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date: 07 December 2023

Christian Liturgical Musicfree

Christian Liturgical Musicfree

  • William T. FlynnWilliam T. FlynnUniversity of Leeds


Music in its widest definition (sound and silence organized in time) is never absent from Christian worship. The diversity of styles and forms employed both chronologically and synchronically, as well as the varied theological, aesthetic, and sociological positions concerning musical norms evident in every ecclesial community, provides a window into the self-representation and theological positioning of each community and often also of the subgroups and individuals within it. Disputes over the norms of Christian liturgical music are commonplace, most often within but also between various ecclesial communities, and may be analyzed for their theological significance. These norms concern (1) the distribution of musical roles, (2) the style of music employed, (3) the relationship between music and words (including whether to use instruments) and (4) the status of traditional repertories. Each of these may be indicative of theological commitments adopted both consciously and unconsciously by members of the community and may reflect differing theological positions, especially concerning ecclesiology. For example, congregants and whole communities may differ in their preferred self-representation of the Church, one preferring the model of the gathered community on earth, another preferring the model of heaven and earth in unity. Some individuals or communities may conceive of their church as part of a larger culture, while others may conceive of their church as a subculture or even a counterculture. New celebrations often arising from a change in spiritual emphases (e.g., the cult of saints) provide an impetus for change even within traditions that conceive of their music as sacral and inviolable. Perceived deficiencies in liturgies, whether due to a need for updating or to return to an earlier, purer form, also provoke musical changes. Careful case studies investigating such interactions between musical and liturgical practice illuminate the theological commitments of both individuals and ecclesial communities, and offer a method for the critical evaluation of the varied musical responses made by Christian communities.


  • Christianity
  • Rituals, Practices, and Symbolism

The huge diversity of forms, styles, and functions in the music used for Christian worship (both historically and today) makes it difficult to define a category of liturgical music. Indeed, many writers have rejected the term liturgical music altogether.1 Nevertheless, it draws attention to an important distinction between music used in Christian worship and other uses of music. On one hand, at all times and places there seems to have been a perception that music used in Christian worship ought to be subordinated in some way to the larger aim of the liturgy; that is, it ought to support the public and corporate worship of God. On the other hand, churches have developed many different means of supporting public worship with music. This diversity of musical practice and changes to the music of a rite over time reveal underlying diversity in how the participants have interpreted the worship service. They also reveal the processes by which musicians have attempted to integrate new forms of expression into their inherited views of worship. Thus, the history of liturgical music illustrates a history of an ongoing critical evaluation of the worship service itself: both diversity and changes in the practice of liturgical music reflect various underlying theological issues.

Three issues underlie the patterns of change in liturgical music so often that they may be considered systematic (or at least perennial). First, musical roles have been distributed in different ways in different rites. For example, within the Roman rite, one can trace a change from chant performed by a lector with a congregational response to chant performed by a schola (clerical or monastic choir) and a largely silent congregation; in some churches of the Protestant Reformation, a unique musical role for the minister disappeared. Second, musical styles and forms arise in a complex interaction with the liturgy, in which a style may be favored or rejected or a form may be adapted to a new liturgical function. For example, the use of polyphonic music, cultivated in Western churches, may be contrasted with its absence from most Byzantine rites and compared with the different polyphonic forms that emerged in that rite in Russian Orthodox use. Third, there is a complex dynamic between liturgical and musical change. Liturgical changes may spur musical change, but it is also the case that musical changes have spawned liturgical innovations. Some musical genres, such as late-medieval vernacular carols and the congregational Leisen (vernacular hymns) that arose outside official rites, may later become incorporated in them.

Musical Roles

The proper distribution of musical roles has been a perennial issue for the Church, partly because the matter is caught up with wider questions of lay and ordained ministry and the Church’s models for worship. Christopher Page has examined the changing roles of singers during the first thousand years of Christianity. The early chapters of his book, The Christian West and Its Singers, present a good synthetic study of the early centuries, which then focuses on named singers of the Western Church.2 Considerably more research is needed to fill in the outline. Nevertheless, the following discussion covers some of the key developments of the first fourteen centuries, when each of the roles that are still present in many liturgies emerged.

Surprisingly, solo singing by musically gifted members of the gathered church is the most clearly attested musical role during the first three centuries. The earliest reports from the New Testament and from the 2nd and 3rd centuries suggest that singing was most common at meals, whether eucharist or agape.3 Among the very slender evidence, Paul’s first letter to the troublesome Corinthians (1 Cor. 11–14, especially 14:26–27) stands out for its description of urban worship in the 1st century.4 He lists singing among a number of worship practices (including teaching, prophesying, speaking in tongues, and interpreting) that individuals spontaneously offered to the assembly during the course of worship.5 In a passage from the early 3rd century, Tertullian (c. 170–225) describes similar practices at the agape: “After the washing of hands and the lighting of lamps, each is urged to come into the middle and sing to God, either from sacred scriptures or from his own invention (de proprio ingenio).”6

One may also infer that two other important roles emerged during the first four centuries (although there is insufficient evidence to be certain). First, it is likely that there were some forms of ministerial chant, since the public reading of scripture and prayers may have had a musical element (declamation stylized into cantillation). Second, if such chant were sung, it would no doubt have been answered by congregational acclamations such as “Amen,” “Maranatha,” and “Alleluia.” Evidence of the congregational singing of hymns is either nonexistent or controversial for the period.

The literary evidence is much more abundant from the late 4th century through the 5th century. The Constantinian Settlement (313) provided the opportunity for much larger assemblies to meet, with consequent changes to the ordering and content of services, and the rise of desert and (especially) urban monasticism provided a renewed focus on the reciting and singing of biblical Psalms that became a regular feature of eucharistic services.7 For much of the 4th century, the psalm was still considered to be a reading, but it changed from a lightly (yet still tonally) inflected reading into a more melodic chanting. This led to two differences in the distribution of musical roles. One difference was the creation of a musical role for the lector, which during the course of the century led to the creation of the new musical office of psaltes or cantor. The lector, often a youth, was appointed to sing the verses of the psalm among the readings in the eucharistic liturgy of the word.8 In response to each verse, the congregation sang a melodic refrain. The many references mentioning the importance of the congregation’s response suggest that its singing melodies in unison was a new practice.

Another difference was the rise of group singing, principally of monks and nuns but also of the laity, including groups of children. During the late 4th century through the 6th century, such practices can be traced mainly in the divine office rather than in eucharistic liturgies, and there is no doubt that groups of urban monks and nuns led the way. However, groups of laity leading a quasi-monastic existence often joined them or even held their own services.9 The reports show a wide variety of solo and choral practices: the familiar responsorial psalm, the singing of antiphona (possibly nonbiblical refrains) with psalms and without psalms, and hymn singing by congregations, by choirs and soloists, and occasionally by two choirs singing in alternation.

