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Title: Music in the History of the Western Church
Author: Dickinson, Edward
Language: English
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                          MUSIC IN THE HISTORY
                         OF THE WESTERN CHURCH


                         _WITH AN INTRODUCTION
                 ON RELIGIOUS MUSIC AMONG PRIMITIVE AND
                            ANCIENT PEOPLES_

                                   BY
                            EDWARD DICKINSON
   _Professor of the History of Music, in the Conservatory of Music,
                            Oberlin College_

                     HASKELL HOUSE PUBLISHERS Ltd.
                 _Publishers of Scarce Scholarly Books_
                          NEW YORK. N.Y. 20012
                                  1969

                          First Published 1902

                     HASKELL HOUSE PUBLISHERS Ltd.
                 _Publishers of Scarce Scholarly Books_
                          280 LAFAYETTE STREET
                          NEW YORK. N.Y. 10012

           Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-25286
                    Standard Book Number 8383-0301-3
                Printed in the United States of America



                                PREFACE


The practical administration of music in public worship is one of the
most interesting of the secondary problems with which the Christian
Church has been called upon to deal. Song has proved such a universal
necessity in worship that it may almost be said, no music no Church. The
endless diversity of musical forms and styles involves the perennial
question, How shall music contribute most effectually to the ends which
church worship has in view without renouncing those attributes upon which
its freedom as fine art depends?

The present volume is an attempt to show how this problem has been
treated by different confessions and in different nations and times; how
music, in issuing from the bosom of the Church, has been moulded under
the influence of varying ideals of devotion, liturgic usages, national
temperaments, and types and methods of expression current in secular art.
It is the author’s chief purpose and hope to arouse in the minds of
ministers and non-professional lovers of music, as well as of church
musicians, an interest in this branch of art such as they cannot feel so
long as its history is unknown to them. A knowledge of history always
tends to promote humility and reverence, and to check the spread of
capricious perversions of judgment. Even a feeble sense of the grandeur
and beauty of the forms which ecclesiastical music has taken, and the
vital relation which it has always held in organized worship, will serve
to convince a devoted servant of the Church that its proper
administration is as much a matter of concern to-day as it ever has been
in the past.

A few of the chapters in this work have appeared in somewhat modified
form in the _American Catholic Quarterly Review_, the _Bibliotheca
Sacra_, and _Music_. The author acknowledges the permission given by the
editors of these magazines to use this material in its present form.



                                CONTENTS


  Chapter                                                                Page
  I.    Primitive and Ancient Religious Music                               1
  II.   Ritual and Song in the Early Christian Church                      36
  III.  The Liturgy of the Catholic Church                                 70
  IV.   The Ritual Chant of the Catholic Church                            92
  V.    The Development of Mediaeval Chorus Music                         129
  VI.   The Modern Musical Mass                                           182
  VII.  The Rise of the Lutheran Hymnody                                  223
  VIII. Rise of the German Cantata and Passion                            268
  IX.   The Culmination of German Protestant Music: Johann Sebastian Bach 283
  X.    The Musical System of the Church of England                       323
  XI.   Congregational Song in England and America                        358
  XII.  Problems of Church Music in America                               390
  Bibliography                                                            411
  Index                                                                   417



                          MUSIC IN THE HISTORY
                                 OF THE
                             WESTERN CHURCH



                               CHAPTER I
                 PRIMITIVE AND ANCIENT RELIGIOUS MUSIC


Leon Gautier, in opening his history of the epic poetry of France,
ascribes the primitive poetic utterance of mankind to a religious
impulse. “Represent to yourselves,” he says, “the first man at the moment
when he issues from the hand of God, when his vision rests for the first
time upon his new empire. Imagine, if it be possible, the exceeding
vividness of his impressions when the magnificence of the world is
reflected in the mirror of his soul. Intoxicated, almost mad with
admiration, gratitude, and love, he raises his eyes to heaven, not
satisfied with the spectacle of the earth; then discovering God in the
heavens, and attributing to him all the honor of this magnificence and of
the harmonies of creation, he opens his mouth, the first stammerings of
speech escape his lips—he speaks; ah, no, he sings, and the first song of
the lord of creation will be a hymn to God his creator.”

If the language of poetical extravagance may be admitted into serious
historical composition, we may accept this theatrical picture as an
allegorized image of a truth. Although we speak no longer of a “first
man,” and although we have the best reasons to suppose that the earliest
vocal efforts of our anthropoid progenitors were a softly modulated love
call or a strident battle cry rather than a _sursum corda_; yet taking
for our point of departure that stage in human development when art
properly begins, when the unpremeditated responses to simple sensation
are supplemented by the more stable and organized expression of a soul
life become self-conscious, then we certainly do find that the earliest
attempts at song are occasioned by motives that must in strictness be
called religious. The savage is a very religious being. In all the
relations of his simple life he is hedged about by a stiff code of
regulations whose sanction depends upon his recognition of the presence
of invisible powers and his duties to them. He divines a mysterious
presence as pervasive as the atmosphere he breathes, which takes in his
childish fancy diverse shapes, as of ghosts, deified ancestors,
anthropomorphic gods, embodied influences of sun and cloud. In whatever
guise these conceptions may clothe themselves, he experiences a feeling
of awe which sometimes appears as abject fear, sometimes as reverence and
love. The emotions which the primitive man feels under the pressure of
these ideas are the most profound and persistent of which he is capable,
and as they involve notions which are held in common by all the members
of the tribe (for there are no sceptics or nonconformists in the savage
community), they are formulated in elaborate schemes of ceremony. The
religious sentiment inevitably seeks expression in the assembly—“the
means,” as Professor Brinton says, “by which that most potent agent in
religious life, collective suggestion, is brought to bear upon the
mind”—the liturgy, the festival, and the sacrifice.[1] By virtue of
certain laws of the human mind which are evident everywhere, in the
highest civilized condition as in the savage, the religious emotion,
intensified by collective suggestion in the assembly, will find
expression not in the ordinary manner of thought communication, but in
those rhythmic and inflected movements and cadences which are the natural
outlet of strong mental excitement when thrown back upon itself. These
gestures and vocal inflections become regulated and systematized in order
that they may be permanently retained, and serve in their reaction to
stimulate anew the mental states by which they were occasioned. Singing,
dancing, and pantomime compose the means by which uncivilized man
throughout the world gives expression to his controlling ideas. The
needed uniformity in movement and accent is most easily effected by
rhythmical beats; and as these beats are more distinctly heard, and also
blend more agreeably with the tones of the voice if they are musical
sounds, a rude form of instrumental music arises. Here we have elements
of public religious ceremony as they exist in the most highly organized
and spiritualized worships,—the assemblage, where common motives produce
common action and react to produce a common mood, the ritual with its
instrumental music, and the resulting sense on the part of the
participant of detachment from material interests and of personal
communion with the unseen powers.

The symbolic dance and the choral chant are among the most primitive,
probably the most primitive, forms of art. Out of their union came music,
poetry, and dramatic action. Sculpture, painting, and architecture were
stimulated if not actually created under the same auspices. “The
festival,” says Prof. Baldwin Brown, “creates the artist.”[2] Festivals
among primitive races, as among ancient cultured peoples, are all
distinctly religious. Singing and dancing are inseparable. Vocal music is
a sort of chant, adopted because of its nerve-exciting property, and also
for the sake of enabling a mass of participants to utter the words in
unison where intelligible words are used. A separation of caste between
priesthood and laity is effected in very early times. The ritual becomes
a form of magical incantation; the utterance of the wizard, prophet, or
priest consists of phrases of mysterious meaning or incoherent
ejaculations.

The prime feature in the earlier forms of worship is the dance. It held
also a prominent place in the rites of the ancient cultured nations, and
lingers in dim reminiscence in the processions and altar ceremonies of
modern liturgical worship. Its function was as important as that of music
in the modern Church, and its effect was in many ways closely analogous.
When connected with worship, the dance is employed to produce that
condition of mental exhilaration which accompanies the expenditure of
surplus physical energy, or as a mode of symbolic, semi-dramatic
expression of definite religious ideas. “The audible and visible
manifestations of joy,” says Herbert Spencer, “which culminate in singing
and dancing, have their roots in instinctive actions like those of lively
children who, on seeing in the distance some indulgent relative, run up
to him, joining one another in screams of delight and breaking their run
with leaps; and when, instead of an indulgent relative met by joyful
children, we have a conquering chief or king met by groups of his people,
there will almost certainly occur saltatory and vocal expressions of
elated feeling, and these must become by implication signs of respect and
loyalty,—ascriptions of worth which, raised to a higher power, become
worship.”[3] Illustrations of such motives in the sacred dance are found
in the festive procession of women, led by Miriam, after the overthrow of
the Egyptians, the dance of David before the ark, and the dance of the
boy Sophocles around the trophies of Salamis. But the sacred dance is by
no means confined to the discharge of physical energy under the
promptings of joy. The funeral dance is one of the most frequent of such
observances, and dread of divine wrath and the hope of propitiation by
means of rites pleasing to the offended power form a frequent occasion
for rhythmic evolution and violent bodily demonstration.

Far more commonly, however, does the sacred dance assume a representative
character and become a rudimentary drama, either imitative or emblematic.
It depicts the doings of the gods, often under the supposition that the
divinities are aided by the sympathetic efforts of their devotees.
Certain mysteries, known only to the initiated, are symbolized in bodily
movement. The fact that the dance was symbolic and instructive, like the
sacrificial rite itself, enables us to understand why dancing should have
held such prominence in the worship of nations so grave and intelligent
as the Egyptians, Hebrews, and Greeks. Representations of religious
processions and dances are found upon the monuments of Egypt and Assyria.
The Egyptian peasant, when gathering his harvest, sacrificed the first
fruits, and danced to testify his thankfulness to the gods. The priests
represented in their dances the course of the stars and scenes from the
histories of Osiris and Isis. The dance of the Israelites in the desert
around the golden calf was probably a reproduction of features of the
Egyptian Apis worship. The myths of many ancient nations represent the
gods as dancing, and supposed imitations of such august examples had a
place in the ceremonies devoted to their honor. The dance was always an
index of the higher or lower nature of the religious conceptions which
fostered it. Among the purer and more elevated worships it was full of
grace and dignity. In the sensuous cults of Phoenicia and Lydia, and
among the later Greek votaries of Cybele and Dionysus, the dance
reflected the fears and passions that issued in bloody, obscene, and
frenzied rites, and degenerated into almost incredible spectacles of
wantonness and riot.

It was among the Greeks, however, that the religious dance developed its
highest possibilities of expressiveness and beauty, and became raised to
the dignity of a fine art. The admiration of the Greeks for the human
form, their unceasing effort to develop its symmetry, strength, and
grace, led them early to perceive that it was in itself an efficient
means for the expression of the soul, and that its movements and
attitudes could work sympathetically upon the fancy. The dance was
therefore cultivated as a coequal with music and poetry; educators
inculcated it as indispensable to the higher discipline of youth; it was
commended by philosophers and celebrated by poets. It held a prominent
place in the public games, in processions and celebrations, in the
mysteries, and in public religious ceremonies. Every form of worship,
from the frantic orgies of the drunken devotees of Dionysus to the pure
and tranquil adoration offered to Phoebus Apollo, consisted to a large
extent of dancing. Andrew Lang’s remark in regard to the connection
between dancing and religious solemnity among savages would apply also to
the Hellenic sacred dance, that “to dance this or that means to be
acquainted with this or that myth, which is represented in a dance or
_ballet d’action_.”[4] Among the favorite subjects for pantomimic
representation, united with choral singing, were the combat between
Apollo and the dragon and the sorrows of Dionysus, the commemoration of
the latter forming the origin of the splendid Athenian drama. The ancient
dance, it must be remembered, had as its motive the expression of a wide
range of emotion, and could be employed to symbolize sentiments of
wonder, love, and gratitude. Regularly ordered movements, often
accompanied by gesture, could well have a place in religious ceremony, as
the gods and their relations to mankind were then conceived; and
moreover, at a time when music was in a crude state, rhythmic evolutions
and expressive gestures, refined and moderated by the exquisite sense of
proportion native to the Greek mind, undoubtedly had a solemnizing effect
upon the participants and beholders not unlike that of music in modern
Christian worship. Cultivated as an art under the name of _orchestik_,
the mimic dance reached a degree of elegance and emotional significance
to which modern times afford no proper parallel. It was not unworthy of
the place it held in the society of poetry and music, with which it
combined to form that composite art which filled so high a station in
Greek culture in the golden age.

The Hellenic dance, both religious and theatric, was adopted by the
Romans, but, like so much that was noble in Greek art, only to be
degraded in the transfer. It passed over into the Christian Church, like
many other ceremonial practices of heathenism, but modified and by no
means of general observance. It appeared on occasions of thanksgiving and
celebrations of important events in the Church’s history. The priest
would often lead the dance around the altar on Sundays and festal days.
The Christians sometimes gathered about the church doors at night and
danced and sang songs. There is nothing in these facts derogatory to the
piety of the early Christians. They simply expressed their joy according
to the universal fashion of the age; and especially on those occasions
which, as for instance Christmas, were adaptations of old pagan
festivals, they naturally imitated many of the time-honored observances.
The Christian dance, however, finally degenerated; certain features, such
as the nocturnal festivities, gave rise to scandal; the church
authorities began to condemn them, and the rising spirit of asceticism
drove them into disfavor. The dance was a dangerous reminder of the
heathen worship with all its abominations; and since many pagan beliefs
and customs, with attendant immoralities, lingered for centuries as a
seductive snare to the weaker brethren, the Church bestirred itself to
eliminate all perilous associations from religious ceremony and to arouse
a love for an absorbed and spiritual worship. During the Middle Age, and
even in comparatively recent times in Spain and Spanish America, we find
survivals of the ancient religious dance in the Christian Church, but in
the more enlightened countries it has practically ceased to exist. The
Christian religion is more truly joyful than the Greek; yet the Christian
devotee, even in his most confident moments, no longer feels inclined to
give vent to his happiness in physical movements, for there is mingled
with his rapture a sentiment of awe and submission which bids him adore
but be still. Religious processions are frequent in Christian countries,
but the participants do not, like the Egyptians and Greeks, dance as they
go. We find even in ancient times isolated opinions that public dancing
is indecorous. Only in a naive and childlike stage of society will
dancing as a feature of worship seem appropriate and innocent. As
reflection increases, the unrestrained and conspicuous manifestation of
feeling in shouts and violent bodily movements is deemed unworthy; a more
spiritual conception of the nature of the heavenly power and man’s
relation to it requires that forms of worship should become more refined
and moderate. Even the secular dance has lost much of its ancient dignity
from somewhat similar reasons, partly also because the differentiation
and high development of music, taking the place of dancing as a social
art, has relegated the latter to the realm of things outgrown, which no
longer minister to man’s intellectual necessities.

As we turn to the subject of music in ancient religious rites, we find
that where the dance had already reached a high degree of artistic
development, music was still in dependent infancy. The only promise of
its splendid future was in the reverence already accorded to it, and the
universality of its use in prayer and praise. On its vocal side it was
used to add solemnity to the words of the officiating priest, forming the
intonation, or ecclesiastical accent, which has been an inseparable
feature of liturgical worship in all periods. So far as the people had a
share in religious functions, vocal music was employed by them in hymns
to the gods, or in responsive refrains. In its instrumental form it was
used to assist the singers to preserve the correct pitch and rhythm, to
regulate the steps of the dance, or, in an independent capacity, to act
upon the nerves of the worshipers and increase their sense of awe in the
presence of the deity. It is the nervous excitement produced by certain
kinds of musical performance that accounts for the fact that
incantations, exorcisms, and the ceremonies of demon worship among
savages and barbarians are accompanied by harsh-sounding instruments;
that tortures, executions, and human sacrifices, such as those of the
ancient Phoenicians and Mexicans, were attended by the clamor of drums,
trumpets, and cymbals. Even in the Hebrew temple service the blasts of
horns and trumpets could have had no other purpose than that of
intensifying emotions of awe and dread.

Still another office of music in ancient ceremony, perhaps still more
valued, was that of suggesting definite ideas by means of an associated
symbolism. In certain occult observances, such as those of the Egyptians
and Hindus, relationships were imagined between instruments or melodies
and religious or moral conceptions, so that the melody or random tone of
the instrument indicated to the initiate the associated principle, and
thus came to have an imputed sanctity of its own. This symbolism could be
employed to recall to the mind ethical precepts or religious tenets at
solemn moments, and tone could become a doubly powerful agent by uniting
the effect of vivid ideas to its inherent property of nerve excitement.

Our knowledge of the uses of music among the most ancient nations is
chiefly confined to its function in religious ceremony. All ancient
worship was ritualistic and administered by a priesthood, and the
liturgies and ceremonial rites were intimately associated with music. The
oldest literatures that have survived contain hymns to the gods, and upon
the most ancient monuments are traced representations of instruments and
players. Among the literary records discovered on the site of Nineveh are
collections of hymns, prayers, and penitential psalms, addressed to the
Assyrian deities, designed, as expressly stated, for public worship, and
which Professor Sayce compares to the English Book of Common Prayer. On
the Assyrian monuments are carved reliefs of instrumental players,
sometimes single, sometimes in groups of considerable numbers. Allusions
in the Bible indicate that the Assyrians employed music on festal
occasions, that hymns to the gods were sung at banquets and dirges at
funerals. The kings maintained bands at their courts, and provided a
considerable variety of instruments for use in the idol worship.[5]

There is abundant evidence that music was an important factor in the
religious rites of Egypt. The testimony of carved and painted walls of
tombs and temples, the papyrus records, the accounts of visitors, inform
us that music was in Egypt preëminently a sacred art, as it must needs
have been in a land in which, as Ranke says, there was nothing secular.
Music was in the care of the priests, who jealously guarded the sacred
hymns and melodies from innovation and foreign intrusion.[6] In musical
science, knowledge of the divisions of the monochord, systems of keys,
notation, etc., the Egyptians were probably in advance of all other
nations. The Greeks certainly derived much of their musical practice from
the dwellers on the Nile. They possessed an extensive variety of
instruments, from the little tinkling sistrum up to the profusely
ornamented harp of twelve or thirteen strings, which towered above the
performer. From such an instrument as the latter it would seem as though
some kind of harmony must have been produced, especially since the player
is represented as using both hands. But if such were the case, the
harmony could not have been reduced to a scientific system, since
otherwise a usage so remarkable would not have escaped the attention of
the Greek musicians who derived so much of their art from Egypt. Music
never failed at public or private festivity, religious ceremony, or
funeral rite. As in all ancient religions, processions to the temples,
carrying images of the gods and offerings, were attended by dances and
vocal and instrumental performances. Lyrical poems, containing the
praises of gods and heroes, were sung at public ceremonies; hymns were
addressed to the rising and setting sun, to Ammon and the other gods.
According to Chappell, the custom of carolling or singing without words,
like birds, to the gods existed among the Egyptians,—a practice which was
imitated by the Greeks, from whom the custom was transferred to the
Western Church.[7] The chief instrument of the temple worship was the
sistrum, and connected with all the temples in the time of the New Empire
were companies of female sistrum players who stood in symbolic relations
to the god as inmates of his harem, holding various degrees of rank.
These women received high honors, often of a political nature.[8]

In spite of the simplicity and frequent coarseness of ancient music, the
older nations ascribed to it an influence over the moral nature which the
modern music lover would never think of attributing to his highly
developed art. They referred its invention to the gods, and imputed to it
thaumaturgical properties. The Hebrews were the only ancient cultivated
nation that did not assign to music a superhuman source. The Greek myths
of Orpheus, Amphion, and Arion are but samples of hundreds of marvellous
tales of musical effect that have place in primitive legends. This belief
in the magical power of music was connected with the equally universal
opinion that music in itself could express and arouse definite notions
and passions, and could exert a direct moral or immoral influence. The
importance ascribed by the Greeks to music in the education of youth, as
emphatically affirmed by philosophers and law-givers, is based upon this
belief. Not only particular melodies, but the different modes or keys
were held by the Greeks to exert a positive influence upon character. The
Dorian mode was considered bold and manly, inspiring valor and fortitude;
the Lydian, weak and enervating. Plato, in the second book of the _Laws_,
condemns as “intolerable and blasphemous” the opinion that the purpose of
music is to give pleasure. He finds a direct relation between morality
and certain forms of music, and would have musicians constrained to
compose only such melodies and rhythms as would turn the plastic mind
toward virtue. Plutarch, in his discourse concerning music in his
_Morals_, says: “The ancient Greeks deemed it requisite by the assistance
of music to form and compose the minds of youth to what was decent,
sober, and virtuous; believing the use of music beneficially efficacious
to incite to all serious actions.” He even goes so far as to say that
“the right moulding of ingenuous manners and civil conduct lies in a
well-grounded musical education.” Assumptions of direct moral,
intellectual, and even pathological action on the part of music, as
distinct from an aesthetic appeal, are so abundant in ancient writings
that we cannot dismiss them as mere fanciful hyperbole, but must admit
that music really possessed a power over the emotions and volitions which
has been lost in its later evolution. The explanation of this apparent
anomaly probably lies, first, in the fact that music in antiquity was not
a free independent art, and that when the philosophers speak of music
they think of it in its associations with poetry, religious and patriotic
observances, moral and legal precepts, historic relations, etc. Music, on
its vocal side, was mere emphasized speech inflection; it was a slave to
poetry; it had no rhythmical laws of its own. The melody did not convey
aesthetic charm in itself alone, but simply heightened the sensuous
effect of measured speech and vivified the thought. Mr. Spencer’s
well-known expression that “cadence is the comment of the emotion upon
the propositions of the intellect” would apply very accurately to the
musical theories of the ancients. Certain modes (that is, keys), on
account of convenience of pitch, were employed for certain kinds of
poetical expression; and as a poem was always chanted in the mode that
was first assigned to it, particular classes of ideas would come to be
identified with particular modes. Associations of race character would
lead to similar interpretation. The Dorian mode would seem to partake of
the sternness and vigor of the warlike Dorian Spartans; the Lydian mode
and its melodies would hint of Lydian effeminacy.[9] Instrumental music
also was equally restricted to definite meanings through association. It
was an accompaniment to poetry, bound up with the symbolic dance,
subordinated to formal social observances; it produced not the artistic
effect of melody, harmony, and form, but the nervous stimulation of crude
unorganized tone, acting upon recipients who had never learned to
consider music as anything but a direct emotional excitant or an
intensifier of previously conceived ideas.

Another explanation of the ancient view of music as possessing a
controlling power over emotion, thought, and conduct lies in the fact
that music existed only in its rude primal elements; antiquity in its
conception and use of music never passed far beyond that point where tone
was the outcome of simple emotional states, and to which notions of
precise intellectual significance still clung. Whatever theory of the
origin of music may finally prevail, there can be no question that music
in its primitive condition is more directly the outcome of clearly
realized feeling than it is when developed into a free, intellectualized,
and heterogeneous art form. Music, the more it rises into an art, the
more it exerts a purely aesthetic effect through its action upon
intelligences that delight in form, organization, and ideal motion, loses
in equal proportion the emotional definiteness that exists in simple and
spontaneous tone inflections. The earliest reasoning on the rationale of
musical effects always takes for granted that music’s purpose is to
convey exact ideas, or at least express definite emotion. Music did not
advance so far among the ancients that they were able to escape from this
naturalistic conception. They could conceive of no higher purpose in
music than to move the mind in definite directions, and so they
maintained that it always did so. Even in modern life numberless
instances prove that the music which exerts the greatest effect over the
impulses is not the mature and complex art of the masters, but the simple
strains which emanate from the people and bring up recollections which in
themselves alone have power to stir the heart. The song that melts a
congregation to tears, the patriotic air that fires the enthusiasm of an
assembly on the eve of a political crisis, the strain that nerves an army
to desperate endeavor, is not an elaborate work of art, but a simple and
obvious tune, which finds its real force in association. All this is
especially true of music employed for religious ends, and we find in such
facts a reason why it could make no progress in ancient times, certainly
none where it was under the control of an organized social caste. For the
priestly order is always conservative, and in antiquity this conservatism
petrified melody, at the same time with the rites to which it adhered,
into stereotyped formulas. Where music is bound up with a ritual,
innovation in the one is discountenanced as tending to loosen the
traditional strictness of the other.

I have laid stress upon this point because this attempt of the religious
authorities in antiquity to repress music in worship to a subsidiary
function was the sign of a conception of music which has always been more
or less active in the Church, down even to our own day. As soon as
musical art reaches a certain stage of development it strives to
emancipate itself from the thraldom of word and visible action, and to
exalt itself for its own undivided glory. Strict religionists have always
looked upon this tendency with suspicion, and have often strenuously
opposed it, seeing in the sensuous fascinations of the art an obstacle to
complete absorption in spiritual concerns. The conflict between the
devotional and the aesthetic principles, which has been so active in the
history of worship music in modern times, never appeared in antiquity
except in the later period of Greek art. Since this outbreak of the
spirit of rebellion occurred only when Hellenic religion was no longer a
force in civilization, its results were felt only in the sphere of
secular music; but no progress resulted, for musical culture was soon
assumed everywhere by the Christian Church, which for a thousand years
succeeded in restraining music within the antique conception of bondage
to liturgy and ceremony.

Partly as a result of this subjection of music by its allied powers,
partly, perhaps, as a cause, a science of harmony was never developed in
ancient times. That music was always performed in unison and octaves, as
has been generally believed, is, however, not probable. In view of the
fact that the Egyptians possessed harps over six feet in height, having
twelve or thirteen strings, and played with both hands, and that the
monuments of Assyria and Egypt and the records of musical practice among
the Hebrews, Greeks, and other nations show us a large variety of
instruments grouped in bands of considerable size, we are justified in
supposing that combinations of different sounds were often produced. But
the absence from the ancient treatises of any but the most vague and
obscure allusions to the production of accordant tones, and the
conclusive evidence in respect to the general lack of freedom and
development in musical art, is proof positive that, whatever concords of
sounds may have been occasionally produced, nothing comparable to our
present contrapuntal and harmonic system existed. The music so
extravagantly praised in antiquity was, vocally, chant, or recitative,
ordinarily in a single part; instrumental music was rude and
unsystematized sound, partly a mechanical aid to the voice and the dance
step, partly a means of nervous exhilaration. The modern conception of
music as a free, self-assertive art, subject only to its own laws,
lifting the soul into regions of pure contemplation, where all temporal
relations are lost in a tide of self-forgetful rapture,—this was a
conception unknown to the mind of antiquity.

The student of the music of the Christian Church naturally turns with
curiosity to that one of the ancient nations whose religion was the
antecedent of the Christian, and whose sacred literature has furnished
the worship of the Church with the loftiest expression of its trust and
aspiration. The music of the Hebrews, as Ambros says, “was divine
service, not art.”[10] Many modern writers have assumed a high degree of
perfection in ancient Hebrew music, but only on sentimental grounds, not
because there is any evidence to support such an opinion. There is no
reason to suppose that music was further developed among the Hebrews than
among the most cultivated of their neighbors. Their music, like that of
the ancient nations generally, was entirely subsidiary to poetic
recitation and dancing; it was unharmonic, simple, and inclined to be
coarse and noisy. Although in general use, music never attained so great
honor among them as it did among the Greeks. We find in the Scriptures no
praises of music as a nourisher of morality, rarely a trace of an
ascription of magical properties. Although it had a place in military
operations and at feasts, private merry-makings, etc., its chief value
lay in its availability for religious purposes. To the Hebrews the arts
obtained significance only as they could be used to adorn the courts of
Jehovah, or could be employed in the ascription of praise to him. Music
was to them an efficient agent to excite emotions of awe, or to carry
more directly to the heart the rhapsodies and searching admonitions of
psalmists and prophets.

No authentic melodies have come down to us from the time of the
Israelitish residence in Palestine. No treatise on Hebrew musical theory
or practice, if any such ever existed, has been preserved. No definite
light is thrown upon the Hebrew musical system by the Bible or any other
ancient book. We may be certain that if the Hebrews had possessed
anything distinctive, or far in advance of the practice of their
contemporaries, some testimony to that effect would be found. All
evidence and analogy indicate that the Hebrew song was a unison chant or
cantillation, more or less melodious, and sufficiently definite to be
perpetuated by tradition, but entirely subordinate to poetry, in rhythm
following the accent and metre of the text.

We are not so much in the dark in respect to the use and nature of Hebrew
instruments, although we know as little of the style of music that was
performed upon them. Our knowledge of the instruments themselves is
derived from those represented upon the monuments of Assyria and Egypt,
which were evidently similar to those used by the Hebrews. The Hebrews
never invented a musical instrument. Not one in use among them but had
its equivalent among nations older in civilization. And so we may infer
that the entire musical practice of the Hebrews was derived first from
their early neighbors the Chaldeans, and later from the Egyptians;
although we may suppose that some modifications may have arisen after
they became an independent nation. The first mention of musical
instruments in the Bible is in Gen. iv. 21, where Jubal is spoken of as
“the father of all such as handle the _kinnor_ and _ugab_” (translated in
the revised version “harp and pipe”). The word _kinnor_ appears
frequently in the later books, and is applied to the instrument used by
David. This _kinnor_ of David and the psalmists was a small portable
instrument and might properly be called a lyre. Stringed instruments are
usually the last to be developed by primitive peoples, and the use of the
_kinnor_ implies a considerable degree of musical advancement among the
remote ancestors of the Hebrew race in their primeval Chaldean home. The
word _ugab_ may signify either a single tube like the flute or oboe, or a
connected series of pipes like the Pan’s pipes or syrinx of the Greeks.
There is only one other mention of instruments before the Exodus, _viz._,
in connection with the episode of Laban and Jacob, where the former asks
his son-in-law reproachfully, “Wherefore didst thou flee secretly, and
steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee
away with mirth and with songs, with _toph_ and _kinnor_?”[11]—the _toph_
being a sort of small hand drum or tambourine.

After the Exodus other instruments, perhaps derived from Egypt, make
their appearance: the _shophar_, or curved tube of metal or ram’s horn,
heard amid the smoke and thunderings of Mt. Sinai,[12] and to whose sound
the walls of Jericho were overthrown;[13] the _hazozerah_, or long silver
tube, used in the desert for announcing the time for breaking camp,[14]
and employed later by the priests in religious service,[15] popular
gatherings, and sometimes in war.[16] The _nebel_ was either a harp
somewhat larger than the _kinnor_, or possibly a sort of guitar. The
_chalil_, translated in the English version “pipe,” may have been a sort
of oboe or flageolet. The band of prophets met by Saul advanced to the
sound of _nebel, toph, chalil_, and _kinnor_.[17] The word “psaltery,”
which frequently appears in the English version of the psalms, is
sometimes the _nebel_, sometimes the _kinnor_, sometimes the _asor_,
which was a species of _nebel_. The “instrument of ten strings” was also
the _nebel_ or _asor_. Percussion instruments, such as the drum, cymbals,
bell, and the Egyptian sistrum (which consisted of a small frame of
bronze into which three or four metal bars were loosely inserted,
producing a jingling noise when shaken), were also in common use. In the
Old Testament there are about thirteen instruments mentioned as known to
the Hebrews, not including those mentioned in Dan. iii., whose names,
according to Chappell, are not derived from Hebrew roots.[18] All of
these were simple and rude, yet considerably varied in character,
representing the three classes into which instruments, the world over,
are divided, _viz._, stringed instruments, wind instruments, and
instruments of percussion.[19]

Although instruments of music had a prominent place in public
festivities, social gatherings, and private recreation, far more
important was their use in connection with religious ceremony. As the
Hebrew nation increased in power, and as their conquests became
permanently secured, so the arts of peace developed in greater profusion
and refinement, and with them the embellishments of the liturgical
worship became more highly organized. With the capture of Jerusalem and
the establishment of the royal residence within its ramparts, the worship
of Jehovah increased in splendor; the love of pomp and display, which was
characteristic of David, and still more of his luxurious son Solomon, was
manifest in the imposing rites and ceremonies that were organized to the
honor of the people’s God. The epoch of these two rulers was that in
which the national force was in the flower of its youthful vigor, the
national pride had been stimulated by continual triumphs, the long period
of struggle and fear had been succeeded by glorious peace. The barbaric
splendor of religious service and festal pageant was the natural
expression of popular joy and self-confidence. In all these ebullitions
of national feeling, choral and instrumental music on the most brilliant
and massive scale held a conspicuous place. The description of the long
series of public rejoicings, culminating in the dedication of Solomon’s
temple, begins with the transportation of the ark of the Lord from
Gibeah, when “David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord
with all manner of instruments made of fir-wood, and with harps
(_kinnor_), and with psalteries (_nebel_), and with timbrels (_toph_),
with castanets (_sistrum_), and with cymbals (_tzeltzelim_).”[20] And
again, when the ark was brought from the house of Obed-edom into the city
of David, the king danced “with all his might,” and the ark was brought
up “with shouting and with the sound of a trumpet.”[21] Singers were
marshalled under leaders and supported by bands of instruments. The ode
ascribed to David was given to Asaph as chief of the choir of Levites;
Asaph beat the time with cymbals, and the royal paean was chanted by
masses of chosen singers to the accompaniment of harps, lyres, and
trumpets.[22] In the organization of the temple service no detail
received more careful attention than the vocal and instrumental music. We
read that four thousand Levites were appointed to praise the Lord with
instruments.[23] There were also two hundred and eighty-eight skilled
singers who sang to instrumental accompaniment beside the altar.[24]

The function performed by instruments in the temple service is also
indicated in the account of the reëstablishment of the worship of Jehovah
by Hezekiah according to the institutions of David and Solomon. With the
burnt offering the song of praise was uplifted to the accompaniment of
the “instruments of David,” the singers intoned the psalm and the
trumpets sounded, and this continued until the sacrifice was consumed.
When the rite was ended a hymn of praise was sung by the Levites, while
the king and the people bowed themselves.[25]

With the erection of the second temple after the return from the
Babylonian exile, the liturgical service was restored, although not with
its pristine magnificence. Ezra narrates: “When the builders laid the
foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their
apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to
praise the Lord, after the order of David king of Israel. And they sang
one to another in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord, saying, For
he is good, for his mercy endureth forever toward Israel.”[26] And at the
dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, as recorded by Nehemiah,
instrumentalists and singers assembled in large numbers, to lead the
multitude in rendering praise and thanks to Jehovah.[27] Instruments were
evidently employed in independent flourishes and signals, as well as in
accompanying the singers. The trumpets were used only in the interludes;
the pipes and stringed instruments strengthened the voice parts; the
cymbals were used by the leader of the chorus to mark the rhythm.

Notwithstanding the prominence of instruments in all observances of
public and private life, they were always looked upon as accessory to
song. Dramatic poetry was known to the Hebrews, as indicated by such
compositions as the Book of Job and the Song of Songs. No complete epic
has come down to us, but certain allusions in the Pentateuch, such as the
mention in Numbers xxi. 14 of the “book of the wars of Jehovah,” would
tend to show that this people possessed a collection of ballads which,
taken together, would properly constitute a national epic. But whether
lyric, epic, or dramatic, the Hebrew poetry was delivered, according to
the universal custom of ancient nations, not in the speaking voice, but
in musical tone. The minstrel poet, it has been said, was the type of the
race. Lyric poetry may be divided into two classes: first, that which is
the expression of individual, subjective feeling, the poet communing with
himself alone, imparting to his thought a color derived solely from his
personal inward experience; and second, that which utters sentiments that
are shared by an organization, community, or race, the poet serving as
the mouthpiece of a mass actuated by common experiences and motives. The
second class is more characteristic of a people in the earlier stages of
culture, when the individual is lost in the community, before the
tendency towards specialization of interests gives rise to an expression
that is distinctly personal. In all the world’s literature the Hebrew
psalms are the most splendid examples of this second order of lyric
poetry; and although we find in them many instances in which an isolated,
purely subjective experience finds a voice, yet in all of them the same
view of the universe, the same conception of the relation of man to his
Creator, the same broad and distinctively national consciousness, control
their thought and their diction. And there are very few even of the first
class which a Hebrew of earnest piety, searching his own heart, could not
adopt as the fitting declaration of his need and assurance.

All patriotic songs and religious poems properly called hymns belong in
the second division of lyrics; and in the Hebrew psalms devotional
feeling touched here and there with a patriot’s hopes and fears, has once
for all projected itself in forms of speech which seem to exhaust the
capabilities of sublimity in language. These psalms were set to music,
and presuppose music in their thought and their technical structure. A
text most appropriate for musical rendering must be free from all
subtleties of meaning and over-refinements of phraseology; it must be
forcible in movement, its metaphors those that touch upon general
observation, its ideas those that appeal to the common consciousness and
sympathy. These qualities the psalms possess in the highest degree, and
in addition they have a sublimity of thought, a magnificence of imagery,
a majesty and strength of movement, that evoke the loftiest energies of a
musical genius that ventures to ally itself with them. In every nation of
Christendom they have been made the foundation of the musical service of
the Church; and although many of the greatest masters of the harmonic art
have lavished upon them the richest treasures of their invention, they
have but skimmed the surface of their unfathomable suggestion.

Of the manner in which the psalms were rendered in the ancient Hebrew
worship we know little. The present methods of singing in the synagogues
give us little help, for there is no record by which they can be traced
back beyond the definite establishment of the synagogue worship. It is
inferred from the structure of the Hebrew poetry, as well as unbroken
usage from the beginning of the Christian era, that the psalms were
chanted antiphonally or responsively. That form of verse known as
parallelism—the repetition of a thought in different words, or the
juxtaposition of two contrasted thoughts forming an antithesis—pervades a
large amount of the Hebrew poetry, and may be called its technical
principle. It is, we might say, a rhythm of thought, an assonance of
feeling. This parallelism is more frequently double, sometimes triple. We
find this peculiar structure as far back as the address of Lamech to his
wives in Gen. iv. 23, 24, in Moses’ song after the passage of the Red
Sea, in the triumphal ode of Deborah and Barak, in the greeting of the
Israelitish women to Saul and David returning from the slaughter of the
Philistines, in the Book of Job, in a large proportion of the rhythmical
imaginative utterances of the psalmists and prophets. The Oriental
Christians sang the psalms responsively; this method was passed on to
Milan in the fourth century, to Rome very soon afterward, and has been
perpetuated in the liturgical churches of modern Christendom. Whether, in
the ancient temple service, this twofold utterance was divided between
separate portions of the choir, or between a precentor and the whole
singing body, there are no grounds for stating,—both methods have been
employed in modern times. It is not even certain that the psalms were
sung in alternate half-verses, for in the Jewish Church at the present
day the more frequent usage is to divide at the end of a verse. It is
evident that the singing was not congregational, and that the share of
the people, where they participated at all, was confined to short
responses, as in the Christian Church in the time next succeeding the
apostolic age. The female voice, although much prized in secular music,
according to the Talmud was not permitted in the temple service. There is
nothing in the Old Testament that contradicts this except, as some
suppose, the reference to the three daughters of Heman in 1. Chron. xxv.
5, where we read: “And God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three
daughters;” and in verse 6: “All these were under the hands of their
father for song in the house of the Lord.” It is probable, however, that
the mention of the daughters is incidental, not intended as an assertion
that they were actual members of the temple chorus, for we cannot
conceive why an exception should have been made in their behalf.
Certainly the whole implication from the descriptions of the temple
service and the enumeration of the singers and players is to the effect
that only the male voice was utilized in the liturgical worship. There
are many allusions to “women singers” in the Scriptures, but they plainly
apply only to domestic song, or to processions and celebrations outside
the sacred enclosure. It is certainly noteworthy that the exclusion of
the female voice, which has obtained in the Catholic Church throughout
the Middle Age, in the Eastern Church, in the German Protestant Church,
and in the cathedral service of the Anglican Church, was also enforced in
the temple worship of Israel. The conviction has widely prevailed among
the stricter custodians of religious ceremony in all ages that there is
something sensuous and passionate (I use these words in their simpler
original meaning) in the female voice—something at variance with the
austerity of ideal which should prevail in the music of worship. Perhaps,
also, the association of men and women in the sympathy of so emotional an
office as that of song is felt to be prejudicial to the complete
absorption of the mind which the sacred function demands. Both these
reasons have undoubtedly combined in so many historic epochs to keep all
the offices of ministry in the house of God in the hands of the male sex.
On the other hand, in the more sensuous cults of paganism no such
prohibition has existed.

There is difference of opinion in regard to the style of melody employed
in the delivery of the psalms in the worship of the temple at Jerusalem.
Was it a mere intoned declamation, essentially a monotone with very
slight changes of pitch, like the “ecclesiastical accent” of the Catholic
Church? Or was it a freer, more melodious rendering, as in the more
ornate members of the Catholic Plain Song? The modern Jews incline to the
latter opinion, that the song was true melody, obeying, indeed, the
universal principle of chant as a species of vocalism subordinated in
rhythm to the text, yet with abundant movement and possessing a
distinctly tuneful character. It has been supposed that certain
inscriptions at the head of some of the psalms are the titles of
well-known tunes, perhaps secular folk-songs, to which the psalms were
sung. We find, _e. g._, at the head of Ps. xxii. the inscription, “After
the song beginning, Hind of the Dawn.” Ps. lvi. has, “After the song, The
silent Dove in far-off Lands.” Others have, “After lilies” (Ps. xlv. and
lxix.), and “Destroy not” (Ps. lvii.-lix.). We cannot on _a priori_
principles reject the supposition that many psalms were sung to secular
melodies, for we shall find, as we trace the history of music in the
Christian era, that musicians have over and over again borrowed profane
airs for the hymns of the Church. In fact, there is hardly a branch of
the Christian Church that has not at some time done so, and even the
rigid Jews in modern times have employed the same means to increase their
store of religious melodies.

That the psalms were sung with the help of instruments seems indicated by
superscriptions, such as “With stringed instruments,” and “To the
flutes,” although objections have been raised to these translations. No
such indications are needed, however, to prove the point, for the
descriptions of worship contained in the Old Testament seem explicit. The
instruments were used to accompany the voices, and also for preludes and
interludes. The word “Selah,” so often occurring at the end of a psalm
verse, is understood by many authorities to signify an instrumental
interlude or flourish, while the singers were for a moment silent. One
writer says that at this point the people bowed in prayer.[28]

Such, generally speaking, is the most that can definitely be stated
regarding the office performed by music in the worship of Israel in the
time of its glory. With the rupture of the nation, its gradual political
decline, the inroads of idolatry, the exile in Babylon, the conquest by
the Romans, the disappearance of poetic and musical inspiration with the
substitution of formality and routine in place of the pristine national
sincerity and fervor, it would inevitably follow that the great musical
traditions would fade away, until at the time of the birth of Christ but
little would remain of the elaborate ritual once committed to the
guardianship of cohorts of priests and Levites. The sorrowing exiles who
hung their harps on the willows of Babylon and refused to sing the songs
of Zion in a strange land certainly never forgot the airs consecrated by
such sweet and bitter memories; but in the course of centuries they
became lost among the strange peoples with whom the scattered Israelites
found their home. Many were for a time preserved in the synagogues,
which, in the later years of Jewish residence in Palestine, were
established in large numbers in all the towns and villages. The service
of the synagogue was a liturgical service, consisting of benedictions,
chanting of psalms and other Scripture passages, with responses by the
people, lessons from the law and the prophets, and sermons. The
instrumental music of the temple and the first synagogues eventually
disappeared, and the greater part, if not the whole, of the ancient psalm
melodies vanished also with the dispersion of the Levites, who were their
especial curators. Many details of ancient ritual and custom must have
survived in spite of vicissitude, but the final catastrophe, which drove
a desolate, heart-broken remnant of the children of Judah into alien
lands, must inevitably have destroyed all but the merest fragment of the
fair residue of national art by sweeping away all the conditions by which
a national art can live.

Does anything remain of the rich musical service which for fifteen
hundred years went up daily from tabernacle and temple to the throne of
the God of Israel? A question often asked, but without a positive answer.
Perhaps a few notes of an ancient melody, or a horn signal identical with
one blown in the camp or in the temple court, may survive in the
synagogue to-day, a splinter from a mighty edifice which has been
submerged by the tide of centuries. As would be presumed of a people so
tenacious of time-honored usages, the voice of tradition declares that
the intonations of the ritual chant used in the synagogue are survivals
of forms employed in the temple at Jerusalem. These intonations are
certainly Oriental in character and very ancient, but that they date back
to the time of David cannot be proved or disproved. A style of singing
like the well-known “cantillation” might easily be preserved, a complete
melody possibly, but the presumption is against an antiquity so great as
the Jews, with pardonable pride, claim for some of their weird, archaic
strains.

With the possible exception of scanty fragments, nothing remains of the
songs so much loved by this devoted people in their early home. We may
speculate upon the imagined beauty of that music; it is natural to do so.
_Omne ignotum pro magnifico_. We know that it often shook the hearts of
those that heard it; but our knowledge of the comparative rudeness of all
Oriental music, ancient and modern, teaches us that its effect was
essentially that of simple unison successions of tones wedded to poetry
of singular exaltation and vehemence, and associated with liturgical
actions calculated to impress the beholder with an overpowering sense of
awe. The interest which all must feel in the religious music of the
Hebrews is not due to its importance in the history of art, but to its
place in the history of culture. Certainly the art of music was never
more highly honored, its efficacy as an agent in arousing the heart to
the most ardent spiritual experiences was never more convincingly
demonstrated, than when the seers and psalmists of Israel found in it an
indispensable auxiliary of those appeals, confessions, praises, and pious
raptures in which the whole after-world has seen the highest attainment
of language under the impulse of religious ecstasy. Taking “the harp the
monarch minstrel swept” as a symbol of Hebrew devotional song at large,
Byron’s words are true:


    “It softened men of iron mould,
      It gave them virtues not their own;
    No ear so dull, no soul so cold,
      That felt not, fired not to the tone,
    Till David’s lyre grew mightier than his throne.”


This music foreshadowed the completer expression of Christian art of
which it became the type. Inspired by the grandest of traditions,
provided with credentials as, on equal terms with poetry, valid in the
expression of man’s consciousness of his needs and his infinite
privilege,—thus consecrated for its future mission, the soul of music
passed from Hebrew priests to apostles and Christian fathers, and so on
to the saints and hierarchs, who laid the foundation of the sublime
structure of the worship music of a later day.



                               CHAPTER II
             RITUAL AND SONG IN THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH
                              A.D. 50-600


The epoch of the apostles and their immediate successors is that around
which the most vigorous controversies have been waged ever since modern
criticism recognized the supreme importance of that epoch in the history
of doctrine and ecclesiastical government. Hardly a form of belief or
polity but has sought to obtain its sanction from the teaching and usages
of those churches that received their systems most directly from the
personal disciples of the Founder. A curiosity less productive of
contention, but hardly less persistent, attaches to the forms and methods
of worship practised by the Christian congregations. The rise of
liturgies, rites, and ceremonies, the origin and use of hymns, the
foundation of the liturgical chant, the degree of participation enjoyed
by the laity in the offices of praise and prayer,—these and many other
closely related subjects of inquiry possess far more than an antiquarian
interest; they are bound up with the history of that remarkable
transition from the homogenous, more democratic system of the apostolic
age, to the hierarchical organization which became matured and
consolidated under the Western popes and Eastern patriarchs. Associated
with this administrative development and related in its causes, an
elaborate system of rites and ceremonies arose, partly an evolution from
within, partly an inheritance of ancient habits and predispositions,
which at last became formulated into unvarying types of devotional
expression. Music participated in this ritualistic movement; it rapidly
became liturgical and clerical, the laity ceased to share in the worship
of song and resigned this office to a chorus drawn from the minor clergy,
and a highly organized body of chants, applied to every moment of the
service, became almost the entire substance of worship music, and
remained so for a thousand years.

In the very nature of the case a new energy must enter the art of music
when enlisted in the ministry of the religion of Christ. A new motive, a
new spirit, unknown to Greek or Roman or even to Hebrew, had taken
possession of the religious consciousness. To the adoration of the same
Supreme Power, before whom the Jew bowed in awe-stricken reverence, was
added the recognition of a gift which the Jew still dimly hoped for; and
this gift brought with it an assurance, and hence a felicity, which were
never granted to the religionist of the old dispensation.

The Christian felt himself the chosen joint-heir of a risen and ascended
Lord, who by his death and resurrection had brought life and immortality
to light. The devotion to a personal, ever-living Saviour transcended and
often supplanted all other loyalty whatsoever,—to country, parents,
husband, wife, or child. This religion was, therefore, emphatically one
of joy,—a joy so absorbing, so completely satisfying, so founded on the
loftiest hopes that the human mind is able to entertain, that even the
ecstatic worship of Apollo or Dionysus seems melancholy and hopeless in
comparison. Yet it was not a joy that was prone to expend itself in noisy
demonstrations. It was mingled with such a profound sense of personal
unworthiness and the most solemn responsibilities, tempered with
sentiments of awe and wonder in the presence of unfathomable mysteries,
that the manifestations of it must be subdued to moderation, expressed in
forms that could appropriately typify spiritual and eternal
relationships. And so, as sculpture was the art which most adequately
embodied the humanistic conceptions of Greek theology, poetry and music
became the arts in which Christianity found a vehicle of expression most
suited to her genius. These two arts, therefore, when acted upon by ideas
so sublime and penetrating as those of the Gospel, must at last become
transformed, and exhibit signs of a renewed and aspiring activity. The
very essence of the divine revelation in Jesus Christ must strike a more
thrilling note than tone and emotional speech had ever sounded before.
The genius of Christianity, opening up new soul depths, and quickening,
as no other religion could, the higher possibilities of holiness in man,
was especially adapted to evoke larger manifestations of musical
invention. The religion of Jesus revealed God in the universality of his
fatherhood, and his omnipresence in nature and in the human conscience.
God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth, as one who draws men into
communion with him by his immediate action upon the heart. This religion
made an appeal that could only be met by the purification of the heart,
and by reconciliation and union with God through the merits of the
crucified Son. The believer felt the possibility of direct and loving
communion with the Infinite Power as the stirring of the very bases of
his being. This new consciousness must declare itself in forms of
expression hardly glimpsed by antiquity, and literature and art undergo
re-birth. Music particularly, the art which seems peculiarly capable of
reflecting the most urgent longings of the spirit, felt the animating
force of Christianity as the power which was to emancipate it from its
ancient thraldom and lead it forth into a boundless sphere of action.

Not at once, however, could musical art spring up full grown and
responsive to these novel demands. An art, to come to perfection,
requires more than a motive. The motive, the vision, the emotion yearning
to realize itself, may be there, but beyond this is the mastery of
material and form, and such mastery is of slow and tedious growth.
Especially is this true in respect to the art of music; musical forms,
having no models in nature like painting and sculpture, no associative
symbolism like poetry, no guidance from considerations of utility like
architecture, must be the result, so far as any human work can be such,
of actual free creation. And yet this creation is a progressive creation;
its forms evolve from forms preëxisting as demands for expression arise
to which the old are inadequate. Models must be found, but in the nature
of the case the art can never go outside of itself for its suggestion.
And although Christian music must be a development and not the sudden
product of an exceptional inspiration, yet we must not suppose that the
early Church was compelled to work out its melodies from those crude
elements in which anthropology discovers the first stage of musical
progress in primitive man. The Christian fathers, like the founders of
every historic system of religious music, drew their suggestion and
perhaps some of their actual material from both religious and secular
sources. The principle of ancient music, to which the early Christian
music conformed, was that of the subordination of music to poetry and the
dance-figure. Harmony was virtually unknown in antiquity, and without a
knowledge of part-writing no independent art of music is possible. The
song of antiquity was the most restricted of all melodic styles, _viz._,
the chant or recitative. The essential feature of both chant and
recitative is that the tones are made to conform to the metre and accent
of the text, the words of which are never repeated or prosodically
modified out of deference to melodic phrases and periods. In true song,
on the contrary, the words are subordinated to the exigencies of musical
laws of structure, and the musical phrase, not the word, is the ruling
power. The principle adopted by the Christian fathers was that of the
chant, and Christian music could not begin to move in the direction of
modern artistic attainment until, in the course of time, a new technical
principle, and a new conception of the relation between music and poetry,
could be introduced.

In theory, style, usage, and probably to some extent in actual melodies
also, the music of the primitive Church forms an unbroken line with the
music of pre-Christian antiquity. The relative proportion contributed by
Jewish and Greek musical practice cannot be known. There was at the
beginning no formal break with the ancient Jewish Church; the disciples
assembled regularly in the temple for devotional exercises; worship in
their private gatherings was modelled upon that of the synagogue which
Christ himself had implicitly sanctioned. The synagogical code was
modified by the Christians by the introduction of the eucharistic
service, the Lord’s Prayer, the baptismal formula, and other institutions
occasioned by the new doctrines and the “spiritual gifts.” At Christ’s
last supper with his disciples, when the chief liturgical rite of the
Church was instituted, the company sang a hymn which was unquestionably
the “great Hallel” of the Jewish Passover celebration.[29] The Jewish
Christians clung with an inherited reverence to the venerable forms of
their fathers’ worship; they observed the Sabbath, the three daily hours
of prayer, and much of the Mosaic ritual. In respect to musical usages,
the most distinct intimation in early records of the continuation of
ancient forms is found in the occasional reference to the habit of
antiphonal or responsive chanting of the psalms. Fixed forms of prayer
were also used in the apostolic Church, which were to a considerable
extent modelled upon the psalms and the benedictions of the synagogue
ritual. That the Hebrew melodies were borrowed at the same time cannot be
demonstrated, but it may be assumed as a necessary inference.

With the spread of the Gospel among the Gentiles, the increasing
hostility between Christians and Jews, the dismemberment of the Jewish
nationality, and the overthrow of Jewish institutions to which the Hebrew
Christians had maintained a certain degree of attachment, dependence upon
the Jewish ritual was loosened, and the worship of the Church came under
the influence of Hellenic systems and traditions. Greek philosophy and
Greek art, although both in decadence, were dominant in the intellectual
life of the East, and it was impossible that the doctrine, worship, and
government of the Church should not be gradually leavened by them. St.
Paul wrote in the Greek language; the earliest liturgies are in Greek.
The sentiment of prayer and praise was, of course, Hebraic; the psalms
formed the basis of all lyric expression, and the hymns and liturgies
were to a large extent colored by their phraseology and spirit. The
shapeliness and flexibility of Greek art, the inward fervor of Hebrew
aspiration, the love of ceremonial and symbolism, which was not confined
to any single nation but was a universal characteristic of the time, all
contributed to build up the composite and imposing structure of the later
worship of the Eastern and Western churches.

