till late in the 17th century. Yet, even from the first, the liberation of thought and feeling made popular expression in song and with instruments more spontaneous, varied and heartfelt. Much of the wealth and depth of modern music may surely be traced in large measure to the mental and spiritual stimulus accompan:ying the rise of Protestantism.

The various Saxon states, including cities like Dresden and Leipsic on the east, Erfurt and Miihlhausen on the west, and Wiftenberg and Magdeburg on the north, may be regarded as a region musically distinct at this time. Here may be noted the following individuals. Martin Luther· (d. 1546), born at Eisleben in 1483, was educated at Magdeburg, Eisenach and Erfurt, entered the priesthood in 15°7, became professor of theology at Wittenberg in 1508, where in 1517 his 95 theses against indulgences were put forth. In 1521 he appeared before the Diet otWorms, where his views were rejected by the Emperor.

To save his life, the friendly Elector of Saxony seized him and kept him hidden for a year at the Wartburg, where he completed the first part of his epochal translation of the Bible. In 1524 appeared his first hymn-book, later augmented. In 1525, having renounced the priesthood, he married. In 1529-30 occurred his controversy with the Swiss Reformers, I and the important Diet of Augsburg. The control of the movement then gradually passed into the hands of others. His original hymns grew from 4 in 1524 to 35 in 1545, and for a few of these he perhaps wrote melodies. He was fond 'of music, a good flutist and lutist, and highly appreciative of good polyphony, but was not a composer. His literary references to music are enthusiastic and discriminating.

Johann Walther (d. 1570), Luther's chief musical adviser, was electoral choirmaster at Torgau from 1525 and at Dresden from 1548, retiring in 1554 on a pension. The musical editor of the first hymn-book (1524 and later editions to 1551), he was the composer or arranger of many chorales. He also wrote motets and sacred part-songs (from 1538).

To meet the demand for German church music, a multitude of writers no\v began to appear throughout northern Germany, some of whom displayed skill in so combining contrapuntal learning with popular types that their choir music had a certain kinship with the new congregational music. The texts used were often the sarn.e as those of the Roman liturgy, though generally in a German version. It is interesting to observe occasional settings of the story of the Passion - the germ of a form later of great importance.

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