Evidence of musical roles during the 6th through 7th centuries is particularly sparse because of the cycle of invasions of Germanic tribes in the West and doctrinal and political conflict in the East as well as the consequent instability of Christian institutions in the former Roman empire.10 The 5th-century practices seem to have continued, especially in monasteries that survived the invasions. In spite of the slender evidence, three new trends can be discerned. First, in churches, the deacon seems often to have replaced the lector as the soloist for the psalm in the eucharist—a practice criticized in Rome in 595 by Pope Gregory I, who put lectors back in charge of this part of the rite. Second, possibly as an unintended consequence of Gregory’s reform (at least in Rome), groups of clerics (not monks or nuns) began to form scholae, where singing later became a principal focus. As Joseph Dyer has argued, a group of clerics specifically assigned to sing at papal liturgies was founded during the second half of the 7th century.11 According to James McKinnon, this group, the Roman schola cantorum, was responsible in large part for creating the entire Proper of the Roman mass.12 By the end of the century, this schola is well attested at Rome and figures prominently in all of Ordo Romanus I (c. 700), which describes services largely composed of ministerial and choral singing, including that of boys. Third, wherever clerical scholae developed, the responsorial singing of the congregation at the eucharist seems to have been largely replaced by choral singing. However, the congregation was not entirely silent, as there are reports of them singing the Sanctus until the 12th century.13 Simple responses such as amens and greetings do not tend to be reported, but it is unlikely that an expectation of unison response at such points died out immediately, if at all. The creation of clerical scholae had the consequence of nearly silencing women in parish and cathedral churches. However, women did continue to participate fully in monastic choirs, filling all musical roles (except that of the celebrant at eucharistic liturgies), contributing their own compositions, and developing their own musical traditions.

Only during the High and Late Middle Ages (1100–1450) did any instrumental musicians gain a significant liturgical role. Organists, in particular, acquired a firm liturgical role but only in the West. During this period, organs gradually became a normal furnishing in many large monastic houses and large churches. Toward the end of the period (possibly as early as the late 13th century), some form of playing the organ in alternatim with the clerical or monastic choir developed.14 In the 13th and 14th centuries, specific injunctions against playing any instruments other than the organ begin to appear, showing that they also were occasionally used. Thus, by the end of the 14th century or the beginning of the 15th century, the full range of musical roles that is in use in the early- 21st century had emerged in the liturgy; these comprised discrete roles for ministers, the congregation, cantors, choirs, organists, and occasionally other instrumentalists. However, it is also clear that after the High Middle Ages lay congregations were assigned only the most rudimentary role.

The emergence of discrete musical roles and the changes in balance among them are theologically significant because the ordering of the worship service may be considered to be a social performance of the gathered community’s relationship to God and to each other. The distribution of liturgical roles may therefore be considered to reflect a church’s governing images of worship and its ecclesiology. Two of these images are of particular importance, since they encapsulate the dual command of right relationship with God and neighbor, which lies at the heart of the Gospel. They are often found in traditional descriptions of the eucharist, conceived as (1) a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, that is, a participation in eschatological worship; and as (2) a communal celebration of the remembrance and presence of Christ. Indeed, scripture offers support for both models of ideal worship: the rich musical descriptions of the Temple in the Old Testament and even more important New Testament passages reporting choirs of angels and martyrs (e.g., Rev. 4–5) support an eschatological model, whereas Paul’s descriptions of 1st-century household worship supports a communal model.

It is important to note that neither of these two images needs exclude the other. Moreover, it would be a gross oversimplification to speak of the first as suggesting an exclusively vertical (doxological) organization and the second as suggesting an exclusively horizontal (sanctifying) organization; both images are rich enough to organize both sets of relationships. The eschatological image emphasizes the role of the Church as a vivid sign of the continuing presence of Christ to the world; therefore, it can incorporate the Church’s kerygmatic and diaconal functions. As Avery Dulles has argued, it may heighten a community’s sense that it must be the hearers and preachers and doers of the Word.15 The communal image may also support such sacramental functions, since the community gathers in celebration and anamnesis of Christ. It also incorporates kerygmatic and diaconal functions, heightening the sense that the community is charged to be God’s people for the sake of the world. Indeed, both the eschatological and the communal images are implicit in Paul’s metaphor of the Church as the body of Christ. Since either image may incorporate features of the other, each may be used to construct an adequate ecclesiology. For this reason, churches have tended to emphasize one or the other according to the specific needs of the historical situation and culture that they serve. For example (although there was considerable overlap among medieval institutions), the communal model was particularly developed by cenobitic monasticism, whereas the eschatological model was particularly developed in secular churches, especially in larger collegiate foundations and cathedrals.

The musical practice of a church is particularly significant in negotiating the relationships between these images, since music’s own core metaphors clearly express them.16 Commentators from the 4th century onward mention unison singing as expressing symphonia (sounding together, i.e., acclamatory agreement), and the distribution of musical roles and the structure of music itself were considered to express harmonia (the right relationship of parts to a whole).17 As Clement of Alexandria stated, the whole Church could be characterized as being in harmony with Christ: “The union of many, which the divine harmony has called forth out of a medley of sounds and division, becomes one symphony, following the one leader of the choir and teacher, the Word, resting in the same truth and crying out: ‘Abba, Father.’”18

These core musical metaphors were also used to reflect on existing musical practices in order to demonstrate how they supported the proper organization of the Church’s ministry. From this perspective, the early Church’s charismatic solo song, which seems to have emerged as a way of expressing the uniqueness of the new faith, needed to be properly integrated into the service. As Paul’s letter to the Corinthians makes clear, such offerings needed to be edifying in order to be in the correct relationship (harmony) with the Church. The 4th- and 5th-century emergence of lector chant with congregational response seems to have signified a particularly important balance, since the unison singing of the response could be interpreted as expressing the unity of the Church, and the invocation of that response by the solo singing of the lector could be interpreted as ordering both soloist and congregation into a musical harmony centered on listening and responding to scripture. Ambrose, preaching on the story of the prodigal son, explained why the music (symphonia) that the Father ordered to be played to welcome his lost child home was a fitting symbol of the restoration of their relationship: “For this is a symphony (symphonia), when there resounds in the church a united concord of differing ages and abilities as if of diverse strings; the psalm is responded to, the amen is said.”19 For Ambrose the psalm’s symphonia “joins those with differences, unites those at odds and reconciles those who have been offended, for who will not concede to him with whom one sings to God in one voice?”20 Moreover, by the late 4th century, the sense of community expressed by these images was considered to extend to the Church invisible. This is particularly noticeable in commentaries on the Sanctus, where the congregation is considered to be singing the words along with the “superterrestrial hosts.”21

The change from lector chant to schola chant and the subsequent (if not necessarily consequent) reduction in the musical role of the congregation marked a major shift in the Church’s musical practice. However, it would be wrong to suggest that this shift produced a distortion of a communal nature of the liturgy. There is little evidence to support any notion that the laity was chronically disaffected or disengaged from the rite; there is actually much evidence to the contrary. The shift may be more accurately described as a shift toward a conception of the worship service as an anticipation of heavenly worship that required a richly articulated symbolic representation. Part of the reason for this must have been the need to find more effective ways for the Church to communicate with societies that had only recently experienced any form of written language and whose structures and institutions were still largely traditional. In such societies, culturally agreed symbolic action is considered more binding than written formulations. For this reason, the specific words of a religious rite are emphasized less than their symbolically negotiated meanings that are mediated by vernacular preaching and catechesis. Thus, it is not surprising that allegorical interpretations of the actions of the liturgy, such as that written by Amalarius of Metz in the 9th century, became particularly popular (especially in the Germanic-speaking parts of the former Western Empire).22 Within this context, the music of the liturgy was interpreted as reflecting heavenly joy and binding the congregation to God and to each other through moving them to devotion. These themes can be seen clearly in the 11th-century liturgical commentary of John of Avranches, De officiis ecclesiasticis: “At feasts, the cantor gives the water covered with a linen cloth to the deacon, which the deacon mixes with wine: for by the sweet music (modulatione) of the cantor, the people are inflamed with pious devotion and divine love, and thus run to the Lord, and one body in Christ is made.”23