The singing of psalms formed a part of the Christian worship from the
beginning, and certain special psalms were early appointed for particular
days and occasions. At what time hymns of contemporary origin were added
we have no means of knowing. Evidently during the life of St. Paul, for
we find him encouraging the Ephesians and Colossians to the use of
“psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”[30] To be sure he is not
specifically alluding to public worship in these exhortations (in the
first instance “speaking to yourselves” and “singing and making melody in
your hearts,” in the second “teaching and admonishing one another”), but
it is hardly to be supposed that the spiritual exercise of which he
speaks would be excluded from the religious services which at that time
were of daily observance. The injunction to teach and admonish by means
of songs also agrees with other evidences that a prime motive for hymn
singing in many of the churches was instruction in the doctrines of the
faith. It would appear that among the early Christians, as with the
Greeks and other ancient nations, moral precepts and instruction in
religious mysteries were often thrown into poetic and musical form, as,
being by this means more impressive and more easily remembered.

It is to be noticed that St. Paul, in each of the passages cited above,
alludes to religious songs under three distinct terms, _viz._: ψαλμοί,
ὕμνοι, and ᾠδαὶ πνευματικαί. The usual supposition is that the terms are
not synonymous, that they refer to a threefold classification of the
songs of the early Church into: 1, the ancient Hebrew psalms properly so
called; 2, hymns taken from the Old Testament and not included in the
psalter and since called canticles, such as the thanksgiving of Hannah,
the song of Moses, the Psalm of the Three Children from the continuation
of the Book of Daniel, the vision of Habakkuk, etc.; and, 3, songs
composed by the Christians themselves. The last of these three classes
points us to the birth time of Christian hymnody. The lyric inspiration,
which has never failed from that day to this, began to move the instant
the proselyting work of the Church began. In the freedom and informality
of the religious assembly as it existed among the Hellenic Christians, it
became the practice for the believers to contribute impassioned
outbursts, which might be called songs in a rudimentary state. In moments
of highly charged devotional ecstasy this spontaneous utterance took the
form of broken, incoherent, unintelligible ejaculations, probably in
cadenced, half-rhythmic tone, expressive of rapture and mystical
illumination. This was the “glossolalia,” or “gift of tongues” alluded to
by St. Paul in the first epistle to the Corinthians as a practice to be
approved, under certain limitations, as edifying to the believers.[31]

Dr. Schaff defines the gift of tongues as “an utterance proceeding from a
state of unconscious ecstasy in the speaker, and unintelligible to the
hearer unless interpreted. The speaking with tongues is an involuntary,
psalm-like prayer or song uttered from a spiritual trance, in a peculiar
language inspired by the Holy Spirit. The soul is almost entirely
passive, an instrument on which the Spirit plays his heavenly melodies.”
“It is emotional rather than intellectual, the language of excited
imagination, not of cool reflection.”[32] St. Paul was himself an adept
in this singular form of worship, as he himself declares in 1 Cor. xiv.
18; but with his habitual coolness of judgment he warns the excitable
Corinthian Christians that sober instruction is more profitable, that the
proper end of all utterance in common public worship is edification, and
enjoins as an effective restraint that “if any man speaketh in a tongue,
let one interpret; but if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence
in the Church; and let him speak to himself and to God.”[33] With the
regulation of the worship in stated liturgic form this extemporaneous
ebullition of feeling was done away, but if it was analogous, as it
probably was, to the practice so common in Oriental vocal music, both
ancient and modern, of delivering long wordless tonal flourishes as an
expression of joy, then it has in a certain sense survived in the
“jubilations” of the Catholic liturgical chant, which in the early Middle
Age were more extended than now. Chappell finds traces of a practice
somewhat similar to the “jubilations” existing in ancient Egypt. “This
practice of carolling or singing without words, like birds, to the gods,
was copied by the Greeks, who seem to have carolled on four vowels. The
vowels had probably, in both cases, some recognized meaning attached to
them, as substitutes for certain words of praise—as was the case when the
custom was transferred to the Western Church.”[34] This may or may not
throw light upon the obscure nature of the glossolalia, but it is not to
be supposed that the Corinthian Christians invented this custom, since we
find traces of it in the worship of the ancient pagan nations; and so far
as it was the unrestrained outburst of emotion, it must have been to some
extent musical, and only needed regulation and the application of a
definite key-system to become, like the mediaeval Sequence under somewhat
similar conditions, an established order of sacred song.

Out of a musical impulse, of which the glossolalia was one of many
tokens, united with the spirit of prophecy or instruction, grew the hymns
of the infant Church, dim outlines of which begin to appear in the
twilight of this obscure period. The worshipers of Christ could not
remain content with the Hebrew psalms, for, in spite of their inspiriting
and edifying character, they were not concerned with the facts on which
the new faith was based, except as they might be interpreted as
prefiguring the later dispensation. Hymns were required in which Christ
was directly celebrated, and the apprehension of his infinite gifts
embodied in language which would both fortify the believers and act as a
converting agency. It would be contrary to all analogy and to the
universal facts of human nature if such were not the case, and we may
suppose that a Christian folk-song, such as the post-apostolic age
reveals to us, began to appear in the first century. Some scholars
believe that certain of these primitive hymns, or fragments of them, are
embalmed in the Epistles of St. Paul and the Book of the Revelation.[35]
The magnificent description of the worship of God and the Lamb in the
Apocalypse has been supposed by some to have been suggested by the manner
of worship, already become liturgical, in the Eastern churches. Certainly
there is a manifest resemblance between the picture of one sitting upon
the throne with the twenty-four elders and a multitude of angels
surrounding him, as set forth in the Apocalypse, and the account given in
the second book of the Constitutions of the Apostles of the throne of the
bishop in the middle of the church edifice, with the presbyters and
deacons on each side and the laity beyond. In this second book of the
Constitutions, belonging, of course, to a later date than the apostolic
period, there is no mention of hymn singing. The share of the people is
confined to responses at the end of the verses of the psalms, which are
sung by some one appointed to this office.[36] The sacerdotal and
liturgical movement had already excluded from the chief acts of worship
the independent song of the people. Those who assume that the office of
song in the early Church was freely committed to the general body of
believers have some ground for their assumption; but if we are able to
distinguish between the private and public worship, and could know how
early it was that set forms and liturgies were adopted, it would appear
that at the longest the time was very brief when the laity were allowed a
share in any but the subordinate offices. The earliest testimony that can
be called definite is contained in the celebrated letter of the younger
Pliny from Bithynia to the Emperor Trajan, in the year 112, in which the
Christians are described as coming together before daylight and singing
hymns alternately (invicem) to Christ. This may with some reason be held
to refer to responsive or antiphonal singing, similar to that described
by Philo in his account of the worship of the Jewish sect of the
Therapeutae in the first century. The tradition was long preserved in the
Church that Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in the second century, introduced
antiphonal chanting into the churches of that city, having been moved
thereto by a vision of angels singing in that manner. But we have only to
go back to the worship of the ancient Hebrews for the suggestion of this
practice. This alternate singing appears to have been most prevalent in
the Syrian churches, and was carried thence to Milan and Rome, and
through the usage in these cities was established in the permanent habit
of the Western Church.

Although the singing of psalms and hymns by the body of worshipers was,
therefore, undoubtedly the custom of the churches while still in their
primitive condition as informal assemblies of believers for mutual
counsel and edification, the steady progress of ritualism and the growth
of sacerdotal ideas inevitably deprived the people of all initiative in
the worship, and concentrated the offices of public devotion, including
that of song, exclusively in the hands of the clergy. By the middle of
the fourth century, if not earlier, the change was complete. The simple
organization of the apostolic age had developed by logical gradations
into a compact hierarchy of patriarchs, bishops, priests, and deacons.
The clergy were no longer the servants or representatives of the people,
but held a mediatorial position as the channels through which divine
grace was transmitted to the faithful. The great Eastern liturgies, such
as those which bear the names of St. James and St. Mark, if not yet fully
formulated and committed to writing, were in all essentials complete and
adopted as the substance of the public worship. The principal service was
divided into two parts, from the second of which, the eucharistic service
proper, the catechumens and penitents were excluded. The prayers,
readings, and chanted sentences, of which the liturgy mainly consisted,
were delivered by priests, deacons, and an officially constituted choir
of singers, the congregation uniting only in a few responses and
ejaculations. In the liturgy of St. Mark, which was the Alexandrian, used
in Egypt and neighboring countries, we find allotted to the people a
number of responses: “Amen,” “Kyrie eleison,” “And to thy spirit” (in
response to the priest’s “Peace be to all”); “We lift them up to the
Lord” (in response to the priest’s “Let us lift up our hearts”); and “In
the name of the Lord; Holy God, holy mighty, holy immortal,” after the
Trisagion; “And from the Holy Spirit was he made flesh,” after the prayer
of oblation; “Holy, holy, holy Lord,” before the consecration; “Our
Father, who art in heaven,” etc.; before the communion, “One Father holy,
one Son holy, one Spirit holy, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, Amen;” at
the dismissal, “Amen, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In the liturgy of St. James, the liturgy of the Jerusalem Church, a very
similar share, in many instances with identical words, is assigned to the
people; but a far more frequent mention is made of the choir of singers
who render the Trisagion hymn, which, in St. Mark’s liturgy, is given by
the people: besides the “Allelulia,” the hymn to the Virgin Mother, “O
taste and see that the Lord is good,” and “The Holy Ghost shall come upon
thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.”

A large portion of the service, as indicated by these liturgies, was
occupied by prayers, during which the people kept silence. In the matter
of responses the congregation had more direct share than in the Catholic
Church to-day, for now the chancel choir acts as their representatives,
while the Kyrie eleison has become one of the choral portions of the
Mass, and the Thrice Holy has been merged in the choral Sanctus. But in
the liturgical worship, whatever may have been the case in non-liturgical
observances, the share of the people was confined to these few brief
ejaculations and prescribed sentences, and nothing corresponding to the
congregational song of the Protestant Church can be found. Still earlier
than this final issue of the ritualistic movement the singing of the
people was limited to psalms and canticles, a restriction justified and
perhaps occasioned by the ease with which doctrinal vagaries and mystical
extravagances could be instilled into the minds of the converts by means
of this very subtle and persuasive agent. The conflict of the orthodox
churches with the Gnostics and Arians showed clearly the danger of
unlimited license in the production and singing of hymns, for these
formidable heretics drew large numbers away from the faith of the
apostles by means of the choral songs which they employed everywhere for
proselyting purposes. The Council of Laodicea (held between 343 and 381)
decreed in its 13th Canon: “Besides the appointed singers, who mount the
ambo and sing from the book, others shall not sing in the church.”[37]
The exact meaning of this prohibition has not been determined, for the
participation of the people in the church song did not entirely cease at
this time. How generally representative this council was, or how
extensive its authority, is not known; but the importance of this decree
has been exaggerated by historians of music, for, at most, it serves only
as a register of a fact which was an inevitable consequence of the
universal hierarchical and ritualistic tendencies of the time.

The history of the music of the Christian Church properly begins with the
establishment of the priestly liturgic chant, which had apparently
supplanted the popular song in the public worship as early as the fourth
century. Of the character of the chant melodies at this period in the
Eastern Church, or of their sources, we have no positive information.
Much vain conjecture has been expended on this question. Some are
persuaded that the strong infusion of Hebraic feeling and phraseology
into the earliest hymns, and the adoption of the Hebrew psalter into the
service, necessarily implies the inheritance of the ancient temple and
synagogue melodies also. Others assume that the allusion of St. Augustine
to the usage at Alexandria under St. Athanasius, which was “more like
speaking than singing,”[38] was an example of the practice of the
Oriental and Roman churches generally, and that the later chant developed
out of this vague song-speech. Others, like Kiesewetter, exaggerating the
antipathy of the Christians to everything identified with Judaism and
paganism, conceive the primitive Christian melodies as entirely an
original invention, a true Christian folk-song.[39] None of these
suppositions, however, could have more than a local and temporary
application; the Jewish Christian congregations in Jerusalem and
neighboring cities doubtless transferred a few of their ancestral
melodies to the new worship; a prejudice against highly developed tune as
suggesting the sensuous cults of paganism may have existed among the more
austere; here and there new melodies may have sprung up to clothe the
extemporized lyrics that became perpetuated in the Church. But the weight
of evidence and analogy inclines to the belief that the liturgic song of
the Church, both of the East and West, was drawn partly in form and
almost wholly in spirit and complexion from the Greek and Greco-Roman
musical practice.

But scanty knowledge of Christian archaeology and liturgies is necessary
to show that much of form, ceremony, and decoration in the worship of the
Church was the adaptation of features anciently existing in the faiths
and customs which the new religion supplanted. The practical genius which
adopted Greek metres for Christian hymns, and modified the styles of
basilikas, scholae, and domestic architecture in effecting a suitable
form of church building, would not cavil at the melodies and vocal
methods which seemed so well suited to be a musical garb for the
liturgies. Greek music was, indeed, in some of its phases, in decadence
at this period. It had gained nothing in purity by passing into the hands
of Roman voluptuaries. The age of the virtuosos, aiming at brilliancy and
sensationalism, had succeeded to the classic traditions of austerity and
reserve. This change was felt, however, in instrumental music chiefly,
and this the Christian churches disdained to touch. It was the residue of
what was pure and reverend, drawn from the tradition of Apollo’s temple
and the Athenian tragic theatre; it was the form of vocalism which
austere philosophers like Plutarch praised that was drafted into the
service of the Gospel. Perhaps even this was reduced to simple terms in
the Christian practice; certainly the oldest chants that can be traced
are the plainest, and the earliest scale system of the Italian Church
would appear to allow but a very narrow compass to melody. We can form
our most accurate notion of the nature of the early Christian music,
therefore, by studying the records of Greek practice and Greek views of
music’s nature and function in the time of the flowering of Greek poetry,
for certainly the Christian fathers did not attempt to go beyond that;
and perhaps, in their zeal to avoid all that was meretricious in tonal
art, they adopted as their standard those phases which could most easily
be made to coalesce with the inward and humble type of piety inculcated
by the faith of the Gospel. This hypothesis does, not imply a
note-for-note borrowing of Greek and Roman melodies, but only their
adaptation. As Luther and the other founders of the music of the German
Protestant Church took melodies from the Catholic chant and the German
and Bohemian religious and secular folk-song, and recast them to fit the
metres of their hymns, so the early Christian choristers would naturally
be moved to do with the melodies which they desired to transplant. Much
modification was necessary, for while the Greek and Roman songs were
metrical, the Christian psalms, antiphons, prayers, responses, etc., were
unmetrical; and while the pagan melodies were always sung to an
instrumental accompaniment, the church chant was exclusively vocal.
Through the influence of this double change of technical and Aesthetic
basis, the liturgic song was at once more free, aspiring, and varied than
its prototype, taking on that rhythmic flexibility and delicate shading
in which also the unique charm of the Catholic chant of the present day
so largely consists.

In view of the controversies over the use of instrumental music in
worship, which have been so violent in the British and American
Protestant churches, it is an interesting question whether instruments
were employed by the primitive Christians. We know that instruments
performed an important function in the Hebrew temple service and in the
ceremonies of the Greeks. At this point, however, a break was made with
all previous practice, and although the lyre and flute were sometimes
employed by the Greek converts, as a general rule the use of instruments
in worship was condemned. Many of the fathers, speaking of religious
song, make no mention of instruments; others, like Clement of Alexandria
and St. Chrysostom, refer to them only to denounce them. Clement says:
“Only one instrument do we use, _viz._, the word of peace wherewith we
honor God, no longer the old psaltery, trumpet, drum, and flute.”
Chrysostom exclaims: “David formerly sang in psalms, also we sing to-day
with him; he had a lyre with lifeless strings, the Church has a lyre with
living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre, with a different
tone, indeed, but with a more accordant piety.” St. Ambrose expresses his
scorn for those who would play the lyre and psaltery instead of singing
hymns and psalms; and St. Augustine adjures believers not to turn their
hearts to theatrical instruments. The religious guides of the early
Christians felt that there would be an incongruity, and even profanity,
in the use of the sensuous nerve-exciting effects of instrumental sound
in their mystical, spiritual worship. Their high religious and moral
enthusiasm needed no aid from external stimulus; the pure vocal utterance
was the more proper expression of their faith. This prejudice against
instrumental music, which was drawn from the very nature of its aesthetic
impression, was fortified by the associations of instruments with
superstitious pagan rites, and especially with the corrupting scenes
habitually represented in the degenerate theatre and circus. “A Christian
maiden,” says St. Jerome, “ought not even to know what a lyre or a flute
is, or what it is used for.” No further justification for such
prohibitions is needed than the shameless performances common upon the
stage in the time of the Roman empire, as portrayed in the pages of
Apuleius and other delineators of the manners of the time. Those who
assumed the guardianship of the morals of the little Christian
communities were compelled to employ the strictest measures to prevent
their charges from breathing the moral pestilence which circulated
without check in the places of public amusement; most of all must they
insist that every reminder of these corruptions, be it an otherwise
innocent harp or flute, should be excluded from the common acts of
religion.

The transfer of the office of song from the general congregation to an
official choir involved no cessation of the production of hymns for
popular use, for the distinction must always be kept in mind between
liturgical and non-liturgical song, and it was only in the former that
the people were commanded to abstain from participation in all but the
prescribed responses. On the other hand, as ceremonies multiplied and
festivals increased in number, hymnody was stimulated, and lyric songs
for private and social edification, for the hours of prayer, and for use
in processions, pilgrimages, dedications, and other occasional
celebrations, were rapidly produced. As has been shown, the Christians
had their hymns from the very beginning, but with the exception of one or
two short lyrics, a few fragments, and the great liturgical hymns which
were also adopted by the Western Church, they have been lost. Clement of
Alexandria, third century, is often spoken of as the first known
Christian hymn writer; but the single poem, the song of praise to the
Logos, which has gained him this title, is not, strictly speaking, a hymn
at all. From the fourth century onward the tide of Oriental hymnody
steadily rose, reaching its culmination in the eighth and ninth
centuries. The Eastern hymns are divided into two schools—the Syrian and
the Greek. Of the group of Syrian poets the most celebrated are Synesius,
born about 375, and Ephraem, who died at Edessa in 378. Ephraem was the
greatest teacher of his time in the Syrian Church, and her most prolific
and able hymnist. He is best remembered as the opponent of the followers
of Bardasanes and Harmonius, who had beguiled many into their Gnostic
errors by the charm of their hymns and melodies. Ephraem met these
schismatics on their own ground, and composed a large number of songs in
the spirit of orthodoxy, which he gave to choirs of his followers to be
sung on Sundays and festal days. The hymns of Ephraem were greatly
beloved by the Syrian Church, and are still valued by the Maronite
Christians. The Syrian school of hymnody died out in the fifth century,
and poetic inspiration in the Eastern Church found its channel in the
Greek tongue.

Before the age of the Greek Christian poets whose names have passed into
history, the great anonymous unmetrical hymns appeared which still hold
an eminent place in the liturgies of the Catholic and Protestant Churches
as well as of the Eastern Church. The best known of these are the two
Glorias—the Gloria Patri and the Gloria in excelsis; the Ter Sanctus or
Cherubic hymn, heard by Isaiah in vision; and the Te Deum. The Magnificat
or thanksgiving of Mary, and the Benedicite or Song of the Three
Children, were early adopted by the Eastern Church. The Kyrie eleison
appears as a response by the people in the liturgies of St. Mark and St.
James. It was adopted into the Roman liturgy at a very early date; the
addition of the Christe eleison is said to have been made by Gregory the
Great. The Gloria in excelsis, the “greater doxology,” with the possible
exception of the Te Deum the noblest of the early Christian hymns, is the
angelic song given in Luke ii. 14, with additions which were made not
later than the fourth century. “Begun in heaven, finished on earth.” It
was first used in the Eastern Church as a morning hymn. The Te Deum
laudamus has often been given a Western origin, St. Ambrose and St.
Augustine, according to a popular legend, having been inspired to
improvise it in alternate verses at the baptism of St. Augustine by the
bishop of Milan. Another tradition ascribes the authorship to St. Hilary
in the fourth century. Its original form is unknown, but it is generally
believed to have been formed by accretions upon a Greek original. Certain
phrases contained in it are also in the earlier liturgies. The present
form of the hymn is probably as old as the fifth century.[40]

Of the very few brief anonymous songs and fragments which have come down
to us from this dim period the most perfect is a Greek hymn, which was
sometimes sung in private worship at the lighting of the lamps. It has
been made known to many English readers through Longfellow’s beautiful
translation in “The Golden Legend:”


    “O gladsome light
    Of the Father immortal,
    And of the celestial
    Sacred and blessed
    Jesus, our Saviour!
    Now to the sunset
    Again hast thou brought us;
    And seeing the evening
    Twilight, we bless thee,
    Praise thee, adore thee
    Father omnipotent!
    Son, the Life-giver!
    Spirit, the Comforter!
    Worthy at all times
    Of worship and wonder!


Overlapping the epoch of the great anonymous hymns and continuing beyond
it is the era of the Greek hymnists whose names and works are known, and
who contributed a vast store of lyrics to the offices of the Eastern
Church. Eighteen quarto volumes, says Dr. J. M. Neale, are occupied by
this huge store of religious poetry. Dr. Neale, to whom the
English-speaking world is chiefly indebted for what slight knowledge it
has of these hymns, divides them into three epochs:

1. “That of formation, when this poetry was gradually throwing off the
bondage of classical metres, and inventing and perfecting its various
styles; this period ends about A. D. 726.”

2. “That of perfection, which nearly coincides with the period of the
iconoclastic controversy, 726-820.”

3. “That of decadence, when the effeteness of an effeminate court and the
dissolution of a decaying empire reduced ecclesiastical poetry, by slow
degrees, to a stilted bombast, giving great words to little meaning,
heaping up epithet upon epithet, tricking out commonplaces in diction
more and more gorgeous, till sense and simplicity are alike sought in
vain; 820-1400.”[41]

The centres of Greek hymnody in its most brilliant period were Sicily,
Constantinople, and Jerusalem and its neighborhood, particularly St.
Sabba’s monastery, where lived St. Cosmas and St. John Damascene, the two
greatest of the Greek Christian poets. The hymnists of this epoch
preserved much of the narrative style and objectivity of the earlier
writers, especially in the hymns written to celebrate the Nativity, the
Epiphany, and other events in the life of Christ. In others a more
reflective and introspective quality is found. The fierce struggles,
hatreds, and persecutions of the iconoclastic controversy also left their
plain mark upon many of them in a frequent tendency to magnify
temptations and perils, in a profound sense of sin, a consciousness of
the necessity of penitential discipline for the attainment of salvation,
and a certain fearful looking-for of judgment. This attitude, so
different from the peace and confidence of the earlier time, attains its
most striking manifestation in the sombre and powerful funeral dirge
ascribed to St. John Damascene (“Take the last kiss”) and the Judgment
hymn of St. Theodore of the Studium. In the latter the poet strikes with
trembling hand the tone which four hundred years later was sounded with
such imposing majesty in the Dies Irae of St. Thomas of Celano.

The Catholic hymnody, so far at least as concerns the usage of the
ritual, belongs properly to a later period. The hymns of St. Hilary, St.
Damasus, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Prudentius, Fortunatus, and St.
Gregory, which afterward so beautified the Divine Office, were originally
designed for private devotion and for accessory ceremonies, since it was
not until the tenth or eleventh century that hymns were introduced into
the office at Rome, following a tendency that was first authoritatively
recognized by the Council of Toledo in the seventh century.

The history of Christian poetry and music in the East ends with the
separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. From that time onward a
chilling blight rested upon the soil which the apostles had cultivated
with such zeal and for a time with such grand result. The fatal
controversy over icons, the check inflicted by the conquests of the
Mohammedan power, the crushing weight of Byzantine luxury and tyranny,
and that insidious apathy which seems to dwell in the very atmosphere of
the Orient, sooner or later entering into every high endeavor, relaxing
and corrupting—all this sapped the spiritual life of the Eastern Church.
The pristine enthusiasm was succeeded by fanaticism, and out of
fanaticism, in its turn, issued formalism, bigotry, stagnation. It was
only among the nations that were to rear a new civilization in Western
Europe on the foundations laid by the Roman empire that political and
social conditions could be created which would give free scope for the
expansion of the divine life of Christianity. It was only in the West,
also, that the motives that were adequate to inspire a Christian art,
after a long struggle against Byzantine formalism and convention, could
issue in a prophetic artistic progress. The attempted reconciliation of
Christian ideas and traditional pagan method formed the basis of
Christian art, but the new insight into spiritual things, and the
profounder emotions that resulted, demanded new ideals and principles as
well as new subjects. The nature and destiny of the soul, the beauty and
significance that lie in secret self-scrutiny and aspiration kindled by a
new hope, this, rather than the loveliness of outward shape, became the
object of contemplation and the endless theme of art. Architecture and
sculpture became symbolic, painting the presentation of ideas designed to
stimulate new life in the soul, poetry and music the direct witness and
the immediate manifestation of the soul itself.

With the edicts of Constantine early in the fourth century, which
practically made Christianity the dominant religious system of the
empire, the swift dilation of the pent-up energy of the Church
inaugurated an era in which ritualistic splendor kept pace with the rapid
acquisition of temporal power. The hierarchical developments had already
traversed a course parallel to those of the East, and now that the Church
was free to work out that genius for organization of which it had already
become definitely conscious, it went one step farther than the Oriental
system in the establishment of the papacy as the single head from which
the subordinate members derived legality. This was not a time when a
democratic form of church government could endure. There was no place for
such in the ideas of that age. In the furious tempests that overwhelmed
the Roman empire, in the readjustment of political and social conditions
all over Europe, with the convulsions and frequent triumphs of savagery
that inevitably attended them, it was necessary that the Church, as the
sole champion and preserver of civilization and righteousness, should
concentrate all her forces, and become in doctrine, worship, and
government a single, compact, unified, spiritual state. The dogmas of the
Church must be formulated, preserved, and guarded by an official class,
and the ignorant and fickle mass of the common people must be taught to
yield a reverent, unquestioning obedience to the rule of their spiritual
lords. The exposition of theology, the doctrine of the ever-renewed
sacrifice of Christ upon the altar, the theory of the sacraments
generally, all involved the conception of a mediatorial priesthood
deriving its authority by direct transmission from the apostles. Out of
such conditions and tendencies proceeded also the elaborate and
awe-inspiring rites, the fixed liturgies embalming the central dogmas of
the faith, and the whole machinery of a worship which was itself viewed
as of an objective efficacy, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and designed
both for the edification of the believer and as an offering of the Church
to its Redeemer. In the development of the outward observances of
worship, with their elaborate symbolic ceremonialism, the student is
often struck with surprise to see how lavishly the Church drew its forms
and decorations from paganism and Judaism. But there is nothing in this
that need excite wonder, nothing that was not inevitable under the
conditions of the times. Says Lanciani: “In accepting rites and customs
which were not offensive to her principles and morality, the Church
showed equal tact and foresight, and contributed to the peaceful
accomplishment of the transformation.”[42] The pagan or Jewish convert
was not obliged to part with all his ancestral notions of the nature of
worship. He found his love of pomp and splendor gratified by the
ceremonies of a religion which knew how to make many of the fair features
of earthly life accessory to the inculcation of spiritual truth. And so
it was that symbolism and the appeal to the senses aided in commending
Christianity to a world which was not yet prepared for a faith which
should require only a silent, unobtrusive experience. Instruction must
come to the populace in forms which would satisfy their inherited
predispositions. The Church, therefore, establishing itself amidst
heathenism, adopted a large number of rites and customs from classical
antiquity; and in the externals of its worship, as well as of its
government, assumed forms which were contributions from without, as well
as evolutions from within. These acquisitions, however, did not by any
means remain a meaningless or incongruous residuum of dead superstitions.
An instructive symbolism was imparted to them; they were moulded with
marvellous art into the whole vesture with which the Church clothed
herself for her temporal and spiritual office, and were made to become
conscious witnesses to the truth and beauty of the new faith.

The commemoration of martyrs and confessors passed into invocations for
their aid as intercessors with Christ. They became the patron saints of
individuals and orders, and honors were paid to them at particular places
and on particular days, involving a multitude of special ritual
observances. Festivals were multiplied and took the place in popular
regard of the old Roman Lupercalia and Saturnalia and the mystic rites of
heathenism. As among the cultivated nations of antiquity, so in Christian
Rome the festival, calling into requisition every available means of
decoration, became the basis of a rapid development of art. Under all
these conditions the music of the Church in Italy became a liturgic
music, and, as in the East, the laity resigned the main offices of song
to a choir consisting of subordinate clergy and appointed by clerical
authority. The method of singing was undoubtedly not indigenous, but
derived, as already suggested, directly or indirectly from Eastern
practice. Milman asserts that the liturgy of the Roman Church for the
first three centuries was Greek. However this may have been, we know that
both Syriac and Greek influences were strong at that time in the Italian
Church. A number of the popes in the seventh century were Greeks. Until
the cleavage of the Church into its final Eastern and Western divisions
the interaction was strong between the two sections, and much in the way
of custom and art was common to both. The conquests of the Moslem power
in the seventh century drove many Syrian monks into Italy, and their
liturgic practice, half Greek, half Semitic, could not fail to make
itself felt among their adopted brethren.

A notable instance of the transference of Oriental custom into the
Italian Church is to be found in the establishment of antiphonal chanting
in the Church of Milan, at the instance of St. Ambrose, bishop of that
city. St. Augustine, the pupil and friend of St. Ambrose, has given an
account of this event, of which he had personal knowledge. “It was about
a year, or not much more,” he relates, “since Justina, the mother of the
boy-emperor Justinian, persecuted thy servant Ambrose in the interest of
her heresy, to which she had been seduced by the Arians.” [This
persecution was to induce St. Ambrose to surrender some of the churches
of the city to the Arians.] “The pious people kept guard in the church,
prepared to die with their bishop, thy servant. At this time it was
instituted that, after the manner of the Eastern Church, hymns and psalms
should be sung, lest the people should pine away in the tediousness of
sorrow, which custom, retained from then till now, is imitated by
many—yea, by almost all of thy congregations throughout the rest of the
world.”[43]

The conflict of St. Ambrose with the Arians occurred in 386. Before the
introduction of the antiphonal chant the psalms were probably rendered in
a semi-musical recitation, similar to the usage mentioned by St.
Augustine as prevailing at Alexandria under St. Athanasius, “more
speaking than singing.” That a more elaborate and emotional style was in
use at Milan in St. Augustine’s time is proved by the very interesting
passage in the tenth book of the _Confessions_, in which he analyzes the
effect upon himself of the music of the Church, fearing lest its charm
had beguiled him from pious absorption in the sacred words into a purely
aesthetic gratification. He did not fail, however, to render the just
meed of honor to the music that so touched him: “How I wept at thy hymns
and canticles, pierced to the quick by the voices of thy melodious
Church! Those voices flowed into my ears, and the truth distilled into my
heart, and thence there streamed forth a devout emotion, and my tears ran
down, and happy was I therein.”[44]

Antiphonal psalmody, after the pattern of that employed at Milan, was
introduced into the divine office at Rome by Pope Celestine, who reigned
422-432. It is at about this time that we find indications of the more
systematic development of the liturgic priestly chant. The history of the
papal choir goes back as far as the fifth century. Leo I., who died in
461, gave a durable organization to the divine office by establishing a
community of monks to be especially devoted to the service of the
canonical hours. In the year 680 the monks of Monte Cassino, founded by
St. Benedict, suddenly appeared in Rome and announced the destruction of
their monastery by the Lombards. Pope Pelagius received them hospitably,
and gave them a dwelling near the Lateran basilica. This cloister became
a means of providing the papal chapel with singers. In connection with
the college of men singers, who held the clerical title of sub-deacon,
stood an establishment for boys, who were to be trained for service in
the pope’s choir, and who were also given instruction in other branches.
This school received pupils from the wealthiest and most distinguished
families, and a number of the early popes, including Gregory II. and Paul
I., received instruction within its walls.

By the middle or latter part of the sixth century, the mediaeval epoch of
church music had become fairly inaugurated. A large body of liturgic
chants had been classified and systematized, and the teaching of their
form and the tradition of their rendering given into the hands of members
of the clergy especially detailed for their culture. The liturgy,
essentially completed during or shortly before the reign of Gregory the
Great (590-604), was given a musical setting throughout, and this
liturgic chant was made the law of the Church equally with the liturgy
itself, and the first steps were taken to impose one uniform ritual and
one uniform chant upon all the congregations of the West.

It was, therefore, in the first six centuries, when the Church was
organizing and drilling her forces for her victorious conflicts, that the
final direction of her music, as of all her art, was consciously taken.
In rejecting the support of instruments and developing for the first time
an exclusively vocal art, and in breaking loose from the restrictions of
antique metre which in Greek and Greco-Roman music had forced melody to
keep step with strict prosodic measure, Christian music parted company
with pagan art, threw the burden of expression not, like Greek music,
upon rhythm, but upon melody, and found in this absolute vocal melody a
new art principle of which all the worship music of modern Christendom is
the natural fruit. More vital still than these special forms and
principles, comprehending and necessitating them, was the true ideal of
music, proclaimed once for all by the fathers of the liturgy. This ideal
is found in the distinction of the church style from the secular style,
the expression of the universal mood of prayer, rather than the
expression of individual, fluctuating, passionate emotion with which
secular music deals—that rapt, pervasive, exalted tone which makes no
attempt at detailed painting of events or superficial mental states, but
seems rather to symbolize the fundamental sentiments of humility, awe,
hope, and love which mingle all particular experiences in the common
offering that surges upward from the heart of the Church to its Lord and
Master. In this avoidance of an impassioned emphasis of details in favor
of an expression drawn from the large spirit of worship, church music
evades the peril of introducing an alien dramatic element into the holy
ceremony, and asserts its nobler power of creating an atmosphere from
which all worldly custom and association disappear. This grand conception
was early injected into the mind of the Church, and has been the parent
of all that has been most noble and edifying in the creations of
ecclesiastical music.



                              CHAPTER III
                   THE LITURGY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH


There is no derogation of the honor clue to the Catholic Church in the
assertion that a large element in the extraordinary spell which she has
always exercised upon the minds of men is to be found in the beauty of
her liturgy, the solemn magnificence of her forms of worship, and the
glorious products of artistic genius with which those forms have been
embellished. Every one who has accustomed himself to frequent places of
Catholic worship at High Mass, especially the cathedrals of the old
world, whether he is in sympathy with the idea of that worship or not,
must have been impressed with something peculiarly majestic, elevating,
and moving in the spectacle; he must have felt as if drawn by some
irresistible fascination out of his accustomed range of thought, borne by
a spiritual tide that sets toward regions unexplored. The music which
pervades the mystic ceremony is perhaps the chief agent of this mental
reaction through the peculiar spell which the very nature of music
enables it to exert upon the emotion. Music in the Catholic ritual seems
to act almost in excess of its normal efficacy. It may, without
impropriety, be compared to the music of the dramatic stage in the aid it
derives from accessories and poetic association. The music is such a
vital constituent of the whole act of devotion that the impressions drawn
from the liturgy, ceremony, architecture, decoration, and the sublime
memories of a venerable past are all insensibly invoked to lend to the
tones of priest and choir and organ a grandeur not their own. This is the
reason why Catholic music, even when it is tawdry and sensational, or
indifferently performed, has a certain air of nobility. The ceremony is
always imposing, and the music which enfolds the act of worship like an
atmosphere must inevitably absorb somewhat of the dignity of the rite to
which it ministers. And when the music in itself is the product of the
highest genius and is rendered with reverence and skill, the effect upon
a sensitive mind is more solemnizing than that obtained from any other
variety of musical experience.

This secret of association and artistic setting must always be taken into
account if we would measure the peculiar power of the music of the
Catholic Church. We must observe that music is only one of many means of
impression, and is made to act not alone, but in union with reinforcing
agencies. These agencies—which include all the elements of the ceremony
that affect the eye and the imagination—are intended to supplement and
enhance each other; and in analyzing the attractive force which the
Catholic Church has always exercised upon minds vastly diverse in
culture, we cannot fail to admire the consummate skill with which she has
made her appeal to the universal susceptibility to ideas of beauty and
grandeur and mystery as embodied in sound and form. The union of the arts
for the sake of an immediate and undivided effect, of which we have heard
so much in recent years, was achieved by the Catholic Church centuries
ago. She rears the most sumptuous edifices, decorates their walls with
masterpieces of painting, fills every sightly nook with sculptures in
wood and stone, devises a ritual of ingenious variety and lavish
splendor, pours over this ritual music that alternately subdues and
excites, adjusts all these means so that each shall heighten the effect
of the others and seize upon the perceptions at the same moment. In
employing these artistic agencies the Church has taken cognizance of
every degree of enlightenment and variety of temper. For the vulgar she
has garish display, for the superstitious wonder and concealment; for the
refined and reflective she clothes her doctrines in the fairest guise and
makes worship an aesthetic delight. Her worship centres in a mystery—the
Real Presence—and this mystery she embellishes with every allurement that
can startle, delight, and enthrall.

Symbolism and artistic decoration—in the use of which the Catholic Church
has exceeded all other religious institutions except her sister Church of
the East—are not mere extraneous additions, as though they might be cut
off without essential loss; they are the natural outgrowth of her very
spirit and genius, the proper outward manifestation of the idea which
pervades her culture and her worship. Minds that need no external
quickening, but love to rise above ceremonial observances and seek
immediate contact with the divine source of life, are comparatively rare.
Mysticism is not for the multitude; the majority of mankind require that
spiritual influences shall come to them in the guise of that which is
tangible; a certain nervous thrill is needed to shock them out of their
accustomed material habitudes. Recognizing this fact, and having taken up
into her system a vast number of ideas which inevitably require objective
representation in order that they may be realized and operative, the
Catholic Church has even incurred the charge of idolatry on account of
the extreme use she has made of images and symbols. But it may be that in
this she has shown greater wisdom than those who censure her. She knows
that the externals of religious observance must be endowed with a large
measure of sensuous charm if they would seize hold upon the affections of
the bulk of mankind. She knows that spiritual aspiration and the
excitement of the senses can never be entirely separated in actual public
worship, and she would run the risk of subordinating the first to the
second rather than offer a service of bare intellectuality empty of those
persuasions which artistic genius offers, and which are so potent to bend
the heart in reverence and submission.

In the study of the Catholic system of rites and ceremonies, together
with their motive and development, the great problem of the relation of
religion and art meets us squarely. The Catholic Church has not been
satisfied to prescribe fixed forms and actions for every devotional
impulse—she has aimed to make those forms and actions beautiful. There
has been no phase of art which could be devoted to this object that has
not offered to her the choicest of its achievements. And not for
decoration merely, not simply to subjugate the spirit by fascinating the
senses, but rather impelled by an inner necessity which has effected a
logical alliance of the special powers of art with the aims and needs of
the Church. Whatever may be the attitude toward the claims of this great
institution, no one of sensibility can deny that the world has never
seen, and is never likely to see, anything fairer or more majestic than
that sublime structure, compounded of architecture, sculpture, and
painting, and informed by poetry and music, which the Church created in
the Middle Age, and fixed in enduring mould for the wondering admiration
of all succeeding time. Every one who studies it with a view to searching
its motive is compelled to admit that it was a work of sincere
conviction. It came from no “vain or shallow thought;” it testifies to
something in the heart of Catholicism that has never failed to stir the
most passionate affection, and call forth the loftiest efforts of
artistic skill. This marvellous product of Catholic art, immeasurable in
its variety, has gathered around the rites and ordinances of the Church,
and taken from them its spirit, its forms, and its
tendencies;—architecture to erect a suitable enclosure for worship, and
to symbolize the conception of the visible kingdom of Christ in time and
of the eternal kingdom of Christ in heaven; sculpture to adorn this
sanctuary, and standing like the sacred edifice itself in closest
relation to the centre of churchly life and deriving from that its
purpose and norm; painting performing a like function, and also more
definitely acting for instruction, vividly illustrating the doctrines and
traditions of the faith, directing the thought of the believer more
intently to their moral purport and ideal beauty; poetry and music, the
very breath of the liturgy itself, acting immediately upon the heart,
kindling the latent sentiment of reverence into lively emotions of joy
and love. In the employment of rites and ceremonies with their sumptuous
artistic setting, in the large stress that is laid upon prescribed forms
and external acts of worship, the Catholic Church has been actuated by a
conviction from which she has never for an instant swerved. This
conviction is twofold: first, that the believer is aided thereby in the
offering of an absorbed, fervent, and sincere worship; and second, that
it is not only fitting, but a duty, that all that is most precious, the
product of the highest development of the powers that God has given to
man, should be offered as a witness of man’s love and adoration,—that the
expenditure of wealth in the erection and decoration of God’s
sanctuaries, and the tribute of the highest artistic skill in the
creation of forms of beauty, are worthy of his immeasurable glory and of
ourselves as his dependent children. Says Cardinal Gibbons: “The
ceremonies of the Church not only render the divine service more solemn,
but they also rivet and captivate our attention and lift it up to God.
Our mind is so active, so volatile, and full of distractions, our
imagination is so fickle, that we have need of some external objects on
which to fix our thoughts. True devotion must be interior and come from
the heart; but we are not to infer that exterior worship is to be
condemned because interior worship is prescribed as essential. On the
contrary, the rites and ceremonies which are enjoined in the worship of
God and in the administration of the sacraments are dictated by right
reason, and are sanctioned by Almighty God in the old law, and by Christ
and his apostles in the new.”[45] “Not by the human understanding,” says
a writer in the _Caecilien Kalendar_, “was the ritual devised, man knows
not whence it came. Its origin lies outside the inventions of man, like
the ideas which it presents. The liturgy arose with the faith, as speech
with thought. What the body is for the soul, such is the liturgy for
religion. Everything in the uses of the Church, from the mysterious
ceremonies of the Mass and of Good Friday, to the summons of the evening
bell to prayer, is nothing else than the eloquent expression of the
content of the redemption of the Son of God.”[46]

Since the ritual is prayer, the offering of the Church to God through
commemoration and representation as well as through direct appeal, so the
whole ceremonial, act as well as word, blends with this conception of
prayer, not as embellishment merely but as constituent factor. Hence the
large use of symbolism, and even of semi-dramatic representation. “When I
speak of the dramatic form of our ceremonies,” says Cardinal Wiseman, “I
make no reference whatever to outward display; and I choose that epithet
for the reason that the poverty of language affords me no other for my
meaning. The object and power of dramatic poetry consist in its being not
merely descriptive but representative. Its character is to bear away the
imagination and soul to the view of what others witnessed, and excite in
us, through their words, such impressions as we might have felt on the
occasion. The service of the Church is eminently poetical, the dramatic
power runs through the service in a most marked manner, and must be kept
in view for its right understanding. Thus, for example, the entire
service for the dead, office, exequies, and Mass, refers to the moment of
death, and bears the imagination to the awful crisis of separation of
soul and body.” “In like manner the Church prepares us during Advent for
the commemoration of our dear Redeemer’s birth, as though it were really
yet to take place. As the festival approaches, the same ideal return to
the very moment and circumstances of our divine Redeemer’s birth is
expressed; all the glories of the day are represented to the soul as if
actually occurring.” “This principle, which will be found to animate the
church service of every other season, rules most remarkably that of Holy
Week, and gives it life and soul. It is not intended to be merely
commemorative or historical; it is, strictly speaking,
representative.”[47] “The traditions and rules of church art,” says
Jakob, “are by no means arbitrary, they are not an external accretion,
but they proceed from within outward, they have grown organically from
the guiding spirit of the Church, out of the requirements of her worship.
Therein lies the justification of symbolism and symbolic representation
in ecclesiastical art. The church of stone must be a speaking image of
the living Church and her mysteries; the pictures on the walls and on the
altars are not mere ornament for the eye, but for the heart a book full
of instruction, a sermon full of truth. And thereby is art raised to be a
participant in the work of edifying the believers; it becomes a profound
teacher of thousands, a bearer and preserver of great ideas for the
centuries.”[48] “Our Holy Church,” says a German priest, “which
completely understands the nature and the needs of humanity, presents to
us divine truth and grace in sensible form, in order that by this means
they may be more easily grasped and more securely appropriated by us. The
law of sense perception, which constitutes so important a factor in human
education, forms also a fundamental law in the action of Holy Church,
whereby she seeks to raise us out of this earthly material life into the
supernatural life of grace. She therefore confers upon us redemptive
grace in the holy sacraments in connection with external signs, through
which the inner grace is shadowed forth and accomplished, as for instance
the inward washing of the soul from sin in baptism through the outward
washing of the body. In like manner the eye of the instructed Catholic
sees in the symbolic ceremonies of the holy sacrifice of the Mass the
thrilling representation of the fall of man, our redemption, and finally
our glorification at the second coming of our Lord. Out of this ground
law of presentation to the senses has arisen the whole liturgy of the
Church, _i. e._, the sum of all religious actions and prayers to the
honor of God and the communication of his grace to us, and this whole
expressive liturgy forms at once the solemn ceremonial in the sanctuary
of the Heavenly King, in which he receives our adoration and bestows upon
us the most plentiful tokens of his favor.”[49]

These citations sufficiently indicate the mind of the Catholic Church in
respect to the uses of ritual and symbolic ceremony. The prime intention
is the instruction and edification of the believer, but it is evident
that a necessary element in this edification is the thought that the rite
is one composite act of worship, a prayer, an offering to Almighty God.
This is the theory of Catholic art, the view which pious churchmen have
always entertained of the function of artistic forms in worship. That all
the products of religious art in Catholic communities have been actuated
by this motive alone would be too much to say. The principle of “art for
art’s sake,” precisely antagonistic to the traditional ecclesiastical
principle, has often made itself felt in periods of relapsed zeal, and
artists have employed traditional subjects out of habit or policy,
finding them as good as any others as bases for experiments in the
achievement of sensuous charm in form, texture, and color. But so far as
changeless dogma, liturgic unity, and consistent tradition have
controlled artistic effort, individual determination has been allowed
enough play to save art from petrifying into a hieratic formalism, but
not enough to endanger the faith, morals, or loyalty of the flock. He
therefore who would know the spirit of Catholicism must give a large
portion of his study to its art. From the central genius of this
institution, displayed not merely in its doctrines and traditions, but
also in its sublime faith in its own divine ordination and guidance, and
in its ideals of holiness, have issued its liturgy, its ceremonial, and
the infinitely varied manifestations of its symbolic, historic, and
devotional art. The Catholic Church has aimed to rear on earth a visible
type of the spiritual kingdom of God, and to build for her disciples a
home, suggestive in its splendor of the glory prepared for those who keep
the faith.

All Catholic art, in so far as it may in the strict use of language be
called church art, separates itself from the larger and more indefinite
category of religious art, and derives its character not from the
personal determination of individual artists, but from conceptions and
models that have become traditional and canonical. These traditional laws
and forms have developed organically out of the needs of the Catholic
worship; they derive their sanction and to a large extent their style
from the doctrine and also from the ceremonial. The centre of the whole
churchly life is the altar, with the great offices of worship there
performed. Architecture, painting, decoration, music,—all are
comprehended in a unity of impression through the liturgy which they
serve. Ecclesiastical art has evolved from within the Church itself, and
has drawn its vitality from those ideas which have found their permanent
and most terse embodiment in the liturgy. Upon the liturgy and the
ceremonial functions attending it must be based all study of the system
of artistic expression officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church.

The Catholic liturgy, or text of the Mass, is not the work of any
individual or conference. It is a growth, an evolution. Set forms of
prayer began to come into use as soon as the first Christian
congregations were founded by the apostles. The dogma of the eucharist
was the chief factor in giving the liturgy its final shape. By a logical
process of selection and integration, certain prayers, Scripture lessons,
hymns, and responses were woven together, until the whole became shaped
into what may be called a religious poem, in which was expressed the
conceived relation of Christ to the Church, and the emotional attitude of
the Church in view of his perpetual presence as both paschal victim and
high priest. This great prayer of the Catholic Church is mainly composed
of contributions made by the Eastern Church during the first four
centuries. Its essential features were adopted and transferred to Latin
by the Church of Rome, and after a process of sifting and rearranging,
with some additions, its form was completed by the end of the sixth
century essentially as it stands to-day. The liturgy is, therefore, the
voice of the Church, weighted with her tradition, resounding with the
commanding tone of her apostolic authority, eloquent with the longing and
the assurance of innumerable martyrs and confessors, the mystic testimony
to the commission which the Church believes to have been laid upon her by
the Holy Spirit. It is not surprising, therefore, that devout Catholics
have come to consider this liturgy as divinely inspired, raised above all
mere human speech, the language of saints and angels, a truly celestial
poem; and that Catholic writers have well-nigh exhausted the vocabulary
of enthusiasm in expounding its spiritual significance.

The insistence upon the use of one unvarying language in the Mass and all
the other offices of the Catholic Church is necessarily involved in the
very conception of catholicity and immutability. A universal Church must
have a universal form of speech; national languages imply national
churches; the adoption of the vernacular would be the first step toward
disintegration. The Catholic, into whatever strange land he may wander,
is everywhere at home the moment he enters a sanctuary of his faith, for
he hears the same worship, in the same tongue, accompanied with the same
ceremonies, that has been familiar to him from childhood. This universal
language must inevitably be the Latin. Unlike all living languages it is
never subject to change, and hence there is no danger that any
misunderstanding of refined points of doctrine or observance will creep
in through alteration in the connotation of words. Latin is the original
language of the Catholic Church, the language of scholarship and
diplomacy in the period of ecclesiastical formation, the tongue to which
were committed the ritual, articles of faith, legal enactments, the
writings of the fathers of the Church, ancient conciliar decrees, etc.
The only exceptions to the rule which prescribes Latin as the liturgical
speech are to be found among certain Oriental congregations, where, for
local reasons, other languages are permitted, _viz._, Greek, Syriac,
Chaldaic, Slavonic, Wallachian, Armenian, Coptic, and Ethiopic. In each
of these instances, however, the liturgic speech is not the vernacular,
but the ancient form which has passed out of use in other relations.[50]

The Mass is the most solemn rite among the offices of the Catholic
Church, and embodies the fundamental doctrine upon which the Catholic
system of worship mainly rests. It is the chief sacrament, the permanent
channel of grace ever kept open between God and his Church. It is an
elaborate development of the last supper of Christ with his disciples,
and is the fulfilment of the perpetual injunction laid by the Master upon
his followers. Developed under the control of the idea of sacrifice,
which was drawn from the central conception of the old Jewish
dispensation and imbedded in the tradition of the Church at a very early
period, the office of the Mass became not a mere memorial of the
atonement upon Calvary, but a perpetual renewal of it upon the altar
through the power committed to the priesthood by the Holy Spirit. To the
Protestant, Christ was offered once for all upon the cross, and the
believer partakes through repentance and faith in the benefits conferred
by that transcendent act; but to the Catholic this sacrifice is repeated
whenever the eucharistic elements of bread and wine are presented at the
altar with certain prayers and formulas. The renewal of the atoning
process is effected through the recurring miracle of transubstantiation,
by which the bread and wine are transmuted into the very body and blood
of Christ. It is in this way that the Catholic Church literally
interprets the words of Jesus: “This is my body; this is my blood; whoso
eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.” When the
miraculous transformation has taken place at the repetition by the priest
of Christ’s words of institution, the consecrated host and chalice are
offered to God by the priest in the name and for the sake of the
believers, both present and absent, for whom prayer is made and who share
through faith in the benefits of this sacrificial act. “The sacrifice of
the Mass,” says Cardinal Gibbons, “is identical with that of the cross,
both having the same victim and high priest—Jesus Christ. The only
difference consists in the manner of the oblation. Christ was offered
upon the cross in a bloody manner; in the Mass he is offered up in an
unbloody manner. On the cross he purchased our ransom, and in the
eucharistic sacrifice the price of that ransom is applied to our
souls.”[51] This conception is the keystone of the whole structure of
Catholic faith, the super-essential dogma, repeated, from century to
century in declarations of prelates, theologians, and synods, reasserted
once for all in terms of binding definition by the Council of Trent. All,
therefore, who assist in this mystic ceremony, either as celebrants and
ministers or as indirect participants through faith, share in its
supernatural efficacy. It is to them a sacrifice of praise, of
supplication, and of propitiation.

The whole elaborate ceremony of the Mass, which is such an enigma to the
uninstructed, is nowhere vain or repetitious. Every word has its fitting
relation to the whole; every gesture and genuflection, every change of
vestments, has its symbolic significance. All the elements of the rite
are merged into a unity under the sway of this central act of
consecration and oblation. All the lessons, prayers, responses, and hymns
are designed to lead up to it, to prepare the officers and people to
share in it, and to impress upon them its meaning and effect. The
architectural, sculptural, and decorative beauty of altar, chancel, and
apse finds its justification as a worthy setting for the august ceremony,
and as a fitting shrine to harbor the very presence of the Lord. The
display of lights and vestments, the spicy clouds of incense, the
solemnity of priestly chant, and the pomp of choral music, are contrived
solely to enhance the impression of the rite, and to compel the mind into
a becoming mood of adoration.

There are several kinds of Masses, differing in certain details, or in
manner of performance, or in respect to the occasions to which they are
appropriated, such as the High Mass, Solemn High Mass, Low Mass, Requiem
Mass or Mass for the Dead, Mass of the Presanctified, Nuptial Mass,
Votive Mass, etc. The widest departure from the ordinary Mass form is in
the Requiem Mass, where the Gloria and Credo are omitted, and their
places supplied by the mediaeval judgment hymn, Dies Irae, together with
certain special prayers for departed souls. In respect to the customary
service on Sundays, festal, and ferial days there is no difference in the
words of the High Mass, Solemn High Mass, and Low Mass, but only in the
manner of performance and the degree of embellishment. The Low Mass is
said in a low tone of voice and in the manner of ordinary speech, the
usual marks of solemnity being dispensed with; there is no chanting and
no choir music. The High Mass is given in musical tones throughout by
celebrant and choir. The Solemn High Mass is performed with still greater
ritualistic display, and with deacon, sub-deacon, and a full corps of
inferior ministers.

