- 1.Tracing the history of Western music in thechurch, one quickly realizes how muchchange sacred music has undertaken fromthe Old Testament to the Baroque Era. Yet throughout the history, Christian music always seems to return to one thing. Wewill see this music used in thanksgiving, inworship, and in prayer and with all its uses,the one thing it all comes back to is glorifying God.
2. The full history of the origins of music in the Church,"Nevertheless it is clear that although medieval theoreticians accepted some of the theoretical bases of ancient Greek musicaltheory, the practice of music wasfar more heavily indebted to the traditions of Jewish music." 3. Early on in the Bible, evidence ofJewish music and instruments isfound. We find a wonderful exampleof the Israelites using instruments topraise and thank God for parting the Red Sea. Exodus 15:20 says "Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister ofAaron, took the timbrel in her hand;and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances." 4. However, a more detailed descriptionof the style of music in Israel is found in the book of Psalms. "Certainheadings to the psalms would seem to suggest that the use of modes, one of the most marked characteristics of all Middle Eastern music, was well known to the Levites." These Hebrew psalms later became significant in Christian liturgy under the name of "responsorial psalmody". 5. In the early church, sacred musichad chiefly a utilitarian purpose."It was found that an excellent method of assisting worshippers to pray together was to base theprayer on a very simple chant,very much in the nature of arecitation designed on simplerhythmic and melodic lines. 6. At first, a soloist sang the melody, but some psalms ended with an alleluia orsome short refrain that was easilyremembered, and it soon became ordinary for this to be sung in unison. The pinnacle of reform for the liturgy and the chant appears to have beenlargely due to Gregory I (The Great), Pope from 590 to 604. As Pope for justfourteen years, his accomplishments were amazing. 7. "He recodified the liturgy andreorganized the Schola Cantorum; heassigned particular items of the liturgy to the various services throughout the year in an order thatremained essentially untouched untilthe sixteenth century; he gave impulse to the movement whicheventually led to the establishment of a uniform repertoire of chant for usethroughout the Church in all countries." 8. That is why this entire body of music iscalled the Gregorian Chant. Threemain types of chants existed, thereciting formulas, the melismatic songs, and the refrains sung by the choir or congregation. The melodies ofthese were constructed according toJewish fashion and the traditional standard melodic method within a given mode. 9. Gregorian chants were the inspirationbehind much of Western music up tothe sixteenth century. Continuing onin the Dark Ages, we find thedevelopment of polyphony, "thesimultaneous sounding of two ormore melodic lines." In the eleventhcentury, an Italian monk and musical theorist named Guido of Arezzo wrote the "Micrologus", which was crucial to the development of polyphony. 10. Also, he revolutionized the meaning ofpitch by notation when he used horizontallines to show the relative pitch ofparticular notes. Early in the twelfthcentury, the center of musical livelinessmoved to the church of Notre-Dame inParis until the fourteenth century when itmoved to Florence, Italy. Perhaps thegreatest achievement of church music inthe fourteenth century was Machauts"Notre-Dame" mass for four voices. 11. Entering into the Renaissance Period, we findthat while secular music takes on as manynew ideas as possible, the Church attempts to remain as conservative as possible. "Liturgical practice dictated that the mass and the motet remain the chief forms of sacred vocal music.Compared with secular music, their style wasconservative, but inevitably some of the newer secular techniques crept in and figured effectively in the music of the Counter-Reformation within the Roman CatholicChurch. 12. ." With the outbreak in the churchcaused by the Reformation, many newforms of sacred music appeared in Protestant worship services. TheGerman Lutheran worshipped with hymn tunes arranged from plainsong or a secular melody. The AnglicanChurch had its own form of the motet, and the Calvinist played psalm tunes. 13. Into this environment, the Baroque era begins,and with it two of the most influential composersof all time, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. These two men received an incredible gift from God and they used it to glorify him. Both were raised in the Lutheran Church, butbecause of different musical training, Handel wasprimarily a dramatic composer, writing opera, oratorio, and secular cantatas while Bach works included Passions, cantatas for church services,liturgical organ pieces, and harpsichord compositions. Their music impacted the church somuch that several of their songs appear today inhymnals. 14. Throughout history, the wonder andbeauty of sacred music appears. Yetfrom the psalms of the Old Testamentand the Gregorian Chants, to the oratorios, Passions, and hymns of theseventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the beauty of sacred musicis that it can mold to the preference of the time and still be used to glorifyGod.