Moreover, in the Late Middle Ages, the endowments of altars in the naves (i.e., the lay portion of the church) of both monasteries and secular cathedrals often made provision for polyphonic music specifically to foster such devotion.24 The underlying image of heavenly worship and the role of music in forming the devotion of the laity continued throughout the Late Middle Ages and was most eloquently invoked during the 1540s by a few English bishops opposed to the iconoclastic excesses of some of the reformers; thus. in the unpublished book “Ceremonies to Be Used in the Church of England”:

The sober, discreet and devout singing, music, and playing with organs used in church for the service of God, are ordained to move and stir the people to the sweetness of God’s Word, the which is there sung and not understood, and by that sweet harmony both excite them to prayers and devotions and also to put them in remembrance of the heavenly triumphant Church, where there is everlasting joy with continual laud and praise to God.25

Thus, the burgeoning of clerical and monastic musical roles cannot be seen to be disconnected from a concern with liturgical harmonia. Rather, the powerful aural symbols created by musical harmonia were often developed precisely to foster liturgical harmony and unity.

Musical Styles and Forms

The symbolic systems of the liturgy, which include gesture, art, environment, words, and music, are interlocking, and any meaning that emerges from the rite comes from their interplay. However, it is also clear that the interplay between these systems must make the goal of the liturgy clear to the congregants; otherwise, one or another element may seem to be out of balance and destructive to the rite. In the history of liturgical music, this need to balance the tensions between musical and other symbolic systems has become most apparent when music interacts with the words and actions of the rite.

For example, from the 4th century to the early 5th century, the new melodic style of singing the eucharistic psalm (described above) caused some church figures (most notably Athanasius) to discourage the practice. However, the style was welcomed in Milan by Ambrose and was the occasion for Augustine’s famous reflection on the pleasures of the ear (voluptates aurium) that he found in the new style of psalm-singing. Augustine confessed that he was prone to be moved more by the melody than by the words of the scriptural texts that were sung; therefore, he sometimes considered that it would be safer if the Church adopted Athanasius’s practice of having the “reader of the psalm” inflect it so little that its musical inflection was closer to rhetorical declamation than to singing. However, the goal of his argument was to approve the new style because of its ability to “elevate his own weaker spirit to devotion.”26 Augustine’s careful argument in favor of melodic singing may be in part based on his earlier neo-Platonic aesthetic found in his treatise De Musica. For Augustine, earthly music is a reflection of heavenly music (conceived as number and order): its arousal of the passions may affect (both positively and negatively) its ability to lead to the more abstract contemplation of divine order. Thus, whereas the goal of music is contemplation of God’s harmonia, Augustine clearly acknowledges that a reflection of the created order is to be encountered in the musica found in words and music.27

Moreover, even though the passage from Confessiones is often quoted as identifying a systematic and problematic tension between music and text, it would be more precise (in analyzing its liturgical importance) to say that it is discussing a tension between musical melody and the musically inflected declamation characteristic of late-antique (and medieval) public reading.28 In other words, it describes a liturgical situation where the “reader of the psalm” is not reading but singing melodiously. For Athanasius, the “psalm” was intended to be one of several biblical readings, but for Augustine it was no longer clear whether the “psalm” was intended to be a biblical reading or a song. Augustine, in favoring the melodious singing of the psalm, reflects the fact that during his lifetime the liturgical function of the “psalm” was being transformed. As readings, psalms were chosen for their appropriateness to the celebration. However, there is no evidence that they were subordinated to other readings of the rite or that they functioned as a meditative reflection on the other readings, as would be appropriate for a song. As James McKinnon has pointed out, lectionaries (in which the psalm was subordinated to the other readings) emerged shortly after this controversy had been settled, effecting the transformation of the former biblical reading into a gradual psalm.29 The new musical style was accepted because the interaction between music, text, and liturgical placement created this new liturgical function that ensured that the gradual psalm would support the readings in the liturgy.

Another example of how music, texts, and actions interact in the liturgy can be traced in the histories of the use of tropes, sequences, and polyphony in the West.30 The reason for grouping tropes (textual and musical interpolations into existing songs of the rite), sequences (prose or verse texts for the pneumae sequentiae of the Alleluia), and polyphony together is that ecclesiastical centers that cultivated one genre usually cultivated the others, and all three seem to have had the liturgical function of festal embellishments of the rite. The three forms display subtly differing ways of increasing the solemnity of feasts. Tropes (especially cultivated by composers from the 9th century through the 11th century) consist of one or more lines of prose or verse. Although they were interpolated into most of the proper and ordinary items of the festal eucharist, they were never incorporated into the most musically developed songs of the mass (the Gradual or the Alleluia) but instead were reserved for chants that had a mixture of one to five notes per syllable. Sequences, though often related to the improvised melodic extensions of the last melisma of the Alleluia, came to have a separate identity as a largely syllabic poem that commented on the Alleluia and introduced the reading of the Gospel. During the 9th through the 13th centuries, polyphony was cultivated especially within the Gradual and the Alleluia. The development of polyphony and the sequence also intersect, and numerous settings of sequences with alternate polyphonic verses survive; such polyphonic settings restore a sense of musical embellishment to the sequence, evoking its connection with the Alleluia.

A similarity among these three developments is a tendency toward ever greater rhythmic organization: tropes show a distinct increase in the cultivation of accentual and hexameter verse during the period when they were in vogue. Sequences show a change from rhetorical cursus to partially rhymed or assonant verse and finally to fully rhymed, fully accentual verse in regular stanzas. Similarly, the increasing rhythmic organization of polyphony and its notation was one of the most important musical developments of the 12th to 15th centuries. All of these developments support a neo-Platonic interpretation of the function of music in the liturgy, in which the lavish attention to the rhythmic and harmonic organization of musical structure could be experienced as a mystical vision of God’s ordering of creation.31

Interpreting polyphony in this manner may also have been a factor in ensuring that the organ (and other instruments) came to be accepted in the liturgy. The early history of the organ is plagued by the lack of unambiguous evidence concerning its placement in churches, the details of its construction, and its uses, if any, in the liturgy. Nevertheless, the earliest liturgical use of the organ was most likely as a signaling device, calling people to the rite or marking various points of the liturgy in a fashion similar to the uses of bells. The fact that the Te Deum and the sequence attracted polyphonic embellishment during the 11th century suggests that the organ may also have been used (perhaps playing in alternatim).32 Nevertheless, as noted earlier, clear evidence of such practices emerges only during the late 13th century. By the 14th century, it is clear that the organ was regularly played on feast days, and it would not be unreasonable to speculate that alternatim playing in those parts of the services that were most musically embellished was already a common practice. By the early 15th century, the Codex Faenza (the earliest extensive source of fully written out liturgical keyboard music) demonstrates that alternatim playing of the Kyrie and Gloria on feasts, as well as the alternatim embellishment of the festal office blessing and (possibly) of the festal Marian office hymn, was an established practice in part of Italy.33

Tensions can arise between the various symbolic systems in the liturgy because of their relative autonomy from each other. In the first example given earlier, it is clear that the controversy over musical style developed in part because the music influenced how the text of the psalm was to be performed and understood. It did this by punctuating the text through melodic formulas and cadences; by emphasizing certain words through melisma, or repetition; and by reorganizing the length and balance of the psalm, changing a rite of scripture reading into a rite of reading and sung response. In the second example, the rite was embellished through the addition of words that were structured by musical rhythm and through the harmonic embellishment of chant melodies. In the third example, instrumentally embellished chant came to be substituted for sung chant, dispensing with the words but not with the melodies associated with them. Underlying such musical changes is a notion that the embellishment of the liturgy signifies a greater festivity (solemnity) of the rite. It is not surprising that this notion would also easily support the changes in a core metaphor of worship toward signifying eschatological joy that was noted earlier. The medieval term used to describe this embellishment was ornatus.