The prayers, portions of Scripture, hymns, and responses which compose
the Catholic liturgy consist both of parts that are unalterably the same
and of parts that change each day of the year. Those portions that are
invariable constitute what is known as the Ordinary of the Mass. The
changeable or “proper” parts include the Introits, Collects, Epistles and
Lessons, Graduals, Tracts, Gospels, Offertories, Secrets, Prefaces,
Communions, and Post-Communions. Every day of the year has its special
and distinctive form, according as it commemorates some event in the life
of our Lord or is devoted to the memory of some saint, martyr, or
confessor.[52] Mass may be celebrated on any day of the year except Good
Friday, the great mourning day of the Church.

The outline of the Mass ceremony that follows relates to the High Mass,
which may be taken as the type of the Mass in general. It must be borne
in mind that the entire office is chanted or sung.

After the entrance of the officiating priest and his attendants the
celebrant pronounces the words: “In the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen;” and then recites the 42d psalm (43d
in the Protestant version). Next follows the confession of sin and prayer
for pardon. After a few brief prayers and responses the Introit—a short
Scripture selection, usually from a psalm—is chanted. Then the choir
sings the Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison. The first of these ejaculations
was used in the Eastern Church in the earliest ages as a response by the
people. It was adopted into the liturgies of the Western Church at a very
early period, and is one of the two instances of the survival in the
Latin office of phrases of the original Greek liturgies. The Christe
eleison was added a little later.

The Kyrie is immediately followed by the singing by the choir of the
Gloria in excelsis Deo. This hymn, also called the greater doxology, is
of Greek origin, and is the angelic song given in chapter ii. of Luke’s
Gospel, with additions which were made not later than the fourth century.
It was adopted into the Roman liturgy at least as early as the latter
part of the sixth century, since it appears, connected with certain
restrictions, in the sacramentary of Pope Gregory the Great.

Next are recited the Collects—short prayers appropriate to the day,
imploring God’s blessing. Then comes the reading of the Epistle, a psalm
verse called the Gradual, the Alleluia, or, when that is omitted, the
Tractus (which is also usually a psalm verse), and at certain festivals a
hymn called Sequence. Next is recited the Gospel appointed for the day.
If a sermon is preached its place is next after the Gospel.

The confession of faith—Credo—is then sung by the choir. This symbol is
based on the creed adopted by the council of Nicaea in 325 and modified
by the council of Constantinople in 381, but it is not strictly identical
with either the Nicene or the Constantinople creed. The most important
difference between the Constantinople creed and the present Roman
consists in the addition in the Roman creed of the words “and from the
Son” (filioque) in the declaration concerning the procession of the Holy
Ghost. The present creed has been in use in Spain since 589, and
according to what seems good authority was adopted into the Roman liturgy
in 1014.

After a sentence usually taken from a psalm and called the Offertory, the
most solemn portion of the Mass begins with the Oblation of the Host, the
ceremonial preparation of the elements of bread and wine, with prayers,
incensings, and ablutions.

All being now ready for the consummation of the sacrificial act, the
ascription of thanksgiving and praise called the Preface is offered,
which varies with the season, but closes with the Sanctus and Benedictus,
sung by the choir.

The Sanctus, also called Trisagion or Thrice Holy, is the cherubic hymn
heard by Isaiah in vision, as described in Is. vi. 3. The Benedictus is
the shout of acclamation by the concourse who met Christ on his entry
into Jerusalem. There is a poetic significance in the union of these two
passages. The blessed one, who cometh in the name of the Lord, is the
Lord himself, the God of Sabaoth, of whose glory heaven and earth are
full.

The Canon of the Mass now opens with prayers that the holy sacrifice may
be accepted of God, and may redound to the benefit of those present. The
act of consecration is performed by pronouncing Christ’s words of
institution, and the sacred host and chalice, now become objects of the
most rapt and absorbed devotion, are elevated before the kneeling
worshipers, and committed to the acceptance of God with the most
impressive vows and invocations.


As an illustration of the nobility of thought and beauty of diction that
are found in the Catholic offices, the prayer immediately following the
consecration of the chalice may be quoted:

“Wherefore, O Lord, we thy servants, as also thy holy people, calling to
mind the blessed passion of the same Christ thy Son our Lord, his
resurrection from the dead, and admirable ascension into heaven, offer
unto thy most excellent Majesty of the gifts bestowed upon us a pure
Host, a holy Host, an unspotted Host, the holy bread of eternal life, and
chalice of everlasting salvation.

“Upon which vouchsafe to look, with a propitious and serene countenance,
and to accept them, as thou wert graciously pleased to accept the gifts
of thy just servant Abel, and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham, and
that which thy high priest Melchisedech offered to thee, a holy sacrifice
and unspotted victim.

“We most humbly beseech thee, Almighty God, command these things to be
carried by the hands of thy holy angels to thy altar on high, in the
sight of thy divine Majesty, that as many as shall partake of the most
sacred body and blood of thy Son at this altar, may be filled with every
heavenly grace and blessing.”


In the midst of the series of prayers following the consecration the
choir sings the Agnus Dei, a short hymn which was introduced into the
Roman liturgy at a very early date. The priest then communicates, and
those of the congregation who have been prepared for the exalted
privilege by confession and absolution kneel at the sanctuary rail and
receive from the celebrant’s hands the consecrated wafer. The
Post-Communion, which is a brief prayer for protection and grace, the
dismissal[53] and benediction, and the reading of the first fourteen
verses of the Gospel according to St. John close the ceremony.

Interspersed with the prayers, lessons, responses, hymns, etc., which
constitute the liturgy are a great number of crossings, obeisances,
incensings, changing of vestments, and other liturgic actions, all an
enigma to the uninitiated, yet not arbitrary or meaningless, for each has
a symbolic significance, designed not merely to impress the congregation,
but still more to enforce upon the ministers themselves a sense of the
magnitude of the work in which they are engaged. The complexity of the
ceremonial, the rapidity of utterance and the frequent inaudibility of
the words of the priest, together with the fact that the text is in a
dead language, are not inconsistent with the purpose for which the Mass
is conceived. For it is not considered as proceeding from the people, but
it is an ordinance performed for them and in their name by a priesthood,
whose function is that of representing the Church in its mediatorial
capacity. The Mass is not simply a prayer, but also a semi-dramatic
action,—an action which possesses in itself an efficacy _ex opere
operato_. This idea renders it unnecessary that the worshipers should
follow the office in detail; it is enough that they coöperate with the
celebrant in faith and pious sympathy. High authorities declare that the
most profitable reception of the rite consists in simply watching the
action of the officiating priest at the altar, and yielding the spirit
unreservedly to the holy emotions which are excited by a complete
self-abandonment to the contemplation of the adorable mystery. The
sacramental theory of the Mass as a vehicle by which grace is
communicated from above to the believing recipient, also leaves him free
to carry on private devotion during the progress of the ceremony. When
the worshipers are seen kneeling in the pews or before an altar at the
side wall, fingering rosaries or with eyes intent upon prayer-books, it
is not the words of the Mass that they are repeating. The Mass is the
prayer of the Church at large, but it does not emanate from the
congregation. The theory of the Mass does not even require the presence
of the laity, and as a matter of practice private and solitary Masses,
although rare, are in no way contrary to the discipline of the Catholic
Church.



                               CHAPTER IV
                THE RITUAL CHANT OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH


In reading the words of the Catholic liturgy from the Missal we must
remember that they were written to be sung, and in a certain limited
degree acted, and that we cannot receive their real force except when
musically rendered and in connection with the ceremonies appropriated to
them. For the Catholic liturgy is in conception and history a musical
liturgy; word and tone are inseparably bound together. The immediate
action of music upon the emotion supplements and reinforces the action of
the text and the dogmatic teaching upon the understanding, and the
ceremony at the altar makes the impression still more direct by means of
visible representation. All the faculties are therefore held in the grasp
of this composite agency of language, music, and bodily motion; neither
is at any point independent of the others, for they are all alike
constituent parts of the poetic whole, in which action becomes prayer and
prayer becomes action.

The music of the Catholic Church as it exists to-day is the result of a
long process of evolution. Although this process has been continuous, it
has three times culminated in special forms, all of them coincident with
three comprehensive ideas of musical expression which have succeeded each
other chronologically, and which divide the whole history of modern music
into clearly marked epochs. These epochs are those (1) of the unison
chant, (2) of unaccompanied chorus music, and (3) of mixed solo and
chorus with instrumental accompaniment.

(1) The period in which the unison chant was the only form of church
music extends from the founding of the congregation of Rome to about the
year 1100, and coincides with the centuries of missionary labor among the
Northern and Western nations, when the Roman liturgy was triumphantly
asserting its authority over the various local uses.

(2) The period of the unaccompanied contrapuntal chorus, based on the
mediaeval key and melodic systems, covers the era of the European
sovereignty of the Catholic Church, including also the period of the
Counter-Reformation of the sixteenth century. This phase of art,
culminating in the works of Palestrina in Rome, Orlandus Lassus in
Munich, and the Gabrielis in Venice, suffered no decline, and gave way at
last to a style in sharp contrast with it only when it had gained an
impregnable historic position.

(3) The style now dominant in the choir music of the Catholic Church,
_viz._, mixed solo and chorus music with free instrumental accompaniment,
based on the modern transposing scales, arose in the seventeenth century
as an outcome of the Renaissance secularization of art. It was taken up
by the Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican Churches, and was moulded into
its present types under the influence of new demands upon musical
expression which had already brought forth the dramatic and concert
styles.

The unison chant, although confined in the vast majority of congregations
to the portions of the liturgy that are sung by the priest, is still the
one officially recognized form of liturgic music. Although in the
historic development of musical art representatives of the later phases
of music have been admitted into the Church, they exist there only, we
might say, by sufferance,—the chant still remains the legal basis of the
whole scheme of worship music. The chant melodies are no mere musical
accompaniment; they are the very life breath of the words. The text is so
exalted in diction and import, partaking of the sanctity of the
sacrificial function to which it ministers, that it must be uttered in
tones especially consecrated to it. So intimate is this reciprocal
relation of tone and language that in process of time these two elements
have become amalgamated into a union so complete that no dissolution is
possible even in thought. There is no question that the chant melodies as
they exist to-day are only modifications, in most cases but slight
modifications, of those that were originally associated with the several
portions of the liturgy. At the moment when any form of words was given a
place in the Missal or Breviary, its proper melody was then and there
wedded to it. This fact makes the Catholic liturgic chant a distinctive
church song in a special and peculiar sense. It is not, like most other
church music, the artistic creation of individuals, enriching the service
with contributions from without, and imparting to them a quality drawn
from the composer’s personal feeling and artistic methods. It is rather a
sort of religious folk-song, proceeding from the inner shrine of
religion. It is abstract, impersonal; its style is strictly
ecclesiastical, both in its inherent solemnity and its ancient
association, and it bears, like the ritual itself, the sanction of
unimpeachable authority. The reverence paid by the Church to the liturgic
chant as a peculiarly sacred form of utterance is plainly indicated by
the fact that while there is no restraint upon the license of choice on
the part of the choir, no other form of song has ever been heard, or can
ever be permitted to be heard, from the priest in the performance of his
ministrations at the altar.

If we enter a Catholic church during High Mass or Vespers we notice that
the words of the priest are delivered in musical tones. This song at once
strikes us as different in many respects from any other form of music
with which we are acquainted. At first it seems monotonous, strange,
almost barbaric, but when we have become accustomed to it the effect is
very solemn and impressive. Many who are not instructed in the matter
imagine that the priest extemporizes these cadences, but nothing could be
further from the truth. Certain portions of this chant are very plain,
long series of words being recited on a single note, introduced and ended
with very simple melodic inflections; other portions are florid, of wider
compass than the simple chant, often with many notes to a syllable.
Sometimes the priest sings alone, without response or accompaniment;
sometimes his utterances are answered by a choir of boys in the chancel
or a mixed choir in the gallery; in certain portions of the service the
organ supports the chant with harmonies which seem to be based on a
different principle of key and scale from that which ordinarily obtains
in modern chord progression. In its freedom of rhythm it bears some
resemblance to dramatic recitative, yet it is far less dramatic or
characteristic in color and expression, and at the same time both more
severe and more flexible. To one who understands the whole conception and
spirit of the Catholic worship there is a singular appropriateness in the
employment of this manner of utterance, and when properly rendered it
blends most efficiently with the architectural splendors of altar and
sanctuary, with incense, lights, vestments, ceremonial action, and all
the embellishments that lend distinction and solemnity to the Catholic
ritual. This is the celebrated liturgic chant, also called Gregorian
chant, Plain Song, or Choral, and is the special and peculiar form of
song in which the Catholic Church has clothed its liturgy for certainly
fifteen hundred years.

This peculiar and solemn form of song is the musical speech in which the
entire ritual of the Catholic Church was originally rendered, and to
which a large portion of the ritual is confined at the present day. It is
always sung in unison, with or without instrumental accompaniment. It is
unmetrical though not unrhythmical; it follows the phrasing, the
emphasis, and the natural inflections of the voice in reciting the text,
at the same time that it idealizes them. It is a sort of heightened form
of speech, a musical declamation, having for its object the intensifying
of the emotional powers of ordinary spoken language. It stands to true
song or tune in much the same relation as prose to verse, less
impassioned, more reflective, yet capable of moving the heart like
eloquence.

The chant appears to be the natural and fundamental form of music
employed in all liturgical systems the world over, ancient and modern.
The sacrificial song of the Egyptians, the Hebrews, and the Greeks was a
chant, and this is the form of music adopted by the Eastern Church, the
Anglican, and every system in which worship is offered in common and
prescribed forms. The chant form is chosen because it does not make an
independent artistic impression, but can be held in strict subordination
to the sacred words; its sole function is to carry the text over with
greater force upon the attention and the emotions. It is in this
relationship of text and tone that the chant differs from true melody.
The latter obeys musical laws of structure and rhythm; the music is
paramount and the text accessory, and in order that the musical flow may
not be hampered, the words are often extended or repeated, and may be
compared to a flexible framework on which the tonal decoration is
displayed. In the chant, on the other hand, this relation of text and
tone is reversed; there is no repetition of words, the laws of structure
and rhythm are rhetorical laws, and the music never asserts itself to the
concealment or subjugation of the meaning of the text. The “jubilations”
or “melismas,” which are frequent in the choral portions of the Plain
Song system, particularly in the richer melodies of thee Mass, would seem
at first thought to contradict this principle; in these florid melodic
phrases the singer would appear to abandon himself to a sort of inspired
rapture, giving vent to the emotions aroused in him by the sacred words.
Here musical utterance seems for the moment to be set free from
dependence upon word and symbol and to assert its own special
prerogatives of expression, adopting the conception that underlies modern
figurate music. These occasional ebullitions of feeling permitted in the
chant are, however, only momentary; they relieve what would otherwise be
an unvaried austerity not contemplated in the spirit of Catholic art;
they do not violate the general principle of universality and
objectiveness as opposed to individual subjective
expression,—subordination to word and rite rather than purely musical
self-assertion,—which is the theoretic basis of the liturgic chant
system.

Chant is speech-song, probably the earliest form of vocal music; it
proceeds from the modulations of impassioned speech; it results from the
need of regulating and perpetuating these modulations when certain
exigencies require a common and impressive form of utterance, as in
religious rites, public rejoicing or mourning, etc. The necessity of
filling large spaces almost inevitably involves the use of balanced
cadences. Poetic recitation among ancient and primitive peoples is never
recited in the ordinary level pitch of voice in speech, but always in
musical inflections, controlled by some principle of order. Under the
authority of a permanent corporate institution these inflections are
reduced to a system, and are imposed upon all whose office it is to
administer the public ceremonies of worship. This is the origin of the
liturgic chant of ancient peoples, and also, by historic continuation, of
the Gregorian melody. The Catholic chant is a projection into modern art
of the altar song of Greece, Judaea, and Egypt, and through these nations
reaches back to that epoch of unknown remoteness when mankind first began
to conceive of invisible powers to be invoked or appeased. A large
measure of the impressiveness of the liturgic chant, therefore, is due to
its historic religious associations. It forms a connecting link between
ancient religion and the Christian, and perpetuates to our own day an
ideal of sacred music which is as old as religious music itself. It is a
striking fact that only within the last six hundred or seven hundred
years, and only within the bounds of Christendom, has an artificial form
of worship music arisen in which musical forms have become emancipated
from subjection to the rhetorical laws of speech, and been built up under
the shaping force of inherent musical laws, gaining a more or less free
play for the creative impulses of an independent art. The conception
which is realized in the Gregorian chant, and which exclusively prevailed
until the rise of the modern polyphonic system, is that of music in
subjection to rite and liturgy, its own charms merged and, so far as
conscious intention goes, lost in the paramount significance of text and
action. It is for this reason, together with the historic relation of
chant and liturgy, that the rulers of the Catholic Church have always
labored so strenuously for uniformity in the liturgic chant as well as
for its perpetuity. There are even churchmen at the present time who urge
the abandonment of all the modern forms of harmonized music and the
restoration of the unison chant to every detail of the service. A notion
so ascetic and monastic can never prevail, but one who has fully entered
into the spirit of the Plain Song melodies can at least sympathize with
the reverence which such a reactionary attitude implies. There is a
solemn unearthly sweetness in these tones which appeals irresistibly to
those who have become habituated to them. They have maintained for
centuries the inevitable comparison with every other form of melody,
religious and secular, and there is reason to believe that they will
continue to sustain all possible rivalry, until they at last outlive
every other form of music now existing.

No one can obtain any proper conception of this magnificent Plain Song
system from the examples which one ordinarily hears in Catholic churches,
for only a minute part of it is commonly employed at the present day.
Only in certain convents and a few churches where monastic ideas prevail,
and where priests and choristers are enthusiastic students of the ancient
liturgic song, can we hear musical performances which afford us a
revelation of the true affluence of this mediaeval treasure. What we
customarily hear is only the simpler intonings of the priest at his
ministrations, and the eight “psalm tones” sung alternately by priest and
choir. These “psalm tones” or “Gregorian tones” are plain melodic
formulas, with variable endings, and are appointed to be sung to the
Latin psalms and canticles. When properly delivered, and supported by an
organist who knows the secret of accompanying them, they are exceedingly
beautiful. They are but a hint, however, of the rich store of melodies,
some of them very elaborate and highly organized, which the chantbooks
contain, and which are known only to special students. To this great
compendium belong the chants anciently assigned to those portions of the
liturgy which are now usually sung in modern settings,—the Kyrie, Gloria,
Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and the variable portions of the
Mass, such as the Introits, Graduals, Prefaces, Offertories, Sequences,
etc., besides the hymns sung at Vespers and the other canonical hours.
Few have ever explored the bulky volumes which contain this unique
bequest of the Middle Age; but one who has even made a beginning of such
study, or who has heard the florid chants worthily performed in the
traditional style, can easily understand the enthusiasm which these
strains arouse in the minds of those who love to penetrate to the
innermost shrines of Catholic devotional expression.

The theory and practice of the liturgic chant is a science of large
dimensions and much difficulty. In the course of centuries a vast store
of chant melodies has been accumulated, and in the nature of the case
many variants of the older melodies—those composed before the development
of a precise system of notation—have arisen, so that the verification of
texts, comparison of authorities, and the application of methods of
rendering to the needs of the complex ceremonial make this subject a very
important branch of liturgical science.

The Plain Song may be divided into the simple and the ornate chants. In
the first class the melodies are to a large extent syllabic (one note to
a syllable), rarely with more than two notes to a syllable. The simplest
of all are the tones employed in the delivery of certain prayers, the
Epistle, Prophecy, and Gospel, technically known as “accents,” which vary
but little from monotone. The most important of the more melodious simple
chants are the “Gregorian tones” already mentioned. The inflections sung
to the versicles and responses are also included among the simple chants.

The ornate chants differ greatly in length, compass, and degree of
elaboration. Some of these melodies are exceedingly florid and many are
of great beauty. They constitute the original settings for all the
portions of the Mass not enumerated among the simple chants, _viz._, the
Kyrie, Gloria, Introit, Prefaces, Communion, etc., besides the Sequences
and hymns. Certain of these chants are so elaborate that they may almost
be said to belong to a separate class. Examination of many of these
extended melodies will often disclose a decided approach to regularity of
form through the recurrence of certain definite melodic figures. “In the
Middle Age,” says P. Wagner, “nothing was known of an accompaniment;
there was not the slightest need of one. The substance of the musical
content, which we to-day commit to interpretation through harmony, the
old musicians laid upon melody. The latter accomplished in itself the
complete utterance of the artistically aroused fantasy. In this
particular the melismas, which carry the extensions of the tones of the
melody, are a necessary means of presentation in mediaeval art; they
proceed logically out of the principle of the unison melody.” “Text
repetition is virtually unknown in the unison music of the Middle Age.
While modern singers repeat an especially emphatic thought or word, the
old melodists repeat a melody or phrase which expresses the ground mood
of the text in a striking manner. And they not only repeat it, but they
make it unfold, and draw out of it new tones of melody. This method is
certainly not less artistic than the later text repetition; it comes
nearer, also, to the natural expression of the devotionally inspired
heart.”[54]

The ritual chant has its special laws of execution which involve long
study on the part of one who wishes to master it. Large attention is
given in the best seminaries to the purest manner of delivering the
chant, and countless treatises have been written upon the subject. The
first desideratum is an accurate pronunciation of the Latin, and a facile
and distinct articulation. The notes have no fixed and measurable value,
and are not intended to give the duration of the tones, but only to guide
the modulation of the voice. The length of each tone is determined only
by the proper length of the syllable. In this principle lies the very
essence of Gregorian chant, and it is the point at which it stands in
exact contradiction to the theory of modern measured music. The divisions
of the chant are given solely by the text. The rhythm, therefore, is that
of speech, of the prose text to which the chant tones are set. The rhythm
is a natural rhythm, a succession of syllables combined into expressive
groups by means of accent, varied pitch, and prolongations of tone. The
fundamental rule for chanting is: “Sing the words with notes as you would
speak them without notes.” This does not imply that the utterance is
stiff and mechanical as in ordinary conversation; there is a heightening
of the natural inflection and a grouping of notes, as in impassioned
speech or the most refined declamation. Like the notes and divisions, the
pauses also are unequal and immeasurable, and are determined only by the
sense of the words and the necessity of taking breath.

In the long florid passages often occurring on a single vowel analogous
rules are involved. The text and the laws of natural recitation must
predominate over melody. The jubilations are not to be conceived simply
as musical embellishments, but, on the contrary, their beauty depends
upon the melodic accents to which they are joined in a subordinate
position. These florid passages are never introduced thoughtlessly or
without meaning, but they are strictly for emphasizing the thought with
which they are connected; “they make the soul in singing fathom the
deeper sense of the words, and to taste of the mysteries hidden within
them.”[55] The particular figures must be kept apart and distinguished
from each other, and brought into union with each other, like the words,
clauses, and sentences of an oration. Even these florid passages are
dependent upon the influence of the words and their character of prayer.

The principles above cited concern the rhythm of the chant. Other
elements of expression must also be taken into account, such as
prolonging and shortening tones, crescendos and diminuendos, subtle
changes of quality of voice or tone color to suit different sentiments.
The manner of singing is also affected by the conditions of time and
place, such as the degree of the solemnity of the occasion, and the
dimensions and acoustic properties of the edifice in which the ceremony
is held.

In the singing of the mediaeval hymn melodies, many beautiful examples of
which abound in the Catholic office books, the above rules of rhythm and
expression are modified as befits the more regular metrical character
which the melodies derive from the verse. They are not so rigid, however,
as would be indicated by the bar lines of modern notation, and follow the
same laws of rhythm that would obtain in spoken recitation.

The liturgic chant of the Catholic Church has already been alluded to
under its more popular title of “Gregorian.” Throughout the Middle Age
and down to our own day nothing in history has been more generally
received as beyond question than that the Catholic chant is entitled to
this appellation from the work performed in its behalf by Pope Gregory
I., called the Great. This eminent man, who reigned from 590 to 604, was
the ablest of the succession of early pontiffs who formulated the line of
policy which converted the barbarians of the North and West, brought
about the spiritual and political autonomy of the Roman See, and
confirmed its supremacy over all the churches of the West.

In addition to these genuine services historians have generally concurred
in ascribing to him a final shaping influence upon the liturgic chant,
with which, however, he probably had very little to do. His supposed work
in this department has been divided into the following four details:

(1) He freed the church song from the fetters of Greek prosody.

(2) He collected the chants previously existing, added others, provided
them with a system of notation, and wrote them down in a book which was
afterwards called the Antiphonary of St. Gregory, which he fastened to
the altar of St. Peter’s Church, in order that it might serve as an
authoritative standard in all cases of doubt in regard to the true form
of chant.

(3) He established a singing school in which he gave instruction.

(4) He added four new scales to the four previously existing, thus
completing the tonal system of the Church.

The prime authority for these statements is the biography of Gregory I.,
written by John the Deacon about 872. Detached allusions to this pope as
the founder of the liturgic chant appear before John’s day, the earliest
being in a manuscript addressed by Pope Hadrian I. to Charlemagne in the
latter part of the eighth century, nearly two hundred years after
Gregory’s death. The evidences which tend to show that Gregory I. could
not have had anything to do with this important work of sifting,
arranging, and noting the liturgic melodies become strong as soon as they
are impartially examined. In Gregory’s very voluminous correspondence,
which covers every known phase of his restless activity, there is no
allusion to any such work in respect to the music of the Church, as there
almost certainly would have been if he had undertaken to bring about
uniformity in the musical practice of all the churches under his
administration. The assertions of John the Deacon are not confirmed by
any anterior document. No epitaph of Gregory, no contemporary records, no
ancient panegyrics of the pope, touch upon the question. Isidor of
Seville, a contemporary of Gregory, and the Venerable Bede in the next
century, were especially interested in the liturgic chant and wrote upon
it, yet they make no mention of Gregory in connection with it. The
documents upon which John bases his assertion, the so-called Gregorian
Antiphonary, do not agree with the ecclesiastical calendar of the actual
time of Gregory I.

In reply to these objections and others that might be given there is no
answer but legend, which John the Deacon incorporated in his work, and
which was generally accepted toward the close of the eleventh century.
That this legend should have arisen is not strange. It is no uncommon
thing in an uncritical age for the achievement of many minds in a whole
epoch to be attributed to the most commanding personality in that epoch,
and such a personality in the sixth and seventh centuries was Gregory the
Great.

What, then, is the origin of the so-called Gregorian chant? There is
hardly a more interesting question in the whole history of music, for
this chant is the basis of the whole magnificent structure of mediaeval
church song, and in a certain sense of all modern music, and it can be
traced back unbroken to the earliest years of the Christian Church, the
most persistent and fruitful form of art that the modern world has known.
The most exhaustive study that has been devoted to this obscure subject
has been undertaken by Gevaert, director of the Brussels Conservatory of
Music, who has brought forward strong representation to show that the
musical system of the early Church of Rome was largely derived from the
secular forms of music practised in the private and social life of the
Romans in the time of the empire, and which were brought to Rome from
Greece after the conquest of that country B.C. 146. “No one to-day
doubts,” says Gevaert, “that the modes and melodies of the Catholic
liturgy are a precious remains of antique art.” “The Christian chant took
its modal scales to the number of four, and its melodic themes, from the
musical practice of the Roman empire, and particularly from the song
given to the accompaniment of the kithara, the special style of music
cultivated in private life. The most ancient monuments of the liturgic
chant go back to the boundary of the fourth and fifth centuries, when the
forms of worship began to be arrested in their present shape. Like the
Latin language, the Greco-Roman music entered in like manner into the
Catholic Church. Vocabulary and syntax are the same with the pagan
Symmachus and his contemporary St. Ambrose; modes and rules of musical
composition are identical in the hymns which Mesomedes addresses to the
divinities of paganism and in the cantilenas of the Christian singers.”
“The compilation and composition of the liturgic songs, which was
traditionally ascribed to St. Gregory I., is in truth a work of the
Hellenic popes at the end of the seventh and the beginning of the eighth
centuries. The Antiphonarium Missarum received its definitive form
between 682 and 715; the Antiphonarium Officii was already fixed under
Pope Agathon (678-681).” In the fourth century, according to Gevaert,
antiphons were already known in the East. St. Ambrose is said to have
transplanted them into the West. Pope Celestine I. (422-472) has been
called the founder of the antiphonal song in the Roman Church. Leo the
Great (440-461) gave the song permanence by the establishment of a
singing school in the neighborhood of St. Peter’s. Thus from the fifth
century to the latter part of the seventh grew the treasure of melody,
together with the unfolding of the liturgy. The four authentic modes were
adaptations of four modes employed by the Greeks. The oldest chants are
the simplest, and of those now in existence the antiphons of the Divine
Office can be traced farthest back to the transition point from the
Greco-Roman practice to that of the Christian Church. The florid chants
were of later introduction, and were probably the contribution of the
Greek and Syrian Churches.[56]

The Christian chants were, however, no mere reproductions of profane
melodies. The groundwork of the chant is allied to the Greek melody; the
Christian song is of a much richer melodic movement, bearing in all its
forms the evidence of the exuberant spiritual life of which it is the
chosen expression. The pagan melody was sung to an instrument; the
Christian was unaccompanied, and was therefore free to develop a special
rhythmical and melodic character unconditioned by any laws except those
involved in pure vocal expression. The fact also that the Christian
melodies were set to unmetrical texts, while the Greek melody was wholly
confined to verse, marked the emancipation of the liturgic song from the
bondage of strict prosody, and gave a wider field to melodic and rhythmic
development.

It would be too much to say that Gevaert has completely made out his
case. The impossibility of verifying the exact primitive form of the
oldest chants, and the almost complete disappearance of the Greco-Roman
melodies which are supposed to be the antecedent or the suggestion of the
early Christian tone formulas, make a positive demonstration in such a
case out of the question. Gevaert seems to rely mainly upon the identity
of modes or keys which exists between the most ancient church melodies
and those most in use in the kithara song. Other explanations, more or
less plausible, have been advanced, and it is not impossible that the
simpler melodies may have arisen in an idealization of the natural speech
accent, with a view to procuring measured and agreeable cadences. Both
methods—actual adaptations of older tunes and the spontaneous enunciation
of more obvious melodic formulas—may have been allied in the production
of the earlier liturgic chants. The laws that have been found valid in
the development of all art would make the derivation of the
ecclesiastical melodies from elements existing in the environment of the
early Church a logical and reasonable supposition, even in the absence of
documentary evidence.

There is no proof of the existence of a definite system of notation
before the seventh century. The chanters, priests, deacons, and monks, in
applying melodies to the text of the office, composed by aid of their
memories, and their melodies were transmitted by memory, although
probably with the help of arbitrary mnemonic signs. The possibility of
this will readily be granted when we consider that special orders of
monks made it their sole business to preserve, sing, and teach these
melodies. In the confusion and misery following the downfall of the
kingdom of the Goths in the middle of the sixth century the Church became
a sanctuary of refuge from the evils of the time. With the revival of
religious zeal and the accession of strength the Church flourished,
basilicas and convents were multiplied, solemnities increased in number
and splendor, and with other liturgic elements the chant expanded. A
number of popes in the seventh century were enthusiastic lovers of Church
music, and gave it the full benefit of their authority. Among these were
Gregory II. and Gregory III., one of whom may have inadvertently given
his name to the chant.

The system of tonality upon which the music of the Middle Age was based
was the modal or diatonic. The modern system of transposing scales, each
major or minor scale containing the same succession of steps and half
steps as each of its fellows, dates no further back than the first half
of the seventeenth century. The mediaeval system comprises theoretically
fourteen, in actual use twelve, distinct modes or keys, known as the
ecclesiastical modes or Gregorian modes. These modes are divided into two
classes—the “authentic” and “plagal.” The compass of each of the
authentic modes lies between the keynote, called the “final,” and the
octave above, and includes the notes represented by the white keys of the
pianoforte, excluding sharps and flats. The first authentic mode begins
on D, the second on E, and so on. Every authentic mode is connected with
a mode known as its plagal, which consists of the last four notes of the
authentic mode transposed an octave below, and followed by the first five
notes of the authentic, the “final” being the same in the two modes. The
modes are sometimes transposed a fifth lower or a fourth higher by means
of flatting the B. During the epoch of the foundation of the liturgic
chant only the first eight modes (four authentic and four plagal) were in
use. The first four authentic modes were popularly attributed to St.
Ambrose, bishop of Milan in the fourth century, and the first four plagal
to St. Gregory, but there is no historic basis for this tradition. The
last two modes are a later addition to the system. The Greek names are
those by which the modes are popularly known, and indicate a hypothetical
connection with the ancient Greek scale system.



                                          Authentic Modes   Plagal Modes



                                          Authentic Modes   Plagal Modes


To suppose that the chant in this period was sung exactly as it appears
in the office books of the present day would be to ignore a very
characteristic and universal usage in the Middle Age. No privilege was
more freely accorded to the mediaeval chanter than that of adding to the
melody whatever embellishment he might choose freely to invent on the
impulse of the moment. The right claimed by Italian opera singers down to
a very recent date to decorate the phrases with trills, cadenzas, etc.,
even to the extent of altering the written notes themselves, is only the
perpetuation of a practice generally prevalent in the mediaeval Church,
and which may have come down, for anything we know to the contrary, from
remote antiquity. In fact, the requirement of singing the notes exactly
as they are written is a modern idea; no such rule was recognized as
invariably binding until well into the nineteenth century. It was no
uncommon thing in Händel’s time and after to introduce free
embellishments even into “I know that my Redeemer liveth” in the
“Messiah.” In the Middle Age the singers in church and convent took great
merit to themselves for the inventive ability and vocal adroitness by
which they were able to sprinkle the plain notes of the chant with
improvised embellishments. “Moreover, there existed in the liturgic text
a certain number of words upon which the singers had the liberty of
dilating according to their fancy. According to an ancient Christian
tradition, certain chants were followed by a number of notes sung upon
meaningless vowels; these notes, called neumes or _jubili_, rendered, in
accordance with a poetic thought, the faith and adoration of the
worshipers who appeared to be unable to find words that could express
their sentiments. These vocalizations or embroideries were sometimes
longer than the chants themselves, and many authors complained of the
importance given to these vocal fantasies.”[57] Among the mnemonic signs
which, before the invention of the staff and notation system, indicated
the changes of pitch to be observed by the singer, there were many that
unmistakably point to the traditional flourishes which had become an
integral element in the Plain Song system. Many of these survived and
were carried over into secular music after the method of chanting became
more simple and severe. Similar license was also practised in the later
period of part singing, and not only in the rude early counterpoint of
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but even in the highly developed
and specialized chorus music of the sixteenth century, the embellishments
which were reduced to a system and handed down by tradition, gave to this
art a style and effect the nature of which has now fallen from the
knowledge of men.

Such was the nature of the song which resounded about the altars of Roman
basilicas and through convent cloisters in the seventh and eighth
centuries, and which has remained the sanctioned official speech of the
Catholic Church in her ritual functions to the present day. Nowhere did
it suffer any material change or addition until it became the basis of a
new harmonic art in Northern Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries. The chant according to the Roman use began to extend itself
over Europe in connection with the missionary efforts which emanated from
Rome from the time of Gregory the Great. Augustine, the emissary of
Gregory, who went to England in 597 to convert the Saxons, carried with
him the Roman chant. “The band of monks,” says Green, “entered Canterbury
bearing before them a silver cross with a picture of Christ, and singing
in concert the strains of the litany of their church.”[58] And although
the broad-minded Gregory instructed Augustine not to insist upon
supplanting with the Roman use the liturgy already employed in the older
British churches if such an attempt would create hostility, yet the Roman
chant was adopted both at Canterbury and York.

The Roman chant was accepted eventually throughout the dominions of the
Church as an essential element of the Roman liturgy. Both shared the same
struggles and the same triumphs. Familiarity with the church song became
an indispensable part of the equipment of every clergyman, monastic and
secular. No missionary might go forth from Rome who was not adept in it.
Monks made dangerous journeys to Rome from the remotest districts in
order to learn it. Every monastery founded in the savage forests of
Germany, Gaul, or Britain became at once a singing school, and day and
night the holy strains went up in unison with the melodies of the far
distant sacred city. The Anglo-Saxon monk Winfrid, afterward known as
Boniface, the famous missionary to the Germans, planted the Roman liturgy
in Thuringia and Hesse, and devoted untiring efforts to teaching the
Gregorian song to his barbarous proselytes. In Spain, Ildefonso, about
600, is enrolled among the zealous promoters of sacred song according to
the use of Rome. Most eminent and most successful of all who labored for
the exclusive authority of the Roman chant as against the Milanese,
Gallican, and other rival forms was Charlemagne, king of the Franks from
768 to 814, whose persistent efforts to implant the Gregorian song in
every church and school in his wide dominions was an important detail of
his labor in the interest of liturgic uniformity according to the Roman
model.

Among the convent schools which performed such priceless service for
civilization in the gloomy period of the early Middle Age, the monastery
of St. Gall in Switzerland holds an especially distinguished place. This
convent was established in the seventh century by the Irish monk from
whom it took its name, rapidly increased in repute as a centre of piety
and learning, and during the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries numbered
some of the foremost scholars of the time among its brotherhood. About
790 two monks, versed in all the lore of the liturgic chant, were sent
from Rome into the empire of Charlemagne at the monarch’s request. One of
them, Romanus, was received and entertained by the monks of St. Gall, and
was persuaded to remain with them as teacher of church song according to
the Antiphonary which he had brought with him from Rome. St. Gall soon
became famous as a place where the purest traditions of the Roman chant
were taught and practised. Schubiger, in his extremely interesting work,
_Die Sängerschule St. Gallens vom VIII.-XII. Jahrhundert_, has given an
extended account of the methods of devotional song in use at St. Gall,
which may serve as an illustration of the general practice among the
pious monks of the Middle Age:


“In the reign of Charlemagne (803) the Council of Aachen enjoined upon
all monasteries the use of the Roman song, and a later capitulary
required that the monks should perform this song completely and in proper
order at the divine office, in the daytime as well as at night. According
to other rescripts during the reign of Louis the Pious (about 820) the
monks of St. Gall were required daily to celebrate Mass, and also to
perform the service of all the canonical hours. The solemn melodies of
the ancient psalmody resounded daily in manifold and precisely ordered
responses; at the midnight hour the sound of the Invitatorium, Venite
exultamus Domino, opened the service of the nocturnal vigils; the
prolonged, almost mournful tones of the responses alternated with the
intoned recitation of the lessons; in the spaces of the temple on Sundays
and festal days, at the close of the nightly worship, there reëchoed the
exalted strains of the Ambrosian hymn of praise (Te Deum laudamus); at
the first dawn of day began the morning adoration, with psalms and
antiphons, hymns and prayers; to these succeeded in due order the
remaining offices of the diurnal hours. The people were daily invited by
the Introit to participate in the holy mysteries; they heard in solemn
stillness the tones of the Kyrie imploring mercy; on festal days they
were inspired by the song once sung by the host of angels; after the
Gradual they heard the melodies of the Sequence which glorified the
object of the festival in jubilant choral strains, and afterward the
simple recitative tones of the Creed; at the Sanctus they were summoned
to join in the praise of the Thrice Holy, and to implore the mercy of the
Lamb who taketh away the sins of the world. These were the songs which,
about the middle of the ninth century, arose on festal or ferial days in
the cloister church of St. Gall. How much store the fathers of this
convent set upon beauty and edification in song appears from the old
regulations in which distinct pronunciation of words and uniformity of
rendering are enjoined, and hastening or dragging the time sharply
rebuked.”


Schubiger goes on to say that three styles of performing the chant were
employed; _viz._, a very solemn one for the highest festivals, one less
solemn for Sundays and saints’ days, and an ordinary one for ferial days.
An appropriate character was given to the different chants,—_e. g._, a
profound and mournful expression in the office for the dead; an
expression of tenderness and sweetness to the hymns, the Kyrie, Sanctus,
and Agnus Dei; and a dignified character (cantus gravis) to the
antiphons, responses, and alleluia. Anything that could disturb the
strict and euphonious rendering of the song was strictly forbidden.
Harsh, unmusical voices were not permitted to take part. Distinctness,
precise conformity of all the singers in respect to time, and purity of
intonation were inflexibly demanded.

Special services, with processions and appropriate hymns, were instituted
on the occasion of the visit to the monastery of the emperor or other
high dignitary. All public observances, the founding of a building, the
reception of holy relics, the consecration of a bell or altar,—even many
of the prescribed routine duties of conventual life, such as drawing
water, lighting lamps, or kindling fires,—each had its special form of
song. It was not enthusiasm, but sober truth, that led Ekkehard V. to say
that the rulers of this convent, “through their songs and melodies, as
also through their teachings, filled the Church of God, not only in
Germany, but in all lands from one sea to the other, with splendor and
joy.”

At the convent of St. Gall originated the class of liturgical hymns
called Sequences, which includes some of the finest examples of mediaeval
hymnody. At a very early period it became the custom to sing the Alleluia
of the Gradual to a florid chant, the final vowel being extended into an
exceedingly elaborate flourish of notes. Notker Balbulus, a notable
member of the St. Gall brotherhood in the ninth century, conceived the
notion, under the suggestion of a visiting monk, of making a practical
use of the long-winded final cadence of the Alleluia. He extended and
modified these melodious passages and set words to them, thus
constructing a brief form of prose hymn. His next step was to invent both
notes and text, giving his chants a certain crude form by the occasional
repetition of a melodic strain. He preserved a loose connection with the
Alleluia by retaining the mode and the first few tones. These experiments
found great favor in the eyes of the brethren of St. Gall; others
followed Notker’s example, and the Sequence melodies were given honored
places in the ritual on festal days and various solemn occasions. The
custom spread; Pope Nicholas I. in 860 permitted the adoption of the new
style of hymn into the liturgy. The early Sequences were in rhythmic
prose, but in the hands of the ecclesiastical poets of the few centuries
following they were written in rhymed verse. The Sequence was therefore
distinguished from other Latin hymns only by its adoption into the office
of the Mass as a regular member of the liturgy on certain festal days.
The number increased to such large proportions that a sifting process was
deemed necessary, and upon the occasion of the reform of the Missal
through Pius V. after the Council of Trent only five were retained,
_viz._, Victimae paschali, sung on Easter Sunday; Veni Sancte Spiritus,
appointed for Whit-Sunday; Lauda Sion, for Corpus Christi; Stabat Mater
dolorosa, for Friday of Passion Week; and Dies Irae, which forms a
portion of the Mass for the Dead.

Many beautiful and touching stories have come down to us, illustrating
the passionate love of the monks for their songs, and the devout, even
superstitious, reverence with which they regarded them. Among these are
the tales of the Armorican monk Hervé, in the sixth century, who, blind
from his birth, became the inspirer and teacher of his brethren by means
of his improvised songs, and the patron of mendicant singers, who still
chant his legend in Breton verse. His mother, so one story goes, went one
day to visit him in the cloister, and, as she was approaching, said: “I
see a procession of monks advancing, and I hear the voice of my son. God
be with you, my son! When, with the help of God, I get to heaven, you
shall be warned of it, you shall hear the angels sing.” The same evening
she died, and her son, while at prayer in his cell, heard the singing of
the angels as they welcomed her soul in heaven.[59] According to another
legend, told by Gregory of Tours, a mother had taken her only son to a
monastery near Lake Geneva, where he became a monk, and especially
skilful in chanting the liturgic service. “He fell sick and died; his
mother in despair came to bury him, and returned every night to weep and
lament over his tomb. One night she saw St. Maurice in a dream attempting
to console her, but she answered him, ‘No, no; as long as I live I shall
always weep for my son, my only child!’ ‘But,’ answered the saint, ‘he
must not be wept for as if he were dead; he is with us, he rejoices in
eternal life, and tomorrow, at Matins, in the monastery, thou shalt hear
his voice among the choir of the monks; and not to-morrow only, but every
day as long as thou livest.’ The mother immediately arose, and waited
with impatience the first sound of the bell for Matins, to hasten to the
church of the monks. The precentor having intoned the response, when the
monks in full choir took up the antiphon, the mother immediately
recognized the voice of her child. She gave thanks to God; and every day
for the rest of her life, the moment she approached the choir she heard
the voice of her well-beloved son mingle in the sweet and holy melody of
the liturgic chant.”[60]

As centuries went on, and these ancient melodies, gathering such stores
of holy memory, were handed down in their integrity from generation to
generation of praying monks, it is no wonder that the feeling grew that
they too were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The legend long prevailed in
the Middle Age that Gregory the Great one night had a vision in which the
Church appeared to him in the form of an angel, magnificently attired,
upon whose mantle was written the whole art of music, with all the forms
of its melodies and notes. The pope prayed God to give him the power of
recollecting all that he saw; and after he awoke a dove appeared, who
dictated to him the chants which are ascribed to him.[61] Ambros quotes a
mediaeval Latin chronicler, Aurelian Reomensis, who relates that a blind
man named Victor, sitting one day before an altar in the Pantheon at
Rome, by direct divine inspiration composed the response Gaude Maria, and
by a second miracle immediately received his sight. Another story from
the same source tells how a monk of the convent of St. Victor, while upon
a neighboring mountain, heard angels singing the response Cives
Apostolorum, and after his return to Rome he taught the song to his
brethren as he had heard it.[62]

In order to explain the feeling toward the liturgic chant which is
indicated by these legends and the rapturous eulogies of mediaeval and
modern writers, we have only to remember that the melody was never
separated in thought from the words, that these words were prayer and
praise, made especially acceptable to God because wafted to him by means
of his own gift of music. To the mediaeval monks prayer was the highest
exercise in which man can engage, the most efficacious of all actions,
the chief human agency in the salvation of the world. Prayer was the
divinely appointed business to which they were set apart. Hence arose the
multiplicity of religious services in the convents, the observance of the
seven daily hours of prayer, in some monasteries in France, as earlier in
Syria and Egypt, extending to the so-called _laus perennis_, in which
companies of brethren, relieving each other at stated watches,
maintained, like the sacred fire of Vesta, an unbroken office of song by
night and day.

Such was the liturgic chant in the ages of faith, before the invention of
counterpoint and the first steps in modern musical science suggested new
conceptions and methods in worship music. It constitutes to-day a unique
and precious heritage from an era which, in its very ignorance,
superstition, barbarism of manners, and ruthlessness of political
ambition, furnishes strongest evidence of the divine origin of a faith
which could triumph over such antagonisms. To the devout Catholic the
chant has a sanctity which transcends even its aesthetic and historic
value, but non-Catholic as well as Catholic may reverence it as a direct
creation and a token of a mode of thought which, as at no epoch since,
conceived prayer and praise as a Christian’s most urgent duty, and as an
infallible means of gaining the favor of God.

The Catholic liturgic chant, like all other monumental forms of art, has
often suffered through the vicissitudes of taste which have beguiled even
those whose official responsibilities would seem to constitute them the
special custodians of this sacred treasure. Even to-day there are many
clergymen and church musicians who have but a faint conception of the
affluence of lovely melody and profound religious expression contained in
this vast body of mediaeval music. Where purely aesthetic considerations
have for a time prevailed, as they often will even in a Church in which
tradition and symbolism exert so strong an influence as they do in the
Catholic, this archaic form of melody has been neglected. Like all the
older types (the sixteenth century _a capella_ chorus and the German
rhythmic choral, for example) its austere speech has not been able to
prevail against the fascinations of the modern brilliant and emotional
style of church music which has emanated from instrumental art and the
Italian aria. Under this latter influence, and the survival of the
seventeenth-century contempt for everything mediaeval and “Gothic,” the
chant was long looked upon with disdain as the offspring of a barbarous
age, and only maintained at all out of unwilling deference to
ecclesiastical authority. In the last few decades, however, probably as a
detail of the reawakening in all departments of a study of the great
works of older art, there has appeared a reaction in favor of a renewed
culture of the Gregorian chant. The tendency toward sensationalism in
church music has now begun to subside. The true ideal is seen to be in
the past. Together with the new appreciation of Palestrina, Bach, and the
older Anglican Church composers, the Catholic chant is coming to its
rights, and an enlightened modern taste is beginning to realize the
melodious beauty, the liturgic appropriateness, and the edifying power
that lie in the ancient unison song. This movement is even now only in
its inception; in the majority of church centres there is still apathy,
and in consequence corruption of the old forms, crudity and coldness in
execution. Much has, however, been already achieved, and in the patient
and acute scholarship applied in the field of textual criticism by the
monks of Solesmes and the church musicians of Paris, Brussels, and
Regensburg, in the enthusiastic zeal shown in many churches and
seminaries of Europe and America for the attainment of a pure and
expressive style of delivery, and in the restoration of the Plain Song to
portions of the ritual from which it has long been banished, we see
evidences of a movement which promises to be fruitful, not only in this
special sphere, but also, as a direct consequence, in other domains of
church music which have been too long neglected.

The historic status of the Gregorian chant as the basis of the
magnificent structure of Catholic church music down to 1600, of the
Anglican chant, and to a large extent of the German people’s hymn-tune or
choral, has always been known to scholars. The revived study of it has
come from an awakened perception of its liturgic significance and its
inherent beauty. The influence drawn from its peculiarly solemn and
elevated quality has begun to penetrate the chorus work of the best
Catholic composers of the recent time. Protestant church musicians are
also beginning to find advantage in the study of the melody, the rhythm,
the expression, and even the tonality of the Gregorian song. And every
lover of church music will find a new pleasure and uplift in listening to
its noble strains. He must, however, listen sympathetically, expelling
from his mind all comparison with the modern styles to which he is
accustomed, holding in clear view its historic relations and liturgic
function. To one who so attunes his mind to its peculiar spirit and
purport, the Gregorian Plain Song will seem worthy of the exalted place
it holds in the veneration of the most august ecclesiastical institution
in history.



                               CHAPTER V
               THE DEVELOPMENT OF MEDIAEVAL CHORUS MUSIC


It has already been noted that the music of the Catholic Church has
passed through three typical phases or styles, each complete in itself,
bounded by clearly marked lines, corresponding quite closely in respect
to time divisions with the three major epochs into which the history of
the Western Church may be divided. These phases or schools of
ecclesiastical song are so far from being mutually exclusive that both
the first and second persisted after the introduction of the third, so
that at the present day at least two of the three forms are in use in
almost every Catholic congregation, the Gregorian chant being employed in
the song of the priest and in the antiphonal psalms and responses, and
either the second or third form being adopted in the remaining
offices.[63]

Since harmony was unknown during the first one thousand years or more of
the Christian era, and instrumental music had no independent existence,
the whole vast system of chant melodies was purely unison and
unaccompanied, its rhythm usually subordinated to that of the text.
Melody, unsupported by harmony, soon runs its course, and if no new
principle had been added to this antique melodic method, European music
would have become petrified or else have gone on copying itself
indefinitely. But about the eleventh century a new conception made its
appearance, in which lay the assurance of the whole magnificent art of
modern music. This new principle was that of harmony, the combination of
two or more simultaneous and mutually dependent parts. The importance of
this discovery needs no emphasis. It not only introduced an artistic
agency that is practically unlimited in scope and variety, but it made
music for the first time a free art, with its laws of rhythm and
structure no longer identical with those of language, but drawn from the
powers that lie inherent in its own nature. Out of the impulse to combine
two or more parts together in complete freedom from the constraints of
verbal accent and prosody sprang the second great school of church music,
which, likewise independent of instrumental accompaniment, developed
along purely vocal lines, and issued in the contrapuntal chorus music
which attained its maturity in the last half of the sixteenth century.

This mediaeval school of _a capella_ polyphonic music is in many respects
more attractive to the student of ecclesiastical art than even the far
more elaborate and brilliant style which prevails to-day. Modern church
music, by virtue of its variety, splendor, and dramatic pathos, seems to
be tinged with the hues of earthliness which belie the strictest
conception of ecclesiastical art. It partakes of the doubt and turmoil of
a skeptical and rebellious age, it is the music of impassioned longing in
which are mingled echoes of worldly allurements, it is not the chastened
tone of pious assurance and self-abnegation. The choral song developed in
the ages of faith is pervaded by the accents of that calm ecstasy of
trust and celestial anticipation which give to mediaeval art that
exquisite charm of naïveté and sincerity never again to be realized
through the same medium, because it is the unconscious expression of an
unquestioning simplicity of conviction which seems to have passed away
forever from the higher manifestations of the human creative intellect.

Such pathetic suggestion clings to the religious music of the Middle Age
no less palpably than to the sculpture, painting, and hymnody of the same
era, and combines with its singular artistic perfection and loftiness of
tone to render it perhaps the most typical and lovely of all the forms of
Catholic art. And yet to the generality of students of church and art
history it is of all the products of the Middle Age the least familiar.
Any intellectual man whom we might select would call himself but scantily
educated if he had no acquaintance with mediaeval architecture and
plastic art; yet he would probably not feel at all ashamed to confess
total ignorance of that vast store of liturgic music which in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries filled the incense-laden air of those
very cathedrals and chapels in which his reverent feet so love to wander.
The miracles of mediaeval architecture, the achievements of the Gothic
sculptors and the religious painters of Florence, Cologne, and Flanders
are familiar to him, but the musical craftsmen of the Low Countries,
Paris, Rome, and Venice, who clothed every prayer, hymn, and Scripture
lesson with strains of unique beauty and tenderness, are only names, if
indeed their names are known to him at all. Yet in sheer bulk their works
would doubtless be found to equal the whole amount of the music of every
kind that has been written in the three centuries following their era;
while in technical mastery and adaptation to its special end this school
is not unworthy of comparison with the more brilliant and versatile art
of the present day.

