Sanctifying Song: Christianity, Music, and Instrumental Worship

Date
2021-05-20
Authors
Gettemy, Aidan
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Worldwide access
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Abstract

Scholars agree that the first Christians worshipped with music, yet the origins and practices of the first liturgical music are not fully understood. One mystery is the use of musical instruments in the Early Church. Consensus believes that as a result of various factors, musical instruments did not play a major role in Christian worship from the beginning. However there are still two important questions to address in understanding the early and enduring lack of musical instruments in Christian liturgical music; When were musical instruments first excluded and why did the absence persist? Many of the aspects defining the Christian musical heritage trace their origin to the beginnings of organized liturgy during and before the fourth and fifth centuries. As a result, searching this era for clues offers glimpses into understanding a form of auditory expression with minimal direct evidence. Through careful examination of modern scholarship and ancient writing, a clearer picture of the gains of the fourth and fifth centuries indicates that little changed from the a-cappella style of the fifth century until the late medieval period. During the fourth and fifth centuries the appropriation of Greek knowledge, the establishment of a unified tradition of worship, and the need to enhance the solemnity of worship led to an elaborate musical tradition that continually grew over time with the church. The ideas about worship in the first four centuries solidified a musical tradition with an uncertain attitude towards the appropriateness of musical instruments.

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Keywords
Music. Instruments. Early Music History. Psalms. Hymns.
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