The cultural and theological meanings of ornatus were established by two key texts: the first Creation story in Genesis 1–2:2 and the extended reflection on the creation in Wisdom 9–11. Genesis 2:1 introduces the seventh day of creation: “Thus, the heavens and the earth were completed, and all of their ornatus.” Here ornatus refers to everything that is created in heaven and earth, that is, the heavens, the earth, and the fullness thereof. Wisdom 11:21 concludes an extended reflection on creation with the words: “you [God] ordered all things in measure, number, and weight.” Measure (mensura), number (numerus), and weight (pondus) would have reminded any medieval clerical or monastic musician of discussions about harmonia found in music and rhetorical theory. As Umberto Eco has pointed out, these two scriptural texts were frequently quoted by medieval theologians to justify artistic creation and to relate it to God’s creation.34Because of the equating of embellishment with the fullness of creation and God’s harmonious disposition of it, music (and the musically ordered words of poetry) came to be considered especially tied to the core feasts of the liturgy. Such feasts celebrated the renewal of the created order implicit in the Incarnation and were intended to lead to a vision of the new creation implicit in the Resurrection: the closer the feasts were tied to narratives of the redemption of creation, the more likely they would attract musical ornatus.35 After the 7th-century iconoclastic controversies, some authors argued that the sensuous qualities of the arts could lead to idolatrous worship of the creation rather than to the proper worship of the Creator; some therefore stressed the ascetic side of Christian mysticism. Nevertheless, the goal of such asceticism was to control the senses in order to enable the mystic to contemplate God’s creation in its essential goodness.36 Music, because of its ability to provide order and proportion to the words of scripture, came to be viewed as having a particular power to reorder the liturgy and its participants toward a more perfect Christian devotion.

Liturgical and Musical Change

Readers may have been struck by the lack of references in this discussion to the musical and liturgical developments within the churches of the Protestant Reformation. The reason for this omission is that music has been discussed here within the context of organic changes in liturgical traditions, in which certain liturgical and musical features remain relatively stable and new elements are adapted to them. In organic traditions, the lushness of a new growth may obscure, and even overwhelm, old features, but its goal is to sustain an existing tradition through a process of continual change. The idea of organic change is taken up again in the last part of this section, but the present focus will be on reformative change, which Geoffrey Wainwright summarizes under the heading of “Revision”:

Revision is called for when existing forms of worship are felt to be inadequate, but the sense of inadequacy may arise in two distinct ways. On the one hand, a gap may be perceived between a degenerate current practice and the practice of an earlier and classical period. In that case, the demand will be for a return to the sources. If degeneration has lain in impoverishment, a restoration of the pristine fullness will be required. If the degeneration has lain in adulteration, it is the former purity which will need to be restored. On the other hand, the gap may emerge between inherited or imported forms of worship and the requirements of worshippers in a changed cultural situation. In that case, the demand will be for updating or adaptation: updating, where the cultural shift has been temporal; adaptation, where the cultural shift has been geographical.37

All of these strategies of reform may be traced in reformations of liturgy and music within Roman and Orthodox Catholicism as well as in the early modern Reformation and Counter-Reformation. For example, the strategy of “return to the sources” was a feature of the 12th-century reforms advocated by the Cistercians.38 Bernard believed that the Church had lost sight of the need for ascetic discipline and contended that the rites of the Church had become excessively adorned not to enhance prayer but to enhance profits. In his attack on Cluniac monasticism, he wrote: “Everything is covered with gold, gorging the eyes and opening the purse-strings. Some Saint or other is depicted as a figure of beauty, as if in the belief that the more highly coloured a thing is, the holier it is. . . . People run to kiss them and are invited to give donations.”39

For the Cistercians, return to the sources meant first a return to a strict interpretation of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The office was purged of psalms, litanies, and prayers that were not prescribed by the rule. Traditions of long standing were discarded: the singing of five antiphons at lauds was reduced to one, and office hymnody was limited to only those hymns the reformers believed were written by Saint Ambrose; this meant that only one hymn meter (iambic tetrameter, which is analogous to common meter) was retained. Moreover, polyphonic performance was generally banned as well as singing in falsetto and improvising additional ornaments to the notated chant. Since they also believed their local chant tradition had become corrupted over the years, the Cistercians sent a team of scribes to Metz, a center they correctly identified as having musical traditions of great antiquity. What they found must have disappointed them, however, as it was a tradition of equal complexity to their own. Nevertheless, they sang the Metz versions of chant until the late 1140s, when it was decided that the chant needed to be adapted to their local tradition. At the same time, they updated a small amount of the music, bringing some particularly wide-ranging melodies into line with current theoretical ideas about the ambitus of modes. Newly composed or adapted hymn texts and tunes were introduced, but the Cistercians also reclaimed some of the hymn repertory they had rejected in the first stage of the reform.

The strategy of “return to the sources” also featured strongly in the series of reforms that led to the modern liturgical movement. Although this was a multiconfessional and multinational phenomenon, particular emphasis here is on its manifestation in the Anglican Church of the second third of the 19th century. The Anglican Tractarians sensed that the Church had become unpopular and irrelevant to a newly industrialized, urbanized, and revolutionary society. According to John Julian, John Henry Newman’s famous hymn “Lead Kindly Light amid the Encircling Gloom” was “the impassioned and pathetic prayer . . . one of the birthpangs . . . of the Oxford Movement.”40 The Tractarians’ sense of deficiency centered on what they considered an inability of the Church to speak theologically because in the cosy relationship between state and church the clergy acted “as ministers of the government rather than ministers of the Gospel.”41

The notion that the clergy had lost its sense of vocation and spirituality was a powerful motivating force for the Tractarians, and whereas their theological sources were largely the Latin authors of the first five centuries, their spirituality was based on the Romantic notion of the Middle Ages as the great Age of Faith. For this reason, their liturgical “return to the sources” was motivated by restoring a medieval fullness of ceremonial. The liturgical details were worked out by the Cambridge Camden Society (later the Ecclesiological Society) under the leadership of the young John Mason Neale. As Nicholas Temperley points out:

The aesthetic of the Tractarians was not closely tied to their theology. They were eclectic in their choice of past traditions for revival. . . . Their architectural ideal was the Decorated Gothic . . . of the fourteenth century. Their liturgy was, perforce, of the sixteenth century. Their musical models were the Gregorian chant, believed to date from early Christian times, and the harmonic and contrapuntal style of the Renaissance. Many of their vestments and ceremonial customs dated from the later middle ages. With the help of creative imagination and passionate advocacy, this conglomeration soon assumed a strong integrity, recognized by friends and foes as the outward form of the Oxford movement.42