The period from the twelfth century to the close of the sixteenth was one
of extraordinary musical activity. The thousands of cathedrals, chapels,
parish churches, and convents were unceasing in their demands for new
settings of the Mass and offices. Until the art of printing was applied
to musical notes about the year 1500, followed by the foundation of
musical publishing houses, there was but little duplication or exchange
of musical compositions, and thus every important ecclesiastical
establishment must be provided with its own corps of composers and
copyists. The religious enthusiasm and the vigorous intellectual activity
of the Middle Age found as free a channel of discharge in song as in any
other means of embellishment of the church ceremonial. These conditions,
together with the absence of an operatic stage, a concert system, or a
musical public, turned the fertile musical impulses of the period to the
benefit of the Church. The ecclesiastical musicians also set to music
vast numbers of madrigals, chansons, villanellas, and the like, for the
entertainment of aristocratic patrons, but this was only an incidental
deflection from their more serious duties as ritual composers. In quality
as well as quantity the mediaeval chorus music was not unworthy of
comparison with the architectural, sculptural, pictorial, and textile
products which were created in the same epoch and under the same
auspices. The world has never witnessed a more absorbed devotion to a
single artistic idea, neither has there existed since the golden age of
Greek sculpture another art form so lofty in expression and so perfect in
workmanship as the polyphonic church chorus in the years of its maturity.
That style of musical art which was brought to fruition by such men as
Josquin des Prés, Orlandus Lassus, Willaert, Palestrina, Vittoria, the
Anerios, the Gabrielis, and Lotti is not unworthy to be compared with the
Gothic cathedrals in whose epoch it arose and with the later triumphs of
Renaissance painting with which it culminated.

Of this remarkable achievement of genius the educated man above mentioned
knows little or nothing. How is it possible, he might ask, that a school
of art so opulent in results, capable of arousing so much admiration
among the initiated, could have dominated all Europe for five such
brilliant centuries, and yet have left so little impress upon the
consciousness of the modern world, if it really possessed the high
artistic merits that are claimed for it? The answer is not difficult. For
the world at large music exists only as it is performed, and the
difficulty and expense of musical performance insure, as a general rule,
the neglect of compositions that do not arouse a public demand. Church
music is less susceptible than secular to the tyranny of fashion, but
even in this department changing tastes and the politic compromising
spirit tend to pay court to novelty and to neglect the antiquated. The
revolution in musical taste and practice which occurred early in the
seventeenth century—a revolution so complete that it metamorphosed the
whole conception of the nature and purpose of music—swept all musical
production off into new directions, and the complex austere art of the
mediaeval Church was forgotten under the fascination of the new Italian
melody and the vivid rhythm and tone-color of the orchestra. Since then
the tide of invention has never paused long enough to enable the world at
large to turn its thought to the forsaken treasures of the past.
Moreover, only a comparatively minute part of this multitude of old works
has ever been printed, much of it has been lost, the greater portion lies
buried in the dust of libraries; whatever is accessible must be released
from an abstruse and obsolete system of notation, and the methods of
performance, which conditioned a large measure of its effect, must be
restored under the uncertain guidance of tradition. The usages of chorus
singing in the present era do not prepare singers to cope with the
peculiar difficulties of the _a capella_ style; a special education and
an unwonted mode of feeling are required for an appreciation of its
appropriateness and beauty. Nevertheless, such is its inherent vitality,
so magical is its attraction to one who has come into complete harmony
with its spirit, so true is it as an exponent of the mystical submissive
type of piety which always tends to reassert itself in a rationalistic
age like the present, that the minds of churchmen are gradually returning
to it, and scholars and musical directors are tempting it forth from its
seclusion. Societies are founded for its study, choirs in some of the
most influential church centres are adding mediaeval works to their
repertories, journals and schools are laboring in its interest, and its
influence is insinuating itself into the modern mass and anthem, lending
to the modern forms a more elevated and spiritual quality. Little by
little the world of culture is becoming enlightened in respect to the
unique beauty and refinement of this form of art; and the more
intelligent study of the Middle Age, which has now taken the place of the
former prejudiced misinterpretation, is forming an attitude of mind that
is capable of a sympathetic response to this most exquisite and
characteristic of all the products of mediaeval genius.

In order to seize the full significance of this school of Catholic music
in its mature stage in the sixteenth century, it will be necessary to
trace its origin and growth. The constructive criticism of the present
day rests on the principle that we cannot comprehend works and schools of
art unless we know their causes and environment. We shall find as we
examine the history of mediaeval choral song, that it arose in response
to an instinctive demand for a more expansive form of music than the
unison chant. Liturgic necessities can in no wise account for the
invention of part singing, for even today the Gregorian Plain Song
remains the one officially recognized form of ritual music in the
Catholic Church. It was an unconscious impulse, prophesying a richer
musical expression which could not at once be realized,—a blind revolt of
the European mind against bondage to an antique and restrictive form of
expression. For the Gregorian chant by its very nature as unaccompanied
melody, rhythmically controlled by prose accent and measure, was
incapable of further development, and it was impossible that music should
remain at a stand-still while all the other arts were undergoing the
pains of growth. The movement which elicited the art of choral song from
the latent powers of the liturgic chant was identical with the tendency
which evolved Gothic and Renaissance architecture, sculpture, and
painting out of Roman and Byzantine art. Melody unsupported soon runs its
course; harmony, music in parts, with contrast of consonance and
dissonance, dynamics, and light and shade, must supplement melody, adding
more opulent resources to the simple charm of tone and rhythm. The
science of harmony, at least in the modern sense, was unknown in
antiquity, and the Gregorian chant was but the projection of the antique
usage into the modern world. The history of modern European music,
therefore, begins with the first authentic instances of singing in two or
more semi-independent parts, these parts being subjected to a definite
proportional notation.

A century or so before the science of part writing had taken root in
musical practice, a strange barbaric form of music meets our eyes. A
manuscript of the tenth century, formerly ascribed to Hucbald of St.
Armand, who lived, however, a century earlier, gives the first distinct
account, with rules for performance, of a divergence from the custom of
unison singing, by which the voices of the choir, instead of all singing
the same notes, move along together separated by octaves and fourths or
octaves and fifths; or else a second voice accompanies the first by a
movement sometimes direct, sometimes oblique, and sometimes contrary. The
author of this manuscript makes no claim to the invention of this manner
of singing, but alludes to it as something already well known. Much
speculation has been expended upon the question of the origin and purpose
of the first form of this barbarous orgunum or diaphony, as it was
called. Some conjecture that it was suggested by the sound of the ancient
Keltic stringed instrument crowth or crotta, which was tuned in fifths
and had a flat finger-board; others find in it an imitation of the early
organ with its several rows of pipes sounding fifths like a modern
mixture stop; while others suppose, with some reason, that it was a
survival of a fashion practised among the Greeks and Rornans. The
importance of the organum in music history has, however, been greatly
overrated, for properly speaking it was not harmony or part singing at
all, but only another kind of unison. Even the second form of organum was
but little nearer the final goal, for the attendant note series was not
free enough to be called an organic element in a harmonic structure. As
soon, however, as the accompanying part was allowed ever so little
unconstrained life of its own, the first steps in genuine part writing
were taken, and a new epoch in musical history had begun.

The freer and more promising style which issued from the treadmill of the
organum was called in its initial stages discant (Lat. _discantus_), and
was at first wholly confined to an irregular mixture of octaves, unisons,
fifths and fourths, with an occasional third as a sort of concession to
the criticism of the natural ear upon antique theory. At first two parts
only were employed. Occasional successions of parallel fifths and
fourths, the heritage of the organum, long survived, but they were
gradually eliminated as hollow and unsatisfying, and the principle of
contrary motion, which is the very soul of all modern harmony and
counterpoint, was slowly established. It must be borne in mind, as the
clue to all mediaeval music, that the practice of tone combination
involved no idea whatever of chords, as modern theory conceives them. The
characteristic principle of the vastly preponderating portion of the
music of the last three centuries is harmony, technically so called,
_i.e._, chords, solid or distributed, out of which melody is primarily
evolved. Homophony, monody—one part sustaining the tune while all others
serve as the support and, so to speak, the coloring material also—is now
the ruling postulate. The chorus music of Europe down to the seventeenth
century was, on the other hand, based on melody; the composer never
thought of his combination as chords, but worked, we might say,
horizontally, weaving together several semi-independent melodies into a
flexible and accordant tissue.[64]

The transition from organum to discant was effected about the year 1100.
There was for a time no thought of the invention of the component
melodies. Not only the _cantus firmus_ (the principal theme), but also
the counterpoint (the melodic “running mate”), was borrowed, the second
factor being frequently a folk-tune altered to fit the chant melody,
according to the simple laws of euphony then admitted. In respect to the
words the discant may be divided into two classes: the words might be the
same in both parts; or one voice would sing the text of the office of the
Church, and the other the words of the secular song from which the
accompanying tune was taken. In the twelfth century the monkish
musicians, stirred to bolder flights by the satisfactory results of their
two-part discant, essayed three parts, with results at first childishly
awkward, but with growing ease and smoothness. Free invention of the
accompanying parts took the place of the custom of borrowing the entire
melodic framework, for while two borrowed themes might fit each other, it
was practically impossible to find three that would do so without almost
complete alteration. As a scientific method of writing developed, with
the combination of parallel and contrary motion, the term discant gave
way to counterpoint (Lat. _punctus contra punctum_). But there was never
any thought of inventing the _cantus firmus_; this was invariably taken
from a ritual book or a popular tune, and the whole art of composition
consisted in fabricating melodic figures that would unite with it in an
agreeable synthesis. These contrapuntal devices, at first simple and
often harsh, under the inevitable law of evolution became more free and
mellifluous at the same time that they became more complex. The primitive
discant was one note against one note; later the accompanying part was
allowed to sing several notes against one of the _cantus firmus_. Another
early form consisted of notes interrupted by rests. In the twelfth
century such progress had been made that thirds and sixths were
abundantly admitted, dissonant intervals were made to resolve upon
consonances, consecutive fifths were avoided, passing notes and
embellishments were used in the accompanying voices, and the beginnings
of double counterpoint and imitation appeared. Little advance was made in
the thirteenth century; music was still chiefly a matter of scholastic
theory, a mechanical handicraft. Considerable dexterity had been attained
in the handling of three simultaneous, independent parts. Contrary and
parallel motion alternating for variety’s sake, contrast of consonance
and dissonance, a system of notation by which time values as well as
differences of pitch could be indicated, together with a recognition of
the importance of rhythm as an ingredient in musical effect,—all this
foreshadowed the time when the material of tonal art would be plastic in
the composer’s hand, and he would be able to mould it into forms of
fluent grace, pregnant with meaning. This final goal was still far away;
the dull, plodding round of apprenticeship must go on through the
fourteenth century also, and the whole conscious aim of effort must be
directed to the invention of scientific combinations which might
ultimately provide a vehicle for the freer action of the imagination.



Example of Discant in Three Parts with Different Words (Twelfth Century).


From Coussemaker, _Histoire de l’harmonie au moyen age_. Translated into
modern notation.

The period from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries was, therefore,
not one of expressive art work, but rather of slow and arduous
experiment. The problem was so to adjust the semi-independent melodious
parts that an unimpeded life might be preserved in all the voices, and
yet the combined effect be at any instant pure and beautiful. The larger
the number of parts, the greater the skill required to weave them
together into a varied, rich, and euphonious pattern. Any one of these
parts might for the moment hold the place of the leading part which the
others were constrained to follow through the mazes of the design. Hence
the term polyphonic, _i.e._, many-voiced. Although each voice part was as
important as any other in this living musical texture, yet each section
took its cue from a single melody—a fragment of a Gregorian chant or a
folk-tune and called the _cantus firmus_, and also known as the tenor,
from _teneo_, to hold—and the voice that gave out this melody came to be
called the tenor voice. In the later phases of this art the first
utterance of the theme was assigned indifferently to any one of the voice
parts.

After confidence had been gained in devising two or more parts to be sung
simultaneously, the next step was to bring in one part after another.
Some method of securing unity amid variety was now necessary, and this
was found in the contrivance known as “imitation,” by which one voice
follows another through the same or approximate intervals, the part first
sounded acting as a model for a short distance, then perhaps another
taking up the leadership with a new melodic figure, the intricate network
of parts thus revealing itself as a coherent organism rather than a
fortuitous conjunction of notes, the composer’s invention and the
hearers’ impression controlled by a conscious plan to which each melodic
part is tributary.

When a number of parts came to be used together, the need of fixing the
pitch and length of notes with precision became imperative. So out of the
antique mnemonic signs, which had done useful service during the
exclusive régime of the unison chant, there was gradually developed a
system of square-headed notes, together with a staff of lines and spaces.
But instead of simplicity a bewildering complexity reigned for centuries.
Many clefs were used, shifting their place on the staff in order to keep
the notes within the lines; subtleties, many and deep, were introduced,
and the matter of rhythm, key relations, contrapuntal structure, and
method of singing became a thing abstruse and recondite. Composition was
more like algebraic calculation than free art; symbolisms of trinity and
unity, of perfect and imperfect, were entangled in the notation, to the
delight of the ingenious monkish intellect and the despair of the
neophyte and the modern student of mediaeval manuscripts. Progress was
slowest at the beginning. It seemed an interminable task to learn to put
a number of parts together with any degree of ease, and for many
generations after it was first attempted the results were harsh and
uncouth.

Even taking into account the obstacles to rapid development which exist
in the very nature of music as the most abstract of the arts, it seems
difficult to understand why it should have been so long in acquiring
beauty and expression. There was a shorter way to both, but the church
musicians would not take it. All around them bloomed a rich verdure of
graceful expressive melody in the song and instrumental play of the
common people. But the monkish musicians and choristers scorned to follow
the lead of anything so artless and obvious. In a scholastic age they
were musical scholastics; subtilty and fine pedantic distinctions were
their pride. They had become infatuated with the formal and technical,
and they seemed indifferent to the claims of the natural and simple while
carried away by a passion for intricate structural problems.

The growth of such an art as this, without models, must necessarily be
painfully slow. Many of the cloistered experimenters passed their lives
in nursing an infant art without seeing enough progress to justify any
very strong faith in the bantling’s future. Their floundering
helplessness is often pathetic, but not enough so to overcome a smile at
the futility of their devices. Practice and theory did not always work
amiably together. In studying the chorus music of the Middle Age, we must
observe that, as in the case of the liturgic chant, the singers did not
deem it necessary to confine themselves to the notes actually written. In
this formative period of which we are speaking it was the privilege of
the singers to vary and decorate the written phrases according to their
good pleasure. These adornments were sometimes carefully thought out,
incorporated into the stated method of delivery, and handed down as
traditions.[65] But it is evident that in the earlier days of
counterpoint these variations were often extemporized on the spur of the
moment. The result of this habit on the part of singers who were ignorant
of the laws of musical consonance and proportion, and whose ears were as
dull as their understandings, could easily be conceived even if we did
not have before us the indignant testimony of many musicians and
churchmen of the period. Jean Cotton, in the eleventh century, says that
he could only compare the singers with drunken men, who indeed find their
way home, but do not know how they get there. The learned theorist, Jean
de Muris, of the fourteenth century, exclaims: “How can men have the face
to sing discant who know nothing of the combination of sounds! Their
voices roam around the _cantus firmus_ without regard to any rule; they
throw their tones out by luck, just as an unskilful thrower hurls a
stone, hitting the mark once in a hundred casts.” As he broods over the
abuse his wrath increases. “O roughness, O bestiality! taking an ass for
a man, a kid for a lion, a sheep for a fish. They cannot tell a
consonance from a dissonance. They are like a blind man trying to strike
a dog.” Another censor apostrophizes the singers thus: “Does such oxen
bellowing belong in the Church? Is it believed that God can be graciously
inclined by such an uproar?” Oelred, the Scottish abbot of Riverby in the
twelfth century, rails at the singers for jumbling the tones together in
every kind of distortion, for imitating the whinnying of horses, or
(worst of all in his eyes) sharpening their voices like those of women.
He tells how the singers bring in the aid of absurd gestures to enhance
the effect of their preposterous strains, swaying their bodies, twisting
their lips, rolling their eyes, and bending their fingers, with each
note. A number of popes, notably John XXII., tried to suppress these
offences, but the extemporized discant was too fascinating a plaything to
be dropped, and ridicule and pontifical rebuke were alike powerless.

Such abuses were, of course, not universal, perhaps not general,—as to
that we cannot tell; but they illustrate the chaotic condition of church
music in the three or four centuries following the first adoption of part
singing. The struggle for light was persistent, and music, however crude
and halting, received abundant measure of the reverence which, in the age
that saw the building of the Gothic cathedrals, was accorded to
everything that was identified with the Catholic religion. There were no
forms of music that could rival the song of the Church,—secular music at
the best was a plaything, not an art. The whole endeavor of the learned
musicians was addressed to the enrichment of the church service, and the
wealthy and powerful princes of France, Italy, Austria, Spain, and
England turned the patronage of music at their courts in the same channel
with the patronage of the Church. It was in the princely chapels of
Northern France and the schools attached to them that the new art of
counterpoint was first cultivated. So far as the line of progress can be
traced, the art originated in Paris or its vicinity, and slowly spread
over the adjacent country. The home of Gothic architecture was the home
of mediaeval chorus music, and the date of the appearance of these two
products is the same. The princes of France and Flanders (the term France
at that period meaning the dominions of the Capetian dynasty) faithfully
guarded the interests of religious music, and the theorists and composers
of this time were officers of the secular government as well as of the
Church. We should naturally suppose that church music would be actively
supported by a king so pious as Robert of France (eleventh century), who
discarded his well-beloved wife at the command of Pope Gregory V. because
she was his second cousin, who held himself pure and magnanimous in the
midst of a fierce and corrupt age, and who composed many beautiful hymns,
including (as is generally agreed) the exquisite Sequence, Veni Sancte
Spiritus. He was accustomed to lead the choir in his chapel by voice and
gesture. He carried on all his journeys a little prayer chamber in the
form of a tent, in which he sang at the stated daily hours to the praise
of God. Louis IX. also, worthily canonized for the holiness of his life,
made the cultivation of church song one of the most urgent of his duties.
Every day he heard two Masses, sometimes three or four. At the canonical
hours hymns and prayers were chanted by his chapel choir, and even on his
crusades his choristers went before him on the march, singing the office
for the day, and the king, a priest by his side, sang in a low voice
after them. Rulers of a precisely opposite character, the craftiest and
most violent in a guileful and brutal age, were zealous patrons of church
music. Even during that era of slaughter and misery when the French
kingship was striding to supremacy over the bodies of the great vassals,
and struggling with England for very existence in the One Hundred Years’
War, the art of music steadily advanced, and the royal and ducal chapels
flourished. Amid such conditions and under such patronage accomplished
musicians were nurtured in France and the Low Countries, and thence they
went forth to teach all Europe the noble art of counterpoint.

About the year 1350 church music had cast off its swaddling bands and had
entered upon the stage that was soon to lead up to maturity. With the
opening of the fifteenth century compositions worthy to be called
artistic were produced. These were hardly yet beautiful according to
modern standards, certainly they had little or no characteristic
expression, but they had begun to be pliable and smooth sounding, showing
that the notes had come under the composer’s control, and that he was no
longer an awkward apprentice. From the early part of the fifteenth
century we date the epoch of artistic polyphony, which advanced in purity
and dignity until it culminated in the perfected art of the sixteenth
century. So large a proportion of the fathers and high priests of
mediaeval counterpoint belonged to the districts now included in Northern
France, Belgium, and Holland that the period bounded by the years 1400
and 1550 is known in music history as “the age of the Netherlanders.”
With limitless patience and cunning, the French and Netherland musical
artificers applied themselves to the problems of counterpoint, producing
works enormous in quantity and often of bewildering intricacy. Great
numbers of pupils were trained in the convents and chapel schools,
becoming masters in their turn, and exercising commanding influence in
the churches and cloisters of all Europe. Complexity in part writing
steadily increased, not only in combinations of notes, but also in the
means of indicating their employment. It often happened that each voice
must sing to a measure sign that was different from that provided for the
other voices. Double and triple rhythm alternated, the value of notes of
the same character varied in different circumstances; a highly
sophisticated symbolism was invented, known as “riddle canons,” by which
adepts were enabled to improvise accompanying parts to the _cantus
firmus_; and counterpoint, single and double, augmented and diminished,
direct, inverted, and retrograde, became at once the end and the means of
musical endeavor. Rhythm was obscured and the words almost hopelessly
lost in the web of crossing parts. The _cantus firmus_, often extended
into notes of portentous length, lost all expressive quality, and was
treated only as a thread upon which this closely woven fabric was strung.
Composers occupied themselves by preference with the mechanical side of
music; quite unimaginative, they were absorbed in solving technical
problems; and so they went on piling up difficulties for their
fellow-craftsmen to match, making music for the eye rather than for the
ear, for the logical faculty rather than for the fancy or the emotion.

It would, however, be an error to suppose that such labored artifice was
the sole characteristic of the scientific music of the fifteenth century.
The same composers who revelled in the exercise of this kind of
scholastic subtlety also furnished their choirs with a vast amount of
music in four, five, and six parts, complex and difficult indeed from the
present point of view, but for the choristers as then trained perfectly
available, in which there was a striving for solemn devotional effect, a
melodious leading of the voices, and the adjustment of phrases into
bolder and more symmetrical patterns. Even among the master fabricators
of musical labyrinths we find glimpses of a recognition of the true final
aim of music, a soul dwelling in the tangled skeins of their polyphony, a
grace and inwardness of expression comparable to the poetic
suggestiveness which shines through the naïve and often rude forms of
Gothic sculpture. The growing fondness on the part of the austere church
musicians for the setting of secular poems—madrigals, chansons,
villanellas, and the like—in polyphonic style gradually brought in a
simpler construction, more obvious melody, and a more characteristic and
pertinent expression, which reacted upon the mass and motet in the
promotion of a more direct and flexible manner of treatment The _stile
famigliare_, in which the song moves note against note, syllable against
syllable, suggesting modern chord progression, is no invention of
Palestrina, with whose name it is commonly associated, but appears in
many episodes in the works of his Netherland masters.

The contrapuntal chorus music of the Middle Age reached its maturity in
the middle of the sixteenth century. For five hundred years this art had
been growing, constantly putting forth new tendrils, which interlaced in
luxuriant and ever-extending forms until they overspread all Western
Christendom. It was now given to one man, Giovanni Pierluigi, called
Palestrina from the place of his birth, to put the finishing touches upon
this wonder of mediaeval genius, and to impart to it all of which its
peculiar nature was capable in respect to technical completeness, tonal
purity and majesty, and elevated devotional expression. Palestrina was
more than a flawless artist, more than an Andrea del Sarto; he was so
representative of that inner spirit which has uttered itself in the most
sincere works of Catholic art that the very heart of the institution to
which he devoted his life may be said to find a voice in his music.

Palestrina was born probably in 1526 (authority of Haberl) and died in
1594. He spent almost the whole of his art life as director of music at
Rome in the service of the popes, being at one time also a singer in the
papal chapel. He enriched every portion of the ritual with compositions,
the catalogue of his works including ninety-five masses. Among his
contemporaries at Rome were men such as Vittoria, Marenzio, the Anerios,
and the Naninis, who worked in the same style as Palestrina. Together
they compose the “Roman school” or the “Palestrina school,” and all that
may be said of Palestrina’s style would apply in somewhat diminished
degree to the writings of this whole group.

Palestrina has been enshrined in history as the “savior of church music”
by virtue of a myth which has until recent years been universally
regarded as a historic fact. The first form of the legend was to the
effect that the reforming Council of Trent (1545-1563) had serious
thoughts of abolishing the chorus music of the Church everywhere, and
reducing all liturgic music to the plain unison chant; that judgment was
suspended at the request of Pope Marcellus II. until Palestrina could
produce a work that should be free from all objectionable features; that
a mass of his composition—the Mass of Pope Marcellus—was performed before
a commission of cardinals, and that its beauty and refinement so
impressed the judges that polyphonic music was saved and Palestrina’s
style proclaimed as the most perfect model of artistic music. This tale
has undergone gradual reduction until it has been found that the Council
of Trent contented itself with simply recommending to the bishops that
they exclude from the churches “all musical compositions in which
anything impure or lascivious is mingled,” yet not attempting to define
what was meant by “impure” and “lascivious.” The commission of cardinals
had jurisdiction only over some minor questions of discipline in the
papal choir, and if Palestrina had the mass in question sung before them
(which is doubtful) it had certainly been composed a number of years
earlier.

Certain abuses that called for correction there doubtless were in church
music in this period. The prevalent practice of borrowing themes from
secular songs for the _cantus firmus_, with sometimes the first few words
of the original song at the beginning—as in the mass of “The Armed Man,”
the “Adieu, my Love” mass, etc.—was certainly objectionable from the
standpoint of propriety, although the intention was never profane, and
the impression received was not sacrilegious. Moreover, the song of the
Church had at times become so artificial and sophisticated as to belie
the true purpose of worship music. But among all the records of complaint
we find only one at all frequent, and that was that the sacred words
could not be understood in the elaborate contrapuntal interweaving of the
voices. In the history of every church, in all periods, down even to the
present time, there has always been a party that discountenances
everything that looks like art for the sake of art, satisfied only with
the simplest and rudest form of music, setting the reception of the
sacred text so far above the pleasure of the sense that all artistic
embellishment seems to them profanation. This class was represented at
the Council of Trent, but it was never in the majority, and never
strenuous for the total abolition of figured music. No reform was
instituted but such as would have come about inevitably from the
ever-increasing refinement of the art and the assertion of the nobler
traditions of the Church in the Counter-Reformation. An elevation of the
ideal of church music there doubtless was at this time, and the genius of
Palestrina was one of the most potent factors in its promotion; but it
was a natural growth, not a violent turning of direction.

The dissipation of the halo of special beatification which certain early
worshipers of Palestrina have attempted to throw about the Mass of Pope
Marcellus has in no wise dimmed its glory. It is not unworthy of the
renown which it has so dubiously acquired. Although many times equalled
by its author, he never surpassed it, and few will be inclined to dispute
the distinction it has always claimed as the most perfect product of
mediaeval musical art. Its style was not new; it does not mark the
beginning of a new era, as certain writers but slightly versed in music
history have supposed, but the culmination of an old one. It is
essentially in the manner of the Netherland school, which the myth-makers
would represent as condemned by the Council of Trent. Josquin des Prés,
Orlandus Lassus, Goudimel, and many others had written music in the same
style, just as chaste and subdued, with the same ideal in mind, and
almost as perfectly beautiful. It is not a simple work, letting the text
stand forth in clear and obvious relief, as the legend would require. It
is a masterpiece of construction, abounding in technical subtleties,
differing from the purest work of the Netherlanders only in being even
more delicately tinted and sweet in melody than the best of them could
attain. It was in the quality of melodious grace that Palestrina soared
above his Netherland masters. Melody, as we know, is the peculiar
endowment of the Italians, and Palestrina, a typical son of Italy,
crowned the Netherland science with an ethereal grace of movement which
completed once for all the four hundred years’ striving of contrapuntal
art, and made it stand forth among the artistic creations of the Middle
Age perhaps the most divinely radiant of them all.

It may seem strange at first thought that a form which embodied the
deepest and sincerest religious feeling that has ever been projected in
tones should have been perfected in an age when all other art had become
to a large degree sensuous and worldly, and when the Catholic Church was
under condemnation, not only by its enemies, but also by many of its
grieving friends, for its political ambition, avarice, and corruption.
The papacy was at that moment reaping the inevitable harvest of spiritual
indifference and moral decline, and had fallen upon days of struggle,
confusion, and humiliation. The Lutheran, Calvinistic, and Anglican
revolt had rent from the Holy See some of the fairest of its dominions,
and those that remained were in a condition of political and intellectual
turmoil. That a reform “in head and members” was indeed needed is
established not by the accusations of hostile witnesses alone, but by the
demands of many of the staunchest prelates of the time and the admissions
of unimpeachable Catholic historians. But, as the sequel proved, it was
the head far more than the members that required surgery. The lust for
sensual enjoyments, personal and family aggrandizement, and the pomp and
luxury of worldly power, which had made the papacy of the fifteenth and
first half of the sixteenth centuries a byword in Europe, the decline of
faith in the early ideals of the Church, the excesses of physical and
emotional indulgence which came in with the Renaissance as a natural
reaction against mediaeval repression,—all this had produced a moral
degeneracy in Rome and its dependencies which can hardly be exaggerated.
But the assertion that the Catholic Church at large, or even in Rome, was
wholly given over to corruption and formalism is sufficiently refuted by
the sublime manifestation of moral force which issued in the Catholic
Reaction and the Counter-Reformation, the decrees of the Council of
Trent, and the deeds of such moral heroes as Carlo Borromeo, Phillip
Neri, Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, Theresa of Jesus, Francis de
Sales, Vincent de Paul, and the founders and leaders of the Capuchins,
Theatines, Ursulines, and other beneficent religious orders, whose lives
and achievements are the glory not only of Catholicism, but of the human
race.

The great church composers of the sixteenth century were kindred to such
spirits as these, and the reviving piety of the time found its most
adequate symbol in the realm of art in the masses and hymns of Palestrina
and his compeers. These men were nurtured in the cloisters and choirs.
The Church was their sole patron, and no higher privilege could be
conceived by them than that of lending their powers to the service of
that sublime institution into which their lives were absorbed. They were
not agitated by the political and doctrinal ferment of the day. No sphere
of activity could more completely remove a man from mundane influences
than the employment of a church musician of that period. The abstract
nature of music as an art, together with the engrossing routine of a
liturgic office, kept these men, as it were, close to the inner sanctuary
of their religion, where the ecclesiastical traditions were strongest and
purest. The music of the Church in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
was unaffected by the influences which had done so much to make other
forms of Italian art ministers to pride and sensual gratification. Music,
through its very limitations, possessed no means of flattering the
appetites of an Alexander VI., the luxurious tastes of a Leo X., or the
inordinate pride of a Julius II. It was perforce allowed to develop
unconstrained along the line of austere tradition. Art forms seem often
to be under the control of a law which requires that when once set in
motion they must run their course independently of changes in their
environment. These two factors, therefore,—the compulsion of an advancing
art demanding completion, and the uncontaminated springs of piety whence
the liturgy and its musical setting drew their life,—will explain the
splendid achievements of religious music in the hands of the Catholic
composers of the sixteenth century amid conditions which would at first
thought seem unfavorable to the nurture of an art so pure and austere.

Under such influences, impelled by a zeal for the glory of God and the
honor of his Church, the polyphony of the Netherland school put forth its
consummate flower in the “Palestrina style.” In the works of this later
school we may distinguish two distinct modes of treatment: (1) the
intricate texture and solidity of Netherland work; (2) the “familiar
style,” in which the voices move together in equal steps, without canonic
imitations. In the larger compositions we have a blending and alternation
of these two, and the scholastic Netherland polyphony appears clarified,
and moulded into more plastic outlines for the attainment of a more
refined vehicle of expression.

The marked dissimilarity between the music of the mediaeval school and
that of the present era is to a large extent explained by the differences
between the key and harmonic systems upon which they are severally based.
In the modern system the relationship of notes to the antithetic
tone-centres of tonic and dominant, and the freedom of modulation from
one key to another by means of the introduction of notes that do not
exist in the first, give opportunities for effect which are not
obtainable in music based upon the Gregorian modes, for the reason that
these modes do not differ in the notes employed (since they include only
the notes represented by the white keys of the pianoforte plus the B
flat), but only in the relation of the intervals to the note which forms
the keynote or “final.” The concoction of music based on the latter
system is, strictly speaking, melodic, not harmonic in the modern
technical sense, and the resulting combinations of sounds are not
conceived as chords built upon a certain tone taken as a fundamental, but
rather as consequences of the conjunction of horizontally moving series
of single notes. The harmony, therefore, seems both vague and monotonous
to the ear trained in accordance with the laws of modern music, because,
in addition to being almost purely diatonic, it lacks the stable pivotal
points which give symmetry, contrast, and cohesion to modern tone
structure. The old system admits chromatic changes but sparingly, chiefly
in order to provide a leading tone in a cadence, or to obviate an
objectionable melodic interval. Consequently there is little of what we
should call variety or positive color quality. There is no pronounced
leading melody to which the other parts are subordinate. The theme
consists of a few chant-like notes, speedily taken up by one voice after
another under control of the principle of “imitation.” For the same
reasons the succession of phrases, periods, and sections which
constitutes the architectonic principle of form in modern music does not
appear. Even in the “familiar style,” in which the parts move together
like blocks of chords of equal length, the implied principle is melodic
in all the voices, not tune above and accompaniment beneath; and the
progression is not guided by the necessity of revolving about mutually
supporting tone-centres.

In this “familiar style” which we may trace backward to the age of the
Netherlanders, we find a remote anticipation of the modern harmonic
feeling. A vague sense of complementary colors of tonic and dominant,
caught perhaps from the popular music with which the most scientific
composers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries always kept closely in
touch, is sometimes evident for brief moments, but never carried out
systematically to the end. This plain style is employed in hymns and
short sentences, in connection with texts of an especially mournful or
pleading expression, as, for instance, the Improperia and the Miserere,
or, for contrast’s sake, in the more tranquil passages of masses or
motets. It is a style that is peculiarly tender and gracious, and may be
found reflected in the sweetest of modern Latin and English hymn-tunes.
In the absence of chromatic changes it is the most serene form of music
in existence, and is suggestive of the confidence and repose of spirit
which is the most refined essence of the devotional mood.



           Example of the Simple Style (_stile famigliare_). Palestrina.


The intricate style commonly prevails in larger works—masses, motets, and
the longer hymns. Only after careful analysis can we appreciate the
wonderful art that has entered into its fabrication. Upon examining works
of this class we find the score consisting of four or more parts, but not
usually exceeding eight. The most obvious feature of the design is that
each part appears quite independent of the others; the melody does not
lie in one voice while the others act as accompaniment, but each part is
as much a melody as any other; each voice pursues its easy, unfettered
way, now one acting as leader, now another, the voices often crossing
each other, each melody apparently quite regardless of its mates in
respect to the time of beginning, culminating, and ending, the voices
apparently not subject to any common law of accent or rhythm, but each
busy with its own individual progress. The onward movement is like a
series of waves; no sooner is the mind fixed upon one than it is lost in
the ordered confusion of those that follow. The music seems also to have
no definite rhythm. Each single voice part is indeed rhythmical, as a
sentence of prose may be rhythmical, but since the melodic constituents
come in upon different parts of the measure, one culminating at one
moment, another at another, the parts often crossing each other, so that
while the mind may be fixed upon one melody which seems to lead, another,
which has been coming up from below, strikes in across the field,—the
result of all this is that the attention is constantly being dislodged
from one tonal centre and shifted to another, and the whole scheme of
design seems without form, a fluctuating mass swayed hither and thither
without coherent plan. The music does not lack dynamic change or
alteration of speed, but these contrasts are often so subtly graded that
it is not apparent where they begin or end. The whole effect is measured,
subdued, solemn. We are never startled, there is nothing that sets the
nerves throbbing. But as we hear this music again and again, analyzing
its properties, shutting out all preconceptions, little by little there
steal over us sensations of surprise, then of wonder, then of admiration.
These delicately shaded harmonies develop unimagined beauties. Without
sharp contrast of dissonance and consonance they are yet full of shifting
lights and hues, like a meadow under breeze and sunshine, which to the
careless eye seems only a mass of unvarying green, but which reveals to
the keener sense infinite modulation of the scale of color. No melody
lies conspicuous upon the surface, but the whole harmonic substance is
full of undulating melody, each voice pursuing its confident, unfettered
motion amid the ingenious complexity of which it is a constituent part.

In considering further the technical methods and the final aims of this
marvellous style, we find in its culminating period that the crown of the
mediaeval contrapuntal art upon its aesthetic side lies in the attainment
of beauty of tone effect in and of itself—the gratification of the
sensuous ear, rich and subtly modulated sound quality, not in the
individual boys’ and men’s voices, but in the distribution and
combination of voices of different _timbre_. That mastery toward which
orchestral composers have been striving during the past one hundred
years—the union and contrast of stringed and wind instruments for the
production of impressions upon the ear analogous to those produced upon
the eye by the color of a Rembrandt or a Titian—this was also sought,
and, so far as the slender means went, achieved in a wonderful degree by
the tone-masters of the Roman and Venetian schools. The chorus, we must
remind ourselves, was not dependent upon an accompaniment, and sensuous
beauty of tone must, therefore, result not merely from the individual
quality of the voices, but still more from the manner in which the notes
were grouped. The distribution of the components of a chord in order to
produce the greatest sonority; the alternation of the lower voices with
the higher; the elimination of voices as a section approached its close,
until the harmony was reduced at the last syllable to two higher voices
in _pianissimo_, as though the strain were vanishing into the upper air;
the resolution of tangled polyphony into a sun-burst of open golden
chords; the subtle intrusion of veiled dissonances into the fluent
gleaming concord; the skilful blending of the vocal registers for the
production of exquisite contrasts of light and shade,—these and many
other devices were employed for the attainment of delicate and lustrous
sound tints, with results to which modern chorus writing affords no
parallel. The culmination of this tendency could not be reached until the
art of interweaving voices according to regular but flexible patterns had
been fully mastered, and composers had learned to lead their parts with
the confidence with which the engraver traces his lines to shape them
into designs of beauty.

The singular perfection of the work of Palestrina has served to direct
the slight attention which the world now gives to the music of the
sixteenth century almost exclusively to him; yet he was but one master
among a goodly number whose productions are but slightly inferior to
his,—_primus inter pares_. Orlandus Lassus in Munich, Willaert, and the
two Gabrielis, Andrea and Giovanni, and Croce in Venice, the Naninis,
Vittoria, and the Anerios in Rome, Tallis in England, are names which do
not pale when placed beside that of the “prince of music.” Venice,
particularly, was a worthy rival of Rome in the sphere of church song.
The catalogue of her musicians who flourished in the sixteenth and early
part of the seventeenth centuries contains the names of men who were
truly sovereigns in their art, not inferior to Palestrina in science,
compensating for a comparative lack of the super-refined delicacy and
tremulous pathos which distinguished the Romans by a larger emphasis upon
contrast, color variety, and characteristic expression. It was as though
the splendors of Venetian painting had been emulated, although in reduced
shades, by these masters of Venetian music. In admitting into their works
contrivances for effect which anticipated a coming revolution in musical
art, the Venetians, rather than the Romans, form the connecting link
between mediaeval and modern religious music. In the Venetian school we
find triumphing over the ineffable calmness and remote impersonality of
the Romans a more individual quality—a strain almost of passion and
stress, and a far greater sonority and pomp. Chromatic changes, at first
irregular and unsystematized, come gradually into use as a means of
attaining greater intensity; dissonances become more pronounced,
foreshadowing the change of key system with all its consequences. The
contrapuntal leading of parts, in whose cunning labyrinths the expression
of feeling through melody strove to lose itself, tended under the
different ideal cherished by the Venetians to condense into more massive
harmonies, with bolder outlines and melody rising into more obvious
relief. As far back as the early decades of the sixteenth century Venice
had begun to loosen the bands of mediaeval choral law, and by a freer use
of dissonances to prepare the ear for a new order of perceptions. The
unprecedented importance given to the organ by the Venetian church
composers, and the appearance of the beginnings of an independent organ
style, also contributed strongly to the furtherance of the new
tendencies. In this broader outlook, more individual stamp, and more
self-conscious aim toward brilliancy the music of Venice simply shared
those impulses that manifested themselves in the gorgeous canvases of her
great painters and in the regal splendors of her public spectacles.

The national love of pomp and ceremonial display was shown in the church
festivals hardly less than in the secular pageants, and all that could
embellish the externals of the church solemnities was eagerly adopted.
All the most distinguished members of the line of Venetian church
composers were connected with the church of St. Mark as choir directors
and organists, and they imparted to their compositions a breadth of tone
and warmth of color fully in keeping with the historic and artistic glory
of this superb temple. The founder of the sixteenth-century Venetian
school was Adrian Willaert, a Netherlander, who was chapel-master at St.
Mark’s from 1527 to 1563. It was he who first employed the method which
became a notable feature of the music of St. Mark’s, of dividing the
choir and thus obtaining novel effects of contrast and climax by means of
antiphonal chorus singing. The hint was given to Willaert by the
construction of the church, which contains two music galleries opposite
each other, each with its organ. The freer use of dissonances, so
characteristic of the adventurous spirit of the Venetian composers, first
became a significant trait in the writings of Willaert.

The tendency to lay less stress upon interior intricacy and more upon
harmonic strength, striking tone color, and cumulative grandeur is even
more apparent in Willaert’s successors at St. Mark’s,—Cyprian de Rore,
Claudio Merulo, and the two Gabrielis. Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli
carried the splendid tonal art of Venice to unprecedented heights, adding
a third choir to the two of Willaert, and employing alternate choir
singing, combinations of parts, and massing of voices in still more
ingenious profusion. Winterfeld, the chief historian of this epoch, thus
describes the performance of a twelve-part psalm by G. Gabrieli: “Three
choruses, one of deep voices, one of higher, and the third consisting of
the four usual parts, are separated from each other. Like a tender,
fervent prayer begins the song in the deeper chorus, ‘God be merciful
unto us and bless us.’ Then the middle choir continues with similar
expression, ‘And cause his face to shine upon us.’ The higher chorus
strikes in with the words, ‘That thy way may be known upon earth.’ In
full voice the strain now resounds from all three choirs, ‘Thy saving
health among all nations.’ The words, ‘Thy saving health,’ are given with
especial earnestness, and it is to be noticed that this utterance comes
not from all the choirs together, nor from a single one entire, but from
selected voices from each choir in full-toned interwoven parts. We shall
not attempt to describe how energetic and fiery the song, ‘Let all the
people praise thee, O God,’ pours forth from the choirs in alternation;
how tastefully the master proclaims the words, ‘Let the nations be glad
and sing for joy,’ through change of measure and limitation to selected
voices from all the choirs; how the words, ‘And God shall bless us,’ are
uttered in solemn masses of choral song. Language could give but a feeble
suggestion of the magnificence of this music.”[66]

Great as Giovanni Gabrieli was as master of all the secrets of mediaeval
counterpoint and also of the special applications devised by the school
of Venice, he holds an even more eminent station as the foremost of the
founders of modern instrumental art, which properly took its starting
point in St. Mark’s church in the sixteenth century. These men conceived
that the organ might claim a larger function than merely aiding the
voices here and there, and they began to experiment with independent
performances where the ritual permitted such innovation. So we see the
first upspringing of a lusty growth of instrumental forms, if they may
properly be called forms,—canzonas (the modern fugue in embryo),
toccatas, ricercare (at first nothing more than vocal counterpoint
transferred to the organ), fantasias, etc.,—rambling, amorphous,
incoherent pieces, but vastly significant as holding the promise and
potency of a new art. Of these far-sighted experimenters Giovanni
Gabrieli was easily chief. Consummate master of the ancient forms, he
laid the first pier of the arch which was to connect two epochs; honoring
the old traditions by his achievements in chorus music, and leading his
disciples to perceive possibilities of expression which were to respond
to the needs of a new age.

Another composer of the foremost rank demands attention before we take
leave of the mediaeval contrapuntal school. Orlandus Lassus (original
Flemish Roland de Lattre, Italianized Orlando di Lasso) was a musician
whose genius entitles him to a place in the same inner circle with
Palestrina and Gabrieli. He lived from 1520 to 1594. His most important
field of labor was Munich. In force, variety, and range of subject and
treatment he surpasses Palestrina, but is inferior to the great Roman in
pathos, nobility, and spiritual fervor. His music is remarkable in view
of its period for energy, sharp contrasts, and bold experiments in
chromatic alteration. “Orlando,” says Ambros, “is a Janus who looks back
toward the great past of music in which he arose, but also forward toward
the approaching epoch.” An unsurpassed master of counterpoint, he yet
depended much upon simpler and more condensed harmonic movements. The
number of his works reaches 2337, of which 765 are secular. His motets
hold a more important place than his masses, and in many of the former
are to be found elements that are so direct and forceful in expression as
almost to be called dramatic. His madrigals and choral songs are
especially notable for their lavish use of chromatics, and also for a
lusty sometimes rough humor, which shows his keen sympathy with the
popular currents that were running strongly in the learned music of his
time. Lassus has more significance in the development of music than
Palestrina, for the latter’s absorption in liturgic duties kept him
within much narrower boundaries. Palestrina’s music is permeated with the
spirit of the liturgic chant; that of Lassus with the racier quality of
the folk-song. Lassus, although his religious devotion cannot be
questioned, had the temper of a citizen of the world; Palestrina that of
a man of the cloister. Palestrina’s music reaches a height of ecstasy
which Lassus never approached; the latter is more instructive in respect
to the tendencies of the time.

Turning again to the analysis of the sixteenth-century chorus and
striving to penetrate still further the secret of its charm, we are
obliged to admit that it is not its purely musical qualities or the
learning and cleverness displayed in its fabrication that will account
for its long supremacy or for the enthusiasm which it has often excited
in an age so remote as our own. Its aesthetic effect can never be quite
disentangled from the impressions drawn from its religious and historic
associations. Only the devout Catholic call feel its full import, for to
him it shares the sanctity of the liturgy,—it is not simply ear-pleasing
harmony, but prayer; not merely a decoration of the holy ceremony, but an
integral part of the sacrifice of praise and supplication. And among
Protestants those who eulogize it most warmly are those whose opinions on
church music are liturgical and austere. Given in a concert hall, in
implied competition with modern chorus music, its effect is feeble. It is
as religious music—ritualistic religious music—identified with what is
most solemn and suggestive in the traditions and ordinances of an ancient
faith, that this antiquated form of art makes its appeal to modern taste.
No other phase of music is so dependent upon its setting.

There can be no question that the Catholic Church has always endeavored,
albeit with a great deal of wavering and inconsistency, to maintain a
certain ideal or standard in respect to those forms of art which she
employs in her work of education. The frequent injunctions of popes,
prelates, councils, and synods for century after century have always held
the same tone upon this question. They have earnestly reminded their
followers that the Church recognizes a positive norm or canon in
ecclesiastical art, that there is a practical distinction between
ecclesiastic art and secular art, and that it is a pious duty on the part
of churchmen to preserve this distinction inviolate. The Church, however,
has never had the courage of this conviction. As J. A. Symonds says, she
has always compromised; and so has every church compromised. The inroads
of secular styles and modes of expression have always been irresistible
except here and there in very limited times and localities. The history
of church art, particularly of church music, is the history of the
conflict between the sacerdotal conception of art and the popular taste.

What, then, is the theory of ecclesiastical art which the heads of the
Catholic Church have maintained in precept and so often permitted to be
ignored in practice? What have been the causes and the results of the
secularization of religious art, particularly music? These questions are
of the greatest practical interest to the student of church music, and
the answers to them will form the centre around which all that I have to
say from this point about Catholic music will mainly turn.

The strict idea of religious art, as it has always stood more or less
distinctly in the thought of the Catholic Church, is that it exists not
for the decoration of the offices of worship (although the gratification
of the senses is not considered unworthy as an incidental end), but
rather for edification, instruction, and inspiration. As stated by an
authoritative Catholic writer: “No branch of art exists for its own sake
alone. Art is a servant, and it serves either God or the world, the
eternal or the temporal, the spirit or the flesh. Ecclesiastical art must
derive its rule and form solely from the Church.” “These rules and
determinations [in respect to church art] are by no means arbitrary, no
external accretion; they have grown up organically from within outward,
from the spirit which guides the Church, out of her views and out of the
needs of her worship. And herein lies the justification of her symbolism
and emblematic expression in ecclesiastical art so long as this holds
itself within the limits of tradition. The church of stone must be a
speaking manifestation of the living Church and her mysteries. The
pictures on the walls and on the altars are not mere adornment for the
pleasure of the eye, but for the heart a book full of instruction, a
sermon full of truth. And hereby art is raised to be an instrument of
edification to the believer, it becomes a profound expositor for
thousands, a transmitter and preserver of great ideas for all the
centuries.”[67] The Catholic Church in her art would subject the literal
to the ideal, the particular to the general, the definitive to the
symbolic. “The phrase ‘emancipation of the individual,’” says Jakob
again, “is not heard in the Church. Art history teaches that the Church
does not oppose the individual conception, but simply restrains that
false freedom which would make art the servant of personal caprice or of
fashion.”

The truth of this principle as a fundamental canon of ecclesiastical art
is not essentially affected by the fact that it is only in certain
periods and under favorable conditions that it has been strictly
enforced. Whenever art reaches a certain point in development, individual
determination invariably succeeds in breaking away from tradition. The
attainment of technic, attended by the inevitable pride in technic,
liberates its possessors. The spirit of the Italian religious painters of
the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, content to submit their
skill to further the educational purposes of the Church, could no longer
persist in connection with the growing delight in new technical problems
and the vision of the new fields open to art when face to face with
reality. The conventional treatment of the Memmis and Fra Angelicos was
followed by the naturalistic representation of the Raphaels, the Da
Vincis, and the Titians. The same result has followed where pure art has
decayed, or where no real appreciation of art ever existed. The stage of
church art in its purest and most edifying form is, therefore, only
temporary. It exists in the adolescent period of an art, before the
achievement of technical skill arouses desire for its unhampered
exercise, and when religious ideas are at the same time dominant and
pervasive. Neither is doubt to be cast upon the sincerity of the
religious motive in this phase of art growth when we discover that its
technical methods are identical with those of secular art at the same
period. In fact, this general and conventional style which the Church
finds suited to her ends is most truly characteristic when the artists
have virtually no choice in their methods. The motive of the Gothic
cathedral builders was no less religious because their modes of
construction and decoration were also common to the civic and domestic
architecture of the time. A distinctive ecclesiastical style has never
developed in rivalry with contemporary tendencies in secular art, but
only in unison with them. The historic church styles are also secular
styles, carried to the highest practicable degree of refinement and
splendor. These styles persist in the Church after they have disappeared
in the mutations of secular art; they become sanctified by time and by
the awe which the claim of supernatural commission inspires, and the
world at last comes to think of them as inherently rather than
conventionally religious.

All these principles must be applied to the sixteenth-century _a capella_
music. In fact, there is no better illustration; its meaning and effect
cannot be otherwise understood. Growing up under what seem perfectly
natural conditions, patronized by the laity as well as by the clergy,
this highly organized, severe, and impersonal style was seen, even before
the period of its maturity, to conform to the ideal of liturgic art
cherished by the Church; and now that it has become completely isolated
in the march of musical progress, this conformity appears even more
obvious under contrast. No other form of chorus music has existed so
objective and impersonal, so free from the stress and stir of passion, so
plainly reflecting an exalted spiritualized state of feeling. This music
is singularly adapted to reinforce the impression of the Catholic
mysteries by reason of its technical form and its peculiar emotional
appeal. The devotional mood that is especially nurtured by the Catholic
religious exercises is absorbed and mystical; the devotee strives to
withdraw into a retreat within the inner shrine of religious
contemplation, where no echoes of the world reverberate, and where the
soul may be thrilled by the tremulous ecstasy of half-unveiled heavenly
glory. It is the consciousness of the nearness and reality of the unseen
world that lends such a delicate and reserved beauty to those creations
of Catholic genius in which this ideal has been most directly symbolized.
Of this cloistral mood the church music of the Palestrina age is the most
subtle and suggestive embodiment ever realized in art. It is as far as
possible removed from profane suggestion; in its ineffable calmness, and
an indescribable tone of chastened exultation, pure from every trace of
struggle, with which it vibrates, it is the most adequate emblem of that
eternal repose toward which the believer yearns.

It is not true, however, as often alleged, that this form of music
altogether lacks characterization, and that the style of Kyrie, Gloria,
Crucifixus, Resurrexit, and of the motets and hymns whatever their
subject, is always the same. The old masters were artists as well as
churchmen, and knew how to adapt their somewhat unresponsive material to
the more obvious contrasts of the text; and in actual performance a much
wider latitude in respect to _nuance_ and change of speed was permitted
than could be indicated in the score. We know, also, that the choristers
were allowed great license in the use of embellishments, more or less
florid, upon the written notes, sometimes improvised, sometimes carefully
invented, taught and handed down as a prescribed code, the tradition of
which, in all but a few instances, has been lost. But the very laws of
the Gregorian modes and the strict contrapuntal system kept such
excursions after expression within narrow bounds, and the traditional
view of ecclesiastical art forbade anything like a drastic descriptive
literalism.

This mediaeval polyphonic music, although the most complete example in
art of the perfect adaptation of means to a particular end, could not
long maintain its exclusive prestige. It must be supplanted by a new
style as soon as the transformed secular music was strong enough to react
upon the Church. It was found that a devotional experience that was not
far removed from spiritual trance, which was all that the old music could
express, was not the only mental attitude admissible in worship. The
new-born art strove to give more apt and detailed expression to the
words, and why should not this permission be granted to church music? The
musical revolution of the seventeenth century involved the development of
an art of solo singing and its supremacy over the chorus, the
substitution of the modern major and minor transposing scales for the
Gregorian modal system, a homophonic method of harmony for the mediaeval
polyphony, accompanied music for the _a capella_, secular and dramatic
for religious music, the rise of instrumental music as an independent
art, the transfer of patronage from the Church to the aristocracy and
ultimately to the common people. All the modern forms, both vocal and
instrumental, which have come to maturity in recent times suddenly
appeared in embryo at the close of the sixteenth or early in the
seventeenth century. The ancient style of ecclesiastical music did not
indeed come to a standstill. The grand old forms continued to be
cultivated by men who were proud to wear the mantle of Palestrina; and in
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the traditions of the Roman and
Venetian schools of church music have had sufficient vitality to inspire
works not unworthy of comparison with their venerable models. The strains
of these later disciples, however, are but scanty reverberations of the
multitudinous voices of the past. The instrumental mass and motet,
embellished with all the newly discovered appliances of melody, harmony,
rhythm, and tone color, led the art of the Church with flying banners
into wider regions of conquest, and the _a capella_ contrapuntal chorus
was left behind, a stately monument upon the receding shores of the
Middle Age.


[Note. A very important agent in stimulating a revival of interest in the
mediaeval polyphonic school is the St. Cecilia Society, which was founded
at Regensburg in 1868 by Dr. Franz Xaver Witt, a devoted priest and
learned musician, for the purpose of restoring a more perfect relation
between music and the liturgy and erecting a barrier against the
intrusion of dramatic and virtuoso tendencies. Flourishing branches of
this society exist in many of the chief church centres of Europe and
America. It is the patron of schools of music, it has issued periodicals,
books, and musical compositions, and has shown much vigor in making
propaganda for its views.

Not less intelligent and earnest is the Schola Cantorum of Paris, which
is exerting a strong influence upon church music in the French capital
and thence throughout the world by means of musical performances,
editions of musical works, lectures, and publications of books and
essays.]



                               CHAPTER VI
                        THE MODERN MUSICAL MASS


To one who is accustomed to study the history of art in the light of the
law of evolution, the contrast between the reigning modern style of
Catholic church music and that of the Middle Age seems at first sight
very difficult of explanation. The growth of the _a capella_ chorus,
which reached its perfection in the sixteenth century, may be traced
through a steady process of development, every step of which was a
logical consequence of some prior invention. But as we pass onward into
the succeeding age and look for a form of Catholic music which may be
taken as the natural offspring and successor of the venerable mediaeval
style, we find what appears to be a break in the line of continuity. The
ancient form maintains its existence throughout the seventeenth century
and a portion of the eighteenth, but it is slowly crowded to one side and
at last driven from the field altogether by a style which, if we search
in the field of church art alone, appears to have no antecedent. The new
style is opposed to the old in every particular. Instead of forms that
are polyphonic in structure, vague and indefinite in plan, based on an
antique key system, the new compositions are homophonic, definite, and
sectional in plan, revealing an entirely novel principle of tonality,
containing vocal solos as well as choruses, and supported by a free
instrumental accompaniment. These two contrasted phases of religious
music seem to have nothing in common so far as technical organization is
concerned, and it is perfectly evident that the younger style could not
have been evolved out of the elder. Hardly less divergent are they in
respect to ideal of expression, the ancient style never departing from a
moderate, unimpassioned uniformity, the modern abounding in variety and
contrast, and continually striving after a sort of dramatic portrayal of
moods. To a representative of the old school, this florid accompanied
style would seem like an intruder from quite an alien sphere of
experience, and the wonder grows when we discover that it sprung from the
same national soil as that in which its predecessor ripened, and was
likewise cherished by an institution that has made immutability in all
essentials a cardinal principle. Whence came the impulse that effected so
sweeping a change in a great historic form of art, where we might expect
that liturgic necessities and ecclesiastical tradition would decree a
tenacious conservatism? What new conception had seized upon the human
mind so powerful that it could even revolutionize a large share of the
musical system of the Catholic Church? Had there been a long preparation
for a change that seems so sudden? Were there causes working under the
surface, antecedent stages, such that the violation of the law of
continuity is apparent only, and not real? These questions are easily
answered if we abandon the useless attempt to find the parentage of the
modern church style in the ritual music of the previous period; and by
surveying all the musical conditions of the age we shall quickly discover
that it was an intrusion into the Church of musical methods that were
fostered under purely secular auspices. The Gregorian chant and the
mediaeval _a capella_ chorus were born and nurtured within the fold of
the Church, growing directly out of the necessity of adapting musical
cadences to the rhythmical phrases of the liturgy. The modern sectional
and florid style, on the contrary, was an addition from without, and was
not introduced in response to any liturgic demands whatever. In origin
and affiliations it was a secular style, adopted by the Church under a
necessity which she eventually strove to turn into a virtue.

This violent reversal of the traditions of Catholic music was simply a
detail of that universal revolution in musical practice and ideal which
marked the passage from the sixteenth century to the seventeenth. The
learned music of Europe had been for centuries almost exclusively in the
care of ecclesiastical and princely chapels, and its practitioners held
offices that were primarily clerical. The professional musicians,
absorbed in churchly functions, had gone on adding masses to masses,
motets to motets, and hymns to hymns, until the Church had accumulated a
store of sacred song so vast that it remains the admiration and despair
of modern scholars. These works, although exhibiting every stage of
construction from the simplest to the most intricate, were all framed in
accordance with principles derived from the mediaeval conception of
melodic combination. The secular songs which these same composers
produced in great numbers, notwithstanding their greater flexibility and
lightness of touch, were also written for chorus, usually unaccompanied,
and were theoretically constructed according to the same system as the
church pieces. Nothing like operas or symphonies existed; there were no
orchestras worthy of the name; pianoforte, violin, and organ playing, in
the modern sense, had not been dreamed of; solo singing was in its
helpless infancy. When we consider, in the light of our present
experience, how large a range of emotion that naturally utters itself in
tone was left unrepresented through this lack of a proper secular art of
music, we can understand the urgency of the demand which, at the close of
the sixteenth century, broke down the barriers that hemmed in the
currents of musical production and swept music out into the vast area of
universal human interests. The spirit of the Renaissance had led forth
all other art forms to share in the multifarious activities and joys of
modern life at a time when music was still the satisfied inmate of the
cloister. But it was impossible that music also should not sooner or
later feel the transfiguring touch of the new human impulse. The placid,
austere expression of the clerical style, the indefinite forms, the
Gregorian modes precluding free dissonance and regulated chromatic
change, were incapable of rendering more than one order of ideas. A
completely novel system must be forthcoming, or music must confess its
impotence to enter into the fuller emotional life which had lately been
revealed to mankind.

The genius of Italy was equal to the demand. Usually when any form of art
becomes complete a period of degeneracy follows; artists become mere
imitators, inspiration and creative power die out, the art becomes a
handicraft; new growth appears only in another period or another nation,
and under altogether different auspices. Such would perhaps have been the
case with church music in Italy if a method diametrically opposed to that
which had so long prevailed in the Church had not inaugurated a new
school and finally extended its conquest into the venerable precincts of
the Church itself. The opera and instrumental music—the two currents into
which secular music divided—sprang up, as from hidden fountains, right
beside the old forms which were even then just attaining their full
glory, as if to show that the Italian musical genius so abounded in
energy that it could never undergo decay, but when it had gone to its
utmost limits in one direction could instantly strike out in another
still more brilliant and productive.

The invention of the opera about the year 1600 is usually looked upon as
the event of paramount importance in the transition period of modern
music history, yet it was only the most striking symptom of a radical,
sweeping tendency. Throughout the greater part of the sixteenth century a
search had been in progress after a style of music suited to the solo
voice, which could lend itself to the portrayal of the change and
development of emotion involved in dramatic representation. The
folk-song, which is only suited to the expression of a single simple
frame of mind, was of course inadequate. The old church music was
admirably adapted to the expression of the consciousness of man in his
relations to the divine—what was wanted was a means of expressing the
emotions of man in his relations to his fellow-men. Lyric and dramatic
poetry flourished, but no proper lyric or dramatic music. The Renaissance
had done its mighty work in all other fields of art, but so far as music
was concerned in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries a Renaissance did
not exist. Many reasons might be given why the spirit of the Renaissance
had no appreciable effect in the musical world until late in the
sixteenth century. Musical forms are purely subjective in their
conception; they find no models or even suggestions in the natural world,
and the difficulty of choosing the most satisfactory arrangements of
tones out of an almost endless number of possible combinations, together
with the necessity of constantly new adjustments of the mind in order to
appreciate the value of the very forms which itself creates, makes
musical development a matter of peculiar slowness and difficulty. The
enthusiasm for the antique, which gave a definite direction to the
revival of learning and the new ambitions in painting and sculpture,
could have little practical value in musical invention, since the ancient
music, which would otherwise have been chosen as a guide, had been
completely lost. The craving for a style of solo singing suited to
dramatic purposes tried to find satisfaction by means that were
childishly insufficient. Imitations of folk-songs, the device of singing
one part in a madrigal, while the other parts were played by instruments,
were some of the futile efforts to solve the problem. The sense of
disappointment broke forth in bitter wrath against the church
counterpoint, and a violent conflict raged between the bewildered
experimenters and the adherents of the scholastic methods.

The discovery that was to satisfy the longings of a century and create a
new art was made in Florence. About the year 1580 a circle of scholars,
musicians, and amateurs began to hold meetings at the house of a certain
Count Bardi, where they discussed, among other learned questions, the
nature of the music of the Greeks, and the possibility of its
restoration. Theorizing was supplemented by experiment, and at last
Vincenzo Galilei, followed by Giulio Caccini, hit upon a mode of musical
declamation, half speech and half song, which was enthusiastically hailed
as the long-lost style employed in the Athenian drama. A somewhat freer
and more melodious manner was also admitted in alternation with the dry,
formless recitation, and these two related methods were employed in the
performance of short lyric, half-dramatic monologues. Such were the
Monodies of Galilei and the Nuove Musiche of Caccini. More ambitious
schemes followed. Mythological masquerades and pastoral comedies, which
had held a prominent place in the gorgeous spectacles and pageants of the
Italian court festivals ever since the thirteenth century, were provided
with settings of the new declamatory music, or _stile recitativo_, and
behold, the opera was born.

The Florentine inventors of dramatic music builded better than they knew.
They had no thought of setting music free upon a new and higher flight;
they never dreamed of the consequences of releasing melody from the
fetters of counterpoint. Their sole intention was to make poetry more
expressive and emphatic by the employment of tones that would heighten
the natural inflections of speech, and in which there should be no
repetition or extension of words (as in the contrapuntal style) involving
a subordination of text to musical form. The ideal of recitative was the
expression of feeling by a method that permits the text to follow the
natural accent of declamatory speech, unrestrained by a particular
musical form or tonality, and dependent only upon the support of the
simplest kind of instrumental accompaniment. In this style of music, said
Caccini, speech is of the first importance, rhythm second, and tone last
of all. These pioneers of dramatic music, as they declared over and over
again, simply desired a form of music that should allow the words to be
distinctly understood. They condemned counterpoint, not on musical
grounds, but because it allowed the text to be obscured and the natural
rhythm broken. There was no promise of a new musical era in such an
anti-musical pronunciamento as this. But a relation between music and
poetry in which melody renounces all its inherent rights could not long
be maintained. The genius of Italy in the seventeenth century was
musical, not poetic. Just so soon as the infinite possibilities of charm
that lie in free melody were once perceived, no theories of Platonizing
pedants could check its progress. The demands of the new age, reinforced
by the special Italian gift of melody, created an art form in which
absolute music triumphed over the feebler claims of poetry and rhetoric.
The cold, calculated Florentine music-drama gave way to the vivacious,
impassioned opera of Venice and Naples. Although the primitive dry
recitative survived, the far more expressive accompanied recitative was
evolved from it, and the grand aria burst into radiant life out of the
brief lyrical sections which the Florentines had allowed to creep into
their tedious declamatory scenes. Vocal colorature, which had already
appeared in the dramatic pieces of Caccini, became the most beloved means
of effect. The little group of simple instruments employed in the first
Florentine music-dramas was gradually merged in the modern full
orchestra. The original notion of making the poetic and scenic intention
paramount was forgotten, and the opera became cultivated solely as a
means for the display of all the fascinations of vocalism.

Thus a new motive took complete possession of the art of music. By virtue
of the new powers revealed to them, composers would now strive to enter
all the secret precincts of the soul and give a voice to every emotion,
simple or complex, called forth by solitary meditation or by situations
of dramatic stress and conflict. Music, like painting and poetry, should
now occupy the whole world of human experience. The stupendous
achievements of the tonal art of the past two centuries are the outcome
of this revolutionary impulse. But not at once could music administer the
whole of her new possession. She must pass through a course of training
in technic, to a certain extent as she had done in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, but under far more favorable conditions and quite
different circumstances. The shallowness of the greater part of the music
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is partly due to the
difficulty that composers found in mastering the new forms. A facility in
handling the material must be acquired before there could be any clear
consciousness of the possibilities of expression which the new forms
contained. The first problem in vocal music was the development of a
method of technic; and musical taste, fascinated by the new sensation,
ran into an extravagant worship of the human voice. There appeared in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the most brilliant group of singers,
of both sexes, that the world has ever seen. The full extent of the
morbid, we might almost say the insane, passion for sensuous,
nerve-exciting tone is sufficiently indicated by the encouragement in
theatre and church of those outrages upon nature, the male soprano and
alto. A school of composers of brilliant melodic genius appeared in
Italy, France, and Germany, who supplied these singers with showy and
pathetic music precisely suited to their peculiar powers. Italian melody
and Italian vocalism became the reigning sensation in European society,
and the opera easily took the primacy among fashionable amusements. The
Italian grand opera, with its solemn travesty of antique characters and
scenes, its mock heroics, its stilted conventionalities, its dramatic
feebleness and vocal glitter, was a lively reflection of the taste of
this age of “gallant” poetry, rococo decoration, and social
artificiality. The musical element consisted of a succession of arias and
duets stitched together by a loose thread of _secco_ recitative. The
costumes were those of contemporary fashion, although the characters were
named after worthies of ancient Greece and Rome. The plots were in no
sense historic, but consisted of love tales and conspiracies concocted by
the playwright. Truth to human nature and to locality was left to the
despised comic opera. Yet we must not suppose that the devotees of this
music were conscious of its real superficiality. They adored it not
wholly because it was sensational, but because they believed it true in
expression; and indeed it was true to those light and transient
sentiments which the voluptuaries of the theatre mistook for the throbs
of nature. Tender and pathetic these airs often were, but it was the
affected tenderness and pathos of fashionable eighteenth-century
literature which they represented. To the profounder insight of the
present they seem to express nothing deeper than the make-believe
emotions of children at their play.

Under such sanctions the Italian grand aria became the dominant form of
melody. Not the appeal to the intellect and the genuine experiences of
the heart was required of the musical performer, but rather brilliancy of
technic and seductiveness of tone. Ephemeral nerve excitement, incessant
novelty within certain conventional bounds, were the demands laid by the
public upon composer and singer. The office of the poet became hardly
less mechanical than that of the costumer or the decorator. Composers,
with a few exceptions, yielded to the prevailing fashion, and musical
dramatic art lent itself chiefly to the portrayal of stereotyped
sentiments and the gratification of the sense. I would not be understood
as denying the germ of truth that lay in this art element contributed by
Italy to the modern world. Its later results were sublime and beneficent,
for Italian melody has given direction to well-nigh all the magnificent
achievements of secular music in the past two centuries. I am speaking
here of the first outcome of the infatuation it produced, in the breaking
down of the taste for the severe and elevated, and the production of a
transient, often demoralizing intoxication.

It was not long before the charming Italian melody undertook the conquest
of the Church. The popular demand for melody and solo singing overcame
the austere traditions of ecclesiastical song. The dramatic and concert
style invaded the choir gallery. The personnel of the choirs was altered,
and women, sometimes male sopranos and altos, took the place of boys. The
prima donna, with her trills and runs, made the choir gallery the parade
ground for her arts of fascination. The chorus declined in favor of the
solo, and the church aria vied with the opera aria in bravura and
languishing pathos. Where the chorus was retained in mass, motet, or
hymn, it abandoned the close-knit contrapuntal texture in favor of a
simple homophonic structure, with strongly marked rhythmical movement.
The orchestral accompaniment also lent to the composition a vivid
dramatic coloring, and brilliant solos for violins and flutes seemed
often to convert the sanctuary into a concert hall. All this was
inevitable, for the Catholic musicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries were artists as well as churchmen; they shared the aesthetic
convictions of their time, and could not be expected to forego the
opportunities for effect which the new methods put into their hands. They
were no longer dependent upon the Church for commissions; the opera house
and the salon gave them sure means of subsistence and fame. The functions
of church and theatre composers were often united in a single man. The
convents and cathedral chapels were made training-schools for the choir
and the opera stage on equal terms. It was in a monk’s cell that
Bernacchi and other world-famous opera singers of the eighteenth century
were educated. Ecclesiastics united with aristocratic laymen in the
patronage of the opera; cardinals and archbishops owned theatre boxes,
and it was not considered in the least out of character for monks and
priests to write operas and superintend their performance. Under such
conditions it is not strange that church and theatre reacted upon each
other, and that the sentimental style, beloved in opera house and salon,
should at last be accepted as the proper vehicle of devotional feeling.

In this adornment of the liturgy in theatrical costume we find a singular
parallel between the history of church music in the transition period and
that of religious painting in the period of the Renaissance. Pictorial
art had first to give concrete expression to the conceptions evolved
under the influence of Christianity, and since the whole intent of the
pious discipline was to turn the thought away from actual mundane
experience, art avoided the representation of ideal physical loveliness
on the one hand and a scientific historical correctness on the other.
Hence arose the naïve, emblematic pictures of the fourteenth century,
whose main endeavor was to attract and indoctrinate with delineations
that were symbolic and intended mainly for edification. Painting was one
of the chief means employed by the Church to impart instruction to a
constituency to whom writing was almost inaccessible. Art, therefore,
even when emancipated from Byzantine formalism, was still essentially
hieratic, and the painter willingly assumed a semi-sacerdotal office as
the efficient coadjutor of the preacher and the confessor. With the
fifteenth century came the inrush of the antique culture, uniting with
native Italian tendencies to sweep art away into a passionate quest of
beauty wherever it might be found. The conventional religious subjects
and the traditional modes of treatment could no longer satisfy those
whose eyes had been opened to the magnificent materials for artistic
treatment that lay in the human form, draped and undraped, in landscape,
atmosphere, color, and light and shade, and who had been taught by the
individualistic trend of the age that the painter is true to his genius
only as be frees himself from formulas and follows the leadings of his
own instincts. But art could not wholly renounce its original pious
mission. The age was at least nominally Christian, sincerely so in many
of its elements, and the patronage of the arts was still to a very large
extent in the hands of the clergy. And here the Church prudently
consented to a modification of the established ideals of treatment of
sacred themes. The native Italian love of elegance of outline, harmony of
form, and splendor of color, directed by the study of the antique,
overcame the earlier austerity and effected a combination of Christian
tradition and pagan sensuousness which, in such work as that of Correggio
and the great Venetians, and even at times in the pure Raphael and the
stern Michael Angelo, quite belied the purpose of ecclesiastical art,
aiming not to fortify dogma and elevate the spirit, but to gratify the
desire of the eye and the delight in the display of technical skill.
Painting no longer conformed to a traditional religious type; it followed
its genius, and that genius was really inspired by the splendors of
earth, however much it might persuade itself that it ministered to
holiness.

A noted example of this self-deception, although an extreme one, is the
picture entitled “The Marriage at Cana,” by Paolo Veronese. Christ is the
central figure, but his presence has no vital significance. He is simply
an imposing Venetian grandee, and the enormous canvas, with its crowd of
figures elegantly attired in fashionable sixteenth-century costume, its
profusion of sumptuous dishes and gorgeous tapestries, is nothing more or
less than a representation of a Venetian state banquet. Signorelli and
Michael Angelo introduced naked young men into pictures of the Madonna
and infant Christ. Others, such as Titian, lavished all the resources of
their art with apparently equal enthusiasm upon Madonnas and nude
Venuses. The other direction which was followed by painting, aiming at
historical verity and rigid accuracy in anatomy and expression, may be
illustrated by comparing Rubens’s “Crucifixion” in the Antwerp Museum
with a crucifixion, for example, by Fra Angelico. Each motive was
sincere, but the harsh realism of the Fleming shows how far art, even in
reverent treatment of religious themes, had departed from the unhistoric
symbolism formerly imposed by the Church. In all this there was no
disloyal intention; art had simply issued its declaration of
independence; its sole aim was henceforth beauty and reality; the body as
well as the soul seemed worthy of study and adoration; and the Church
adopted the new skill into its service, not seeing that the world was
destined to be the gainer, and not religion.

The same impulse produced analogous results in the music of the Catholic
Church. The liturgic texts that were appropriated to choral setting
remained, as they had been, the place and theoretic function of the
musical offices in the ceremonial were not altered, but the music, in
imitating the characteristics of the opera and exerting a somewhat
similar effect upon the mind, became animated by an ideal of devotion
quite apart from that of the liturgy, and belied that unimpassioned,
absorbed and universalized mood of worship of which the older forms of
liturgic art are the most complete and consistent embodiment. Herein is
to be found the effect of the spirit of the Renaissance upon church
music. It is not simply that it created new musical forms, new styles of
performance, and a more definite expression; the significance of the
change lies rather in the fact that it transformed the whole spirit of
devotional music by endowing religious themes with sensuous charm, and
with a treatment inspired by the arbitrary will of the composer and not
by the traditions of the Church.

At this point we reach the real underlying motive, however unconscious of
it individual composers may have been, which compelled the revolution in
liturgic music. A new ideal of devotional expression made inevitable the
abandonment of the formal, academic style of the Palestrina school. The
spirit of the age which required a more subjective expression in music,
involved a demand for a more definite characterization in the setting of
the sacred texts. The composer could no longer be satisfied with a humble
imitation of the forms which the Church had sealed as the proper
expression of her attitude toward the divine mysteries, but claimed the
privilege of coloring the text according to the dictates of his own
feeling as a man and his peculiar method as an artist. The mediaeval
music was that of the cloister and the chapel. It was elevated, vague,
abstract; it was as though it took up into itself all the particular and
temporary emotions that might be called forth by the sacred history and
articles of belief, and sifted and refined them into a generalized type,
special individual experience being dissolved in the more diffused sense
of awe and rapture which fills the hearts of an assembly in the attitude
of worship. It was the mood of prayer which this music uttered, and that
not the prayer of an individual agitated by his own personal hopes and
fears, but the prayer of the Church, which embraces all the needs which
the believers share in common, and offers them at the Mercy Seat with the
calmness that comes of reverent confidence. Thus in the old masses the
Kyrie eleison and the Miserere nobis are never agonizing; the Crucifixus
does not attempt to portray the grief of an imaginary spectator of the
scene on Calvary; the Gloria in excelsis and the Sanctus never force the
jubilant tone into a frenzied excitement; the setting of the Dies Irae in
the Requiem mass makes no attempt to paint a realistic picture of the
terrors of the day of judgment.

Now compare a typical mass of the modern dramatic school and see how
different is the conception. The music of Gloria and Credo revels in all
the opportunities for change and contrast which the varied text supplies;
the Dona nobis pacem dies away in strains of tender longing. Consider the
mournful undertone that throbs through the Crucifixus of Schubert’s Mass
in A flat, the terrifying crash that breaks into the Miserere nobis in
the Gloria of Beethoven’s Mass in D, the tide of ecstasy that surges
through the Sanctus of Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass and the almost cloying
sweetness of the Agnus Dei, the uproar of brass instruments in the Tuba
mirum of Berlioz’s Requiem. Observe the strong similarity of style at
many points between Verdi’s Requiem and his opera “Aïda.” In such works
as these, which are fairly typical of the modern school, the composer
writes under an independent impulse, with no thought of subordinating
himself to ecclesiastical canons or liturgic usage. He attempts not only
to depict his own state of mind as affected by the ideas of the text, but
he also often aims to make his music picturesque according to dramatic
methods. He does not seem to be aware that there is a distinction between
religious concert music and church music. The classic example of this
confusion is in the Dona nobis pacem of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, where
the composer introduces a train of military music in order to suggest the
contrasted horrors of war. This device, as Beethoven employs it, is
exceedingly striking and beautiful, but it is precisely antagonistic to
the meaning of the text and the whole spirit of the liturgy. The
conception of a large amount of modern mass music seems to be, not that
the ritual to which it belongs is prayer, but rather a splendid spectacle
intended to excite the imagination and fascinate the sense. It is this
altered conception, lying at the very basis of the larger part of modern
church music, that leads such writers as Jakob to refuse even to notice
the modern school in his sketch of the history of Catholic church music,
just as Rio condemns Titian as the painter who mainly contributed to the
decay of religious painting.

In the Middle Age artists were grouped in schools or in guilds, each
renouncing his right of initiative and shaping his productions in
accordance with the legalized formulas of his craft. The modern artist is
a separatist, his glory lies in the degree to which he rises above
hereditary technic, and throws into his work a personal quality which
becomes his own creative gift to the world. The church music of the
sixteenth century was that of a school; the composers, although not
actually members of a guild, worked on exactly the same technical
foundations, and produced masses and motets of a uniformity that often
becomes academic and monotonous. The modern composer carries into church
pieces his distinct personal style. The grandeur and violent contrasts of
Beethoven’s symphonies, the elegiac tone of Schubert’s songs, the
enchantments of melody and the luxuries of color in the operas of Verdi
and Gounod, are also characteristic marks of the masses of these
composers. The older music could follow the text submissively, for there
was no prescribed musical form to be worked out, and cadences could occur
whenever a sentence came to an end. The modern forms, on the other hand,
consisting of consecutive and proportional sections, imply the necessity
of contrast, development, and climax—an arrangement that is not
necessitated by any corresponding system in the text. This alone would
often result in a lack of congruence between text and music, and the
composer would easily fall into the way of paying more heed to the sheer
musical working out than to the meaning of the words. Moreover, in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries there was no radical conflict between
the church musical style and the secular; so far as secular music was
cultivated by the professional composers it was no more than a slight
variation from the ecclesiastical model. Profane music may be said to
have been a branch of religious music. In the modern period this
relationship is reversed; secular music in opera and instrumental forms
has remoulded church music, and the latter is in a sense a branch of the
former.

Besides the development of the sectional form, another technical change
acted to break down the old obstacles to characteristic expression. An
essential feature of the mediaeval music, consequent upon the very nature
of the Gregorian modes, was the very slight employment of chromatic
alteration of notes, and the absence of free dissonances. Modulation in
the modern sense cannot exist in a purely diatonic scheme. The breaking
up of the modal system was foreshadowed when composers became impatient
with the placidity and colorlessness of the modal harmonies and began to
introduce unexpected dissonances for the sake of variety. The chromatic
changes that occasionally appear in the old music are scattered about in
a hap-hazard fashion; they give an impression of helplessness to the
modern ear when the composer seems about to make a modulation and at once
falls back again into the former tonality. It was a necessity, therefore,
as well as a virtue, that the church music of the old régime should
maintain the calm, equable flow that seems to us so pertinent to its
liturgic intention. For these reasons it may perhaps be replied to what
has been said concerning the devotional ideal embodied in the calm,
severe strains of the old masters, that they had no choice in the matter.
Does it follow, it may be asked, that these men would not have written in
the modern style if they had had the means? Some of them probably would
have done so, others almost certainly would not. Many writers who carried
the old form into the seventeenth century did have the choice and
resisted it; they stanchly defended the traditional principles and
condemned the new methods as destructive of pure church music. The laws
that work in the development of ecclesiastical art also seem to require
that music should pass through the same stages as those that sculpture
and painting traversed,—first, the stage of symbolism, restraint within
certain conventions in accordance with ecclesiastical prescription;
afterwards, the deliverance from the trammels of school formulas,
emancipation from all laws but those of the free determination of
individual genius. At this point authority ceases, dictation gives way to
persuasion, and art still ministers to the higher ends of the Church, not
through fear, but through reverence for the teachings and appeals which
the Church sends forth as her contribution to the nobler influences of
the age.

The writer who would trace the history of the modern musical mass has a
task very different from that which meets the historian of the mediaeval
period. In the latter case, as has already been shown, generalization is
comparatively easy, for we deal with music in which differences of
nationality and individual style hardly appear. The modern Catholic
music, on the other hand, follows the currents that shape the course of
secular music. Where secular music becomes formalized, as in the early
Italian opera, religious music tends to sink into a similar routine.
When, on the other hand, men of commanding genius, such as Beethoven,
Berlioz, Liszt, Verdi, contribute works of a purely individual stamp to
the general development of musical art, their church compositions form no
exception, but are likewise sharply differentiated from others of the
same class. The influence of nationality makes itself felt—there is a
style characteristic of Italy, another of South Germany and Austria,
another of Paris, although these distinctions tend to disappear under the
solvent of modern cosmopolitanism. The Church does not positively dictate
any particular norm or method, and hence local tendencies have run their
course almost unchecked.

Catholic music has shared all the fluctuations of European taste. The
levity of the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries was
as apparent in the mass as in the opera. The uplift in musical culture
during the last one hundred years has carried church composition along
with it, so that almost all the works produced since Palestrina, of which
the Church has most reason to be proud, belong to the nineteenth century.
One of the ultimate results of the modern license in style and the
tendency toward individual expression is the custom of writing masses as
free compositions rather than for liturgic uses, and of performing them
in public halls or theatres in the same manner as oratorios. Mozart wrote
his Requiem to the order of a private patron. Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis,
not being ready when wanted for a consecration ceremony, outgrew the
dimensions of a service mass altogether, and was finished without any
liturgic purpose in view. Cherubini’s mass in D minor and Liszt’s Gran
Mass were each composed for a single occasion, and both of them, like the
Requiems of Berlioz and Dvořák, although often heard in concerts, have
but very rarely been performed in church worship. Masses have even been
written by Protestants, such as Bach, Schumann, Hauptmann, Richter, and
Becker. Masses that are written under the same impulse as ordinary
concert and dramatic works easily violate the ecclesiastical spirit, and
pass into the category of religious works that are non-churchly, and it
may often seem necessary to class them with cantatas on account of their
semi-dramatic tone. In such productions as Bach’s B minor Mass,
Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, and Berlioz’s Requiem we have works that
constitute a separate phase of art, not masses in the proper sense, for
they do not properly blend with the church ceremonial nor contribute to
the special devotional mood which the Church aims to promote, while yet
in their general conception they are held by a loose band to the altar.
So apart do these mighty creations stand that they may almost be said to
glorify religion in the abstract rather than the confession of the
Catholic Church.

The changed conditions in respect to patronage have had the same effect
upon the mass as upon other departments of musical composition. In former
periods down to the close of the eighteenth century, the professional
composer was almost invariably a salaried officer, attached as a personal
retainer to a court, lay or clerical, and bound to conform his style of
composition in a greater or less degree to the tastes of his employer. A
Sixtus V. could reprove Palestrina for failing to please with a certain
mass and admonish him to do better work in the future. Haydn could hardly
venture to introduce any innovation into the style of religious music
sanctioned by his august masters, the Esterhazys. Mozart wrote all his
masses, with the exception of the Requiem, for the chapel of the prince
archbishop of Salzburg. In this establishment the length of the mass was
prescribed, the mode of writing and performance, which had become
traditional, hindered freedom of development, and therefore Mozart’s
works of this class everywhere give evidence of constraint. On the other
hand, the leading composers of the present century that have occupied
themselves with the mass have been free from such arbitrary compulsions.
They have written masses, not as a part of routine duty, but as they were
inspired by the holy words and by the desire to offer the free gift of
their genius at the altar of the Church. They have been, as a rule,
devoted churchmen, but they have felt that they had the sympathy of the
Church in asserting the rights of the artist as against prelatical
conservatism and local usage. The outcome is seen in a group of works
which, whatever the strict censors may deem their defects in edifying
quality, at least indicate that in the field of musical art there is no
necessary conflict between Catholicism and the free spirit of the age.

Under these conditions the mass in the modern musical era has taken a
variety of directions and assumed distinct national and individual
complexions. The Neapolitan school, which gave the law to Italian opera
in the eighteenth century, endowed the mass with the same soft
sensuousness of melody and sentimental pathos of expression, together
with a dry, calculated kind of harmony in the chorus portions, the work
never touching deep chords of feeling, and yet preserving a tone of
sobriety and dignity. As cultivated in Italy and France the mass
afterward degenerated into rivalry on equal terms with the shallow,
captivating, cloying melody of the later Neapolitans and their
successors, Rossini and Bellini. In this school of so-called religious
music all sense of appropriateness was often lost, and a florid, profane
treatment was not only permitted but encouraged. Perversions which can
hardly be called less than blasphemous had free rein in the ritual music.
Franz Liszt, in a letter to a Paris journal, written in 1835, bitterly
attacks the music that flaunted itself in the Catholic churches of the
city. He complains of the sacrilegious virtuoso displays of the prima
donna, the wretched choruses, the vulgar antics of the organist playing
galops and variations from comic operas in the most solemn moments of the
holy ceremony. Similar testimony has from time to time come from Italy,
and it would appear that the most lamentable lapses from the pure church
tradition have occurred in some of the very places where one would expect
that the strictest principles would be loyally maintained. The most
celebrated surviving example of the consequences to which the virtuoso
tendencies in church music must inevitably lead when unchecked by a truly
pious criticism is Rossini’s Stabat Mater. This frivolous work is
frequently performed with great _éclat_ in Catholic places of worship, as
though the clergy were indifferent to the almost incredible levity which
could clothe the heart-breaking pathos of Jacopone’s immortal hymn—a hymn
properly honored by the Church with a place among the five great
Sequences—with strains better suited to the sprightly abandon of opera
buffa.

Another branch of the mass was sent by the Neapolitan school into
Austria, and here the results, although unsatisfactory to the better
taste of the present time, were far nobler and more fruitful than in
Italy and France. The group of Austrian church composers, represented by
the two Haydns, Mozart, Eybler, Neukomm, Sechter and others of the
period, created a form of church music which partook of much of the dry,
formal, pedantic spirit of the day, in which regularity of form,
scientific correctness, and a conscious propriety of manner were often
more considered than emotional fervor. Certain conventions, such as a
florid contrapuntal treatment of the Kyrie with its slow introduction
followed by an Allegro, the fugues at the Cum Sanctu Spiritu and the Et
Vitam, the regular alternation of solo and chorus numbers, give the
typical Austrian mass a somewhat rigid, perfunctory air, and in practice
produce the effect which always results when expression becomes
stereotyped and form is exalted over substance. Mozart’s masses, with the
exception of the beautiful Requiem (which was his last work and belongs
in a different category), were the production of his boyhood, written
before his genius became self-assertive and under conditions distinctly
unfavorable to the free exercise of the imagination.

The masses of Joseph Haydn stand somewhat apart from the strict Austrian
school, for although as a rule they conform externally to the local
conventions, they are far more individual and possess a freedom and
buoyancy that are decidedly personal. It has become the fashion among the
sterner critics of church music to condemn Haydn’s masses without
qualification, as conspicuous examples of the degradation of taste in
religious art which is one of the depressing legacies of the eighteenth
century. Much of this censure is deserved, for Haydn too often loses
sight of the law which demands that music should reinforce, and not
contradict, the meaning and purpose of the text. Haydn’s mass style is
often indistinguishable from his oratorio style. His colorature arias are
flippant, often introduced at such solemn moments as to be offensive.
Even where the voice part is subdued to an appropriate solemnity, the
desired impression is frequently destroyed by some tawdry flourish in the
orchestra. The brilliancy of the choruses is often pompous and hollow.
Haydn’s genius was primarily instrumental; he was the virtual creator of
the modern symphony and string quartet; his musical forms and modes of
expression were drawn from two diverse sources which it was his great
mission to conciliate and idealize, _viz._, the Italian aristocratic
opera, and the dance and song of the common people. An extraordinary
sense of form and an instinctive sympathy with whatever is spontaneous,
genial, and racy made him what he was. The joviality of his nature was
irrepressible. To write music of a sombre cast was out of his power.
There is not a melancholy strain in all his works; pensiveness was as
deep a note as he could strike. He tried to defend the gay tone of his
church music by saying that he had such a sense of the goodness of God
that he could not be otherwise than joyful in thinking of him. This
explanation was perfectly sincere, but Haydn was not enough of a
philosopher to see the weak spot in this sort of aesthetics. Yet in spite
of the obvious faults of Haydn’s mass style, looking at it from a
historic point of view, it was a promise of advance, and not a sign of
degeneracy. For it marked the introduction of genuine, even if
misdirected feeling into worship music, in the place of dull conformity
to routine. Haydn was far indeed from solving the problem of church
music, but he helped to give new life to a form that showed danger of
becoming atrophied.

Two masses of world importance rise above the mediocrity of the Austrian
school, like the towers of some Gothic cathedral above the monotonous
tiled roofs of a mediaeval city,—the Requiem of Mozart and the Missa
Solemnis of Beethoven. The unfinished masterpiece of Mozart outsoars all
comparison with the religious works of his youth, and as his farewell to
the world he could impart to it a tone of pathos and exaltation which had
hardly been known in the cold, objective treatment of the usual
eighteenth-century mass. The hand of death was upon Mozart as he penned
the immortal pages of the Requiem, and in this crisis he could feel that
he was free from the dictation of fashion and precedent. This work is
perhaps not all that we might look for in these solemn circumstances.
Mozart’s exquisite genius was suited rather to the task, in which lies
his true glory, of raising the old Italian opera to its highest
possibilities of grace and truth to nature. He had not that depth of
feeling and sweep of imagination which make the works of Bach, Händel,
and Beethoven the sublimest expression of awe in view of the mysteries of
life and death. Yet it is wholly free from the fripperies which disfigure
the masses of Haydn, as well as from the dry scholasticism of much of
Mozart’s own early religious work. Such movements as the Confutatis, the
Recordare, and the Lacrimosa—movements inexpressibly earnest, consoling,
and pathetic—gave evidence that a new and loftier spirit had entered the
music of the Church.

The Missa Solemnis of Beethoven, composed 1818-1822, can hardly be
considered from the liturgic point of view. In the vastness of its
dimensions it is quite disproportioned to the ceremony to which it
theoretically belongs, and its almost unparalleled difficulty of
execution and the grandeur of its choral climaxes remove it beyond the
reach of all but the most exceptional choirs. It is, therefore, performed
only as a concert work by choral societies with a full orchestral
equipment. For these reasons it is not to be classed with the service
masses of the Catholic Church, but may be placed beside the B minor Mass
of Sebastian Bach, both holding a position outside all ordinary
comparisons. Each of these colossal creations stands on its own solitary
eminence, the projection in tones of the religious conceptions of two
gigantic, all-comprehending intellects. For neither of these two works is
the Catholic Church strictly responsible. They do not proceed from within
the Church. Bach was a strict Protestant; Beethoven, although nominally a
disciple of the Catholic Church, had almost no share in her communion,
and his religious belief, so far as the testimony goes, was a sort of
pantheistic mysticism. Both these supreme artists in the later periods of
their careers gave free rein to their imaginations and not only well-nigh
exceeded all available means of performance, but also seemed to strive to
force musical forms and the powers of instruments and voices beyond their
limits in the efforts to realize that which is unrealizable through any
human medium. In this endeavor they went to the very verge of the
sublime, and produced achievements which excite wonder and awe. These two
masses defy all imitation, and represent no school. The spirit of
individualism in religious music can go no further.

The last masses of international importance produced on Austrian soil are
those of Franz Schubert. Of his six Latin masses four are youthful works,
pure and graceful, but not especially significant. In his E flat and A
flat masses, however, he takes a place in the upper rank of mass
composers of this century. The E flat Mass is weakened by the diffuseness
which was Schubert’s besetting sin; the A flat is more terse and
sustained in excellence, and thoroughly available for practical use. Both
of them contain movements of purest ideal beauty and sincere worshipful
spirit, and often rise to a grandeur that is unmarred by sensationalism
and wholly in keeping with the tone of awe which pervades even the most
exultant moments of the liturgy.

The lofty idealism exemplified in such works as Mozart’s Requiem,
Beethoven’s Mass in D, Schubert’s last two masses, and in a less degree
in Weber’s Mass in E flat has never since been lost from the German mass,
in spite of local and temporary reactions. Such composers as Kiel,
Havert, Grell, and Rheinberger have done noble service in holding German
Catholic music fast to the tradition of seriousness and truth which has
been taking form all through this century in German secular music. It
must be said, however, that the German Catholic Church at large,
especially in the country districts, has been too often dull to the
righteous claims of the profounder expression of devotional feeling, and
has maintained the vogue of the Italian mass and the shallower products
of the Austrian school. Against this indifference the St. Cecilia Society
has directed its noble missionary labors, with as yet but partial
success.

If we turn our observation to Italy and France we find that the music of
the Church is at every period sympathetically responsive to the
fluctuations in secular music. Elevated and dignified, if somewhat cold
and constrained, in the writings of the nobler spirits of the Neapolitan
school such as Durante and Jomelli, sweet and graceful even to effeminacy
in Pergolesi, sensuous and saccharine in Rossini, imposing and massive,
rising at times to epic grandeur, in Cherubini, by turns ecstatic and
voluptuous in Gounod, ardent and impassioned in Verdi—the ecclesiastical
music of the Latin nations offers works of adorable beauty, sometimes
true to the pure devotional ideal, sometimes perverse, and by their
isolation serving to illustrate the dependence of the church composer’s
inspiration upon the general conditions of musical taste and progress.
Not only were those musicians of France and Italy who were prominent as
church composers also among the leaders in opera, but their ideals and
methods in opera were closely paralleled by those displayed in their
religious productions. It is impossible to separate the powerful masses
of Cherubini, with their pomp and majesty of movement, their reserved and
pathetic melody, their grandiose dimensions and their sumptuous
orchestration, from those contemporary tendencies in dramatic art which
issued in the “historic school” of grand opera as exemplified in the
pretentious works of Spontini and Meyerbeer. They may be said to be the
reflection in church art of the hollow splendor of French imperialism.
Such an expression, however, may be accused of failing in justice to the
undeniable merits of Cherubini’s masses. As a man and as a musician
Cherubini commands unbounded respect for his unswerving sincerity in an
age of sham, his uncompromising assertion of his dignity as an artist in
an age of sycophancy, and the solid worth of his achievement in the midst
of shallow aims and mediocre results. As a church composer he towers so
high above his predecessors of the eighteenth century in respect to
learning and imagination that his masses are not unworthy to stand beside
Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis as auguries of the loftier aims that were soon
to prevail in the realm of religious music. His Requiem in C minor,
particularly, by reason of its exquisite tenderness, breadth of thought,
nobility of expression, and avoidance of all excess either of agitation
or of gloom, must be ranked among the most admirable modern examples of
pure Catholic art.

The effort of Lesueur (1763-1837) to introduce into church music a
picturesque and imitative style—which, in spite of much that was striking
and attractive in result, must be pronounced a false direction in church
music—was characteristically French and was continued in such works as
Berlioz’s Requiem and to a certain extent in the masses and psalms of
Liszt. The genius of Liszt, notwithstanding his Hungarian birth, was
closely akin to the French in his tendency to connect every musical
impulse with a picture or with some mental conception which could be
grasped in distinct concrete outline. In his youth Liszt, in his despair
over the degeneracy of liturgic music in France and its complete
separation from the real life of the people, proclaimed the necessity of
a _rapprochement_ between church music and popular music. In an article
written for a Paris journal in 1834, which remains a fragment, he
imagined a new style of religious music which should “unite in colossal
relations theatre and church, which should be at the same time dramatic
and solemn, imposing and simple, festive and earnest, fiery and
unconstrained, stormy and reposeful, clear and fervent.” These
expressions are too vague to serve as a program for a new art movement.
They imply, however, a protest against the one-sided operatic tendency of
the day, at the same time indicating the conviction that the problem is
not to be solved in a pedantic reaction toward the ancient austere ideal,
and yet that the old and new endeavors, liturgic appropriateness and
characteristic expression, reverence of mood and recognition of the
claims of contemporary taste, should in some way be made to harmonize.
The man who all his life conceived the theatre as a means of popular
education, and who strove to realize that conception as court music
director at Weimar, would also lament any alienation between the church
ceremony and the intellectual and emotional habitudes and inclinations of
the people. A devoted churchman reverencing the ancient ecclesiastical
tradition, and at the same time a musical artist of the advanced modern
type, Liszt’s instincts yearned more or less blindly towards an alliance
between the sacerdotal conception of religious art and the general
artistic spirit of the age. Some such vision evidently floated before his
mind in the masses, psalms, and oratorios of his later years, as shown in
their frequent striving after the picturesque, together with an
inclination toward the older ecclesiastical forms. These two ideals are
probably incompatible; at any rate Liszt did not possess the genius to
unite them in a convincing manner.

Among the later ecclesiastical composers of France, Gounod shines out
conspicuously by virtue of those fascinating melodic gifts which have
made the fame of the St. Cecilia mass almost conterminous with that of
the opera “Faust.” Indeed, there is hardly a better example of the modern
propensity of the dramatic and religious styles to reflect each other’s
lineaments than is found in the close parallelism which appears in
Gounod’s secular and church productions. So liable, or perhaps we might
say, so neutral is his art, that a similar quality of melting cadence is
made to portray the mutual avowals of love-lorn souls and the raptures of
heavenly aspiration. Those who condemn Gounod’s religious music on this
account as sensuous have some reason on their side, yet no one has ever
ventured to accuse Gounod of insincerity, and it may well be that his
wide human sympathy saw enough correspondence between the worship of an
earthly ideal and that of a heavenly—each implying the abandonment of
self-consciousness in the yearning for a happiness which is at the moment
the highest conceivable—as to make the musical expression of both
essentially similar. This is to say that the composer forgets liturgic
claims in behalf of the purely human. This principle no doubt involves
the destruction of church music as a distinctive form of art, but it is
certain that the world at large, as evinced by the immense popularity of
Gounod’s religious works, sees no incongruity and does not feel that such
usage is profane. Criticism on the part of all but the most austere is
disarmed by the pure, seraphic beauty which this complacent art of Gounod
often reveals. The intoxicating sweetness of his melody and harmony never
sinks to a Rossinian flippancy. Of Gounod’s reverence for the Church and
for its art ideals, there can be no question. A man’s views of the proper
tone of church music will be controlled largely by his temperament, and
Gounod’s temperament was as warm as an Oriental’s. He offered to the
Church his best, and as the Magi brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to
a babe born among cattle in a stable, so Gounod, with a consecration
equally sincere, clothed his prayers in strains so ecstatic that compared
with them the most impassioned accents of “Faust” and “Romeo and Juliet”
are tame. He was a profound student of Palestrina, Mozart, and Cherubini,
and strong traces of the styles of these masters are apparent in his
works.

Somewhat similar qualities, although far less sensational, are found in
the productions of that admirable band of organists and church composers
that now lends such lustre to the art life of the French capital. The
culture of such representatives of this school as Guilmant, Widor,
Saint-Saëns, Dubois, Gigout is so solidly based, and their views of
religious music so judicious, that the methods and traditions which they
are conscientiously engaged in establishing need only the reinforcement
of still higher genius to bring forth works which will confer even
greater honor upon Catholicism than she has yet received from the
devotion of her musical sons in France. No purer or nobler type of
religious music has appeared in these latter days than is to be found in
the compositions of César Franck (1822-1890). For the greater part of his
life overlooked or disdained by all save a devoted band of disciples, in
spirit and in learning he was allied to the Palestrinas and the Bachs,
and there are many who place him in respect to genius among the foremost
of the French musicians of the nineteenth century.

The religious works of Verdi might be characterized in much the same
terms as those of Gounod. In Verdi also we have a truly filial devotion
to the Catholic Church, united with a temperament easily excited to a
white heat when submitted to his musical inspiration, and a genius for
melody and seductive harmonic combinations in which he is hardly equalled
among modern composers. In his Manzoni Requiem, Stabat Mater, and Te Deum
these qualities are no less in evidence than in “Aida” and “Otello,” and
it would be idle to deny their devotional sincerity on account of their
lavish profusion of nerve-exciting effects. The controversy between the
contemners and the defenders of the Manzoni Requiem is now somewhat stale
and need not be revived here. Any who may wish to resuscitate it,
however, on account of the perennial importance of the question of what
constitutes purity and appropriateness in church art, must in justice put
themselves into imaginative sympathy with the racial religious feeling of
an Italian, and make allowance also for the undeniable suggestion of the
dramatic in the Catholic ritual, and for the natural effect of the
Catholic ceremonial and its peculiar atmosphere upon the more ardent,
enthusiastic order of minds.

The most imposing contributions that have been made to Catholic liturgic
music since Verdi’s Requiem are undoubtedly the Requiem Mass and the
Stabat Mater of Dvořák. All the wealth of tone color which is contained
upon the palette of this master of harmony and instrumentation has been
laid upon these two magnificent scores. Inferior to Verdi in variety and
gorgeousness of melody, the Bohemian composer surpasses the great Italian
in massiveness, dignity, and in unfailing good taste. There can be no
question that Dvořák’s Stabat Mater is supreme over all other
settings—the only one, except Verdi’s much shorter work, that is worthy
of the pathos and tenderness of this immortal Sequence. The Requiem of
Dvořák in spite of a tendency to monotony, is a work of exceeding beauty,
rising often to grandeur, and is notable, apart from its sheer musical
qualities, as the most precious gift to Catholic art that has come from
the often rebellious land of Bohemia.

It would be profitless to attempt to predict the future of Catholic
church music. In the hasty survey which we have made of the Catholic mass
in the past three centuries we have been able to discover no law of
development except the almost unanimous agreement of the chief composers
to reject law and employ the sacred text of Scripture and liturgy as the
basis of works in which not the common consciousness of the Church shall
be expressed, but the emotions aroused by the action of sacred ideas upon
different temperaments and divergent artistic methods. There is no sign
that this principle of individual liberty will be renounced.
Nevertheless, the increasing deference that is paid to authority, the
growing study of the works and ideals of the past which is so apparent in
the culture of the present day, will here and there issue in partial
reactions. The mind of the present, having seen the successful working
out of certain modern problems and the barrenness of others, is turning
eclectic. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of musical
culture, both religious and secular. We see that in many influential
circles the question becomes more and more insistent, what is truth and
appropriateness?—whereas formerly the demand was for novelty and
“effect.” Under this better inspiration many beautiful works are produced
which are marked by dignity, moderation, and an almost austere reserve,
drawing a sharp distinction between the proper ecclesiastical tone and
that suited to concert and dramatic music, restoring once more the idea
of impersonality, expressing in song the conception of the fathers that
the Church is a refuge, a retreat from the tempests of the world, a place
of penitence and restoration to confidence in the near presence of
heaven.

Such masses as the Missa Solemnis of Beethoven, the D minor of Cherubini,
the Messe Solennelle of Rossini, the St. Cecilia of Gounod, the Requiems
of Berlioz and Verdi, sublime and unspeakably beautiful as they are from
the broadly human standpoint, are yet in a certain sense sceptical. They
reveal a mood of agitation which is not that intended by the
ministrations of the Church in her organized acts of worship. And yet
such works will continue to be produced, and the Church will accept them,
in grateful recognition of the sincere homage which their creation
implies. It is of the nature of the highest artistic genius that it
cannot restrain its own fierce impulses out of conformity to a type or
external tradition. It will express its own individual emotion or it will
become paralyzed and mute. The religious compositions that will humbly
yield to a strict liturgic standard in form and expression will be those
of writers of the third or fourth grade, just as the church hymns have
been, with few exceptions, the production, not of the great poets, but of
men of lesser artistic endowment, and who were primarily churchmen, and
poets only by second intention. This will doubtless be the law for all
time. The Michael Angelos, the Dantes, the Beethovens will forever break
over rules, even though they be the rules of a beloved mother Church.

The time is past, however, when we may fear any degeneracy like to that
which overtook church music one hundred or more years ago. The principles
of such consecrated church musicians as Witt, Tinel, and the leaders of
the St. Cecilia Society and the Paris Schola Cantorum, the influence of
the will of the Church implied in all her admonitions on the subject of
liturgic song, the growing interest in the study of the masters of the
past, and, more than all, the growth of sound views of art as a detail of
the higher and the popular education, must inevitably promote an
increasing conviction among clergy, choir leaders, and people of the
importance of purity and appropriateness in the music of the Church. The
need of reform in many of the Catholic churches of this and other
countries is known to every one. Doubtless one cause of the frequent
indifference, of priests to the condition of the choir music in their
churches is the knowledge that the chorus and organ are after all but
accessories; that the Church possesses in the Gregorian chant a form of
song that is the legal, universal, and unchangeable foundation of the
musical ceremony, and that any corruption in the gallery music can never
by any possibility extend to the heart of the system. The Church is
indeed fortunate in the possession of this altar song, the unifying chain
which can never be loosened. All the more reason, therefore, why this
consciousness of unity should pervade all portions of the ceremony, and
the spirit of the liturgic chant should blend even with the large freedom
of modern musical experiment.



                              CHAPTER VII
                    THE RISE OF THE LUTHERAN HYMNODY


The music of the Protestant Church of Germany, while adopting many
features from its great antagonist, presents certain points of contrast
which are of the highest importance not only in the subsequent history of
ecclesiastical song, but also as significant of certain national traits
which were conspicuous among the causes of the schism of the sixteenth
century. The musical system of the Catholic Church proceeded from the
Gregorian chant, which is strictly a detail of the sacerdotal office. The
Lutheran music, on the contrary, is primarily based on the congregational
hymn. The one is clerical, the other laic; the one official, prescribed,
liturgic, unalterable, the other free, spontaneous, and democratic. In
these two forms and ideals we find reflected the same conceptions which
especially characterize the doctrine, worship, and government of these
oppugnant confessions.

The Catholic Church, as we have seen, was consistent in withdrawing the
office of song from the laity and assigning it to a separate company who
were at first taken from the minor clergy, and who even in later periods
were conceived as exercising a semi-clerical function. Congregational
singing, although not officially and without exception discountenanced by
the Catholic Church, has never been encouraged, and song, like prayer, is
looked upon as essentially a liturgic office.

In the Protestant Church the barrier of an intermediary priesthood
between the believer and his God is broken down. The entire membership of
the Christian body is recognized as a universal priesthood, with access
to the Father through one mediator, Jesus Christ. This conception
restores the offices of worship to the body of believers, and they in
turn delegate their administration to certain officials, who, together
with certain independent privileges attached to the office, share with
the laity in the determination of matters of faith and polity.

It was a perfectly natural result of this principle that congregational
song should hold a place in the Protestant cultus which the Catholic
Church has never sanctioned. The one has promoted and tenaciously
maintained it; the other as consistently repressed it,—not on aesthetic
grounds, nor primarily on grounds of devotional effect, but really
through a more or less distinct perception of its significance in respect
to the theoretical relationship of the individual to the Church. The
struggles over popular song in public worship which appear throughout the
early history of Protestantism are thus to be explained. The emancipated
layman found in the general hymn a symbol as well as an agent of the
assertion of his new rights and privileges in the Gospel. The people’s
song of early Protestantism has therefore a militant ring. It marks its
epoch no less significantly than Luther’s ninety-five theses and the
Augsburg Confession. It was a sort of spiritual _Triumphlied_,
proclaiming to the universe that the day of spiritual emancipation had
dawned.

The second radical distinction between the music of the Protestant Church
and that of the Catholic is that the vernacular language takes the place
of the Latin. The natural desire of a people is that they may worship in
their native idiom; and since the secession from the ancient Church
inevitably resulted in the formation of national or independent churches,
the necessities which maintained in the Catholic Church a common liturgic
language no longer obtained, and the people fell back upon their national
speech.