Indeed, so far as the restoration of Gregorian chant was concerned, the Cambridge ecclesiologists creatively misread the historical evidence, believing that congregations (led by robed and surpliced choirs) had spontaneously joined in singing chant during the Middle Ages. Furthermore, being obliged to accept the Book of Common Prayer, they became particularly interested in the Reformation experiments in adapting plainchant to English (such as John Merbecke’s The Book of Common Praier Noted, 1550). Unlike previous “high” churchmen, they participated in the popular movement to include hymns (as opposed to metrical psalms) in services, but their hymnody came to be based on their translations of the hymns of the Roman and other Latin Breviaries, together with their chant tunes. At first, this appropriation was uncritical, but Neale’s Hymnal Noted (1851, 1854) was a turning point for the reappropriation of Latin hymnody. (Greek hymnody became the focus of the Oxford movement slightly later.) Finally, concerted efforts were made to introduce congregational chanted psalmody, the more successful of which were based on the Gregorian tones (e.g., Thomas Helmore’s The Psalter Noted, 1849). Although the musicology of the Cambridge Ecclesiologists was historically flawed, it would be a mistake to consider all of their liturgical innovations romantically naive. The Merbecke adaptation of Gregorian chant for the Ordinary (now accompanied by organ) remained in many congregations’ repertories until revisions of the language of the Book of Common Prayer in the 1970s and 1980s displaced it. The revival of Latin texts and tunes and of Greek texts became a central feature of English hymnody. Even the notion of congregational chanted psalmody was not misguided: as the Tractarians’ parallel revival of monasticism had shown, small communities committed to a common devotional life found it to be an important liturgical practice. In the few places where these prerequisites for its introduction were in place, Gregorian psalmody (in English) flourished and is still practiced in the early 21st century.

The reforms of the early modern Reformation displayed all four strategies of liturgical revision. Certain practices were considered degenerate and corrupt (e.g., multiple masses, indulgences) and required a return to an earlier and classical form of Christian practice largely dictated by the witness of the New Testament. Moreover, many of these practices were thought to be aggravated and reinforced by the cultural gap of language. The Reformers (all educated and completely capable of understanding the Latin Bible and fully participating in the Latin liturgy) wished the unlettered (as Martin Luther says, the “simple layman”) to put aside their traditional practices. Luther objected to these practices principally on the grounds that they were tied to a problematic works-righteousness, whereas John Calvin and the more radical reformers considered them to be idolatrous. Moreover, because of the success of late-medieval catechesis, such ideas appealed greatly to the not-so-simple laypeople in the university towns where the Reformation first took hold.

Both the Lutheran and Calvinist Reformations had a deep pedagogical urgency, which shaped much of the strategy for reforming the rites. Luther’s preface to his Deudsche Messe (1526) is particularly revealing. Here he first justifies liturgy largely because of its pedagogical utility:

[Liturgical orders] are needed, most of all, for the sake of the simple minded and the youth, who shall and must be drilled and trained in the Scriptures and God’s Word every day so that they may become familiar with the Scriptures, apt, well-versed and learned in them, enabled to defend their faith and in due time may teach others and help to increase the Kingdom of Christ. For their sake we must read, sing, preach, write and compose, and if it would help the matter along, I would have all the bells pealing, and all the organs playing, and let everything chime that has a clapper.43

Next, Luther describes three kinds of service, which can be used to summarize Reformation strategies of liturgical and musical reform. For Luther, two of them served pedagogical aims, and the third had to be reserved only for the more spiritually advanced, whom he called “real Christians.” The first order of service was his revision of the Latin mass (Formula Missae, 1523). Luther thought the Latin mass was particularly useful for the youth: “For I would in no wise banish the Latin tongue entirely from the Service, for the youth is my chiefest concern. If I could bring it to pass and Greek and Hebrew were as familiar to us as the Latin, and offered as much good music and song, we would hold mass, sing and read on successive Sundays in all four languages, German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.”44

Luther’s second order is specifically directed to the unlettered: “The German Mass. . . . should be introduced for the sake of the simple laymen. . . . For among them are many who do not believe and are not yet Christians.”45 As the next passage makes clear, Luther is not denying that the unlettered laity is baptized and confirmed, nor would he ever advocate rebaptism. Rather, he believed them to be misdirected by liturgical and devotional practices that had lost their pedagogical orientation:

For this is the damnable thing in the papal services, that they have been changed into laws, works and merits to the utter destruction of faith. Nor did they use them to educate the youth and the simple minded, to drill them in the Scriptures and God’s Word, but became so enmeshed in them as to regard them as themselves useful and necessary for salvation. . . . The ancients did not institute nor order them with such intentions.46

It is not at all clear whether Luther actually believes his third order is practical, since he holds to his doctrine of simul justus et peccator, but he does describe a service that harks back to the Pauline domestic model described at the beginning of this text. According to Luther, this form of worship was to be used only by the spiritually elite, and although it invokes New Testament practices, it is also close to the rhetoric of monasticism:

The third kind of Service which a truly evangelical church order should have, would not be held in a public place for all sorts of people, but for those who mean to be real Christians and profess the Gospel with hand and mouth. They would record their names on a list and meet by themselves in some house in order to pray, read, baptize, receive the Sacrament and do other Christian works. . . . The many and elaborate chants would be unnecessary. There could be a short, appropriate Order for Baptism and the Sacrament and everything centred on the Word and Prayer and Love. . . . But as yet I neither can nor desire to begin, or to make rules for, such a congregation or assembly.47

The emphasis on pedagogy shows that the high-medieval idea that liturgical ceremony could lead to contemplation of God had not died out but had instead been transformed from its roots in neo-Platonic theology to a newer belief in the power of the spoken and printed Word of God. Therefore, it should not be surprising that music (and the other arts) was similarly transformed. The most telling example of this transformation is the change from medieval to early modern strategies of text setting, in which music was used not simply as a vehicle for the expressive delivery of the text but instead was used to imitate the meaning of the text. The most simplistic form of this is melodic word painting, such as an ascending line on the word ascendit (he arose), but a more subtle and pervasive use of controlled harmonic dissonance also supported the trend to attempt to express the meaning of the text through musical analogies.

Luther’s favorite composer, Josquin des Prez (c. 1440–1521), was a master of this new style. For a music theorist of the High Middle Ages, all music, whether it set joyful or sorrowful words, had expressed the goodness of the created order that culminated in a sense of eschatological joy. But for a theorist of the early modern period, it was possible to speak of joyful or sorrowful music because of the association of specific musical strategies with specific texts. However, prior to the Reformation, music based on the new strategies of text setting had been used principally at the margins of, or entering without official sanction into, formal liturgies. It was more common in motets than in masses and in votive anthems rather than in office antiphons; it had been particularly prominent in pre-Reformation traditions of vernacular religious song, such as the carol, the lauda, and the Ruf. These song repertories were often associated with vernacular preaching and were well established in confraternities and guilds and their public ceremonial, as well as in the households of the educated classes.48

The varied strategies of Lutheran reformers toward music indicate a concentration on the first two of Luther’s three model orders of service discussed earlier. Because of the well- established tradition of vernacular religious song in Germany, its popular melodies and texts could be adapted for official use in vernacular services for the “simple laymen.” These could be supplemented with translations of the texts and adaptations of the tunes of the Latin liturgy; gaps in the repertory could be filled with new hymns. Luther’s own hymn production centered on providing a core liturgical repertory, initially focused on parts of the mass Ordinary. (For this, he already had the model of the Leisen, which may have been derived from troped Kyries.) He was also keenly conscious of the need for a mass Proper and stated that services for principal feasts had to be conducted in Latin “until enough German hymns become available.”49 Luther also carefully adapted ministerial chant to German, and in creating formulas suitable to its patterns of syllabification and accentuation, he eventually arrived at a hybrid chant style that interacted well with the new musical rhetoric of the hymns. Because both of Luther’s first two orders were essentially geared toward reorientation of already existing practices, they tended to be amalgamated into a macaronic service that persisted in university towns as long as Latin held sway as the principal literary language of the educated classes.50

Perhaps because he was not a member of the clergy and therefore had less of an investment in the old rites, John Calvin tended to classify all late medieval ceremonial as idolatrous. Unlike Luther, who considered that such ceremonial features could be freed of works righteousness if their true meanings were understood, Calvin considered the mass to consist of “magical mumblings” and the people to be full of “stupid amazement.”51 For Calvin, only a pattern such as that advocated in Luther’s third order would suffice because only such a pattern had sufficient warrants in a literal rather than allegorical interpretation of scripture. A key text, in addition to Paul’s letters, is the “rule of Christ” described in Matthew 18. In line with humanistic interpretations of scripture, other models of worship, such as those found in the Old Testament or the book of Revelation, were rejected, since they could not be used literally but would require an allegorical adaptation to fit them for practical use.

Calvin’s Geneva order (1542) suggests the singing of one psalm before the lesson and sermon and other psalms during the distribution of the Lord’s supper.52 The Strasbourg order (1545) shows a more nuanced use of music: the singing of the “first table of commandments” is a response to the general confession and follows the absolution. The “second table” is a response to a prayer seeking continual growth in grace and leads to the lesson and sermon. During distribution, the metrical version of Psalm 138 (Louange et grâce) is specified, and a metrical version of the biblical canticle of Simeon (Maintenant Seigneur Dieu) follows the after-supper prayer of thanksgiving. Services without the Lord’s supper substitute an appropriate metrical psalm for the canticle, and the rite concludes with a blessing and dismissal.

This rite used a new style of music developed from courtly song and ballad similar in essence to earlier forms of vernacular devotional song developed by the religious confraternities known as puy.53 Thus, in the French-speaking forms of Calvinistic worship, a strong musical component was retained because of the variety in the metrical organization of words and the consequent metrical variety (and complexity) of the melodies. Even though the singing was restricted to biblical texts and polyphony was allowed only for household and not for public worship, the texts and tunes displayed a wide variety of rhythms, accents, and meters.

Calvin’s orders of service were for the spiritually elect but could be transmitted and maintained through corporate confession (including a reflection on the Decalogue), through preaching and extended exhortation, and if necessary, through excommunication. Therefore, he did not consider it inaccessible to the laity. Calvin’s strategy is reminiscent of adaptations of the cenobitic forms of 4th-century desert monasticism (which had started as a lay movement) to urban contexts. The Calvinist focus on a sober style of service and an exclusive use of biblical canticles and psalms supported by a melodic style of singing are as reminiscent of 4th- and 5th-century models as it is of the New Testament. The scholarly Calvin would have encountered numerous descriptions of the virtues of psalm-singing in his close reading of the Latin Fathers, and one may speculate that he was directly, even if unconsciously, influenced by them. The principal characteristic in these examples of reformative change is the sense that the inherited traditions had become unintelligible, corrupt, or otherwise deficient. The tendency was to adopt the strategy of removing those elements of the rite that were deemed deficient and to incorporate, within the revised rite, the popular musical forms that were already in the repertories cultivated by the literate classes in lay confraternities and in elite households.

Because change can also be interpreted as organic, as a natural growth from existing practices, some repertories of liturgical music have come to be considered classic. Since they have been mediators of a strong sense of the presence of God to a church, the tendency is to build on them (either refining or elaborating their structures) rather than to rebuild from the ground up. Even whole repertories may be considered relatively indispensable, as can be seen from the transfer of the Byzantine liturgy, including its chant, to Slavonic-speaking territories. This necessitated a careful and ingenious adaptation of the melodies that all Orthodox accept as being essential. Moreover, to a certain extent chant may serve as a literal or model structure on which to build, as is seen in the incorporation of Slavonic chant in the polyphony of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Roman rite showed a greater tendency toward elaboration, but even developments that obscured or replaced the chant (such as Re- naissance polyphony) retained strong connections with it, by borrowing directly from it, alluding to its melodic clichés, or by retaining its modal structures. Moreover, in the Lutheran Church the hymn became just such an organic repertory and acquired various forms of elaboration in polychoral motets, organ music, and cantatas.

The later changes to hymnody in churches of the Protestant Reformation may be seen as organic as well. Although the liturgical practice of the whole congregation singing together instilled a sense of praise and a harmony of purpose, this sense could only be maintained in tension with changed devotional emphases. For example, Isaac Watts’s innovative restoration of the christological interpretation of the Psalms in the early 18th century led eventually to an acceptance of nonbiblical hymns in most reformed rites; this practice is ironically more in line with the New Testament than is the use of psalms alone. The hymnody of the later 18th-century Evangelical revival emphasized tropological (moral and inspirational) themes to express a renewed sense of the need for a closer connection between worship and Christian discipleship. These changes did not influence the basic musical structure of hymns, but they did affect the way they were performed. Centers of the revival rejected the old practice of lining out psalms, gradually replacing it with a regular (and rhythmically lively) practice of singing from a book.54 As a result, by the mid-19th century whole congregations embraced the singing of music in parts, in effect becoming a polyphonic choir and elaborating the sense of harmony with actual musical harmony. All of these changes in hymns are broadly analogous to the changes in the Gregorian office and mass from the 9th century through the 12th century: the christological interpretation of its largely psalm-based texts was reinforced with new poetry that was also intended to support a tropological interpretation of the inherited texts, highlighting the active appropriation of the scripture. Later, the cultivation of polyphony brought out anagogical (eschatological) themes. Moreover, all of these practices had their births in the early medieval monastic schola that had achieved, for a few, what the reformers desired for the many. It took about the same amount of time (200 years) for similar changes of textual emphasis and musical practice to develop in vernacular hymn singing.55

Pressing the analogy between the medieval schola and the modern congregation a little further, one may conceive of the technological breakthroughs of the early 20th century, whereby one may purchase professional performances of practically any kind of music on sound recordings, as extending the possibility of having one’s own household or “court” music to those of comparatively modest means.56 The widespread availability of professional models of musical performance has been followed by a decline in group singing at both secular and sacred rituals in many Western countries. Part of the difficulty in encouraging singing in communities where it was not already established may be related to this phenomenon. Even if professional music making in church may be criticized if it overshadows or eliminates all corporate song, a church that rejects all forms of professional music making is likely to be depriving its congregation, who are extremely well trained in listening, of a powerful form of devotional practice. The music of the medieval cathedral and of the modern megachurch have a certain degree of similarity in that they both display the high production values expected by a musical public trained to listen to, rather than participate in, complex music. For this reason, it may become even more important for churches to incorporate forms of music that provide roles for professional musicians, especially so that music that is already culturally identified as having sacral properties can be more prevalent in the liturgy.57

To sum up, the model of reformative change emphasizes recovering an authoritative past tradition, whereas the model of organic change emphasizes sustaining a past tradition. As Nicholas Lash has observed, the authority of any tradition is constituted by “whatever truth and value have been perceived and achieved in the past, truth and value that can only be ‘recovered’ and sustained to the extent that we risk critically appropriating the past in the transformation of the present for the construction of our future.”58 The musical practices of the Christian Church in all of their contextual complexity and diversity present a fund of such provisional achievements that may substantially challenge, enrich, and renew our ongoing constructions of Christian worship.