Among the historic groups of hymns that have appeared since Clement of
Alexandria and Ephraëm the Syrian set in motion the tide of Christian
song, the Lutheran hymnody has the greatest interest to the student of
church history. In sheer literary excellence it is undoubtedly surpassed
by the Latin hymns of the mediaeval Church and the English-American
group; in musical merit it no more than equals these; but in historic
importance the Lutheran song takes the foremost place. The Latin and the
English hymns belong only to the history of poetry and of inward
spiritual experience; the Lutheran have a place in the annals of politics
and doctrinal strifes as well. German Protestant hymnody dates from
Martin Luther; his lyrics were the models of the hymns of the reformed
Church in Germany for a century or more. The principle that lay at the
basis of his movement gave them their characteristic tone; they were
among the most efficient agencies in carrying this principle to the mind
of the common people, and they also contributed powerfully to the
enthusiasm which enabled the new faith to maintain itself in the
conflicts by which it was tested. The melodies to which the hymns of
Luther and his followers were set became the foundation of a musical
style which is the one school worthy to be placed beside the Italian
Catholic music of the sixteenth century. This hymnody and its music
afforded the first adequate outlet for the poetic and musical genius of
the German people, and established the pregnant democratic traditions of
German art as against the aristocratic traditions of Italy and France. As
we cannot overestimate the spiritual and intellectual force which entered
the European arena with Luther and his disciples, so we must also
recognize the analogous elements which asserted themselves at the same
moment and under the same inspiration in the field of art expression, and
gave to this movement a language which helps us in a peculiar way to
understand its real import.

The first questions which present themselves in tracing the historic
connections of the early Lutheran hymnody are: What was its origin? Had
it models, and if so, what and where were they? In giving a store of
congregational songs to the German people was Luther original, or only an
imitator? In this department of his work does he deserve the honor which
Protestants have awarded him?

Protestant writers have, as a rule, bestowed unstinted praise upon Luther
as the man who first gave the people a voice with which to utter their
religious emotions in song. Most of these writers are undoubtedly aware
that a national poesy is never the creation of a single man, and that a
brilliant epoch of national literature or art must always be preceded by
a period of experiment and fermentation; yet they are disposed to make
little account of the existence of a popular religious song in Germany
before the Reformation, and represent Luther almost as performing the
miracle of making the dumb to speak. Even those who recognize the fact of
a preëxisting school of hymnody usually seek to give the impression that
pure evangelical religion was almost, if not quite, unknown in the
popular religious poetry of the centuries before the Reformation, and
that the Lutheran hymnody was composed of altogether novel elements. They
also ascribe to Luther creative work in music as well as in poetry.
Catholic writers, on the other hand, will allow Luther no originality
whatever; they find, or pretend to find, every essential feature of his
work in the Catholic hymns and tunes of the previous centuries, or in
those of the Bohemian sectaries. They admit the great influence of
Luther’s hymns in disseminating the new doctrines, but give him credit
only for cleverness in dressing up his borrowed ideas and forms in a
taking popular guise. As is usually the case in controversy, the truth
lies between the two extremes. Luther’s originality has been overrated by
Protestants, and the true nature of the germinal force which he imparted
to German congregational song has been misconceived by Catholics. It was
not new forms, but a new spirit, which Luther gave to his Church. He did
not break with the past, but found in the past a new standing-ground. He
sought truth in the Scriptures, in the writings of the fathers and the
mediaeval theologians; he rejected what he deemed false or barren in the
mother Church, adopted and developed what was true and fruitful, and
moulded it into forms whose style was already familiar to the people. In
poetry, music, and the several details of church worship Luther recast
the old models, and gave them to his followers with contents purified and
adapted to those needs which he himself had made them to realize. He
understood the character of his people; he knew where to find the
nourishment suited to their wants; he knew how to turn their enthusiasms
into practical and progressive directions. This was Luther’s achievement
in the sphere of church art, and if, in recognizing the precise nature of
his work, we seem to question his reputation for creative genius, we do
him better justice by honoring his practical wisdom.

The singing of religious songs by the common people in their own language
in connection with public worship did not begin in Germany with the
Reformation. The German popular song is of ancient date, and the
religious lyric always had a prominent place in it. The Teutonic tribes
before their conversion to Christianity had a large store of hymns to
their deities, and afterward their musical fervor turned itself no less
ardently to the service of their new allegiance. Wackernagel, in the
second volume of his monumental collection of German hymns from the
earliest time to the beginning of the seventeenth century, includes
fourteen hundred and forty-eight religious lyrics in the German tongue
composed between the year 868 and 1518.[68] This collection, he says, is
as complete as possible, but we must suppose that a very large number
written before the invention of printing have been lost. About half the
hymns in this volume are of unknown authorship. Among the writers whose
names are given we find such notable poets as Walther von der Vogelweide,
Gottfried von Strassburg, Hartmann von Aue, Frauenlob, Reinmar der
Zweter, Kunrad der Marner, Heinrich von Loufenberg, Michel Behem, and
Hans Sachs, besides famous churchmen like Eckart and Tauler, who are not
otherwise known as poets. A great number of these poems are hymns only in
a qualified sense, having been written, not for public use, but for
private satisfaction; but many others are true hymns, and have often
resounded from the mouths of the people in social religious functions.

Down to the tenth century the only practice among the Germans that could
be called a popular church song was the ejaculation of the words _Kyrie
eleison, Christe eleison_. These phrases, which are among the most
ancient in the Mass and the litanies, and which came originally from the
Eastern Church, were sung or shouted by the German Christians on all
possible occasions. In processions, on pilgrimages, at burials, greeting
of distinguished visitors, consecration of a church or prelate, in many
subordinate liturgic offices, invocations of supernatural aid in times of
distress, on the march, going into battle,—in almost every social action
in which religious sanctions were involved the people were in duty bound
to utter this phrase, often several hundred times in succession. The
words were often abbreviated into _Kyrieles, Kyrie eleis, Kyrielle,
Kerleis_, and _Kles_, and sometimes became mere inarticulate cries.

When the phrase was formally sung, the Gregorian tones proper to it in
the church service were employed. Some of these were florid successions
of notes, many to a syllable, as in the Alleluia from which the Sequences
sprung,—a free, impassioned form of emotional utterance which had
extensive use in the service of the earlier Church, both East and West,
and which is still employed, sometimes to extravagant length, in the
Orient. The custom at last arose of setting words to these exuberant
strains. This usage took two forms, giving rise in the ritual service to
the “farced Kyries” or Tropes, and in the freer song of the people
producing a more regular kind of hymn, in which the _Kyrie eleison_
became at last a mere refrain at the end of each stanza. These songs came
to be called _Kirleisen_, or _Leisen_, and sometimes _Leiche_, and they
exhibit the German congregational hymn in its first estate.

Religious songs multiplied in the centuries following the tenth almost by
geometrical progression. The tide reached a high mark in the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries under that extraordinary intellectual awakening
which distinguished the epoch of the Crusades, the Stauffen emperors, the
Minnesingers, and the court epic poets. Under the stimulus of the ideals
of chivalric honor and knightly devotion to woman, the adoration of the
Virgin Mother, long cherished in the bosom of the Church, burst forth in
a multitude of ecstatic lyrics in her praise. Poetic and musical
inspiration was communicated by the courtly poets to the clergy and
common people, and the love of singing at religious observances grew
apace. Certain heretics, who made much stir in this period, also wrote
hymns and put them into the mouths of the populace, thus following the
early example of the Arians and the disciples of Bardasanes. To resist
this perversion of the divine art, orthodox songs were composed, and, as
in the Reformation days, schismatics and Romanists vied with each other
in wielding this powerful proselyting agent.

Mystics of the fourteenth century—Eckart, Tauler, and others—wrote hymns
of a new tone, an inward spiritual quality, less objective, more
individual, voicing a yearning for an immediate union of the soul with
God, and the joy of personal love to the Redeemer. Poetry of this nature
especially appealed to the religious sisters, and from many a convent
came echoes of these chastened raptures, in which are heard accents of
longing for the comforting presence of the Heavenly Bridegroom.

Those half-insane fanatics, the Flagellants, and other enthusiasts of the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, also contributed to the store of
pre-Reformation hymnody. Hoffmann von Fallersleben has given a vivid
account of the barbaric doings of these bands of self-tormentors, and it
is evident that their singing was not the least uncanny feature of their
performances.[69]

In the fourteenth century appeared the device which played so large a
part in the production of the Reformation hymns—that of adapting secular
tunes to religious poems, and also making religious paraphrases of
secular ditties. Praises of love, of out-door sport, even of wine, by a
few simple alterations were made to express devotional sentiments. A good
illustration of this practice is the recasting of the favorite folk-song,
“Den liepsten Bulen den ich han,” into “Den liepsten Herren den ich han.”
Much more common, however, was the transfer of melodies from profane
poems to religious, a method which afterward became an important reliance
for supplying the reformed congregations with hymn-tunes.

Mixed songs, part Latin and part German, were at one time much in vogue.
A celebrated example is the


    “In dulce jubilo
    Nu singet und seyt fro”


of the fourteenth century, which has often been heard in the reformed
churches down to a recent period.

In the fifteenth century the popular religious song flourished with an
affluence hardly surpassed even in the first two centuries of
Protestantism. Still under the control of the Catholic doctrine and
discipline, it nevertheless betokens a certain restlessness of mind; the
native individualism of the German spirit is preparing to assert itself.
The fifteenth was a century of stir and inquiry, full of premonitions of
the upheaval soon to follow. The Revival of Learning began to shake
Germany, as well as Southern and Western Europe, out of its superstition
and intellectual subjection. The religious and political movements in
Bohemia and Moravia, set in motion by the preaching and martyrdom of Hus,
produced strong effect in Germany. Hus struck at some of the same abuses
that aroused the wrath of Luther, notably the traffic in indulgences. The
demand for the use of the vernacular in church worship was even more
fundamental than the similar desire in Germany, and preceded rather than
followed the movement toward reform. Hus was also a prototype of Luther
in that he was virtually the founder of the Bohemian hymnody. He wrote
hymns both in Latin and in Czech, and earnestly encouraged the use of
vernacular songs by the people. The Utraquists published a song-book in
the Czech language in 1501, and the Unitas Fratrum one, containing four
hundred hymns, in 1505. These two antedated the first Lutheran hymn-book
by about twenty years. The Bohemian reformers, like Luther after them,
based their poetry upon the psalms, the ancient Latin hymns, and the old
vernacular religious songs; they improved existing texts, and set new
hymns in place of those that contained objectionable doctrinal features.
Their tunes also were derived, like those of the German reformers, from
older religious and secular melodies.

These achievements of the Bohemians, answering popular needs that exist
at all times, could not remain without influence upon the Germans.
Encouragement to religious expression in the vernacular was also exerted
by certain religious communities known as Brethren of the Common Life,
which originated in Holland in the latter part of the fourteenth century,
and extended into North and Middle Germany in the fifteenth. Thomas à
Kempis was a member of this order. The purpose of these Brethren was to
inculcate a purer religious life among the people, especially the young;
and they made it a ground principle that the national language should be
used so far as possible in prayer and song. Particularly effective in the
culture of sacred poetry and music among the artisan class were the
schools of the Mastersingers, which flourished all over Germany in the
fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries.

Standing upon the threshold of the Reformation, and looking back over the
period that elapsed since the pagan myths and heroic lays of the North
began to yield to the metrical gospel narrative of the “Heliand” and the
poems of Otfried, we can trace the same union of pious desire and poetic
instinct which, in a more enlightened age, produced the one hundred
thousand evangelical hymns of Germany. The pre-Reformation hymns are of
the highest importance as casting light upon the condition of religious
belief among the German laity. We find in them a great variety of
elements,—much that is pure, noble, and strictly evangelical, mixed with
crudity, superstition, and crass realism. In the nature of the case they
do not, on the whole, rise to the poetic and spiritual level of the
contemporary Latin hymns of the Church. There is nothing in them
comparable with the Dies Irae, the Stabat Mater, the Hora Novissima, the
Veni Sancte Spiritus, the Ad Perennis Vitae Fontem, the Passion Hymns of
St. Bernard, or scores that might be named which make up the golden
chaplet of Latin religious verse from Hilary to Xavier. The latter is the
poetry of the cloister, the work of men separated from the world, upon
whom asceticism and scholastic philosophizing had worked to refine and
subtilize their conceptions. It is the poetry, not of laymen, but of
priests and monks, the special and peculiar utterance of a sacerdotal
class, wrapt in intercessory functions, straining ever for glimpses of
the Beatific Vision, whose one absorbing effort was to emancipate the
soul from time and discipline it for eternity. It is poetry of and for
the temple, the sacramental mysteries, the hours of prayer, for seasons
of solitary meditation; it blends with the dim light sifted through
stained cathedral windows, with incense, with majestic music. The simple
layman was not at home in such an atmosphere as this, and the Latin hymn
was not a familiar expression of his thought. His mental training was of
a coarser, more commonplace order. He must particularize, his religious
feeling must lay hold of something more tangible, something that could
serve his childish views of things, and enter into some practical
relation with the needs of his ordinary mechanical existence.

The religious folk-song, therefore, shows many traits similar to those
found in the secular folk-song, and we can easily perceive the influence
of one upon the other. In both we can see how receptive the common people
were to anything that savored of the marvellous, and how their minds
dwelt more upon the external wonder than upon the lesson that it brings.
The connection of these poems with the ecclesiastical dramas, which form
such a remarkable chapter in the history of religious instruction in the
Middle Age, is also apparent, and scores of them are simply narratives of
the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, told
over and over in almost identical language. These German hymns show in
what manner the dogmas and usages of the Church took root in the popular
heart, and affected the spirit of the time. In all other mediaeval
literature we have the testimony of the higher class of minds, the men of
education, who were saved by their reflective intelligence from falling
into the grosser superstitions, or at least from dwelling in them. But in
the folk poetry the great middle class throws back the ideas imposed by
its religious teachers, tinged by its own crude mental operations. The
result is that we have in these poems the doctrinal perversions and the
mythology of the Middle Age set forth in their baldest form. Beliefs that
are the farthest removed from the teaching of the Scriptures, are carried
to lengths which the Catholic Church has never authoritatively
sanctioned, but which are natural consequences of the action of her
dogmas upon untrained, superstitious minds. There are hymns which teach
the preëxistence of Mary with God before the creation; that in and
through her all things were created. Others, not content with the church
doctrine of her intercessory office in heaven, represent her as
commanding and controlling her Son, and even as forgiving sins in her own
right. Hagiolatry, also, is carried to its most dubious extremity. Power
is ascribed to the saints to save from the pains of hell. In one hymn
they are implored to intercede with God for the sinner, because, the
writer says, God will not deny their prayer. It is curious to see in some
of these poems that the attributes of love and compassion, which have
been removed from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the Virgin
Mother, are again transferred to St. Ann, who is implored to intercede
with her daughter in behalf of the suppliant.

All this, and much more of a similar sort, the product of vulgar error
and distorted thinking, cannot be gainsaid. But let us, with equal
candor, acknowledge that there is a bright side to this subject.
Corruption and falsehood are not altogether typical of the German
religious poetry of the Middle Age. Many Protestant writers represent the
mediaeval German hymns as chiefly given over to mariolatry and much
debasing superstition, and as therefore indicative of the religious state
of the nation. This, however, is very far from being the case, as a
candid examination of such a collection as Wackernagel’s will show. Take
out everything that a severe Protestant would reject, and there remains a
large body of poetry which flows from the pure, undefiled springs of
Christian faith, which from the evangelical standpoint is true and
edifying, gems of expression not to be matched by the poetry of Luther
and his friends in simplicity and refinement of language. Ideas common to
the hymnody of all ages are to be found there. One comes to mind in which
there is carried out in the most touching way the thought of John Newton
in his most famous hymn, where in vision the look of the crucified Christ
seems to charge the arrested sinner with his death. Another lovely poem
expresses the shrinking of the disciple in consciousness of mortal
frailty when summoned by Christ to take up the cross, and the comfort
that he receives from the Saviour’s assurance of his own sufficient
grace. A celebrated hymn by Tauler describes a ship sent from heaven by
the Father, containing Jesus, who comes as our Redeemer, and who asks
personal devotion to himself and a willingness to live and die with and
for him. Others set forth the atoning work of Christ’s death, without
mention of any other condition of salvation. Others implore the direct
guidance and protection of Christ, as in the exquisite cradle hymn of
Heinrich von Loufenberg, which is not surpassed in tenderness and beauty
by anything in Keble’s _Lyra Innocentium_, or the child verses of Blake.

This mass of hymns covers a wide range of topics: God in his various
attributes, including mercy and a desire to pardon,—a conception which
many suppose to have been absent from the thought of the Middle Age; the
Trinity; Christ in the various scenes of his life, and as head of the
Church; admonitions, confessions, translations of psalms, poems to be
sung on pilgrimages, funeral songs, political songs, and many more which
touch upon true relations between man and the divine. There is a
wonderful pathos in this great body of national poetry, for it makes us
see the dim but honest striving of the heart of the noble German people
after that which is sure and eternal, and which could offer assurance of
compensation amid the doubt and turmoil of that age of strife and
tyranny. The true and the false in this poetry were alike the outcome of
the conditions of the time and the authoritative religious teaching. The
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in spite of the abuses which made the
Reformation necessary, contained many saintly lives, beneficent
institutions, much philanthropy, and inspired love of God. All these have
their witness in many products of that era, and we need look no further
than the mediaeval religious poetry to find elements which show that on
the spiritual side the Reformation was not strictly a moral revolution,
restoring a lost religious feeling, but rather an intellectual process,
establishing a hereditary piety upon reasonable and Scriptural
foundations.

We see, therefore, how far Luther was from being the founder of German
hymnody. In trying to discover what his great service to religious song
really was, we must go on to the next question that is involved, and ask,
What was the status and employment of the folk-hymn before the
Reformation? Was it in a true sense a _church_ song? Had it a recognized
place in the public service? Was it at all liturgic, as the Lutheran hymn
certainly was? This brings us to a definitive distinction between the two
schools of hymnody.

The attitude of the Catholic Church to congregational singing has often
been discussed, and is at present the object of a great deal of
misconception. The fact of the matter is, that she ostensibly encourages
the people to share in some of the subordinate Latin offices, but the
very spirit of the liturgy and the development of musical practice have
in course of time, with now and then an exception, reduced the
congregation to silence. Before the invention of harmony all church music
had more of the quality of popular music, and the priesthood encouraged
the worshipers to join their voices in those parts of the service which
were not confined by the rubrics to the ministers. But the Gregorian
chant was never really adopted by the people,—its practical difficulties,
and especially the inflexible insistence upon the use of Latin in all the
offices of worship, virtually confined it to the priests and a small body
of trained singers. The very conception and spirit of the liturgy, also,
has by a law of historic development gradually excluded the people from
active participation. Whatever may have been the thought of the fathers
of the liturgy, the eucharistic service has come to be simply the vehicle
of a sacrifice offered by and through the priesthood for the people, not
a tribute of praise and supplication emanating from the congregation
itself. The attitude of the worshiper is one of obedient faith, both in
the supernatural efficacy of the sacrifice and the mediating authority of
the celebrant. The liturgy is inseparably bound up with the central act
of consecration and oblation, and is conceived as itself possessing a
divine sanction. The liturgy is not in any sense the creation of the
people, but comes down to them from a higher source, the gradual
production of men believed to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and
is accepted by the laity as a divinely authorized means in the
accomplishment of the supreme sacerdotal function. The sacrifice of the
Mass is performed for the people, but not through the people, nor even
necessarily in their presence. And so it has come to pass that, although
the Catholic Church has never officially recognized the existence of the
modern mixed choir, and does not in its rubrics authorize any manner of
singing except the unison Gregorian chant, nevertheless, by reason of the
expansion and specialization of musical art, and the increasing
veneration of the liturgy as the very channel of descending sacramental
grace, the people are reduced to a position of passive receptivity.

As regards the singing of hymns in the national languages, the conditions
are somewhat different. The laws of the Catholic Church forbid the
vernacular in any part of the eucharistic service, but permit vernacular
hymns in certain subordinate offices, as, for instance, Vespers. But even
in these services the restrictions are more emphasized than the
permissions. Here also the tacit recognition of a separation of function
between the clergy and the laity still persists; there can never be a
really sympathetic coöperation between the church language and the
vernacular; there is a constant attitude of suspicion on the part of the
authorities, lest the people’s hymn should afford a rift for the subtle
intrusion of heretical or unchurchly ideas.

The whole spirit and implied theory of the Catholic Church is therefore
unfavorable to popular hymnody. This was especially the case in the
latter Middle Age. The people could put no heart into the singing of
Latin. The priests and monks, especially in such convent schools as St.
Gall, Fulda, Metz, and Reichenau, made heroic efforts to drill their
rough disciples in the Gregorian chant, but their attempts were
ludicrously futile. Vernacular hymns were simply tolerated on certain
prescribed occasions. In the century or more following the Reformation,
the Catholic musicians and clergy, taught by the astonishing popular
success of the Lutheran songs, tried to inaugurate a similar movement in
their own ranks, and the publication and use of Catholic German
hymn-books attained large dimensions; but this enthusiasm finally died
out. Both in mediaeval and in modern times there has practically remained
a chasm between the musical practice of the common people and that of the
Church, and in spite of isolated attempts to encourage popular hymnody,
the restrictions have always had a depressing effect, and the free,
hearty union of clergy and congregation in choral praise and prayer is
virtually unknown.

The new conceptions of the relationship of man to God, which so altered
the fundamental principle and the external forms of worship under the
Lutheran movement, manifested themselves most strikingly in the mighty
impetus given to congregational song. Luther set the national impulse
free, and taught the people that in singing praise they were performing a
service that was well pleasing to God and a necessary part of public
communion with him. It was not simply that Luther charged the popular
hymnody with the energy of his world-transforming doctrine,—he also gave
it a dignity which it had never possessed before, certainly not since the
apostolic age, as a part of the official liturgic song of the Church.
Both these facts gave the folk-hymn its wonderful proselyting power in
the sixteenth century,—the latter gives it its importance in the history
of church music.

Luther’s work for the people’s song was in substance a detail of his
liturgic reform. His knowledge of human nature taught him the value of
set forms and ceremonies, and his appreciation of what was universally
true and edifying in the liturgy of the mother Church led him to retain
many of her prayers, hymns, responses, etc., along with new provisions of
his own. But in his view the service is constituted through the activity
of the believing subject; the forms and expressions of worship are not in
themselves indispensable—the one thing necessary is faith, and the forms
of worship have their value simply in defining, inculcating, stimulating
and directing this faith, and enforcing the proper attitude of the soul
toward God in the public social act of devotion. The congregational song
both symbolized and realized the principle of direct access of the
believer to the Father, and thus exemplified in itself alone the whole
spirit of the worship of the new Church. That this act of worship should
be in the native language of the nation was a matter of course, and hence
the popular hymn, set to familiar and appropriate melody, became at once
the characteristic, official, and liturgic expression of the emotion of
the people in direct communion with God.

The immense consequence of this principle was seen in the outburst of
song that followed the founding of the new Church by Luther at
Wittenberg. It was not that the nation was electrified by a poetic
genius, or by any new form of musical excitement; it was simply that the
old restraints upon self-expression were removed, and that the people
could celebrate their new-found freedom in Christ Jesus by means of the
most intense agency known to man, which they had been prepared by
inherited musical temperament and ancient habit to use to the full. No
wonder that they received this privilege with thanksgiving, and that the
land resounded with the lyrics of faith and hope.

Luther felt his mission to be that of a purifier, not a destroyer. He
would repudiate, not the good and evil alike in the ancient Church, but
only that which he considered false and pernicious. This judicious
conservatism was strikingly shown in his attitude toward the liturgy and
form of worship, which he would alter only so far as was necessary in
view of changes in doctrine and in the whole relation of the Church as a
body toward the individual. The altered conception of the nature of the
eucharist, the abolition of homage to the Virgin and saints, the
prominence given to the sermon as the central feature of the service, the
substitution of the vernacular for Latin, the intimate participation of
the congregation in the service by means of hymn-singing,—all these
changes required a recasting of the order of worship; but everything in
the old ritual that was consistent with these changes was retained.
Luther, like the founders of the reformed Church of England, was
profoundly conscious of the truth and beauty of many of the prayers and
hymns of the mother Church. Especially was he attached to her music, and
would preserve the compositions of the learned masters alongside of the
revived congregational hymn.

As regards the form and manner of service, Luther’s improvements were
directed (1) to the revision of the liturgy, (2) the introduction of new
hymns, and (3) the arrangement of suitable melodies for congregational
use. Luther’s program of liturgic reform is chiefly embodied in two
orders of worship drawn up for the churches of Wittenberg, _viz._, the
Formula Missae of 1523 and the Deutsche Messe of 1526.

Luther rejected absolutely the Catholic conception of the act of worship
as in itself possessed of objective efficacy. The terms of salvation are
found only in the Gospel; the worship acceptable to God exists only in
the contrite attitude of the heart, and the acceptance through faith of
the plan of redemption as provided in the vicarious atonement of Christ.
The external act of worship in prayer, praise, Scripture recitation,
etc., is designed as a testimony of faith, an evidence of thankfulness to
God for his infinite grace, and as a means of edification and of kindling
the devotional spirit through the reactive influence of its audible
expression. The correct performance of a ceremony was to Luther of little
account; the essential was the prayerful disposition of the heart and the
devout acceptance of the word of Scripture. The substance of worship,
said Luther, is “that our dear Lord speaks with us through his Holy Word,
and we in return speak with him through prayer and song of praise.” The
sermon is of the greatest importance as an ally of the reading of the
Word. The office of worship must be viewed as a means of instruction as
well as a rite contrived as the promoter and expression of religious
emotion; the believer is in no wise to be considered as having attained
to complete ripeness and maturity, since if it were so religious worship
would be unnecessary. Such a goal is not to be attained on earth. The
Christian, said Luther, “needs baptism, the Word, and the sacrament, not
as a perfected Christian, but as a sinner.”

The Formula Missae of 1523 was only a provisional office, and may be
called an expurgated edition of the Catholic Mass. It is in Latin, and
follows the order of the Roman liturgy with certain omissions, _viz._,
all the preliminary action at the altar as far as the Introit, the
Offertory, the Oblation and accompanying prayers as far as the Preface,
the Consecration, the Commemoration of the Dead, and everything following
the Agnus Dei except the prayer of thanksgiving and benediction. That is
to say, everything is removed which characterizes the Mass as a priestly,
sacrificial act, or which recognizes the intercessory office of the
saints. The musical factors correspond to the usage in the Catholic Mass;
Luther’s hymns with accompanying melodies were not yet prepared, and no
trace of the Protestant choral appears in the Formula Missae.

Although this order of 1523 was conceived only as a partial or temporary
expedient, it was by no means set entirely aside by its author, even
after the composition of a form more adapted to the needs of the people.
In the preface to the Deutsche Messe of 1526, Luther cites the Latin
Formula Missae as possessing a special value. “This I will not abandon or
have altered; but as we have kept it with us heretofore, so must we still
be free to use the same where and when it pleases us or occasion
requires. I will by no means permit the Latin speech to be dropped out of
divine worship, since it is important for the youth. And if I were able,
and the Greek and Hebrew languages were as common with us as the Latin,
and had as much music and song as the Latin has, we should hold Masses,
sing and read every Sunday in all four languages, German, Latin, Greek,
and Hebrew.” It is important, he goes on to say, that the youth should be
familiar with more languages than their own, in order that they may be
able to give instruction in the true doctrine to those not of their own
nation, Latin especially approving itself for this purpose as the common
dialect of cultivated men.

The Deutsche Messe of 1526, Luther explains, was drawn up for the use of
the mass of the people, who needed a medium of worship and instruction
which was already familiar and native to them. This form is a still
further simplification, as compared with the Formula Missae, and consists
almost entirely of offices in the German tongue. Congregational chorals
also have a prominent place, since the publication of collections of
vernacular religious songs had begun two years before. This liturgy
consists of (1) a people’s hymn or a German psalm, (2) Kyrie eleison, (3)
Collect, (4) the Epistle, (5) congregational hymn, (6) the Gospel, (7)
the German paraphrase of the Creed, “Wie glauben all’ an einen Gott,”
sung by the people; next follows the sermon; (8) the Lord’s Prayer and
exhortation preliminary to the Sacrament, (9) the words of institution
and elevation, (10) distribution of the bread, (11) singing of the German
Sanctus or the hymn “Jesus Christus unser Heiland,” (12) distribution of
the wine, (13) Agnus Dei, a German hymn, or the German Sanctus, (14)
Collect of thanksgiving, (15) Benediction.

It was far from Luther’s purpose to impose these or any particular forms
of worship upon his followers through a personal assumption of authority.
He reiterates, in his preface to the Deutsche Messe, that he has no
thought of assuming any right of dictation in the matter, emphasizing his
desire that the churches should enjoy entire freedom in their forms and
manner of worship. At the same time he realizes the benefits of
uniformity as creating a sense of unity and solidarity in faith,
practice, and interests among the various districts, cities, and
congregations, and offers these two forms as in his opinion conservative
and efficient. He warns his people against the injury that may result
from the multiplication of liturgies at the instigation of indiscreet or
vain leaders, who have in view the perpetuation of certain notions of
their own, rather than the honor of God and the spiritual welfare of
their neighbors.

In connection with this work of reconstructing the ancient liturgy for
use in the Wittenberg churches, Luther turned his attention to the need
of suitable hymns and tunes. He took up this work not only out of his
love of song, but also from necessity. He wrote to Nicholas Haussmann,
pastor at Zwickau: “I would that we had many German songs which the
people could sing during the Mass. But we lack German poets and
musicians, or they are unknown to us, who are able to make Christian and
spiritual songs, as Paul calls them, which are of such value that they
can be used daily in the house of God. One can find but few that have the
appropriate spirit.” The reason for this complaint was short-lived; a
crowd of hymnists sprang up as if by magic, and among them Luther was, as
in all things, chief. His work as a hymn writer began soon after the
completion of his translation of the New Testament, while he was engaged
in translating the psalms. Then, as Koch says, “the spirit of the
psalmists and prophets came over him.” Several allusions in his letters
show that he took the psalms as his model; that is to say, he did not
think of a hymn as designed for the teaching of dogma, but as the
sincere, spontaneous outburst of love and reverence to God for his
goodness.

The first hymn-book of evangelical Germany was published in 1524 by
Luther’s friend and coadjutor, Johann Walther. It contained four hymns by
Luther, three by Paul Speratus, and one by an unknown author. Another
book appeared in the same year containing fourteen more hymns by Luther,
in addition to the eight of the first book. Six more from Luther’s pen
appeared in a song-book edited by Walther in 1525. The remaining hymns of
Luther (twelve in number) were printed in five song-books of different
dates, ending with Klug’s in 1643. Four hymn-books contain prefaces by
Luther, the first written for Walther’s book of 1525, and the last for
one published by Papst in 1545. Luther’s example was contagious. Other
hymn writers at once sprang up, who were filled with Luther’s spirit, and
who took his songs as models. Printing presses were kept busy, song-books
were multiplied, until at the time of Luther’s death no less than sixty
collections, counting the various editions, had been issued. There was
reason for the sneering remark of a Catholic that the people were singing
themselves into the Lutheran doctrine. The principles of worship
promulgated by Luther and implied in his liturgic arrangements were
adopted by all the Protestant communities; whatever variations there
might be in the external forms of worship, in all of them the
congregational hymn held a prominent place, and it is to be noticed that
almost without exception the chief hymn writers of the Lutheran time were
theologians and preachers.

Luther certainly wrote thirty-six hymns. A few others have been ascribed
to him without conclusive evidence. By far the greater part of these
thirty-six are not entirely original. Many of them are translations or
adaptations of psalms, some of which are nearly literal transfers. Other
selections from Scripture were used in a similar way, among which are the
Ten Commandments, the Ter Sanctus, the song of Simeon, and the Lord’s
Prayer. Similar use, _viz._, close translation or free paraphrase, was
made of certain Latin hymns by Ambrose, Gregory, Hus, and others, and
also of certain religious folk-songs of the pre-Reformation period. Five
hymns only are completely original, not drawn in any way from older
compositions. Besides these five many of the transcriptions of psalms and
older hymns owe but little to their models. The chief of these, and the
most celebrated of all Luther’s hymns, “Ein’ feste Burg,” was suggested
by the forty-sixth Psalm, but nothing could be more original in spirit
and phraseology, more completely characteristic of the great reformer.
The beautiful poems, “Aus tiefer Noth” (Ps. cxxx.), and “Ach Gott, vom
Himmel sieh’ darein” (Ps. xii.), are less bold paraphrases, but still
Luther’s own in the sense that their expression is a natural outgrowth of
the more tender and humble side of his nature.

No other poems of their class by any single man have ever exerted so
great an influence, or have received so great admiration, as these few
short lyrics of Martin Luther. And yet at the first reading it is not
easy to understand the reason for their celebrity. As poetry they
disappoint us; there is no artfully modulated diction, no subtle and
far-reaching imagination. Neither do they seem to chime with our
devotional needs; there is a jarring note of fanaticism in them. We even
find expressions that give positive offence, as when he speaks of the
“Lamb roasted in hot love upon the cross.” We say that they are not
universal, that they seem the outcome of a temper that belongs to an
exceptional condition. This is really the fact; here is the clue to their
proper study. They do belong to a time, and not to all time. We must
consider that they are the utterance of a mind engaged in conflict, and
often tormented with doubt of the outcome. They reveal the motive of the
great pivotal figure in modern religious history. More than that—they
have behind them the great impelling force of the Reformation. Perhaps
the world has shown a correct instinct in fixing upon “Ein’ feste Burg”
as the typical hymn of Luther and of the Reformation. Heine, who called
it “the Marseillaise of the Reformation;” Frederick the Great, who called
its melody (not without reverence) “God Almighty’s grenadier march;”
Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, who chose the same tune to symbolize
aggressive Protestantism; and Wagner, who wove its strains into the grand
march which celebrates the military triumphs of united Germany,—all these
men had an accurate feeling for the patriotic and moral fire which burns
in this mighty song. The same spirit is found in other of Luther’s hymns,
but often combined with a tenderer music, in which emphasis is laid more
upon the inward peace that comes from trust in God, than upon the fact of
outward conflict. A still more exalted mood is disclosed in such hymns as
“Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein,” and “Von Himmel hoch da komm
ich her”—the latter a Christmas song said to have been written for his
little son Hans. The first of these is notable for the directness with
which it sets forth the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith
alone. It is in this same directness and homely vigor and adaptation to
the pressing needs of the time that we must find the cause of the popular
success of Luther’s hymns. He knew what the dumb, blindly yearning German
people had been groping for during so many years, and the power of his
sermons and poems lay in the fact that they offered a welcome spiritual
gift in phrases that went straight to the popular heart. His speech was
that of the people—idiomatic, nervous, and penetrating. He had learned
how to talk to them in his early peasant home, and in his study of the
folk-songs. Coarse, almost brutal at times, we may call him, as in his
controversies with Henry VIII., Erasmus, and others; but it was the
coarseness of a rugged nature, of a son of the soil, a man tremendously
in earnest, blending religious zeal with patriotism, never doubting that
the enemies of his faith were confederates of the devil, who was as real
to him as Duke George or Dr. Eck. No English translation can quite do
justice to the homely vigor of his verse. Carlyle has succeeded as well
as possible in his translation of “Ein’ feste Burg,” but even this
masterly achievement does not quite reproduce the jolting abruptness of
the metre, the swing and fire of the movement. The greater number of
Luther’s hymns are set to a less strident pitch, but all alike speak a
language which reveals in every line the ominous spiritual tension of
this historic moment.

In philological history these hymns have a significance equal to that of
Luther’s translation of the Bible, in which scholars agree in finding the
virtual creation of the modern German language. And the elements that
should give new life to the national speech were to be found among the
commonalty. “No one before Luther,” says Bayard Taylor, “saw that the
German tongue must be sought for in the mouths of the people—that the
exhausted expression of the earlier ages could not be revived, but that
the newer, fuller, and richer speech, then in its childhood, must at once
be acknowledged and adopted. With all his scholarship Luther dropped the
theological style, and sought among the people for phrases as artless and
simple as those of the Hebrew writers.” “The influence of Luther on
German literature cannot be explained until we have seen how sound and
vigorous and many-sided was the new spirit which he infused into the
language.”[70] All this will apply to the hymns as well as to the Bible
translation. Here was one great element in the popular effect which these
hymns produced. Their simple, home-bred, domestic form of expression
caught the public ear in an instant. Those who have at all studied the
history of popular eloquence in prose and verse are aware of the
electrical effect that may be produced when ideas of pith and moment are
sent home to the masses in forms of speech that are their own. Luther’s
hymns may not be poetry in the high sense; but they are certainly
eloquence, they are popular oratory in verse, put into the mouths of the
people by one of their own number.

In spite of the fact that these songs were the natural outcome of a
period of spiritual and political conflict, and give evidence of this
fact in almost every instance, yet they are less dogmatic and
controversial than might be expected, for Luther, bitter and intolerant
as he often was, understood the requirements of church song well enough
to know that theological and political polemic should be kept out of it.
Nevertheless these hymns are a powerful witness to the great truths which
were the corner-stone of the doctrines of the reformed church. They
constantly emphasize the principle that salvation comes not through works
or sacraments or any human mediation, but only through the merits of
Christ and faith in his atoning blood. The whole machinery of mariolatry,
hagiolatry, priestly absolution, and personal merit, which had so long
stood between the individual soul and Christ, was broken down. Christ is
no longer a stern, hardly appeasable Judge, but a loving Saviour,
yearning over mankind, stretching out hands of invitation, asking, not a
slavish submission to formal observances, but a free, spontaneous
offering of the heart. This was the message that thrilled Germany. And it
was through the hymns of Luther and those modelled upon them that the new
evangel was most widely and quickly disseminated. The friends as well as
the enemies of the Reformation asserted that the spread of the new
doctrines was due more to Luther’s hymns than to his sermons. The editor
of a German hymn-book published in 1565 says: “I do not doubt that
through that one song of Luther, ‘Nun freut euch, lieben Christen
g’mein,’ many hundred Christians have been brought to the faith who
otherwise would not have heard of Luther.” An indignant Jesuit declared
that “Luther’s songs have damned more souls than all his books and
speeches.” We read marvellous stories of the effect of these hymns; of
Lutheran missionaries entering Catholic churches during service and
drawing away the whole congregation by their singing; of wandering
evangelists standing at street corners and in the market places, singing
to excited crowds, then distributing the hymns upon leaflets so that the
populace might join in the paean, and so winning entire cities to the new
faith almost in a day. This is easily to be believed when we consider
that the progress of events and the drift of ideas for a century and more
had been preparing the German mind for Luther’s message; that as a people
the Germans are extremely susceptible to the enthusiasms that utter
themselves in song; and that these hymns carried the truths for which
their souls had been thirsting, in language of extraordinary force,
clothed in melodies which they had long known and loved.

We lay especial stress upon the hymns of Luther, not simply on account of
their inherent power and historic importance, but also because they are
representative of a school. Luther was one of a group of lyrists which
included bards hardly less trenchant than he. Koch gives the names of
fifty-one writers who endowed the new German hymnody between 1517 and
1560.[71] He finds in them all one common feature,—the ground character
of objectivity. “They are genuine church hymns, in which the common faith
is expressed in its universality, without the subjective feeling of
personality.” “It is always we, not I, which is the prevailing word in
these songs. The poets of this period did not, like those of later times,
paint their own individual emotions with all kinds of figurative
expressions, but, powerfully moved by the truth, they sang the work of
redemption and extolled the faith in the free, undeserved grace of God in
Jesus Christ, or gave thanks for the newly given pure word of God in
strains of joyful victory, and defied their foes in firm, godly trust in
the divinity of the doctrine which was so new and yet so old. Therefore
they speak the truths of salvation, not in dry doctrinal tone and sober
reflection, but in the form of testimony or confession, and although in
some of these songs are contained plain statements of belief, the reason
therefor is simply in the hunger and thirst after the pure doctrine.
Hence the speech of these poets is the Bible speech, and the expression
forcible and simple. It is not art, but faith, which gives these songs
their imperishable value.”

The hymns of Luther and the other early Reformation hymnists of Germany
are not to be classed with sacred lyrics like those of Vaughan and Keble
and Newman which, however beautiful, are not of that universality which
alone adapts a hymn for use in the public assembly. In writing their
songs Luther and his compeers identified themselves with the congregation
of believers; they produced them solely for common praise in the
sanctuary, and they are therefore in the strict sense impersonal,
surcharged not with special isolated experiences, but with the vital
spirit of the Reformation. No other body of hymns was ever produced under
similar conditions; for the Reformation was born and cradled in conflict,
and in these songs, amid their protestations of confidence and joy, there
may often be heard cries of alarm before powerful adversaries, appeals
for help in material as well as spiritual exigencies, and sometimes also
tones of wrath and defiance. Strains such as the latter are most frequent
perhaps in the paraphrases of the psalms, which the authors apply to the
situation of an infant church encompassed with enemies. Yet there is no
sign of doubt of the justice of the cause, or of the safety of the flock
in the divine hands.

Along with the production of hymns must go the composition or arrangement
of tunes, and this was a less direct and simple process. The conditions
and methods of musical art forbade the ready invention of melodies. We
have seen in our previous examination of the music of the mediaeval
Church that the invention of themes for musical works was no part of the
composer’s business. Down to about the year 1600 the scientific musician
always borrowed his themes from older sources—the liturgic chant or
popular songs—and worked them up into choral movements according to the
laws of counterpoint. He was, therefore, a tune-setter, not a tune-maker.
The same custom prevailed among the German musicians of Luther’s day, and
it would have been too much to expect that they should go outside their
strict habits, and violate all the traditions of their craft, so far as
to evolve from their own heads a great number of singable melodies for
the people’s use. The task of Luther and his musical assistants,
therefore, was to take melodies from music of all sorts with which they
were familiar, alter them to fit the metre of the new hymns, and add the
harmonies. In course of time the enormous multiplication of hymns, each
demanding a musical setting, and the requirements of simplicity in
popular song, brought about a union of the functions of the tune-maker
and the tune-setter, and in the latter part of the sixteenth century the
modern method of inventing melodies took the place of the mediaeval
custom of borrowing and adapting, both in the people’s song and in larger
works.

Down to a very recent period it has been universally believed that Luther
was a musician of the latter order _i.e._, a tune-maker, and that the
melodies of many of his hymns were of his own production. Among writers
on this period no statement is more frequently made than that Luther
wrote tunes as well as hymns. This belief is as tenacious as the myth of
the rescue of church music by Palestrina. Dr. L. W. Bacon, in the preface
to his edition of the hymns of Luther with their original melodies,
assumes, as an undisputed fact, that many of these tunes are Luther’s own
invention.[72] Even Julian’s _Dictionary of Hymnology_, which is supposed
to be the embodiment of the most advanced scholarship in this department
of learning, makes similar statements. But this is altogether an error.
Luther composed no tunes. Under the patient investigation of a
half-century, the melodies originally associated with Luther’s hymns have
all been traced to their sources. The tune of “Ein’ feste Burg” was the
last to yield; Bäumker finds the germ of it in a Gregorian melody. Such
proof as this is, of course, decisive and final. The hymn-tunes, called
chorals, which Luther, Walther, and others provided for the reformed
churches, were drawn from three sources, _viz._, the Latin song of the
Catholic Church, the tunes of German hymns before the Reformation, and
the secular folk-song.

1. If Luther was willing to take many of the prayers of the Catholic
liturgy for use in his German Mass, still more ready was he to adopt the
melodies of the ancient Church. In his preface to the Funeral Hymns
(1542), after speaking of the forms of the Catholic Church which in
themselves he did not disapprove, he says: “In the same way have they
much noble music, especially in the abbeys and parish churches, used to
adorn most vile, idolatrous words. Therefore have we undressed these
lifeless, idolatrous, crazy words, stripping off the noble music, and
putting it upon the living and holy word of God, wherewith to sing,
praise, and honor the same, that so the beautiful ornament of music,
brought back to its right use, may serve its blessed Maker, and his
Christian people.” A few of Luther’s hymns were translations of old Latin
hymns and Sequences, and these were set to the original melodies.
Luther’s labor in this field was not confined to the choral, but, like
the founders of the musical service of the Anglican Church, he
established a system of chanting, taking the Roman use as a model, and
transferring many of the Gregorian tunes. Johann, Walther, Luther’s
co-laborer, relates the extreme pains which Luther took in setting notes
to the Epistle, Gospel, and other offices of the service. He intended to
institute a threefold division of church song,—the choir anthem, the
unison chant, and the congregational hymn. Only the first and third forms
have been retained. The use of chants derived from the Catholic service
was continued in some churches as late as the end of the seventeenth
century. But, as Helmore says, “the rage for turning creeds,
commandments, psalms, and everything to be sung, into metre, gradually
banished the chant from Protestant communities on the Continent.”

2. In cases in which pre-Reformation vernacular hymns were adopted into
the song-books of the new Church the original melodies were often
retained, and thus some very ancient German tunes, although in modern
guise, are still preserved the hymn-books of modern Germany. Melodies of
the Bohemian Brethren were in this manner transferred to the German
songbooks.

3. The secular folk-song of the sixteenth century and earlier was a very
prolific source of the German choral. This was after Luther’s day,
however, for it does not appear that any of his tunes were of this class.
Centuries before the age of artistic German music began, the common
people possessed a large store of simple songs which they delighted to
use on festal occasions, at the fireside, at their labor, in love-making,
at weddings, christenings, and in every circumstance of social and
domestic life. Here was a rich mine of simple and expressive melodies
from which choral tunes might be fashioned. In some cases this transfer
involved considerable modification, in others but little, for at that
time there was far less difference between the religious and the secular
musical styles than there is now. The associations of these tunes were
not always of the most edifying kind, and some of them were so identified
with unsanctified ideas that the strictest theologians protested against
them, and some were weeded out. In course of time the old secular
associations were forgotten, and few devout Germans are now reminded that
some of the grand melodies in which faith and hope find such appropriate
utterance are variations of old love songs and drinking songs. There is
nothing exceptional in this borrowing of the world’s tunes for
ecclesiastical uses. We find the same practice among the French, Dutch,
English, and Scotch Calvinists, the English Wesleyans, and the hymn-book
makers of America. This method is often necessary when a young and
vigorously expanding Church must be quickly provided with a store of
songs, but in its nature it is only a temporary recourse.

The choral tunes sung by the congregation were at first not harmonized.
Then, as they began to be set in the strict contrapuntal style of the
day, it became the custom for the people to sing the melody while the
choir sustained the other parts. The melody was at first in the tenor,
according to time-honored usage in artistic music, but as composers found
that they must consider the vocal limitations of a mass of untrained
singers a simpler form of harmony was introduced, and the custom arose of
putting the melody in the upper voice, and the harmony below. This method
prepared the development of a harmony that was more in the nature of
modern chord progressions, and when the choir and congregation severed
their incompatible union, the complex counterpoint in which the age
delighted was allowed free range in the motet, while the harmonized
choral became more simple and compact. The partnership of choir and
congregation was dissolved about 1600, and the organ took the place of
the trained singers in accompanying the unison song of the people.

One who studies the German chorals as they appear in the hymn-books of
the present day (many of which hold honored places in English and
American hymnals) must not suppose that he is acquainted with the
religious tunes of the Reformation in their pristine form. As they are
now sung in the German churches they have been greatly modified in
harmony and rhythm, and even in many instances in melody also. The only
scale and harmonic system then in vogue was the Gregorian. In respect to
rhythm also, the alterations have been equally striking. The present
choral is usually written in notes of equal length, one note to a
syllable. The metre is in most cases double, rarely triple. This manner
of writing gives the choral a singularly grave, solid and stately
character, encouraging likewise a performance that is often dull and
monotonous. There was far more variety and life in the primitive choral,
the movement was more flexible, and the frequent groups of notes to a
single syllable imparted a buoyancy and warmth that are unknown to the
rigid modern form. The transformation of the choral into its present
shape was completed in the eighteenth century, a result, some say, of the
relaxation of spiritual energy in the period of rationalism. A party has
been formed among German churchmen and musicians which labors for the
restoration of the primitive rhythmic choral. Certain congregations have
adopted the reform, but there is as yet no sign that it will ultimately
prevail.

In spite of the mischievous influence ascribed to Luther’s hymns by his
opponents, they could appreciate their value as aids to devotion, and in
return for Luther’s compliment to their hymns they occasionally borrowed
some of his. Strange as it may seem, even “Ein’ feste Burg” was one of
these. Neither were the Catholics slow to imitate the Protestants in
providing, songs for the people, and as in the old strifes of Arians and
orthodox in the East, so Catholics and Lutherans strove to sing each
other down. The Catholics also translated Latin hymns into German, and
transformed secular folk-songs into edifying religious rhymes. The first
German Catholic song—book was published in 1537 by Michael Vehe, a
preaching monk of Halle. This book contained fifty-two hymns, four of
which were alterations of hymns by Luther. It is a rather notable fact
that throughout the sixteenth century eminent musicians of both
confessions contributed to the musical services of their opponents.
Protestants composed masses and motets for the Catholic churches, and
Catholics arranged choral melodies for the Protestants. This friendly
interchange of good offices was heartily encouraged by Luther. Next to
Johann Walther, his most cherished musical friend and helper was Ludwig
Senfl, a devout Catholic. This era of relative peace and good-will, of
which this musical sympathy was a beautiful token, did not long endure.
The Catholic Counter-Reformation cut sharply whatever there might have
been of mutual understanding and tolerance, and the frightful Thirty
Years’ War overwhelmed art and the spirit of humanity together.

The multiplication of hymns and chorals went on throughout the sixteenth
century and into the seventeenth with unabated vigor. A large number of
writers of widely differing degrees of poetic ability contributed to the
hymn-books, which multiplied to prodigious numbers in the generations
next succeeding that of Luther. These songs harmonized in general with
the tone struck by Luther and his friends, setting forth the doctrine of
justification by faith alone, and the joy that springs from the
consciousness of a freer approach to God, mingled, however, with more
sombre accents called forth by the apprehension of the dark clouds in the
political firmament which seemed to bode disaster to the Protestant
cause. The tempest broke in 1618. Again and again during the thirty
years’ struggle the reformed cause seemed on the verge of annihilation.
When the exhaustion of both parties brought the savage conflict to an
end, the enthusiasm of the Reformation was gone. Religious poetry and
music indeed survived, and here and there burned with a pure flame amid
the darkness of an almost primitive barbarism. In times of deepest
distress these two arts often afford the only outlet for grief, and the
only testimony of hope amid national calamities. There were unconquerable
spirits in Germany, notably among the hymnists, cantors, and organists,
who maintained the sacred fire of religious art amid the moral
devastations of the Thirty Years’ War, whose miseries they felt only as a
deepening of their faith in a power that overrules the wrath of man.
Their trust fastened itself unfalteringly upon those assurances of divine
sympathy which had been the inspiration of their cause from the
beginning. This pious confidence, this unabated poetic glow, found in
Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) the most fervent and refined expression that
has been reached in German hymnody.

The production of melodies kept pace with the hymns throughout the
sixteenth century, and in the first half of the seventeenth a large
number of the most beautiful songs of the German Church were contributed
by such men as Andreas Hammerschmidt, Johann Crüger, J. R. Ahle, Johann
Schop, Melchior Frank, Michael Altenburg, and scores of others not less
notable. After the middle of the seventeenth century, however, the
fountain began to show signs of exhaustion. The powerful movement in the
direction of secular music which emanated from Italy began to turn the
minds of composers toward experiments which promised greater artistic
satisfaction than could be found in the plain congregational choral. The
rationalism of the eighteenth century, accompanying a period of doctrinal
strife and lifeless formalism in the Church, repressed those
unquestioning enthusiasms which are the only source of a genuinely
expressive popular hymnody. Pietism, while a more or less effective
protest against cold ceremonialism and theological intolerance, and a
potent influence in substituting a warmer heart service in place of
dogmatic pedantry, failed to contribute any new stimulus to the church
song; for the Pietists either endeavored to discourage church music
altogether, or else imparted to hymn and melody a quality of effeminacy
and sentimentality. False tastes crept into the. Church. The homely vigor
and forthrightness of the Lutheran hymn seemed to the shallow critical
spirits of the day rough, prosaic, and repellant, and they began to
smooth out and polish the old rhymes, and supplant the choral melodies
and harmonies with the prettinesses and languishing graces of the Italian
cantilena. As the sturdy inventive power of conservative church musicians
was no longer available or desired, recourse was had, as in old times, to
secular material, but not as formerly to the song of the people,—honest,
sincere, redolent of the soil,—but rather to the light, artificial
strains of the fashionable world, the modish Italian opera, and the
affected pastoral poesy. It is the old story of the people’s song
declining as the art-song flourishes. As the stern temper of the Lutheran
era grew soft in an age of security and indifference, so the grand old
choral was neglected, and its performance grew perfunctory and cold. An
effort has been made here and there in recent years to restore the old
ideals and practice, but until a revival of spirituality strong enough to
stir the popular heart breaks out in Germany, we may not look for any
worthy successor to the sonorous proselyting song of the Reformation age.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                 RISE OF THE GERMAN CANTATA AND PASSION


The history of German Protestant church music in the seventeenth century
and onward is the record of a transformation not less striking and
significant than that which the music of the Catholic Church experienced
in the same period. In both instances forms of musical art which were
sanctioned by tradition and associated with ancient and rigorous
conceptions of devotional expression were overcome by the superior powers
of a style which was in its origin purely secular. The revolution in the
Protestant church music was, however, less sudden and far less complete.
It is somewhat remarkable that the influences that prevailed in the music
of the Protestant Church—the Church of discontent and change—were on the
whole more cautious and conservative than those that were active in the
music of the Catholic Church. The latter readily gave up the old music
for the sake of the new, and so swiftly readjusted its boundaries that
the ancient landmarks were almost everywhere obliterated. The Protestant
music advanced by careful evolutionary methods, and in the final product
nothing that was valuable in the successive stages through which it
passed was lost. In both cases—Lutheran and Catholic—the motive was the
same. Church music, like secular, demanded a more comprehensive and a
more individual style of expression. The Catholic musicians of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were very clear in their minds as to
what they wanted and how to get it. The brilliant Italian aria was right
at hand in all its glory, and its languishing strains seemed admirably
suited to the appeals which the aggressive Church was about to make to
the heart and the senses. The powers that ruled in German Protestant
worship conceived their aims, consciously or unconsciously, in a somewhat
different spirit. The new musical movement in German church music was
less self-confident, it was uncertain of its final direction, at times
restrained by reverence for the ancient forms and ideals, again wantonly
breaking with tradition and throwing itself into the arms of the alluring
Italian culture.