Further Reading

  • Fellerer, Karl Gustav. The History of Catholic Church Music. Translated by Francis A. Brunner. Baltimore, MD: Helicon, 1961.
  • Gélineau, Joseph. Voices and Instruments in Christian Worship: Principles, Laws, Applications. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1964.
  • Hiley, David. Western Plainchant: A Handbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Leaver, Robin A. “Theological Consistency, Liturgical Integrity, and Musical Hermeneutic in Luther’s Liturgical Reforms.” Lutheran Quarterly, new ser., 9 (1995): 117–138.
  • Le Huray, Peter. Music and the Reformation in England, 1549–1660. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.
  • Lingas, Alexander. “From Earth to Heaven: The Changing Musical Soundscape of Byzantine Liturgy.” In Experiencing Byzantium. Edited by Claire Nesbitt and Mark Jackson, 311–358. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2015.
  • McKinnon, James, ed. Music in Early Christian Literature. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  • Oettinger, Rebecca Wagner. Music as Propaganda in the German Reformation. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.
  • Page, Christopher. The Christian West and Its Singers: The First Thousand Years. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.
  • Reymond, Bernard. Le protestantisme et la musique: Musicalités de la parole. Geneva, Switzerland: Labor et Fides, 2002.
  • Rivers, Isabel, and David L. Wykes, eds. Dissenting Praise: Religious Dissent and the Hymn in England and Wales. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Routley, Erik. Church Music and Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965.
  • Schalk, Carl. Music in Early Lutheranism: Shaping the Tradition (1524–1672). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Academic, 2001.
  • Temperley, Nicholas. The Music of the English Parish Church. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
  • Williams, Peter F. The King of Instruments: How Churches Came to Have Organs. London: SPCK, 1993.
  • Wilson-Dickson, Andrew. A Brief History of Christian Music: From Biblical Times to the Present. 2d ed. Oxford: Lion, 1997.


  • 1. For a discussion of the problem, see Robin A. Leaver, “What Is Liturgical Music?” in Liturgy and Music: Lifetime Learning, eds. Robin A. Leaver and Joyce Ann Zimmerman (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998), 211–219.

  • 2. Christopher Page, The Christian West and Its Singers: The First Thousand Years (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010).

  • 3. For the first five centuries, see Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, eds., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 2001), “Christian Church, Music of the Early,” by James McKinnon. (References to this dictionary will hereafter be cited as NGDMM.)

  • 4. Wayne A. Meeks examines worship practices in the Pauline orbit in The First Urban Christians (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983), 14–63.

  • 5. The text says “each of you has a psalm,” but since the terms psalm, hymn, and ode were interchangeable and the nature of the singing seems somewhat spontaneous, this passage could easily refer to newly composed or even improvised texts and melodies.

  • 6. Many passages from early Christian authors cited here are in James McKinnon, ed., Music in Early Christian Literature (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987). For convenience, the original work will be cited first, followed by its item number in McKinnon’s volume. For example, the citation for this passage is Tertullian, Apologeticum 39:17–18; McKinnon, 74.

  • 7. See Joseph Dyer, “Monastic Psalmody of the Middle Ages,” Revue Bénédictine 99 (1989): 41–74; and James McKinnon, “Desert Monasticism and the Later Fourth-Century Psalmodic Movement,” Music and Letters 75 (1994): 505–521.

  • 8. See James McKinnon, “The Fourth-Century Origin of the Gradual,” Early Music History 7 (1987): 91–106.

  • 9. See McKinnon numbers 114, 118, 126–128, 139, 146, 152, 198, 223–224, 242, 253, 349, 351, 393. Egeria’s description of the late 4th-century Jerusalem liturgy (not covered in McKinnon) is also particularly full of descriptions of various groups of singers of office psalms and hymns; see Egeria, Itinerarium, eds. A. Franceschini and R. Weber. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina clxxv. (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1965).

  • 10. A discussion of this period is in James W. McKinnon’s The Advent Project: The Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 60–98.

  • 11. Joseph Dyer, “The Schola Cantorum and Its Roman Milieu in the Early Middle Ages,” in De musica et cantu: Helmut Hucke zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. P. Cahn and A.-K. Heimer (Hildesheim, Germany: G. Olms, 1993), 19–40.

  • 12. This is the thesis of McKinnon’s Advent Project, but see the important qualifications in the reviews of Joseph Dyer, Early Music History 19 (2000): 279–309, Susan Rankin, Plainsong and Medieval Music 11 (2002): 73–98, and Peter Jeffrey in Journal of the American Musicological Society 56 (2003): 169–179. For an alternative theory of a more gradual composition (based on the retention of many Vetus Latina readings in the texts of the chant repertory), see Andreas Pfisterer, “James McKinnon und die Datierung gregorianischen Chorals,” Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch 85 (2001): 31–53.

  • 13. See Edward Foley, From Age to Age: How Christians Celebrated the Eucharist (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1992), 75, 102.

  • 14. NGDMM, “Organ,” by Peter Williams and Barbara Owen. In alternatim practice, organ music replaces sections of a chanted piece. This means that only half of the text of the piece is actually sung, but the text is present in memory: the schola and organist certainly had standard texts memorized, and even the illiterati would have attended many nonfestal services where the whole text was chanted (instead of being embellished with polyphony or organ playing). Documentary research that equates the term organist with those responsible for providing polyphony whether vocal or instrumental has been assembled by David Catalunya, “Thirteenth-Century ‘Organistae’ in Castile,” in Orgelpark Research Reports 4, Amsterdam Orgelpark—VU University Press: Amsterdam, 2017.

  • 15. Avery Dulles, Models of the Church (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974). Dulles argues that a sacramental model, in which the Church is conceived as a symbol of Christ’s presence, is the most adequate model. However, he may have distorted his communion model by focusing exclusively on its mystical and hence invisible side.

  • 16. Core metaphors are metaphors that organize a person’s or a community’s practice. For a full discussion of the theory, see George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). George S. Worgul’s From Magic to Metaphor: A Validation of the Christian Sacraments (New York: Paulist Press, 1980) explores similar territory relating core metaphors to eucharistic theology.

  • 17. See William Flynn, “Liturgical Music as Liturgy,” in Liturgy and Music: Lifetime Learning, eds. Robin A. Leaver and Joyce Ann Zimmerman (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998), 252–264.

  • 18. Clement of Alexandra, Protrepticus 9, as quoted in Johannes Quasten, Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity (Washington, DC: National Association of Pastoral Musicians, 1983), 67, 102.

  • 19. Ambrose, Expositio evangelii secundum Lucam 7:238; McKinnon 284.

  • 20. Ambrose, Explanatio psalmi 19; McKinnon 276.