The German school entered the seventeenth century with three strong and
pregnant forms to its credit, _viz._, the choral, the motet (essentially
a counterpart of the Latin sixteenth-century motet), and organ music.
Over against these stood the Italian recitative and aria, associated with
new principles of tonality, harmony, and structure. The former were the
stern embodiment of the abstract, objective, liturgic conception of
worship music; the latter, of the subjective, impassioned, and
individualistic. Should these ideals be kept apart, or should they be in
some way united? One group of German musicians would make the Italian
dramatic forms the sole basis of a new religious art, recognizing the
claims of the personal, the varied, and the brilliant, in ecclesiastical
music as in secular. Another group clung tenaciously to the choral and
motet, resisting every influence that might soften that austere rigor
which to their minds was demanded by historic association and liturgic
fitness. A third group was the party of compromise. Basing their culture
upon the old German choir chorus, organ music, and people’s hymn-tune,
they grafted upon this sturdy stock the Italian melody. It was in the
hands of this school that the future of German church music lay. They saw
that the opportunities for a more varied and characteristic expression
could not be kept out of the Church, for they were based on the
reasonable cravings of human nature. Neither could they throw away those
grand hereditary types of devotional utterance which had become
sanctified to German memory in the period of the Reformation’s storm and
stress. They adopted what was soundest and most suitable for these ends
in the art of both countries, and built up a form of music which strove
to preserve the high traditions of national liturgic song, while at the
same time it was competent to gratify the tastes which had been
stimulated by the recent rapid advance in musical invention. Out of this
movement grew the Passion music and the cantata of the eighteenth
century, embellished with all the expressive resources of the Italian
vocal solo and the orchestral accompaniment, solidified by a contrapuntal
treatment derived from organ music, and held unswervingly to the very
heart of the liturgy by means of those choral tunes which had become
identified with special days and occasions in the church year.

The nature of the change of motive in modern church music, which broke
the exclusive domination of the chorus by the introduction of solo
singing, has been set forth in the chapter on the later mass. The most
obvious fact in the history of this modification of church music in
Germany is that the neglect in many quarters of the strong old music of
choral and motet in favor of a showy concert style seemed to coincide
with that melancholy lapse into formalism and dogmatic intolerance which,
in the German Church of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
succeeded to the enthusiasms of the Reformation era. But it does not
follow, as often assumed, that we have here a case of cause and effect.
It is worth frequent reiteration that no style of music is in itself
religious. There is no sacredness, says Ruskin, in round arches or in
pointed, in pinnacles or buttresses; and we may say with equal pertinence
that there is nothing sacred _per se_ in sixteenth-century counterpoint,
Lutheran choral, or Calvinist psalm-tune. The adoption of the new style
by so many German congregations was certainly not due to a spirit of
levity, but to the belief that the novel sensation which their aesthetic
instincts craved was also an element in moral edification. From the point
of view of our more mature experience, however, there was doubtless a
deprivation of something very precious when the German people began to
lose their love for the solemn patriotic hymns of their faith, and when
choirs neglected those celestial harmonies with which men like Eccard and
Hasler lent these melodies the added charm of artistic decoration. There
would seem to be no real compensation in those buoyant songs, with their
thin accompaniment, which Italy offered as a substitute for a style grown
cold and obsolete. But out of this decadence, if we call it such, came
the cantatas and Passions of J. S. Bach, in which a reflective age like
ours, trained to settle points of fitness in matters of art, finds the
most heart-searching and heart-revealing strains that devotional feeling
has ever inspired. These glorious works could never have existed if the
Church had not sanctioned the new methods in music which Germany was so
gladly receiving from Italy. Constructed to a large extent out of secular
material, these works grew to full stature under liturgic auspices, and
at last, transcending the boundaries of ritual, they became a connecting
bond between the organized life of the Church and the larger religious
intuitions which no ecclesiastical system has ever been able to
monopolize.

Such was the gift to the world of German Protestantism, stimulated by
those later impulses of the Renaissance movement which went forth in
music after their mission had been accomplished in plastic art. In the
Middle Age, we are told, religion and art lived together in brotherly
union; Protestantism threw away art and kept religion, Renaissance
rationalism threw away religion and retained art. In painting and
sculpture this is very nearly the truth; in music it is very far from
being true. It is the glory of the art of music, that she has almost
always been able to resist the drift toward sensuousness and levity, and
where she has apparently yielded, her recovery has been speedy and sure.
So susceptible is her very nature to the finest touches of religious
feeling, that every revival of the pure spirit of devotion has always
found her prepared to adapt herself to new spiritual demands, and out of
apparent decline to develop forms of religious expression more beautiful
and sublime even than the old.

Conspicuous among the forms with which the new movement endowed the
German Church was the cantata. This form of music may be traced back to
Italy, where the monodic style first employed in the opera about 1600 was
soon adopted into the music of the salon. The cantata was at first a
musical recitation by a single person, without action, accompanied by a
few plain chords struck upon a single instrument. This simple design was
expanded in the first half of the seventeenth century into a work in
several movements and in many parts or voices. Religious texts were soon
employed and the church cantata was born. The cantata was eagerly taken
up by the musicians of the German Protestant Church and became a
prominent feature in the regular order of worship. In the seventeenth
century the German Church cantata consisted usually of an instrumental
introduction, a chorus singing a Bible text, a “spiritual aria” (a
strophe song, sometimes for one, sometimes for a number of voices), one
or two vocal solos, and a choral. This immature form (known as “spiritual
concerto,” “spiritual dialogue” or “spiritual act of devotion”),
consisting of an alternation of Biblical passages and church or
devotional hymns, flourished greatly in the seventeenth and early part of
the eighteenth centuries. In its complete development in the eighteenth
century it also incorporated the recitative and the Italian aria form,
and carried to their full power the chorus, especially the chorus based
on the choral melody, and the organ accompaniment. By means of the
prominent employment of themes taken from choral tunes appointed for
particular days in the church calendar, especially those days consecrated
to the contemplation of events in the life of our Lord, the cantata
became the most effective medium for the expression of those emotions
called forth in the congregation by their imagined participation in the
scenes which the ritual commemorated. The stanzas of the hymns which
appear in the cantata illustrate the Biblical texts, applying and
commenting upon them in the light of Protestant conceptions. The words
refer to some single phase of religious feeling made conspicuous in the
order for the clay. A cantata is, therefore, quite analogous to the
anthem of the Church of England, although on a larger scale. Unlike an
oratorio, it is neither epic nor dramatic, but renders some mood, more or
less general, of prayer or praise.

We have seen that the Lutheran Church borrowed many features from the
musical practice of the Catholic Church, such as portions of the Mass,
the habit of chanting, and ancient hymns and tunes. Another inheritance
was the custom of singing the story of Christ’s Passion, with musical
additions, in Holy Week. This usage, which may be traced back to a remote
period in the Middle Age, must be distinguished from the method,
prevalent as early as the thirteenth century, of actually representing
the events of Christ’s last days in visible action upon the stage. The
Passion play, which still survives in Oberammergau in Bavaria, and in
other more obscure parts of Europe, was one of a great number of
ecclesiastical dramas, classed as Miracle Plays, Mysteries, and
Moralities, which were performed under the auspices of the Church for the
purpose of impressing the people in the most vivid way with the reality
of the Old and New Testament stories, and the binding force of doctrines
and moral principles.

The observance out of which the German Passion music of the eighteenth
century grew was an altogether different affair. It consisted of the mere
recitation, without histrionic accessories, of the story of the trial and
death of Christ, as narrated by one of the four evangelists, beginning in
the synoptic Gospels with the plot of the priests and scribes, and in St.
John’s Gospel with the betrayal. This narration formed a part of the
liturgic office proper to Palm Sunday, Holy Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and
Good Friday. According to the primitive use, which originated in the
period of the supremacy of the Gregorian chant, several officers took
part in the delivery. One cleric intoned the evangelist’s narrative,
another the words of Christ, and a third those of Pilate, Peter, and
other single personages. The ejaculations of the Jewish priests,
disciples, and mob were chanted by a small group of ministers. The text
was rendered in the simpler syllabic form of the Plain Song. Only in one
passage did this monotonous recitation give way to a more varied,
song-like utterance, _viz._, in the cry of Christ upon the cross, “Eli,
Eli, lama sabachthani,” this phrase being delivered in an extended,
solemn, but unrhythmical melody, to which was imparted all the pathos
that the singer could command. The chorus parts were at first sung in
unison, then, as the art of part-writing developed, they were set in
simple four-part counterpoint.

Under the influence of the perfected contrapuntal art of the sixteenth
century there appeared a form now known as the motet Passion, and for a
short time it flourished vigorously. In this style everything was sung in
chorus without accompaniment—evangelist’s narrative, words of Christ,
Pilate, and all. The large opportunities for musical effect permitted by
this manner of treatment gained for it great esteem among musicians, for
since this purely musical method of repeating the story of Christ’s death
was never conceived as in any sense dramatic, there was nothing
inconsistent in setting the words of a single personage in several parts.
The life enjoyed by this phase of Passion music was brief, for it arose
only a short time before the musical revolution, heralded by the
Florentine monody and confirmed by the opera, drove the mediaeval
polyphony into seclusion.

With the quickly won supremacy of the dramatic and concert solo, together
with the radical changes of taste and practice which it signified, the
chanted Passion and the motet Passion were faced by a rival which was
destined to attain such dimensions in Germany that it occupied the whole
field devoted to this form of art. In the oratorio Passion, as it may be
called, the Italian recitative and aria and the sectional rhythmic chorus
took the place of the unison chant and the ancient polyphony; hymns and
poetic monologues supplemented and sometimes supplanted the Bible text;
and the impassioned vocal style, introducing the new principle of
definite expression of the words, was reinforced by the lately
emancipated art of instrumental music. For a time, these three forms of
Passion music existed side by side, the latest in an immature state; but
the stars in the firmament of modern music were fighting in their courses
for the mixed oratorio style, and in the early part of the eighteenth
century this latter form attained completion and stood forth as the most
imposing gift bestowed by Germany upon the world of ecclesiastical art.

The path which German religious music was destined to follow in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, under the guidance of the new ideas
of expression, was plainly indicated when Heinrich Schütz, the greatest
German composer of the seventeenth century, and the worthy forerunner of
Bach and Händel, wrote his “histories” and “sacred symphonies.” Born in
1585, he came under the inspiring instruction of G. Gabrieli in Venice in
1609, and on a second visit to Italy in 1628 he became still more imbued
with the dominant tendencies of the age. He was appointed chapel-master
at the court of the Elector of Saxony at Dresden in 1615, and held this
position, with a few brief interruptions, until his death in 1672. He was
a musician of the most solid attainments, and although living in a
transition period in the history of music, he was cautious and respectful
in his attitude toward both the methods which were at that time in
conflict, accepting the new discoveries in dramatic expression as
supplementary, not antagonistic, to the old ideal of devotional music. In
his psalms he employed contrasting and combining choral masses,
reinforced by a band of instruments. In the Symphoniae sacrae are songs
for one or more solo voices, with instrumental obligato, in which the
declamatory recitative style is employed with varied and appropriate
effect. In his dramatic religious works, the “Resurrection,” the “Seven
Words of the Redeemer upon the Cross,” the “Conversion of Saul,” and the
Passions after the four evangelists, Schütz uses the vocal solo, the
instrumental accompaniment, and the dramatic chorus in a tentative
manner, attaining at times striking effects of definite expression quite
in accordance with modern ideas, while anon he falls back upon the strict
impersonal method identified with the ancient Plain Song and
sixteenth-century motet. Most advanced in style and rich in expression is
the “Seven Words.” A feature characteristic of the rising school of
German Passion music is the imagined presence of Christian believers,
giving utterance in chorus to the emotions aroused by the contemplation
of the atoning act. In the “Seven Words” the utterances of Jesus and the
other separate personages are given in arioso recitative, rising at times
to pronounced melody. The tone of the whole work is fervent, elevated,
and churchly. The evangelist and all the persons except Christ sing to an
organ bass,—the words of the Saviour are accompanied by the ethereal
tones of stringed instruments, perhaps intended as an emblematic
equivalent to the aureole in religious paintings. In Schütz’s settings of
the Passion, although they belong to the later years of his life, he
returns to the primitive form, in which the parts of the evangelist and
the single characters are rendered in the severe “collect tone” of the
ancient Plain Song, making no attempt at exact expression of changing
sentiments. Even in these restrained and lofty works, however, his genius
as a composer and his progressive sympathies as a modern artist
occasionally break forth in vivid expression given to the ejaculations of
priests, disciples, and Jewish mob, attaining a quite remarkable warmth
and reality of portrayal. Nevertheless, these isolated attempts at
naturalism hardly bring the Passions of Schütz into the category of
modern works. There is no instrumental accompaniment, and, most decisive
of all, they are restrained within the limits of the mediaeval conception
by the ancient Gregorian tonality, which is maintained throughout almost
to the entire exclusion of chromatic alteration.

The works of Schütz, therefore, in spite of their sweetness and dignity
and an occasional glimpse of picturesque detail, are not to be considered
as steps in the direct line of progress which led from the early Italian
cantata and oratorio to the final achievements of Bach and Händel. These
two giants of the culminating period apparently owed nothing to Schütz.
It is not probable that they had any acquaintance with his works at all.
The methods and the ideals of these three were altogether different.
Considering how common and apparently necessary in art is the reciprocal
influence of great men, it is remarkable that in the instance of the
greatest German musician of the seventeenth century and the two greatest
of the eighteenth, all working in the field of religious dramatic music,
not one was affected in the slightest degree by the labors of either of
the others. Here we have the individualism of modern art exhibited in the
most positive degree upon its very threshold.

In the Passions of Schütz we find only the characters of the Bible story,
together with the evangelist’s narrative taken literally from the
Gospel,—that is to say, the original frame-work of the Passion music with
the chorus element elaborated. In the latter part of the seventeenth
century the dramatic scheme of the Passion was enlarged by the addition
of the Christian congregation, singing appropriate chorals, and the ideal
company of believers, expressing suitable sentiments in recitatives,
arias, and choruses. The insertion of church hymns was of the highest
importance in view of the relation of the Passion music to the liturgy,
for the more stress was laid upon this feature, the more the Passion, in
spite of its semi-dramatic character, became fitted as a constituent into
the order of service. The choral played here the same part as in the
cantata, assimilating to the prescribed order of worship what would
otherwise be an extraneous if not a disturbing feature. This was
especially the case when, as in the beginning of the adoption of the
choral in the Passion, the hymn verses were sung by the congregation
itself. In Bach’s time this custom had fallen into abeyance, and the
choral stanzas were sung by the choir; but this change involved no
alteration in the form or the conception of the Passion performance as a
liturgic act.

The growth of the Passion music from Schütz to its final beauty and
pathos under Sebastian Bach was by no means constant. In certain
quarters, particularly at Hamburg, the aria in the shallow Italian form
took an utterly disproportionate importance. The opera, which was
flourishing brilliantly at Hamburg about 1700, exercised a perverting
influence upon the Passion to such an extent that the ancient liturgic
traditions were completely abandoned. In many of the Hamburg Passions the
Bible text was thrown away and poems substituted, all of which were of
inferior literary merit, and some quite contemptible. Incredible as it
may seem, the comic element was sometimes introduced, the “humorous”
characters being the servant Malthus whose ear was cut off by Peter, and
a clownish peddler of ointment. It must be said that these productions
were not given in the churches; they are not to be included in the same
category with the strictly liturgic Passions of Sebastian Bach. The
comparative neglect of the choral and also of the organ removes them
altogether from the proper history of German church music.

Thus we see how the new musical forms, almost creating the emotions which
they were so well adapted to express, penetrated to the very inner shrine
of German church music. In some sections, as at Hamburg, the Italian
culture supplanted the older school altogether. In others it encountered
sterner resistance, and could do no more than form an alliance, in which
old German rigor and reserve became somewhat ameliorated and relaxed
without becoming perverted. To produce an art work of the highest order
out of this union of contrasting principles, a genius was needed who
should possess so true an insight into the special capabilities of each
that he should be able by their amalgamation to create a form of
religious music that should be conformed to the purest conception of the
mission of church song, and at the same time endowed with those faculties
for moving the affections which were demanded by the tastes of the new
age. In fulness of time this genius appeared. His name was Johann
Sebastian Bach.



                               CHAPTER IX
              THE CULMINATION OF GERMAN PROTESTANT MUSIC:
                         JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH


The name of Bach is the greatest in Protestant church music,—there are
many who do not hesitate to say that it is the greatest in all the
history of music, religious and secular. The activity of this man was
many-sided, and his invention seems truly inexhaustible. He touched every
style of music known to his day except the opera, and most of the forms
that he handled he raised to the highest power that they have ever
attained. Many of his most admirable qualities appear in his secular
works, but these we must pass over. In viewing him exclusively as a
composer for the Church, however, we shall see by far the most
considerable part of him, for his secular compositions, remarkable as
they are, always appear rather as digressions from the main business of
his life. His conscious life-long purpose was to enrich the musical
treasury of the Church he loved, to strengthen and signalize every
feature of her worship which his genius could reach: and to this lofty
aim he devoted an intellectual force and an energy of loyal enthusiasm
unsurpassed in the annals of art.

Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the monumental figures in the religious
history of Germany, undoubtedly the most considerable in the two
centuries following the death of Luther. Like Luther, of whom in some
respects he reminds us, he was a man rooted fast in German soil, sprung
from sturdy peasant stock, endowed with the sterling piety and
steadfastness of moral purpose which had long been traditional in the
Teutonic character. His culture was at its basis purely German. He never
went abroad to seek the elegancies which his nation lacked. He did not
despise them, but he let them come to him to be absorbed into the massive
substance of his national education, in order that this education might
become in the deepest sense liberal and human. He interpreted what was
permanent and hereditary in German culture, not what was ephemeral and
exotic. He ignored the opera, although it was the reigning form in every
country in Europe. He planted himself squarely on German church music,
particularly the essentially German art of organ playing, and on that
foundation, supplemented with what was best of Italian and French device,
he built up a massive edifice which bears in plan, outline, and every
decorative detail the stamp of a German craftsman.

The most musical family known to history was that of the Bachs. In six
generations (Sebastian belonging to the fifth) we find marked musical
ability, which in a number of instances before Sebastian appeared
amounted almost to genius. As many as thirty-seven of the name are known
to have held important musical positions. A large number during the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were members of the town bands and
choruses, which sustained almost the entire musical culture among the
common people of Germany during that period. These organizations,
combining the public practice of religious and secular music, were
effective in nourishing both the artistic and the religious spirit of the
time. In Germany in the seventeenth century there was as yet no opera and
concert system to concentrate musical activity in the theatre and public
hall. The Church was the nursery of musical culture, and this culture was
in no sense artificial or borrowed,—it was based on types long known and
beloved by the common people as their peculiar national inheritance, and
associated with much that was stirring and honorable in their history.

Thuringia was one of the most musical districts in Germany in the
seventeenth century, and was also a stronghold of the reformed religion.
From this and its neighboring districts the Bachs never wandered. Eminent
as they were in music, hardly one of them ever visited Italy or received
instruction from a foreign master. They kept aloof from the courts, the
hot-beds of foreign musical growths, and submitted themselves to the
service of the Protestant Church. They were peasants and small farmers,
well to do and everywhere respected. Their stern self-mastery held them
uncontaminated by the wide-spread demoralization that followed the Thirty
Years’ War. They appear as admirable types of that undemonstrative,
patient, downright, and tenacious quality which has always saved Germany
from social decline or disintegration in critical periods.

Into such a legacy of intelligence, thrift, and probity came Johann
Sebastian Bach. All the most admirable traits of his ancestry shine out
again in him, reinforced by a creative gift which seems the accumulation
of all the several talents of his house. He was born at Eisenach, March
21, 1685. His training as a boy was mainly received in choir schools at
Ohrdruf and Lüneburg, attaining mastership as organist and contrapuntist
at the age of eighteen. He held official positions at Arnstadt,
Mühlhausen, Weimar, and Anhalt-Cöthen, and was finally called to Leipsic
as cantor of the Thomas school and director of music at the Thomas and
Nicolai churches, where he labored from 1723 until his death in 1750. His
life story presents no incidents of romantic interest. But little is
known of his temperament or habits. In every place in which he labored
his circumstances were much the same. He was a church organist and choir
director from the beginning to the end of his career. He became the
greatest organist of his time and the most accomplished master of musical
science. His declared aim in life was to reform and perfect German church
music. The means to achieve this were always afforded him, so far as the
scanty musical facilities of the churches of that period would permit.
His church compositions were a part of his official routine duties. His
recognized abilities always procured him positions remunerative enough to
protect him from anxiety. He was never subject to interruptions or
serious discouragements. From first to last the path in life which he was
especially qualified to pursue was clearly marked out before him. His
genius, his immense physical and mental energy, and his high sense of
duty to God and his employers did the rest. Nowhere is there the record
of a life more simple, straightforward, symmetrical, and complete.

In spite of the intellectual and spiritual apathy prevailing in many
sections of Germany, conditions were not altogether unfavorable for the
special task which Bach assigned to himself. His desire to build up
church music did not involve an effort to restore to congregational
singing its pristine zeal, or to revive an antiquarian taste for the
historic choir anthem. Bach was a man of the new time; he threw himself
into the current of musical progress, seized upon the forms which were
still in process of development, giving them technical completeness and
bringing to light latent possibilities which lesser men had been unable
to discern.

The material for his purpose was already within his reach. The religious
folk-song, freighted with a precious store of memories, was still an
essential factor in public and private worship. The art of organ playing
had developed a vigorous and pregnant national style in the choral
prelude, the fugue, and a host of freer forms. The Passion music and the
cantata had recently shown signs of brilliant promise. The Italian solo
song was rejoicing in its first flush of conquest on German soil. No one,
however, could foresee what might be done with these materials until Bach
arose. He gathered them all in his hand, remoulded, blended, enlarged
them, touched them with the fire of his genius and his religious passion,
and thus produced works of art which, intended for German evangelicalism,
are now being adopted by the world as the most comprehensive symbols in
music of the essential Christian faith.[73]

Bach was one of those supreme artists who concentrate in themselves the
spirit and the experiments of an epoch. In order, therefore, to know how
the persistent religious consciousness of Germany strove to attain
self-recognition through those art agencies which finally became fully
operative in the eighteenth century, we need only study the works of this
great representative musician, passing by the productions of the
organists and cantors who shared, although in feebler measure, his
illumination. For Bach was no isolated phenomenon of his time. He created
no new styles; he gave art no new direction. He was one out of many
poorly paid and overworked church musicians, performing the duties that
were traditionally attached to his office, improvising fugues and
preludes, and accompanying choir and congregation at certain moments in
the service, composing motets, cantatas, and occasionally a larger work
for the regular order of the day, providing special music for a church
festival, a public funeral, the inauguration of a town council, or the
installation of a pastor. What distinguished Bach was simply the
superiority of his work on these time-honored lines, the amazing variety
of sentiment which he extracted from these conventional forms, the
scientific learning which puts him among the greatest technicians in the
whole range of art, the prodigality of ideas, depth of feeling, and a
sort of introspective mystical quality which he was able to impart to the
involved and severe diction of his age.

Bach’s devotion to the Lutheran Church was almost as absorbed as
Palestrina’s to the Catholic. His was a sort of cloistered seclusion.
Like every one who has made his mark upon church music he reverenced the
Church as a historic institution. Her government, ceremonial, and
traditions impressed his imagination, and kindled a blind, instinctive
loyalty. He felt that he attained to his true self only under her
admonitions. Her service was to him perfect freedom. His opportunity to
contribute to the glory of the Church was one that dwarfed every other
privilege, and his official duty, his personal pleasure, and his highest
ambition ran like a single current, fed by many streams, in one and the
same channel. To measure the full strength of the mighty tide of feeling
which runs through Bach’s church music we must recognize this element of
conviction, of moral necessity. Given Bach’s inherited character, his
education and his environment, add the personal factor—imagination and
reverence—and you have Bach’s music, spontaneous yet inevitable, like a
product of nature. Only out of such single-minded devotion to the
interests of the Church, both as a spiritual nursery and as a venerated
institution, has great church art ever sprung or can it spring.

Bach’s productions for the Church are divided into two general classes,
_viz._, organ music and vocal music. The organ music is better known to
the world at large, and on account of its greater availability may
outlive the vocal works in actual practice. For many reasons more or less
obvious Bach’s organ works are constantly heard in connection with public
worship, both Catholic and Protestant, in Europe and America, and their
use is steadily increasing; while the choral compositions have almost
entirely fallen out of the stated religious ceremony, even in Germany,
and have been relegated to the concert hall. In course of time the organ
solo had grown into a constituent feature of the public act of worship in
the German Protestant Church. In the Catholic Church solo organ playing
is less intrinsic; in fact it has no real historic or liturgic
authorization and gives the impression rather of an embellishment, like
elaborately carved choir-screens and rose windows, very ornamental and
impressive, but not indispensable. But in the German system organ playing
had become established by a sort of logic, first as an accompaniment to
the people’s hymn—a function it assumed about 1600—and afterwards in the
practice of extemporization upon choral themes. Out of this latter custom
a style of organ composition grew up in the seventeenth century which,
through association and a more or less definite correspondence with the
spirit and order of the prescribed service, came to be looked upon as
distinctively a church style. This German organ music was strictly church
music according to the only adequate definition of church music that has
ever been given, for it had grown up within the Church itself, and
through its very liturgic connections had come to make its appeal to the
worshipers, not as an artistic decoration, but as an agency directly
adapted to aid in promoting those ends which the church ceremony had in
view. Furthermore, the dignity and severe intellectuality of this German
organ style, combined with its majesty of sound and strength of movement,
seemed to add distinctly to the biblical flavor of the liturgy, the
uncompromising dogmatism of the authoritative teaching, and the intense
moral earnestness which prevailed in the Church of Luther in its best
estate. It was a form of art which was native to the organ, implied in
the very tone and mechanism of the instrument; it was absolutely
untouched by the lighter tendencies already active in secular music. The
notion of making the organ play pretty tunes and tickle the ear with the
imitative sound of fancy stops never entered the heads of the German
church musicians. The gravity and disciplined intelligence proper to the
exercise of an ecclesiastical office must pervade every contribution of
the organist. This conception was equally a matter of course to the mass
of the people, and so the taste of the congregation and the conviction of
the clerical authorities supported the organists in their adherence to
the traditions of their strict and complex art. This lordly style was no
less worthy of reverence in the eyes of all concerned because it was to
all intents a German art, virtually unknown in other countries, except
partially in the sister land of Holland, and therefore hedged about with
the sanctions of patriotism as well as the universally admitted canons of
religious musical expression.

This form of music was evolved originally under the suggestion of the
mediaeval vocal polyphony,—counterpoint redistributed and systematized in
accordance with the modern development of rhythm, tonality, and sectional
structure. Its birthplace was Italy; the canzona of Frescobaldi and his
compeers was the parent of the fugue. The task of developing this Italian
germ was given to the Dutch and Germans. The instrumental instinct and
constructive genius of such men as Swelinck, Scheidt, Buxtehude,
Froberger, and Pachelbel carried the movement so far as to reveal its
full possibilities, and Bach brought these possibilities to complete
realization.

As an organ player and composer it would seem that Bach stands at the
summit of human achievement. His whole art as a player is to be found in
his fugues, preludes, fantasies, toccatas, sonatas, and choral
variations. In his fugues he shows perhaps most convincingly that supreme
mastery of design and splendor of invention and fancy which have given
him the place he holds by universal consent among the greatest artists of
all time. In these compositions there is a variety and individuality
which, without such examples, one could hardly suppose that this
arbitrary form of construction would admit. With Bach the fugue is no dry
intellectual exercise. So far as the absolutism of its laws permits,
Bach’s imagination moved as freely in the fugue as Beethoven’s in the
sonata or Schubert’s in the lied. Its peculiar idiom was as native to him
as his rugged Teuton speech. A German student’s musical education in that
day began with counterpoint, as at the present time it begins with
figured bass harmony; the ability to write every species of polyphony
with ease was a matter of course with every musical apprentice. But with
Bach, the master, the fugue was not merely the sign of technical
facility; it was a means of expression, a supreme manifestation of style.
By the telling force of his subjects, the amazing dexterity and rich
fancy displayed in their treatment, the ability to cover the widest range
of emotional suggestion, his fugues appeal to a far deeper sense than
wonder at technical cleverness. Considering that it lies in the very
essence of the contrapuntal style that it should be governed by certain
very rigid laws of design and procedure, we may apply to Bach’s organ
works in general a term that has been given to architecture, and say that
they are “construction beautified.” By this is meant that every feature,
however beautiful in itself, finds its final charm and justification only
as a necessary component in the comprehensive plan. Each detail helps to
push onward the systematic unfolding of the design, it falls into its
place by virtue of the laws of fitness and proportion; logical and
organic, but at the same time decorative and satisfactory to the
aesthetic sense. There is indeed something almost architectonic in these
masterpieces of the great Sebastian. In their superb rolling harmonies,
their dense involutions, their subtle and inevitable unfoldings, their
long-drawn cadences, and their thrilling climaxes, they seem to possess a
fit relation to the vaulted, reverberating ceilings, the massive pillars,
and the half-lighted recesses of the sombre old buildings in which they
had their birth. In both the architecture and the music we seem to
apprehend a religious earnestness which drew its nourishment from the
most hidden depths of the soul, and which, even in its moments of
exultation, would not appear to disregard those stern convictions in
which it believed that it found the essentials of its faith.

A form of instrumental music existed in the German Protestant Church
which was peculiar to that institution, and which was exceedingly
significant as forming a connecting link between organ solo playing and
the congregational worship. We have seen that the choral, at the very
establishment of the new order by Luther, became a characteristic feature
of the office of devotion, entering into the very framework of the
liturgy by virtue of the official appointment of particular hymns
(Hauptlieder) on certain days. As soon as the art of organ playing set
out upon its independent career early in the seventeenth century, the
organists began to take up the choral melodies as subjects for extempore
performance. These tunes were especially adapted to this purpose by
reason of their stately movement and breadth of style, which gave
opportunity for the display of that mastery of florid harmonization in
which the essence of the organist’s art consisted. The organist never
played the printed compositions of others, or even his own, for
voluntaries. He would no more think of doing so than a clergyman would
preach another man’s sermon, or even read one of his own from manuscript.
To this day German unwritten law is rigorous on both these matters. The
organist’s method was always to improvise in the strict style upon themes
invented by himself or borrowed from other sources. Nothing was more
natural than that he should use the choral tunes as his quarry, not only
on account of their technical suitableness, but still more from the
interest that would be aroused in the congregation, and the unity that
would be established between the office of the organist and that of the
people. The chorals that were appointed for the day would commonly
furnish the player with his raw material, and the song of the people
would appear again soaring above their heads, adorned by effective tonal
combinations. This method could also be employed to a more moderate
extent in accompanying the congregation as they sang the hymn in unison;
interludes between the stanzas and even flourishes at the ends of the
lines would give scope to the organist to exhibit his knowledge and
fancy. The long-winded interlude at last became an abuse, and was reduced
or suppressed; but the free organ prelude on the entire choral melody
grew in favor, and before Bach’s day ability in this line was the chief
test of a player’s competence. In Bach’s early days choral preludes by
famous masters had found their way into print in large numbers, and were
the objects of his assiduous study. His own productions in this class
surpassed all his models, and as a free improviser on choral themes he
excelled all his contemporaries. “I had supposed,” said the famous
Reinken, who at the age of ninety-seven heard Bach extemporize on “An
Wasserflüssen Babylon” at Hamburg,—“I had supposed that this art was
dead, but I see that it still lives in you.” In this species of playing,
the hymn melody is given out with one hand or upon the pedals, while
around it is woven a network of freely moving parts. The prelude may be
brief, included within the space limits of the original melody, or it may
be indefinitely extended by increasing the length of the choral notes and
working out interludes between the lines. The one hundred and thirty
choral preludes which have come down to us from Bach’s pen are samples of
the kind of thing that he was extemporizing Sunday after Sunday. In these
pieces the accompaniment is sometimes fashioned on the basis of a
definite melodic figure which is carried, with modulations and subtle
modifications, all through the stanza, sometimes on figures whose pattern
changes with every line; while beneath or within the sounding arabesques
are heard the long sonorous notes of the choral, holding the hearer
firmly to the ground idea which the player’s art is striving to impress
and beautify. This form of music is something very different from the
“theme and variations,” which has played so conspicuous a part in the
modern instrumental school from Haydn down to the present. In the choral
prelude there is no modification of the theme itself; the subject in
single notes forms a _cantus firmus_, on the same principle that appears
in the mediaeval vocal polyphony, around which the freely invented parts,
moving laterally, are entwined. Although these compositions vary greatly
in length, a single presentation of the decorated choral tune suffices
with Bach except in rare instances, such as the prelude on “O Lamm Gottes
unschuldig,” in which the melody is given out three times, with a
different scheme of ornament at each repetition.

That Bach always restricts his choral elaboration to the end of
illustrating the sentiment of the words with which the theme is
illustrated would be saying too much. Certainly he often does so, as in
such beautiful examples as “O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde gross,”
“Schmücke dich, meine liebe Seele,” and that touching setting of “Wenn
wir in höchsten Nöthen sein” which Bach dictated upon his deathbed. But
the purpose of the choral prelude in the church worship was not
necessarily to reflect and emphasize the thought of the hymn. This usage
having become conventional, and the organist being allowed much latitude
in his treatment, his pride in his science would lead him to dilate and
elaborate according to a musical rather than a poetic impulse, thinking
less of appropriateness to a precise mood (an idea which, indeed, had
hardly became lodged in instrumental music in Bach’s time) than of
producing an abstract work of art contrived in accordance with the formal
prescriptions of German musical science. The majority of Bach’s works in
this form are, it must be said, conventional and scholastic, some even
dry and pedantic. Efforts at popularizing them at the present day have
but slight success; but in not a few Bach’s craving for expression crops
out, and some of his most gracious inspirations are to be found in these
incidental and apparently fugitive productions.

In order to win the clue to Bach’s vocal as well as his instrumental
style, we must constantly refer back to his works for the organ. As
Händel’s genius in oratorio was shaped under the influence of the Italian
aria, direct or derived, and as certain modern composers, such as
Berlioz, seize their first conceptions already clothed in orchestral
garb, so Bach seemed to think in terms of the organ. Examine one of his
contrapuntal choruses, or even one of his arias with its obligato
accompaniment, and you are instantly reminded of the mode of facture of
his organ pieces. His education rested upon organ music, and he only
yielded to one of the most potent influences of his time when he made the
organ the dominant factor in his musical expression. The instrumental
genius of Germany had already come to self-consciousness at the end of
the seventeenth century, and was as plainly revealing itself in organ
music as it did a century later in the sonata and symphony. The virtuoso
spirit—the just pride in technical skill—always keeps pace with the
development of style; in the nature of things these two are mutually
dependent elements in progress. In Bach the love of exercising his skill
as an executant was a part of his very birthright as a musician. The
organ was to him very much what the pianoforte was to Liszt, and in each
the virtuoso instinct was a fire which must burst forth, or it would
consume the very soul of its possessor. And so we find among the fugues,
fantasies, and toccatas of Bach compositions whose dazzling magnificence
is not exceeded by the most sensational effusions of the modern
pianoforte and orchestral schools. In all the realm of music there is
nothing more superb than those Niagaras of impetuous sound which roll
through such works as the F major and D minor toccatas and the G major
fantasie,—to select examples out of scores of equally apt illustrations.
But sound and fury are by no means their aim; Bach’s invention and
science are never more resourceful than when apparently driven by the
demon of unrest. In order to give the freest sweep to his fancy Bach, the
supreme lord of form, often broke through form’s conventionalisms, so
that even his fugues sometimes became, as they have been called,
fantasies in the form of fugues, just as Beethoven, under a similar
impulse, wrote _sonate quasi fantasie_. Witness the E minor fugue with
the “wedge theme.” In Bach’s day and country there was no concert stage;
the instrumental virtuoso was the organist. It is not necessary to
suppose, therefore, that pieces so exciting to the nerves as those to
which I have alluded were all composed strictly for the ordinary church
worship. There were many occasions, such as the “opening” of a new organ
or a civic festival, when the organist could “let himself go” without
incurring the charge of introducing a profane or alien element. And yet,
even as church music, these pieces were not altogether incongruous. We
must always keep in mind that the question of appropriateness in church
music depends very much upon association and custom. A style that would
be execrated as blasphemous in a Calvinist assembly would be received as
perfectly becoming in a Catholic or Lutheran ceremony. A style of music
that has grown up in the very heart of a certain Church, identified for
generations with the peculiar ritual and history of that Church, is
proper ecclesiastical music so far as that particular institution is
concerned. Those who condemn Bach’s music—organ works, cantatas, and
Passions—as unchurchly ignore this vital point. Moreover, the conception
of the function of music in the service of the German Evangelical Church
was never so austere that brilliancy and grandeur were deemed
incompatible with the theory of religious ceremony. It may be said that
Bach’s grandest organ pieces are conceived as the expression of what may
be called the religious passion—the rapture which may not unworthily come
upon the believer when his soul opens to the reception of ideas the most
penetrating and sublime.

Certainly no other religious institution has come so near the solution of
the problem of the proper use of the instrumental solo in public worship.
Through the connection of the organ music with the people’s hymn in the
choral prelude, and the conformity of its style to that of the choir
music in motet and cantata, it became vitally blended with the whole
office of praise and prayer; its effect was to gather up and merge all
individual emotions into the projection of the mood of aspiration that
was common to all.

The work performed by Bach for the church cantata was somewhat similar in
nature to his service to the choral prelude, and was carried out with a
far more lavish expenditure of creative power. The cantata, now no longer
a constituent of the German Evangelical worship, in the eighteenth
century held a place in the ritual analogous to that occupied by the
anthem in the morning and evening prayer of the Church of England. It is
always of larger scale than the anthem, and its size was one cause of its
exclusion in the arbitrary and irregular reductions which the Evangelical
liturgies have undergone in the last century and a half. There is nothing
in its florid character to justify this procedure, for it may be, and in
Bach usually is, more closely related to the ritual framework than the
English anthem, in consequence of the manner in which it has been made to
absorb strictly liturgic forms into its substance. Bach, in his cantatas,
kept the notion of liturgic unity clearly in mind. He effected this unity
largely by his use of the choral as a conspicuous element in the cantata,
often as its very foundation. He checked the Italianizing process by
working the arioso recitative, the aria for one or more voices, and the
chorus into one grand musical scheme, in which his intricate organ style
served both as fabric and decoration. By the unexampled prominence which
he gave the choral as a mine of thematic material, he gave the cantata
not only a striking originality, but also an air of unmistakable fitness
to the character and special expression of the confession which it
served. By these means, which are concerned with its form, and still more
by the astonishing variety, truth, and beauty with which he was able to
meet the needs of each occasion for which a work of this kind was
appointed, he endowed his Church and nation with a treasure of religious
song compared with which, for magnitude, diversity, and power, the
creative work of any other church musician that may be named—Palestrina,
Gabrieli, or whoever he may be—sinks into insignificance.

Bach wrote five series of cantatas for the Sundays and festal days of the
church year—in all two hundred and ninety-five. Of these two hundred and
sixty-six were written at Leipsic. They vary greatly in length, the
shortest occupying twenty minutes or so in performance, the longest an
hour or more. Taken together, they afford such an astonishing display of
versatility that any proper characterization of them in a single chapter
would be quite out of the question. A considerable number are available
for study in Peters’s cheap edition, and the majority are analyzed with
respect to their salient features in Spitta’s encyclopedic Bach
biography. Among the great diversity of interesting qualities which they
exhibit, the employment of the choral must be especially emphasized as
affording the clue, already indicated, to Bach’s whole conception of the
cantata as a species of religious art. The choral, especially that
appointed for a particular day (Hauptlied), is often used as the guiding
thread which weaves the work into the texture of the whole daily office.
In such cases the chosen choral will appear in the different numbers of
the work in fragments or motives, sometimes as subject for voice parts,
or woven into the accompaniment as theme or in obligato fashion. It is
more common for entire lines of the choral to be treated as _canti
firmi_, forming the subjects on which elaborate contrapuntal choruses are
constructed, following precisely the same principle of design that I have
described in the case of the organ choral preludes. In multitudes of
cantata movements lines or verses from two or more chorals are
introduced. There are cantatas, such as “Wer nur den lieben Gott,” in
which each number, whether recitative, aria, or chorus, takes its
thematic material, intact or modified, from a choral. The famous “Ein’
feste Burg,” is a notable example of a cantata in which Bach adheres to a
hymn-tune in every number, treating it line by line, deriving from it the
pervading tone of the work is well as its constructional plan. The ways
in which Bach applies the store of popular religious melody to the higher
uses of art are legion. A cantata of Bach usually ends with a choral in
its complete ordinary form, plainly but richly harmonized in
note-for-note four-part setting as though for congregational singing. It
was not the custom, however, in Bach’s day for the congregation to join
in this closing choral. There are cantatas, such as the renowned “Ich
hatte viel Bekümmerniss,” in which the choral melody nowhere appears.
Such cantatas are rare, and the use of the choral became more prominent
and systematic in Bach’s work as time went on.

The devotional ideal of the Protestant Church as compared with the
Catholic gives far more liberal recognition to the private religious
consciousness of the individual. The believer does not so completely
surrender his personality; in his mental reactions to the ministrations
of the clergy he still remains aware of that inner world of experience
which is his world, not merged and lost in the universalized life of a
religious community. The Church is his inspirer and guide, not his
absolute master. The foundation of the German choral was a religious
declaration of independence. The German hymns were each the testimony of
a thinker to his own private conception of religious truth. The tone and
feeling of each hymn were suggested and colored by the general doctrine
of the Church, but not dictated. The adoption of these utterances of
independent feeling into the liturgy was a recognition on the part of
authority of individual right. It was not a concession; it was the legal
acknowledgment of a fundamental principle. Parallel to this significant
privilege was the admission of music of the largest variety and
penetrated at will with subjective feeling. This conception was carried
out consistently in the cantata as established by Bach, most liberally,
of course, in the arias. The words of the cantata consisted of Bible
texts, stanzas of church hymns, and religious poems, the whole
illustrating some Scripture theme or referring to some especial
commemoration. The hard and fast metrical schemes of the German hymns
were unsuited to the structure and rhythm of the aria, and so a form of
verse known as the madrigal, derived from Italy, was used when rhythmical
flexibility was an object. For all these reasons we have in Bach’s arias
the widest license of expression admissible in the school of art which he
represented. The Hamburg composers, in their shallow aims, had boldly
transferred the Italian concert aria as it stood into the Church, as a
sign of their complete defiance of ecclesiastical prescription. Not so
Bach; the ancient churchly ideal was to him a thing to be reverenced,
even when he departed from it. He, therefore, took a middle course. The
Italian notion of an aria—buoyant, tuneful, the voice part sufficient
unto itself—had no place in Bach’s method. A melody to him was usually a
detail in a contrapuntal scheme. And so be wove the voice part into the
accompaniment, a single instrument—a violin, perhaps, or oboe—often
raised into relief, vying with the voice on equal terms, often soaring
above it and carrying the principal theme, while the voice part serves as
an obligato. This method, hardly consistent with a pure vocal system,
often results with Bach, it must be confessed, in something very
mechanical and monotonous to modern ears. The artifice is apparent; the
author seems more bent on working out a sort of algebraic formula than
interpreting the text to the sensibility. From the traditional point of
view this method is not in itself _mal à propos_, for such a treatment
raises the sentiment into that calm region of abstraction which is the
proper refuge of the devotional mood. But here, as in the organ pieces,
Bach is no slave to his technic. There are many arias in his cantatas in
which the musical expression is not only beautiful and touching in the
highest degree, but also yields with wonderful truth to every mutation of
feeling in the text. Still more impressively is this mastery of
expression shown in the arioso recitatives. In their depth and beauty
they are unique in religious music. Only in very rare moments can Händel
pretend to rival them. Mendelssohn reflects them in his oratorios and
psalms,—as the moon reflects the sun.

The choruses of Bach’s cantatas would furnish a field for endless study.
Nowhere else is his genius more grandly displayed. The only work entitled
to be compared with these choruses is found in Händel’s oratorios. In
drawing such a parallel, and observing the greater variety of style in
Händel, we must remember that Bach’s cantatas are church music. Händel’s
oratorios are not. Bach’s cantata texts are not only confined to a single
sphere of thought, _viz._, the devotional, but they are also strictly
lyric. The church cantata does not admit any suggestion of action or
external picture. The oratorio, on the other hand, is practically
unlimited in scope, and in Händel’s choruses the style and treatment are
given almost unrestrained license in the way of dramatic and epic
suggestion. Within the restrictions imposed upon him, however, Bach
expends upon his choruses a wealth of invention in design and expression
not less wonderful than that exhibited in his organ works. The motet
form, the free fantasia and the choral fantasia forms are all employed,
and every device known to his art is applied for the illustration of the
text. Grace and tenderness, when the cheering assurances of the Gospel
are the theme, crushing burdens of gloom when the author’s thought turns
to the mysteries of death and judgment, mournfulness in view of sin, the
pleading accents of contrition,—every manifestation of emotion which a
rigid creed, allied to a racial mysticism which evades positive
conceptions, can call forth is projected in tones whose strength and
fervor were never attained before in religious music. It is Bach’s organ
style which is here in evidence, imparting to the chorus its close-knit
structure and majesty of sound, humanized by a melody drawn from the
choral and from what was most refined in Italian art.

“One peculiar trait in Bach’s nature,” says Kretzschmar, “is revealed in
the cantatas in grand, half-distinct outlines, and this is the longing
for death and life with the Lord. This theme is struck in the cantatas
more frequently than almost any other. We know him as a giant nature in
all situations; great and grandiose is also his joy and cheerfulness. But
never, we believe, does his art work with fuller energy and abandonment
than when his texts express earth-weariness and the longing for the last
hour. The fervor which then displays itself in ever-varying registers, in
both calm and stormy regions, has in it something almost demonic.”[74]

The work that has most contributed to make the name of Bach familiar to
the educated world at large is the Passion according to St. Matthew. Bach
wrote five Passions, of which only two—the St. John and the St.
Matthew—have come down to us. The former has a rugged force like one of
Michael Angelo’s unpolished statues, but it cannot fairly be compared to
the St. Matthew in largeness of conception or beauty of detail. In Bach’s
treatment of the Passion story we have the culmination of the artistic
development of the early liturgic practice whose progress has already
been sketched. Bach completed the process of fusing the Italian aria and
recitative with the German chorus, hymn-tune, and organ and orchestral
music, interspersing the Gospel narrative with lyric sections in the form
of airs, arioso recitatives, and choruses, in which the feelings proper
to a believer meditating on the sufferings of Christ in behalf of mankind
are portrayed with all the poignancy of pathos of which Bach was master.

Injudicious critics have sometimes attempted to set up a comparison
between the St. Matthew Passion and Handel’s “Messiah,” questioning which
is the greater. But such captious rivalry is derogatory to both, for they
are not to be gauged by the same standard. To say nothing of the radical
differences in style, origin, and artistic conception,—the one a piece of
Lutheran church music, the other an English concert oratorio of Italian
ancestry,—they are utterly unlike also in poetic intention. Bach’s work
deals only with the human in Christ; it is the narrative of his last
interviews with his disciples, his arrest, trial, and death, together
with comments by imagined personalities contemplating these events, both
in their immediate action upon the sensibilities and in their doctrinal
bearing. It is, therefore, a work so mixed in style that it is difficult
to classify it, for it is both epic and implicitly dramatic, while in all
its lyric features it is set firmly into the Evangelical liturgic scheme.
The text and musical construction of the “Messiah” have no connection
with any liturgy; it is concert music of a universal religious character,
almost devoid of narrative, and with no dramatic suggestion whatever.
Each is a triumph of genius, but of genius working with quite different
intentions.

In the formal arrangement of the St. Matthew Passion Bach had no option;
he must perforce comply with church tradition. The narrative of the
evangelist, taken without change from St. Matthew’s Gospel and sung in
recitative by a tenor, is the thread upon which the successive divisions
are strung. The words of Jesus, Peter, the high priest, and Pilate are
given to a bass, and are also in recitative. The Jews and the disciples
are represented by choruses. The “Protestant congregation” forms another
group, singing appropriate chorals. A third element comprises the company
of believers and the “daughter of Zion,” singing choruses and arias in
comment upon the situations as described by the evangelist. It must be
remembered that these chorus factors are not indicated by any division of
singers into groups. The work is performed throughout by the same company
of singers, in Bach’s day by the diminutive choir of the Leipsic Church,
composed of boys and young men. Even in the chorals the congregation took
no part. The idea of the whole is much the same as in a series of old
Italian chapel frescoes. The disciple sits with Christ at the last
supper, accompanies him to the garden of Gethsemane and to the
procurator’s hall, witnesses his mockery and condemnation, and takes his
station at the foot of the cross, lamenting alternately the sufferings of
his Lord and the sin which demanded such a sacrifice.

Upon this prescribed formula Bach has poured all the wealth of his
experience, his imagination, and his piety. His science is not brought
forward so prominently as in many of his works, and where he finds it
necessary to employ it he subordinates it to the expression of feeling.
Yet we cannot hear without amazement the gigantic opening movement in
which the awful burden of the great tragedy is foreshadowed; where, as if
organ, orchestra, and double chorus were not enough to sustain the
composer’s conception, a ninth part, bearing a choral melody, floats
above the surging mass of sound, holding the thought of the hearer to the
significance of the coming scenes. The long chorus which closes the first
part, which is constructed in the form of a figured choral, is also built
upon a scale which Bach has seldom exceeded. But the structure of the
work in general is comparatively open, and the expression direct and
clear. An atmosphere of profoundest gloom pervades the work from
beginning to end, ever growing darker as the scenes of the terrible drama
advance and culminate, yet here and there relieved by gleams of divine
tenderness and human pity. That Bach was able to carry a single mood, and
that a depressing one, through a composition of three hours’ length
without falling into monotony at any point is one of the miracles of
musical creation.

The meditative portions of the work in aria, recitative, and chorus are
rendered with great beauty and pathos, in spite of occasional archaic
stiffness. Dry and artificial some of the _da capo_ arias undoubtedly
are, for that quality of fluency which always accompanies genius never
yet failed to beguile its possessor into by-paths of dulness. But work
purely formalistic is not common in the St. Matthew Passion. Never did
religious music afford anything more touching and serene than such
numbers as the tenor solo and chorus, “Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen,”
the bass solo, “Am Abend, da es kühle war,” and the recitative and
chorus, matchless in tenderness, beginning “Nun ist der Herr zur Ruh’
gebracht.” Especially impressive are the tones given to the words of the
Saviour. These tones are distinguished from those of the other personages
not only by their greater melodic beauty, but also by their
accompaniment, which consists of the stringed instruments, while the
other recitatives are supported by the organ alone. In Christ’s
despairing cry upon the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” this
ethereal stringed accompaniment is extinguished. What Bach intended to
signify by this change is not certainly known. This exclamation of Jesus,
the only instance in his life when he seemed to lose his certainty of the
divine coöperation, must be distinguished in some way, Bach probably
thought, from all his other utterances. Additional musical means would be
utterly futile, for neither music nor any other art has any expression
for the mental anguish of that supreme moment. The only expedient
possible was to reduce music at that point, substituting plain organ
chords, and let the words of Christ stand out in bold relief in all their
terrible significance.

The chorals in the St. Matthew Passion are taken bodily, both words and
tunes, from the church hymn-book. Prominent among them is the famous “O
Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” by Gerhardt after St. Bernard, which is used
five times. These choral melodies are harmonized in simple homophonic
style, but with extreme beauty. As an instance of the poetic fitness with
which these chorals are introduced we may cite the last in the work,
where immediately after the words “Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave
up the ghost,” the chorus sings a stanza beginning “When my death hour
approaches forsake not me, O Lord.” “This climax,” says Spitta, “has
always been justly regarded as one of the most thrilling of the whole
work. The infinite significance of the sacrifice could not be more
simply, comprehensively, and convincingly expressed than in this
marvellous prayer.”

This wonderful creation closes with a chorus of farewell sung beside the
tomb of Jesus. It is a worthy close, for nothing more lovely and
affecting was ever confided to human lips. The gloom and agony that have
pervaded the scenes of temptation, trial, and death have quite vanished.
The tone is indeed that of lamentation, for the Passion drama in its very
aim and tradition did not admit any anticipation of the resurrection;
neither in the Catholic or Lutheran ceremonies of Good Friday is there a
foreshadowing of the Easter rejoicing. But the sentiment of this closing
chorus is not one of hopeless grief; it expresses rather a sense of
relief that suffering is past, mingled with a strain of solemn rapture,
as if dimly conscious that the tomb is not the end of all.

The first performance of the St. Matthew Passion took place in the Thomas
church at Leipsic, on Good Friday, April 15, 1729. It was afterwards
revised and extended, and performed again in 1740. From that time it was
nowhere heard until it was produced by Felix Mendelssohn in the Sing
Academie at Berlin in 1829. The impression it produced was profound, and
marked the beginning of the revival of the study of Bach which has been
one of the most fruitful movements in nineteenth-century music.