  • 21. See Cyril (or John) of Jerusalem, Mystagogical Catechesis 5:6; McKinnon 157. Kenneth Levy has made a case that one surviving melody for the Sanctus (and indeed the music for the whole introductory dialogue and preface as well) dates from the 4th century and could be adapted for contemporary congregational use; see Levy, “The Byzantine Sanctus and Its Modal Tradition in East and West,” Annales musicologiques 6 (1958–1963): 7–68.

  • 22. See William Flynn, Medieval Music as Medieval Exegesis, Studies in Liturgical Musicology 8 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 1999), 117–123.

  • 23. As cited in Flynn, Medieval Music as Medieval Exegesis, 126.

  • 24. See Frank L. Harrison, Music in Medieval Britain, 2d ed. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963), 218–219; and Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c. 1400–c. 1580 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 91–154.

  • 25. As cited in Robin A. Leaver, introduction to The Book of Common Praier Noted, 1550, Courtenay Facsimile 3 (Abingdon, UK: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1980), 18.

  • 26. Augustine, Confessiones 10:33; McKinnon 352.

  • 27. For a full discussion, see Augustine, De musica, vi.

  • 28. I gratefully acknowledge the help of Mary Carruthers who commented on an earlier draft of this essay and challenged my interpretation of the passage cited above from Augustine’s Confessiones 10: 33. I have reshaped my comments to reflect the form of Augustine’s argument and counter the presentation of Augustine as having a “Puritanical” attitude toward music that his writings simply do not support.

  • 29. McKinnon, “Fourth-Century Origin of the Gradual,” 185–186.

  • 30. The incorporation of the Kanon into the Byzantine Orthros during the 7th century through the 9th century is somewhat analogous. The literature on tropes and proses is enormous, but for a liturgical-theological view, see Flynn, Medieval Music as Medieval Exegesis. For a study of trope and sequence texts, see Gunilla Iversen, Laus Angelica: Poetry in the Medieval Mass (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2010). On the emergence of polyphony from a liturgical perspective, see Karl Fellerer, The History of Catholic Church Music, trans. Francis A. Brunner (Baltimore, MD: Helicon, 1961).

  • 31. Catherine Pickstock argues that such metaphysical views of music need to be recovered in order to construct a theological ontology, psychology, and politics. See her chapter “Music: Soul, City and Cosmos after Augustine,” in Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology, ed. John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward (London: Routledge, 1999), 243–277.

  • 32. For a discussion of the early and high medieval organ, see Peter Williams, The Organ in Western Culture 750–1250 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

  • 33. The only office hymn setting in the Codex Faenza is of Ave Maris Stella, and since this consists of a single verset, it may be introductory rather than alternatim. It is just as likely, however, that the single verset represents a model and that the organist is expected to improvise the remainder. Both the mass setting (Cunctipotens Genitor) and the hymn are normally associated with feasts.

  • 34. Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986). Eco’s book was written as part of a survey of aesthetics in 1958, and his specific historical statements concerning music are often inaccurate. However, his insights into the relationships between “metaphysical theories and artistic production” and the broader trajectories of medieval aesthetics that he narrates are still reliable.

  • 35. Indeed, not only music but also all the other arts participated in establishing liturgical solemnity, as can be seen from the festal use of icons, vestments, candles, incense, processions, and so on.

  • 36. Eco, Art and Beauty, 6.

  • 37. Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 324.

  • 38. For a comprehensive overview of the musical reforms of the Cistercians, see Claire Maître, La réforme cistercienne du plain-chant: Étude d’un traité théorique (Brecht, Belgium: Cîteaux, Commentarii Cistercienses, 1995).

  • 39. Bernard of Clairvaux, Apologia ad Guillelum 12, as cited in Eco, Art and Beauty, 7.

  • 40. John Julian, ed., Dictionary of Hymnology, Setting Forth the Origin and History of the Christian Hymns of All Ages and Nations, 2d ed., vol. 1 (London: John Murray, 1907), 668.

  • 41. The Black Book; or, Corruption Unmasked! (1820), as quoted in Dikran Y. Hadidian, “A Bibliographical Epilogue: Before and after Lux Mundi,” in Keeping the Faith: Essays to Mark the Centenary of Lux Mundi, ed. Geoffrey Wainwright (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 376.

  • 42. Nicholas Temperley, The Music of the English Parish Church, vol. 1 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 251.

  • 43. Martin Luther, Deudsche Messe, in Liturgies of the Western Church, ed. Bard Thompson (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), 124.

  • 44. Luther, Deudsche Messe, 124–125.

  • 45. Luther, Deudsche Messe, 125.

  • 46. Luther, Deudsche Messe, 124.

  • 47. Luther, Deudsche Messe, 125–126.

  • 48. The liturgical history of religious devotional song is still being written. The most complete studies concentrate on the lauda, which influenced primarily the liturgical music of the Counter- Reformation. The Ruf (e.g., Leise) was a congregational acclamation in the form of a hymn stanza, sung at the end of the vernacular sermon. The carol found occasional use as the last blessing of festival office liturgies and substantial use in guild plays. All three forms seem to have their origins in mendicant preaching and the consequent rise of popular devotional practices. See NGDMM, “Carol,” “Lauda,” “Leise,” and “Ruf.” Also see Helen Deeming, “Record-keepers, Preachers and Song-makers: Revealing the Compilers, Owners and Users of Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Insular Song Manuscripts,” in Sources of Identity: Makers, Owners and Users of Music Sources Before 1600, ed. Lisa Colton and Tim Shephard (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2017), 63–76.

  • 49. Luther, Deudsche Messe, 136. For Luther’s German hymns, see Markus Jenny, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin in ihren Liedern (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 1983), 13–171.

  • 50. See Günther Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1984), 29–167.

  • 51. “John Calvin, The Form of Church Prayers,” in Thompson, Liturgies of the Western Church, 185.

  • 52. For Calvin’s contribution at both Geneva and Strasbourg, see Jenny, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin in ihren Liedern, 215–281.

  • 53. NGDMM, “Puy,” by Elizabeth C. Teviotdale.

  • 54. Stephen A. Marini, “Rehearsal for Revival: Sacred Singing and the Great Awakening in America,” in Sacred Sound: Music in Religious Thought and Practice, ed. Joyce Irwin, Journal of the American Academy of Religion Thematic Studies 50 (1983): 71–91.

  • 55. For literary and theological appreciations of vernacular hymns see Donald Davie, The Eighteenth- Century Hymn in England (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993); and J. Richard Watson, The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997). Classic status is still enjoyed by Louis F. Benson, The English Hymn: Its Development and Use in Worship (New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915).

  • 56. Walter Benjamin explored the effects of technology on the arts, pointing to the positive aspects of the democratization of aesthetic experience and the negative aspects of its commodification, in his classic essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 217–251. The move toward the streaming and therefore rental rather than ownership of digital content will no doubt modify the experience and commodification of music listening.

  • 57. In the developed West, particular attention might be paid to “minimalist music,” “New Age music,” music of world religions, including chant, and to composers of concert music with explicitly religious purpose, as well as to performers of various forms of “early music.” Gerardus van der Leeuw considers music extensively in his Sacred and Profane Beauty: The Holy in Art (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1963).

  • 58. Nicholas Lash, “What Authority Has Our Past?” in Theology on the Way to Emmaus (London: SCM, 1986), 61.