A work equally great in a different way, although it can never become the
object of such popular regard as the St. Matthew Passion, is the Mass in
B minor. It may seem strange that the man who more than any other
interpreted in art the genius of Protestantism should have contributed to
a form of music that is identified with the Catholic ritual. It must be
remembered that Luther was by no means inclined to break with all the
forms and usages of the mother Church. He had no quarrel with those
features of her rites which did not embody the doctrines which he
disavowed, and most heartily did he recognize the beauty and edifying
power of Catholic music. We have seen also that he was in favor of
retaining the Latin in communities where it was understood. Hence it was
that not only in Luther’s day, but long after, the Evangelical Church
retained many musical features that had become sacred in the practice of
the ancient Church. The congregations of Leipsic were especially
conservative in this respect. The entire mass in figured form, however,
was not used in the Leipsic service; on certain special days a part only
would be sung. The Kyrie and Gloria, known among the Lutheran musicians
as the “short mass,” were frequently employed. The B minor Mass was not
composed for the Leipsic service, but for the chapel of the king of
Saxony in Bach’s honorary capacity of composer to the royal and electoral
court. It was begun in 1735 and finished in 1738, but was not performed
entire in Bach’s lifetime. By the time it was completed it had outgrown
the dimensions of a service mass, and it has probably never been sung in
actual church worship. It is so difficult that its performance is an
event worthy of special commemoration. Its first complete production in
the United States was at Bethlehem, Pa., in the spring of 1900. It is
enough to say of this work here that all Bach’s powers as fabricator of
intricate design, and as master of all the shades of expression which the
contrapuntal style admits, are forced to their furthest limit. So vast is
it in scale, so majestic in its movement, so elemental in the grandeur of
its climaxes, that it may well be taken as the loftiest expression in
tones of the prophetic faith of Christendom, unless Beethoven’s Missa
Solemnis may dispute the title. It belongs not to the Catholic communion
alone, nor to the Protestant, but to the Church universal, the Church
visible and invisible, the Church militant and triumphant. The greatest
master of the sublime in choral music, Bach in this mass sounded all the
depths of his unrivalled science and his imaginative energy.

There is no loftier example in history of artistic genius devoted to the
service of religion than we find in Johann Sebastian Bach. He always felt
that his life was consecrated to God, to the honor of the Church and the
well-being of men. Next to this fact we are impressed in studying him
with his vigorous intellectuality, by which I mean his accurate estimate
of the nature and extent of his own powers and his easy self-adjustment
to his environment. He was never the sport of his genius but always its
master, never carried away like so many others, even the greatest, into
extravagancies or rash experiments. Mozart and Beethoven failed in
oratorio, Schubert in opera; the Italian operas of Gluck and Händel have
perished. Even in the successful work of these men there is a strange
inequality. But upon all that Bach attempted—and the amount of his work
is no less a marvel than its quality—he affixed the stamp of final and
inimitable perfection. We know from testimony that this perfection was
the result of thought and unflagging toil. The file was not the least
serviceable tool in his workshop. This intellectual restraint, operating
upon a highly intellectualized form of art, often gives Bach’s music an
air of severity, a scholastic hardness, which repels sympathy and makes
difficult the path to the treasures it contains. The musical culture of
our age has been so long based on a different school that no little
discipline is needed to adjust the mind to Bach’s manner of presenting
his profound ideas. The difficulty is analogous to that experienced in
acquiring an appreciation of Gothic sculpture and the Florentine painting
of the fourteenth century. We are compelled to learn a new musical
language, for it is only in a qualified sense that the language of music
is universal. We must put ourselves into another century, face another
order of ideas than those of our own age. We must learn the temper of the
German mind in the Reformation period and after, its proud
self-assertion, led to an aggressive positiveness of religious belief,
which, after all, was but the hard shell which enclosed a rare sweetness
of piety.

All through Bach we feel the well-known German mysticism which seeks the
truth in the instinctive convictions of the soul, the idealism which
takes the mind as the measure of existence, the romanticism which colors
the outer world with the hues of personal temperament. Bach’s historic
position required that this spirit, in many ways so modern, should take
shape in forms to which still clung the technical methods of an earlier
time. His all-encompassing organ style was Gothic—if we may use such a
term for illustration’s sake—not Renaissance. His style is Teutonic in
the widest as well as the most literal sense. It is based on forms
identified with the practice of the people in church and home. He
recognized not the priestly or the aristocratic element, but the popular.
His significance in the history of German Evangelical Christianity is
great. Protestantism, like Catholicism, has had its supreme poet. As
Dante embodied in an immortal epic the philosophic conceptions, the hopes
and fears of mediaeval Catholicism, so Bach, less obviously but no less
truly, in his cantatas, Passions, and choral preludes, lent the
illuminating power of his art to the ideas which brought forth the
Reformation. It is the central demand of Protestantism, the immediate
personal access of man to God, which, constituting a new motive in German
national music, gave shape and direction to Bach’s creative genius.

It has been reserved for recent years to discover that the title of chief
representative in art of German Protestantism is, after all, not the sum
of Bach’s claims to honor. There is something in his art that touches the
deepest chords of religious feeling in whatever communion that feeling
has been nurtured. His music is not the music of a confession, but of
humanity. What changes the spirit of religious progress is destined to
undergo in the coming years it would be vain to predict; but it is safe
to assume that the warrant of faith will not consist in authority
committed to councils or synods, or altogether in a verbal revelation
supposed to have been vouchsafed at certain epochs in the past, but in
the intuition of the continued presence of the eternal creative spirit in
the soul of man. This consciousness, of which creeds and liturgies are
but partial and temporary symbols, can find no adequate artistic
expression unless it be in the art of music. The more clearly this fact
is recognized by the world, the more the fame of Sebastian Bach will
increase, for no other musician has so amply embraced and so deeply
penetrated the universal religious sentiment. It may well be said of Bach
what a French critic says of Albrecht Dürer: “He was an intermediary
between the Middle Age and our modern times. Typical of the former in
that he was primarily a craftsman, laboring with all the sincerity and
unconscious modesty of the good workman who delights in his labor, he yet
felt something of the tormented spiritual unrest of the latter; and
indeed so strikingly reflects what we call the ‘modern spirit’ that his
work has to-day more influence upon our own thought and art than it had
upon that of his contemporaries.”[75]



The verdict of the admirers of Bach in respect to his greatness is not
annulled when it is found that the power and real significance of his
work were not comprehended by the mass of his countrymen during his life,
and that outside of Leipsic he exerted little influence upon religious
art for nearly a century after his death. He was not the less a typical
German on this account. Only at certain critical moments do nations seem
to be true to their better selves, and it often happens that their
greatest men appear in periods of general moral relaxation, apparently
rebuking the unworthiness of their fellow citizens instead of
exemplifying common traits of character. But later generations are able
to see that, after all, these men are not detached; their real bases,
although out of sight for the time, are immovably set in nationality.
Milton was no less representative of permanent elements in English
character when “fallen upon evil days,” when the direction of affairs
seemed given over to “sons of Belial,” who mocked at all he held
necessary to social welfare. Michael Angelo was still a genuine son of
Italy when he mourned in bitterness of soul over her degradation. And so
the spirit that pervaded the life and works of Bach is a German spirit,—a
spirit which Germany has often seemed to disown, but which in times of
need has often reasserted itself with splendid confidence and called her
back to soberness and sincerity.

When Bach had passed away, it seemed as if the mighty force he exerted
had been dissipated. He had not checked the decline of church music. The
art of organ playing degenerated. The choirs, never really adequate,
became more and more unable to do justice to the great works that had
been bequeathed to them. The public taste relaxed, and the demand for a
more florid and fetching kind of song naturalized in the Church the
theatrical style already predominant in France and Italy. The people lost
their perception of the real merit of their old chorals and permitted
them to be altered to suit the requirements of contemporary fashion, or
else slighted them altogether in favor of the new “art song.” No
composers appeared who were able or cared to perpetuate the old
traditions. This tendency was inevitable; its causes are perfectly
apparent to any one who knows the conditions prevailing in religion and
art in Germany in the last half of the eighteenth and the early part of
the nineteenth centuries. Pietism, with all its merits, had thrown a sort
of puritanic wet blanket over art in its protest against the external and
formal in worship. In the orthodox church circles the enthusiasm
necessary to nourish a wholesome spiritual life and a living church art
at the same time had sadly abated. The inculcation of a dry utilitarian
morality and the cultivation of a dogmatic pedantry had taken the place
of the joyous freedom of the Gospel. Other more direct causes also
entered to turn public interest away from the music of the Church. The
Italian opera, with its equipment of sensuous fascinations, devoid of
serious aims, was at the high tide of its popularity, patronized by the
ruling classes, and giving the tone to all the musical culture of the
time. A still more obvious impediment to the revival of popular interest
in church music was the rapid formation throughout Germany of choral
societies devoted to the performance of oratorios. Following the example
of England, these societies took up the works of Händel, and the
enthusiasm excited by Haydn’s “Creation” in 1798 gave a still more
powerful stimulus to the movement. These choral unions had no connection
with the church choirs of the eighteenth century, but grew out of private
musical associations. The great German music festivals date from about
1810, and they absorbed the interest of those composers whose talent
turned towards works of religious content. The church choirs were already
in decline when the choral societies began to raise their heads. Cantatas
and Passions were no longer heard in church worship. Their place in
public regard was taken by the concert oratorio. The current of
instrumental music, one of the chief glories of German art in the
nineteenth century, was absorbing more and more of the contributions of
German genius. The whole trend of the age was toward secular music. It
would appear that a truly great art of church music cannot maintain
itself beside a rising enthusiasm for secular music. Either the two
styles will be amalgamated, and church music be transformed to the
measure of the other, as happened in the case of Catholic music, or
church song will stagnate, as was the case in Protestant Germany.

After the War of Liberation, ending with the downfall of Napoleon’s
tyranny, and when Germany began to enter upon a period of critical
self-examination, demands began to be heard for the reinstatement of
church music on a worthier basis. The assertion of nationality in other
branches of musical art—the symphonies of Beethoven, the songs of
Schubert, the operas of Weber—was echoed in the domain of church music,
not at first in the production of great works, but in performance,
criticism, and appeal. It is not to be denied that a steady uplift in the
department of church music has been in progress in Germany all through
the nineteenth century. The transition from rationalism and infidelity to
a new and higher phase of evangelical religion effected under the lead of
Schleiermacher, the renewed interest in church history, the effort to
bring the forms of worship into coöperation with a quickened spiritual
life, the revival of the study of the great works of German art as
related to national intellectual development,—these influences and many
more have strongly stirred the cause of church music both in composition
and performance. Choirs have been enlarged and strengthened; the soprano
and alto parts are still exclusively sung by boys, but the tenor and bass
parts are taken by mature and thoroughly trained men, instead of by raw
youths, as in Bach’s time and after. In such choirs as those of the
Berlin cathedral and the Leipsic Thomas church, artistic singing attains
a richness of tone and finish of style hardly to be surpassed.

The most wholesome result of these movements has been to bring about a
clearer distinction in the minds of churchmen between a proper church
style in music and the concert style. Church-music associations
(evangelische Kirchengesang-Vereine), analogous to the Catholic St.
Cecilia Society, have taken in hand the question of the establishment of
church music on a more strict and efficient basis. Such masters as
Mendelssohn, Richter, Hauptmann, Kiel, and Grell have produced works of
great beauty, and at the same time admirably suited to the ideal
requirements of public worship.

In spite of the present more healthful condition of German Evangelical
music as compared with the feebleness and indefiniteness of the early
part of the nineteenth century, there is little assurance of the
restoration of this branch of art to the position which it held in the
national life two hundred years ago. In the strict sense writers of the
school of Spitta are correct in asserting that a Protestant church music
no longer exists. “It must be denied that an independent branch of the
tonal art is to be found which has its home only in the Church, which
contains life and the capacity for development in itself, and in whose
sphere the creative artist seeks his ideals.”[76]

On the other hand, a hopeful sign has appeared in recent German musical
history in the foundation of the New Bach Society, with headquarters at
Leipsic, in 1900. The task assumed by this society, which includes a
large number of the most eminent musicians of Germany, is that of making
Bach’s choral works better known, and especially of reintroducing them
into their old place in the worship of the Evangelical churches. The
success of such an effort would doubtless be fraught with important
consequences, and perhaps inaugurate a new era in the history of German
church music.



                               CHAPTER X
              THE MUSICAL SYSTEM OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND


The musical productions that have emanated from the Church of England
possess no such independent interest as works of art as those which so
richly adorn the Catholic and the German Evangelical systems. With the
exception of the naturalized Händel (whose few occasional anthems, Te
Deums, and miscellaneous church pieces give him an incidental place in
the roll of English ecclesiastical musicians), there is no name to be
found in connection with the English cathedral service that compares in
lustre with those that give such renown to the religious song of Italy
and Germany. Yet in spite of this mediocrity of achievement, the music of
the Anglican Church has won an honorable historic position, not only by
reason of the creditable average of excellence which it has maintained
for three hundred years, but still more through its close identification
with those fierce conflicts over dogma, ritual, polity, and the relation
of the Church to the individual which have given such a singular interest
to English ecclesiastical history. Methods of musical expression have
been almost as hotly contested as vital matters of doctrine and
authority, and the result has been that the English people look upon
their national religious song with a respect such as, perhaps, no other
school of church music receives in its own home. The value and purpose of
music in worship, and the manner of performance most conducive to
edification, have been for centuries the subjects of such serious
discussion that the problems propounded by the history of English church
music are of perennial interest. The dignity, orderliness, tranquillity,
and graciousness in outward form and inward spirit which have come to
distinguish the Anglican Establishment are reflected in its anthems and
“services,” its chants and hymns; while the simplicity and sturdy,
aggressive sincerity of the non-conformist sects may be felt in the
accents of their psalmody. The clash of liturgic and non-liturgic
opinions, conformity and independence, Anglicanism and Puritanism, may be
plainly heard in the church musical history of the sixteenth,
seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, and even to-day the contest has
not everywhere been settled by conciliation and fraternal sympathy.

The study of English church music, therefore, is the study of musical
forms and practices more than of works of art as such. We are met at the
outset by a spectacle not paralleled in other Protestant countries,
_viz._, the cleavage of the reformed Church into two violently hostile
divisions; and we find the struggle for supremacy between Anglicans and
Puritans fought out in the sphere of art and ritual as well as on the
battlefield and the arena of theological polemic. Consequently we are
obliged to trace two distinct lines of development—the ritual music of
the Establishment and the psalmody of the dissenting bodies—trying to
discover how these contending principles acted upon each other, and what
instruction can be drawn from their collision and their final compromise.

The Reformation in England took in many respects a very different course
from that upon the continent. In Germany, France, Switzerland, and the
Netherlands the revolt against Rome was initiated by men who sprung from
the ranks of the people. Notwithstanding the complication of motives
which drew princes and commoners, ecclesiastics and laymen, into the
rebellion, the movement was primarily religious, first a protest against
abuses, next the demand for free privileges in the Gospel, followed by
restatements of belief and the establishment of new forms of worship.
Political changes followed in the train of the religious revolution,
because in most instances there was such close alliance between the
secular powers and the papacy that allegiance to the former was not
compatible with resistance to the latter.

In England this process was reversed; political separation preceded the
religious changes; it was the alliance between the government and the
papacy that was first to break. The emancipation from the supremacy of
Rome was accomplished at a single stroke by the crown itself, and that
not upon moral grounds or doctrinal disagreement, but solely for
political advantage. In spite of tokens of spiritual unrest, there was no
sign of a disposition on the part of any considerable number of the
English people to sever their fealty to the Church of Rome when, in 1534,
Henry VIII. issued a royal edict repudiating the papal authority, and a
submissive Parliament decreed that “the king, our sovereign lord, his
heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted, and
reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England.” The
English Church became in a day what it had often shown a desire to
become—a national Church, free from the arbitrary authority of an Italian
overlordship, the king instead of the pope at its head, with supreme
power in all matters of appointment and discipline, possessing even the
prerogative of deciding what should be the religious belief and manner of
worship in the realm. No doctrinal change was involved in this
proceeding; there was no implied admission of freedom of conscience or
religious toleration. The mediaeval conception of the necessity of
religious unanimity among all the subjects of the state—one single state
Church maintained in every precept and ordinance by the power of the
throne—was rigorously reasserted. The English Church had simply exchanged
one master for another, and had gained a spiritual tyranny to which were
attached no conceptions of right drawn from ancestral association or
historic tradition.

The immediate occasion for this action on the part of Henry VIII. was, as
all know, his exasperation against Clement VII. on account of that pope’s
refusal to sanction the king’s iniquitous scheme of a divorce from his
faithful wife Catherine and a marriage with Anne Boleyn. This grievance
was doubtless a mere pretext, for a temper so imperious as that of Henry
could not permanently brook a divided loyalty in his kingdom. But since
Henry took occasion to proclaim anew the fundamental dogmas of the
Catholic Church, with the old bloody penalties against heresy, it would
not be proper to speak of him as the originator of the Reformation in
England. That event properly dates from the reign of his successor,
Edward VI.

It was not possible, however, that in breaking the ties of hierarchical
authority which had endured for a thousand years the English Church
should not undergo further change. England had always been a more or less
refractory child of the Roman Church, and more than once the conception
of royal prerogative and national right had come into conflict with the
pretensions of the papacy, and the latter had not always emerged
victorious from the struggle. The old Germanic spirit of liberty and
individual determination, always especially strong in England, was
certain to assert itself when the great European intellectual awakening
of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had taken hold of the mass of
the people; and it might have been foreseen after Luther’s revolt that
England would soon throw herself into the arms of the Reformation. The
teachings of Wiclif and the Lollards were still cherished at many English
fire-sides. Humanistic studies had begun to flourish under the auspices
of such men as Erasmus, Colet, and More, and humanism, as the natural foe
of superstition and obscurantism, was instinctively set against
ecclesiastical assumption. Lastly, the trumpet blast of Luther had found
an echo in many stout British hearts. The initiative of the crown,
however, forestalled events and changed their course, and instead of a
general rising of the people, the overthrow of every vestige of Romanism,
and the creation of a universal Calvinistic system, the conservatism and
moderation of Edward VI. and Elizabeth and their advisers retained so
much of external form and ceremony in the interest of dignity, and fixed
so firmly the pillars of episcopacy in the interest of stability and
order, that the kingdom found itself divided into two parties, and the
brief conflict between nationalism and Romanism was succeeded by the long
struggle between the Establishment, protected by the throne, and rampant,
all-levelling Puritanism.

With the passage of the Act of Supremacy the Catholic and Protestant
parties began to align themselves for conflict. Henry VIII. at first
showed himself favorable to the Protestants, inclining to the acceptance
of the Bible as final authority instead of the decrees and traditions of
the Church. After the Catholic rebellion of 1536, however, the king
changed his policy, and with the passage of the Six Articles, which
decreed the doctrine of transubstantiation, the celibacy of the clergy,
the value of private masses, and the necessity of auricular confession,
he began a bloody persecution which ended only with his death.

The boy king, Edward VI., who reigned from 1547 to 1553, had been won
over to Protestantism by Archbishop Cranmer, and with his accession
reforms in doctrine and ritual went on rapidly. Parliament was again
subservient, and a modified Lutheranism took possession of the English
Church. The people were taught from the English Bible, the Book of Common
Prayer took the place of Missal and Breviary; the Mass, compulsory
celibacy of the clergy, and worship of images were abolished, and
invocation of saints forbidden. We must observe that these changes, like
those effected by Henry VIII., were not brought about by popular pressure
under the leadership of great tribunes, but were decreed by the rulers of
the state, ratified by Parliament under due process of law, and enforced
by the crown under sanction of the Act of Supremacy. The revolution was
regular, peaceful, and legal, and none of the savage conflicts between
Catholics and Protestants which tore Germany, France, and the Netherlands
in pieces and drenched their soil with blood, ever occurred in England.
Amid such conditions reaction was easy. Under Mary (1553-1558) the old
religion and forms were reënacted, and a persecution, memorable for the
martyrdoms of Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Hooper, and other leaders of the
Protestant party, was carried on with ruthless severity, but without
weakening the cause of the reformed faith. Elizabeth (1558-1603) had no
pronounced religious convictions, but under the stress of European
political conditions she became of necessity a protector of the
Protestant cause. The reformed service was restored, and from Elizabeth’s
day the Church of England has rested securely upon the constitutions of
Edward VI.

With the purification and restatement of doctrine according to Protestant
principles was involved the question of the liturgy. There was no thought
on the part of the English reformers of complete separation from the
ancient communion and the establishment of a national Church upon an
entirely new theory. They held firmly to the conception of historic
Christianity; the episcopal succession extending back to the early ages
of the Church was not broken, the administration of the sacraments never
ceased. The Anglican Church was conceived as the successor of the
universal institution which, through her apostasy from the pure doctrine
of the apostles, had abrogated her claims upon the allegiance of the
faithful. Anglicanism contained in itself a continuation of the tradition
delivered to the fathers, with an open Bible, and the emancipation of the
reason; it was legitimate heir to what was noblest and purest in
Catholicism. This conception is strikingly manifest in the liturgy of the
Church of England, which is partly composed of materials furnished by the
office-books of the ancient Church, and in the beginning associated with
music in no way to be distinguished in style from the Catholic. The
prominence given to vestments, and to ceremonies calculated to impress
the senses, also points unmistakably to the conservative spirit which
forbade that the reform should in any way take on the guise of
revolution.

The ritual of the Church of England is contained in a single volume,
_viz._, the Book of Common Prayer. It is divided into matins and
evensong, the office of Holy Communion, offices of confirmation and
ordination, and occasional offices. But little of this liturgy is
entirely original; the matins and evensong are compiled from the Catholic
Breviary, the Holy Communion with collects, epistles, and gospels from
the Missal, occasional offices from the Ritual, and the confirmation and
ordination offices from the Pontifical. All these offices, as compared
with the Catholic sources, are greatly modified and simplified. A vast
amount of legendary and unhistoric matter found in the Breviary has
disappeared, litanies to and invocations of the saints and the Virgin
Mary have been omitted. The offices proper to saints’ days have
disappeared, the seven canonical hours are compressed to two, the space
given to selections from Holy Scripture greatly extended, and the English
language takes the place of Latin.

In this dependence upon the offices of the mother Church for the ritual
of the new worship the English reformers, like Martin Luther, testified
to their conviction that they were purifiers and renovators of the
ancient faith and ceremony, not violent destroyers, seeking to win the
sympathies of their countrymen by deferring to old associations and
inherited prejudices, so far as consistent with reason and conscience.
Their sense of historic continuity is further shown in the fact that the
Breviaries which they consulted were those specially employed from early
times in England, particularly the use known as the “Sarum use,” drawn up
and promulgated about 1085 by Osmund, bishop of Salisbury, and generally
adopted in the south of England, and which deviated in certain details
from the use of Rome.

Propositions looking to the amendment of the service-books were brought
forward before the end of the reign of Henry VIII., and a beginning was
made by introducing the reading of small portions of the Scripture in
English. The Litany was the first of the prayers to be altered and set in
English, which was done by Cranmer, who had before him the old litanies
of the English Church, besides the “Consultation” of Hermann, archbishop
of Cologne (1543).

With the accession of Edward VI. in 1547 the revolution in worship was
thoroughly confirmed, and in 1549 the complete Book of Common Prayer,
essentially in its modern form, was issued. A second and modified edition
was published in 1552 and ordered to be adopted in all the churches of
the kingdom. The old Catholic office-books were called in and destroyed,
the images were taken from the houses of worship, the altars removed and
replaced by communion tables, the vestments of the clergy were
simplified, and the whole conception of the service, as well as its
ceremonies, completely transformed. Owing to the accession of Mary in
1553 there was no time for the Prayer Book of 1552 to come into general
use. A third edition, somewhat modified, published in 1559, was one of
the earliest results of the accession of Elizabeth. Another revision
followed in 1604 under James I.; additions and alterations were made
under Charles II. in 1661-2. Since that date only very slight changes
have been made.

The liturgy of the Church of England is composed, like the Catholic
liturgy, of both constant and variable offices, the latter, however,
being in a small minority. It is notable for the large space given to
reading from Holy Scripture, the entire Psalter being read through every
month, the New Testament three times a year, and the Old Testament once a
year. It includes a large variety of prayers, special psalms to be sung,
certain psalm-like hymns called canticles, the hymns comprising the chief
constant choral members of the Latin Mass, _viz._, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo,
and Sanctus—the Te Deum, the ten commandments, a litany, besides short
sentences and responses known as versicles. In addition to the regular
morning and evening worship there are special series of offices for Holy
Communion and for particular occasions, such as ordinations,
confirmations, the burial service, etc.

Although there is but one ritual common to all the congregations of the
established Church, one form of prayer and praise which ascends from
cathedral, chapel, and parish church alike, this service differs in
respect to the manner of rendering. The Anglican Church retained the
conception of the Catholic that the service is a musical service, that
the prayers, as well as the psalms, canticles, and hymns, are properly to
be given not in the manner of ordinary speech, but in musical tone. It
was soon found, however, that a full musical service, designed for the
more conservative and wealthy establishments, was not practicable in
small country parishes, and so in process of time three modes of
performing the service were authorized, _viz._, the choral or cathedral
mode, the parochial, and the mixed.

The choral service is that used in the cathedrals, royal and college
chapels, and certain parish churches whose resources permit the adoption
of the same practice. In this mode everything except the lessons is
rendered in musical tone, from the monotoned prayers of the priest to the
figured chorus music of “service” and anthem. The essential parts of the
choral service, as classified by Dr. Jebb,[77] are as follows:

1. The chanting by the minister of the sentences, exhortations, prayers,
and collects throughout the liturgy in a monotone, slightly varied by
occasional modulations.

2. The alternate chant of the versicles and responses by minister and
choir.

3. The alternate chant, by the two divisions of the choir, of the daily
psalms and of such as occur in the various offices of the Church.

4. The singing of all the canticles and hymns, in the morning and evening
service, either to an alternated chant or to songs of a more intricate
style, resembling anthems in their construction, and which are
technically styled “services.”

5. The singing of the anthem after the third collect in both morning and
evening prayer.

6. The alternate chanting of the litany by the minister and choir.

7. The singing of the responses after the commandments in the Communion
service.

8. The singing of the creed, Gloria in excelsis, and Sanctus in the
Communion service anthem-wise. [The Sanctus has in recent years been
superseded by a short anthem or hymn.]

9. The chanting or singing of those parts in the occasional offices which
are rubrically permitted to be sung.

In this manner of worship the Church of England conforms to the general
usage of liturgic churches throughout the world in ancient and modern
times, by implication honoring that conception of the intimate union of
word and tone in formal authorized worship which has been expounded in
the chapters on the Catholic music and ritual. Since services are held on
week days as well as on Sundays in the cathedrals, and since there are
two full choral services, each involving an almost unbroken current of
song from clergy and choir, this usage involves a large and thoroughly
trained establishment, which is made possible by the endowments of the
English cathedrals.

The parochial service is that used in the smaller churches where it is
not possible to maintain an endowed choir. “According to this mode the
accessories of divine service necessary towards its due performance are
but few and simple.” “As to the ministers, the stated requirements of
each parochial church usually contemplate but one, the assistant clergy
and members of choirs being rarely objects of permanent endowment.” “As
to the mode of performing divine service, the strict parochial mode
consists in reciting all parts of the liturgy in the speaking tone of the
voice unaccompanied by music. According to this mode no chant, or
canticle, or anthem, properly so called, is employed; but metrical
versions of the psalms are sung at certain intervals between the various
offices.” (Jebb.)

This mode is not older than 1549, for until the Reformation the Plain
Chant was used in parish churches. The singing of metrical psalms dates
from the reign of Elizabeth.

The mixed mode is less simple than the parochial; parts of the service
are sung by a choir, but the prayers, creeds, litany, and responses are
recited in speaking voice. It may be said, however, that the parochial
and the mixed modes are optional and permitted as matters of convenience.
There is no law that forbids any congregation to adopt any portion or
even the whole of the choral mode. In these variations, to which we find
nothing similar in the Catholic Church, may be seen the readiness of the
fathers of the Anglican Church to compromise with Puritan tendencies and
guard against those reactions which, as later history shows, are
constantly urging sections of the English Church back to extreme
ritualistic practices.

The music of the Anglican Church follows the three divisions into which
church music in general may be separated, _viz._, the chant, the figured
music of the choir, and the congregational hymn.

The history of the Anglican chant may also be taken to symbolize the
submerging of the ancient priestly idea in the representative conception
of the clerical office, for the chant has proved itself a very flexible
form of expression, both in structure and usage, endeavoring to connect
itself sometimes with the anthem-like choir song and again with the
congregational hymn. In the beginning, however, the method of chanting
exactly followed the Catholic form. Two kinds of chant were employed,—the
simple unaccompanied Plain Song of the minister, which is almost
monotone; and the accompanied chant, more melodious and florid, employed
in the singing of the psalms, canticles, litany, etc., by the choir or by
the minister and choir.

The substitution of English for Latin and the sweeping modification of
the liturgy did not in the least alter the system and principle of
musical rendering which had existed in the Catholic Church. The litany,
the oldest portion of the Book of Common Prayer, compiled by Cranmer and
published in 1544, was set for singing note for note from the ancient
Plain Song. In 1550 a musical setting was given to all parts of the
Prayer Book by John Marbecke, a well-known musician of that period. He,
like Cranmer, adapted portions of the old Gregorian chant, using only the
plainer forms. In Marbecke’s book we find the simplest style, consisting
of monotone, employed for the prayers and the Apostles’ Creed, a larger
use of modulation in the recitation of the psalms, and a still more
song-like manner in the canticles and those portions, such as the Kyrie
and Gloria, taken from the mass. To how great an extent this music of
Marbecke was employed in the Anglican Church in the sixteenth century is
not certainly known. Certain parts of it gave way to the growing fondness
for harmonized and figured music in all parts of the service, but so far
as Plain Chant has been retained in the cathedral service the setting of
Marbecke has established the essential form down to the present day.[78]

The most marked distinction between the choral mode of performing the
service, and those divergent usages which have often been conceived as a
protest against it, consists in the practice of singing or monotoning the
prayers by the minister. The notion of impersonality which underlies the
liturgic conception of worship everywhere, the merging of the individual
in an abstract, idealized, comprehensive entity—the Church—is symbolized
in this custom. Notwithstanding the fact that the large majority of
congregational hymns are really prayers, and that in this case the
offering of prayer in metrical form and in musical strains has always
been admitted by all ranks of Christians as perfectly appropriate, yet
there has always seemed to a large number of English Protestants
something artificial and even irreverent in the delivery of prayer in an
unchanging musical note, in which expression is lost in the abandonment
of the natural inflections of speech. Here is probably the cause of the
repugnant impression,—not because the utterance is musical in tone, but
because it is monotonous and unexpressive.

It is of interest to note the reasons for this practice as given by
representative English churchmen, since the motive for the usage touches
the very spirit and significance of a ritualistic form of worship.

Dr. Bisse, in his _Rationale on Cathedral Worship_, justifies the
practice on the ground (1) of necessity, since the great size of the
cathedral churches obliges the minister to use a kind of tone that can be
heard throughout the building; (2) of uniformity, in order that the
voices of the congregation may not jostle and confuse each other; and (3)
of the advantage in preventing imperfections and inequalities of
pronunciation on the part of both minister and people. Other reasons
which are more mystical, and probably on that account still more cogent
to the mind of the ritualist, are also given by this writer. “It is
emblematic,” he says, “of the delight which Christians have in the law of
God. It bespeaks the cheerfulness of our Christian profession, as
contrasted with that of the Gentiles. It gives to divine worship a
greater dignity by separating it more from all actions and interlocutions
that are common and familiar. It is more efficacious to awaken the
attention, to stir up the affections, and to edify the understanding than
plain reading.” And Dr. Jebb puts the case still more definitely when he
says: “In the Church of England the lessons are not chanted, but read.
The instinctive good taste of the revisers of the liturgy taught them
that the lessons, being narratives, orations, records of appeals to men,
or writings of an epistolary character, require that method of reading
which should be, within due bounds, imitative. But with the prayers the
case is far different. These are uttered by the minister of God, not as
an individual, but as the instrument and channel of petitions which are
of perpetual obligation, supplications for all those gifts of God’s grace
which are needful for all mankind while this frame of things shall last.
The prayers are not, like the psalms and canticles, the expression, the
imitation, or the record of the hopes and fears, of the varying
sentiments, of the impassioned thanksgivings, of the meditative musings
of inspired individuals, or of holy companies of men or angels; they are
the unchangeable voice of the Church of God, seeking through one eternal
Redeemer gifts that shall be for everlasting. And hence the uniformity of
tone in which she seeks them is significant of the unity of spirit which
teaches the Church universal so to pray, of the unity of means by which
her prayers are made available, of the perfect unity with God her Father
which shall be her destiny in the world to come.”

The word “chant” as used in the English Church (to be in strictness
distinguished from the priestly monotoning), signifies the short melodies
which are sung to the psalms and canticles. The origin of the Anglican
chant system is to be found in the ancient Gregorian chant, of which it
is only a slight modification. It is a sort of musically delivered
speech, the punctuation and rate of movement being theoretically the same
as in spoken discourse. Of all the forms of religious music the chant is
least susceptible to change and progress, and the modern Anglican chant
bears the plainest marks of its mediaeval origin. The modifications which
distinguish the new from the old may easily be seen upon comparing a
modern English chant-book with an office-book of the Catholic Church. In
place of the rhythmic freedom of the Gregorian, with its frequent florid
passages upon a single syllable, we find in the Anglican a much greater
simplicity and strictness, and also, it must be admitted, a much greater
melodic monotony and dryness. The English chant is almost entirely
syllabic, even two notes to a syllable are rare, while there is nothing
remotely corresponding to the melismas of the Catholic liturgic song. The
bar lines, unknown in the Roman chant, give the English form much greater
steadiness of movement. The intonation of the Gregorian chant has been
dropped, the remaining four divisions—recitation, mediation, second
recitation, and ending—retained. The Anglican chant is of two kinds,
single and double. A single chant comprises one verse of a psalm; it
consists of two melodic strains, the first including three measures, the
second four. A double chant is twice the length of a single chant, and
includes two verses of a psalm, the first ending being an incomplete
cadence. The double chant is an English invention; it is unknown in the
Gregorian system. The objections to it are obvious, since the two verses
of a psalm which may be comprised in the chant often differ in sentiment.

The manner of fitting the words to the notes of the chant is called
“pointing.” There is no authoritative method of pointing in the Church of
England, and there is great disagreement and controversy on the subject
in the large number of chant-books that are used in England and America.
In the cathedral service the chants are sung antiphonally, the two
divisions of the chorus answering each other from opposite sides of the
choir.

There are large numbers of so-called chants which are more properly to be
called hymns or anthems in chant style, such as the melodies sometimes
sung to the Te Deum and the Gloria in excelsis. These compositions may
consist of any number of divisions, each comprising the three-measure and
four-measure members found in the single chant.

The modern Anglican chant form is not so old as commonly supposed. The
ancient Gregorian chants for the psalms and canticles were in universal
use as late as the middle of the seventeenth century. The modern chant
was of course a gradual development, and was the inevitable result of the
harmonization of the old chant melodies according to the new system with
its corresponding balancing points of tonic and dominant. A few of the
Anglican chants sung at the present day go back to the time of the
Restoration, that is, soon after 1660; the larger number date from the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The modern chant, however, has never
been able entirely to supplant the ancient Plain Song melody. The
“Gregorian” movement in the Church of England, one of the results of the
ritualistic reaction inaugurated by the Oxford Tractarian agitation,
although bitterly opposed both on musical grounds and perhaps still more
through alarm over the tendencies which it symbolizes, has apparently
become firmly established; and even in quarters where there is little
sympathy with the ritualistic movement, musical and ecclesiastical
conservatism unites with a natural reverence for the historic past to
preserve in constant use the venerated relics of early days. Sir John
Stainer voiced the sentiment of many leading English musical churchmen
when he said: “I feel very strongly that the beautiful Plain Song
versicles, responses, inflections, and prefaces to our prayers and
liturgy should not be lightly thrown aside. These simple and grand
specimens of Plain Song, so suited to their purpose, so reverent in their
subdued emotion, appeal to us for their protection. The Plain Song of the
prefaces of our liturgy as sung now in St. Paul’s cathedral are note for
note the same that rang at least eight hundred years ago through the
vaulted roof of that ancient cathedral which crowned the summit of the
fortified hill of old Salisbury. Not a stone remains of wall or shrine,
but the old Sarum office-books have survived, from which we can draw
ancient hymns and Plain Song as from a pure fount. Those devout monks
recorded all their beautiful offices and the music of these offices,
because they were even then venerable and venerated. Shall we throw them
into the fire to make room for neat and appropriate excogitations, fresh
from the blotting-pad of Mr. A, or Dr. B, or the Reverend C, or Miss D?”

It must be acknowledged, however, that the Gregorian chant melodies
undergo decided modification in spirit and impression when set to English
words. In their pure state their strains are thoroughly conformed to the
structure and flow of the Latin texts from which they grew. There is
something besides tradition and association that makes them appear
somewhat forced and ill at ease when wedded to a modern language. As
Curwen says: “In its true form the Gregorian chant has no bars or
measures; the time and the accent are verbal, not musical. Each note of
the mediation or the ending is emphatic or non-emphatic, according to the
word or syllable to which it happens to be sung. The endings which follow
the recitation do not fall into musical measures, but are as unrhythmical
as the reciting tone itself. Modern music, and the instinctive observance
of rhythm which is an essential part of it, have modified the old chant
and given it accent and time. The reason why the attempt to adapt the
Gregorian tones to the English language has resulted in their
modification is not far to seek. The non-accented system suits Latin and
French, but not English. Aside from the instinct for time, and the desire
to make a ‘tune’ of the chant, which is a part of human nature, it is a
feature of the English language that in speaking we pass from accent to
accent and elide the intervening syllables. The first attempts to adapt
the Gregorian tones to English use proceeded strictly upon the plan of
one syllable to a note. Of however many notes the mediation or cadence of
the chant consisted, that number of syllables was marked off from the end
of each half-verse, and the recitation ended when they were reached.”[79]
The attempt to sing in this fashion, Curwen goes on to show, resulted in
the greatest violence to English pronunciation. In order to avoid this,
slurs, which are no part of the Gregorian system proper, were employed to
bring the accented syllables upon the first of the measure.

Doubtless the fundamental and certainly praiseworthy motive of those who
strongly desire to reintroduce the Gregorian melodies into the Anglican
service is to establish once for all a body of liturgic tones which are
pure, noble, and eminently fitting in character, endowed at the same time
with venerable ecclesiastical associations which shall become fixed and
authoritative, and thus an insurmountable barrier against the intrusion
of the ephemeral novelties of “the Reverend C and Miss D.” Every
intelligent student of religious art may well say Amen to such a desire.
As the case now stands there is no law or custom that prevents any
minister or cantor from introducing into the service any chant-tune which
he chooses to invent or adopt. Neither is there any authority that has
the right to select any system or body of liturgic song and compel its
introduction. The Gregorian movement is an attempt to remedy this
palpable defect in the Anglican musical system. It is evident that this
particular solution of the difficulty can never generally prevail. Any
effort, however, which tends to restrict the number of chants in use, and
establish once for all a store of liturgic melodies which is preëminently
worthy of the historic associations and the conservative aims of the
Anglican Church, should receive the hearty support of English musicians
and churchmen.

If Marbecke’s unison chants were intended as a complete scheme for the
musical service, they were at any rate quickly swallowed up by the
universal demand for harmonized music, and the choral service of the
Church of England very soon settled into the twofold classification which
now prevails, _viz._, the harmonized chant and the more elaborate figured
setting of “service” and anthem. The former dates from 1560, when John
Day’s psalter was published, containing three and four-part settings of
old Plain Song melodies, contributed by Tallis, Shepherd, and other
prominent musicians of the time. From the very outset of the adoption of
the vernacular in all parts of the service, that is to say from the reign
of Edward VI., certain selected psalms and canticles, technically known
as “services,” were sung anthem-wise in the developed choral style of the
highest musical science of the day. The components of the “service” are
to be distinguished from the daily psalms which are always sung in
antiphonal chant form, and may be said to correspond to the choral
unvarying portions of the Catholic Mass. The “service” in its fullest
form includes the Venite (Ps. xcv.), Te Deum, Benedicite (Song of the
Three Children, from the Greek continuation of the book of Daniel),
Benedictus (Song Of Zacharias), Jubilate (Ps. c.), Kyrie eleison, Nicene
Creed, Sanctus, Gloria in excelsis, Magnificat (Song of Mary), Cantate
Domino (Ps. xcviii.), Nunc dimittis (Song of Simeon), and the Deus
Misereatur (Ps. lxvii). Of these the Venite, Benedicite, and the Sanctus
have in recent times fallen out. These psalms and canticles are divided
between the morning and evening worship, and not all of them are
obligatory.

The “service,” in respect to musical style, has moved step by step with
the anthem, from the strict contrapuntal style of the sixteenth century,
to that of the present with all its splendor of harmony and orchestral
color. It has engaged the constant attention of the multitude of English
church composers, and it has more than rivalled the anthem in the zealous
regard of the most eminent musicians, from the time of Tallis and Gibbons
to the present day.

The anthem, although an almost exact parallel to the “service” in musical
construction, stands apart, liturgically, from the rest of the service in
the Church of England, in that while all the other portions are laid down
in the Book of Common Prayer, the words of the anthem are not prescribed.
The Prayer Book merely says after the third collect, “In quires and
places where they sing here followeth the anthem.” What the anthem shall
be at any particular service is left to the determination of the choir
master, but it is commonly understood, and in some dioceses is so
decreed, that the words of the anthem shall be taken from the Scripture
or the Book of Common Prayer. This precept, however, is frequently
transgressed, and many anthems have been written to words of metrical
hymns. The restriction of the anthem texts to selections from the Bible
or the liturgy is designed to exclude words that are unfamiliar to the
people or unauthorized by ecclesiastical authority. Even with these
limitations the freedom of choice on the part of the musical director
serves to withdraw the anthem from that vital organic connection with the
liturgy held by the “service,” and it is not infrequently omitted from
the daily office altogether. The object of the fathers of the Church of
England in admitting so exceptional a musical composition into the
service was undoubtedly to give the worship more variety, and to relieve
the fatigue that would otherwise result from a long unbroken series of
prayers.

The anthem, although the legitimate successor of the Latin motet, has
taken in England a special and peculiar form. According to its derivation
(from ant-hymn, responsive or alternate song) the word anthem was at
first synonymous with antiphony. The modern form, succeeding the ancient
choral motet, dates from about the time of Henry Purcell (1658-1695). The
style was confirmed by Händel, who in his celebrated Chandos anthems
first brought the English anthem into European recognition. The anthem in
its present shape is a sort of mixture of the ancient motet and the
German cantata. From the motet it derives its broad and artistically
constructed choruses, while the influence of the cantata is seen in its
solos and instrumental accompaniment. As the modern anthem is free and
ornate, giving practically unlimited scope for musical invention, it has
been cultivated with peculiar ardor by the English church composers, and
the number of anthems of varying degrees of merit or demerit which have
been produced in England would baffle the wildest estimate. This style of
music has been largely adopted in the churches of America, and American
composers have imitated it, often with brilliant success.

The form of anthem in which the entire body of singers is employed from
beginning to end is technically known as the “full” anthem. In another
form, called the “verse” anthem, portions are sung by selected voices. A
“solo” anthem contains passages for a single voice.

The anthem of the Church of England has been more or less affected by the
currents of secular music, but to a much slighter extent than the
Catholic mass. The opera has never taken the commanding position in
England which it has held in the Catholic countries, and only in rare
cases have the English church composers, at any rate since the time of
Händel, felt their allegiance divided between the claims of religion and
the attractions of the stage. In periods of religious depression or
social frivolity the church anthem has sometimes become weak and shallow,
but the ancient austere traditions have never been quite abrogated. The
natural conservatism of the English people, especially in matters of
churchly usage, and their tenacious grasp upon the proper distinction
between religious and profane art, while acting to the benefit of the
anthem and “service” on the side of dignity and appropriateness in style,
have had a correspondingly unfavorable influence so far as progress and
sheer musical quality are concerned. One who reads through large numbers
of English church compositions cannot fail to be impressed by their
marked similarity in style and the rarity of features that indicate any
striking originality. This monotony and predominance of conventional
commonplace must be largely attributed, of course, to the absence of real
creative force in English music; but it is also true that even if such
creative genius existed, it would hardly feel free to take liberties with
those strict canons of taste which have become embedded in the unwritten
laws of Anglican musical procedure. In spite of these limitations English
church music does not wholly deserve the obloquy that has been cast upon
it by certain impatient critics. That it has not rivalled the Catholic
mass, nor adopted the methods that have transformed secular music in the
modern era is not altogether to its discredit. Leaving out the wonderful
productions of Sebastian Bach (which, by the way, are no longer heard in
church service in Germany), the music of the Church of England is amply
worthy of comparison with that of the German Evangelical Church; and in
abundance, musical value, and conformity to the ideals which have always
governed public worship in its noblest estate, it is entitled to be
ranked as one of the four great historic schools of Christian worship
music.

England had not been lacking in eminent composers for the Church before
the Reformation, but their work was in the style which then prevailed all
over Europe. Some of these writers could hold their own with the
Netherlanders in point of learning. England held an independent position
during “the age of the Netherlanders” in that the official musical posts
in the schools and chapels were held by native Englishmen, and not, as
was so largely the case on the continent, by men of Northern France and
Flanders or their pupils. This fact speaks much for the inherent force of
English music, but the conditions of musical culture at that time did not
encourage any originality of style or new efforts after expression.

The continental development of the polyphonic school to its perfection in
the sixteenth century was paralleled in England; and since the English
Reformation was contemporary with this musical apogee, the newly founded
national Church possessed in such men as Tallis, Byrd, Tye, Gibbons, and
others only less conspicuous, a group of composers not unworthy to stand
beside Palestrina and Lassus. It is indeed good fortune for the Church of
England that its musical traditions have been founded by such men. Thomas
Tallis, the most eminent of the circle, who died in 1585, devoted his
talents almost entirely to the Church. In science he was not inferior to
his continental compeers, and his music is preëminently stately and
solid. Besides the large number of motets, “services,” etc., which he
contributed to the Church, he is now best remembered by the harmonies
added by him to the Plain Song of the old régime. Tallis must therefore
be regarded as the chief of the founders of the English harmonized chant.
His tunes arranged for Day’s psalter give him an honorable place also in
the history of English psalmody.

Notwithstanding the revolutions in the authorized ceremony of the Church
of England during the stormy Reformation period, from the revised
constitutions of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. to the restored Catholicism
of Mary, and back to Protestantism again under Elizabeth, the salaried
musicians of the Church retained their places while their very seats
seemed often to rock beneath them, writing alternately for the Catholic
and Protestant services with equal facility, and with equal satisfaction
to themselves and their patrons. It was a time when no one could tell at
any moment to what doctrine or discipline he might be commanded to
subscribe, and many held themselves ready loyally to accept the faith of
the sovereign as their own. Such were the ideas of the age that the
claims of uniformity could honestly be held as paramount to those of
individual judgment. Only those who combined advanced thinking with
fearless independence of character were able to free themselves from the
prevailing sophistry on this matter of conformity _vs._ freedom. Even a
large number of the clergy took the attitude of compliance to authority,
and it is often a matter of wonder to readers of the history of this
period to see how comparatively few changes were made in the incumbencies
of ecclesiastical livings in the shifting triumphs of the hostile
confessions. If this were the case with the clergy it is not surprising
that the church musicians should have been still more complaisant. The
style of music performed in the new worship, we must remember, hardly
differed in any respect from that in use under the old system. The
organists and choir masters were not called upon to mingle in theological
controversies, and they had probably learned discretion from the
experience of John Marbecke, who came near to being burned at the stake
for his sympathy with Calvinism. As in Germany, there was no necessary
conflict between the musical practices of Catholics and Protestants. The
real animosity on the point of liturgies and music was not between
Anglicans and Catholics, but between Anglicans and Puritans.

The old polyphonic school came to an end with Orlando Gibbons in 1625. No
conspicuous name appears in the annals of English church music until we
meet that of Henry Purcell, who was born in 1658 and died in 1695. We
have made a long leap from the Elizabethan period, for the first half of
the seventeenth century was a time of utter barrenness in the neglected
fields of art. The distracted state of the kingdom during the reign of
Charles I., the Great Rebellion, and the ascendency of the Puritans under
Cromwell made progress in the arts impossible, and at one time their very
existence seemed threatened. A more hopeful era began with the
restoration of the Stuarts in 1660. Charles II. had spent some years in
France after the ruin of his father’s cause, and upon his triumphant
return he encouraged those light French styles in art and literature
which were so congenial to his character. He was a devotee of music after
his fashion; he warmly encouraged it in the Royal Chapel, and a number of
skilful musicians came from the boy choirs of this establishment.

The earliest anthems of the Anglican Church were, like the Catholic
motet, unaccompanied. The use of the organ and orchestral instruments
followed soon after the middle of the seventeenth century. No such school
of organ playing arose in England as that which gave such glory to
Germany in the same period. The organ remained simply a support to the
voices, and attained no distinction as a solo instrument. Even in
Händel’s day and long after, few organs in England had a complete pedal
board; many had none at all. The English anthem has always thrown greater
proportionate weight upon the vocal element as compared with the Catholic
mass and the German cantata. In the Restoration period the orchestra came
prominently forward in the church worship, and not only were elaborate
accompaniments employed for the anthem, but performances of orchestral
instruments were given at certain places in the service. King Charles
II., who, to use the words of Dr. Tudway, was “a brisk and airy prince,”
did not find the severe solemnity of the _a capella_ style of Tallis and
Gibbons at all to his liking. Under the patronage of “the merry monarch,”
the brilliant style, then in fashion on the continent, flourished apace.
Henry Purcell, the most gifted of this school, probably the most highly
endowed musical genius that has ever sprung from English soil, was a man
of his time, preëminent likewise in opera, and much of his church music
betrays the influence of the gay atmosphere which he breathed. But his
profound musicianship prevented him from degrading his art to the level
of the prevailing taste of the royal court, and much of his religious
music is reckoned even at the present day among the choicest treasures of
English art. As a chorus writer he is one of the first of the moderns,
and one who would trace Händel’s oratorio style to its sources must take
large account of the church works of Henry Purcell.

With the opening of the eighteenth century the characteristics of the
English anthem of the present day were virtually fixed. The full, the
verse, and the solo anthem were all in use, and the accompanied style had
once for all taken the place of the _a capella_. During the eighteenth
and early part of the nineteenth centuries English choir music offers
nothing especially noteworthy, unless we except the Te Deums and
so-called anthems of Händel, whose style is, however, that of the
oratorio rather than church music in the proper sense.

The works of Hayes, Attwood, Boyce, Greene, Battishill, Crotch, and
others belonging to the period between the middle of the eighteenth and
the middle of the nineteenth centuries are solid and respectable, but as
a rule dry and perfunctory. A new era began with the passing of the first
third of the nineteenth century, when a higher inspiration seized English
church music. The work of the English cathedral school of the second half
of the nineteenth century is highly honorable to the English Church and
people. A vast amount of it is certainly the barrenest and most
unpromising of routine manufacture, for every incumbent of an organist’s
post throughout the kingdom, however obscure, feels that his dignity
requires him to contribute his quota to the enormously swollen
accumulation of anthems and “services.” But in this numerous company we
find the names of such men as Goss, Bennett, Hopkins, Monk, Barnby,
Sullivan, Smart, Tours, Stainer, Garrett, Martin, Bridge, Stanford,
Mackenzie, and others not less worthy, who have endowed the choral
service with richer color and more varied and appealing expression. This
brilliant advance may be connected with the revival of spirituality and
zeal in the English Church which early in the nineteenth century
succeeded to the drowsy indifference of the eighteenth; but we must not
push such coincidences too far. The church musician must always draw some
of his inspiration from within the institution which he serves, but we
have seen that while the religious folk-song is stimulated only by deep
and widespread enthusiasm, the artistic music of the Church is dependent
rather upon the condition of music at large. The later progress in
English church music is identified with the forward movement in all
European music which began with the symphonies of Beethoven, the operas
of Weber and the French masters, and the songs of Schubert, and which was
continued in Berlioz, Wagner, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and the
still more recent national schools. England has shared this uplift of
taste and creative activity; her composers are also men of the new time.
English cathedral music enters the world-current which sets towards a
more intense and personal expression. The austere traditions of the
Anglican Church restrain efforts after the brilliant and emotional within
distinctly marked boundaries. Its music can never, as the Catholic mass
has often done, relapse into the tawdry and sensational; but the English
church composers have recognized that the Church and its art exist for
the people, and that the changing standards of beauty as they arise in
the popular mind must be considered, while at the same time the serene
and elevated tone which makes church music truly churchly must be
reverently preserved. This, as I understand it, is the motive, more or
less conscious, which actuates the Church of England composers,
organists, and directors of the present day. They have not yet succeeded
in bringing forth works of decided genius, but they have certainly laid a
foundation so broad, and so compounded of durable elements, that if the
English race is capable of producing a master of the first rank in
religious music he will not be compelled to take any radical departure,
nor to create the taste by which he will be appreciated.

English church music has never been in a more satisfactory condition than
it is to-day. There is no other country in which religious music is so
highly honored, so much the basis of the musical life of the people. The
organists and choir masters connected with the cathedrals and the
university and royal chapels are men whose character and intellectual
attainments would make them ornaments to any walk of life. The
deep-rooted religious reverence which enters into the substance of
English society, the admiration for intellect and honesty, the healthful
conservatism, the courtliness of speech, the solidity of culture which
comes from inherited wealth largely devoted to learning and the
embellishment of public and private life,—have all permeated
ecclesiastical art and ceremony, and have imparted to them an ideal
dignity which is as free from superstition as it is from vulgarity. The
music of the Church of England, like all church music, must be considered
in connection with its history and its liturgic attachments. It is
inseparably associated with a ritual of singular stateliness and beauty,
and with an architecture in cathedral and chapel in which the
recollections of a heroic and fading past unite with a grandeur of
structure and beauty of detail to weave an overmastering spell upon the
mind. Church music, I must constantly repeat, is never intended to
produce its impression alone. Before we ever allow ourselves to call any
phase of it dry and uninteresting let us hear it actually or in
imagination amid its native surroundings. As we mentally connect the
Gregorian chant and the Italian choral music of the sixteenth century
with all the impressive framework of their ritual, hearing within them
the echoes of the prayers of fifteen hundred years; as the music of Bach
and his contemporaries stands forth in only moderate relief from the
background of a Protestantism in which scholasticism and mysticism are
strangely blended,—so the Anglican chant and anthem are venerable with
the associations of three centuries of conflict and holy endeavor.
Complex and solemnizing are the suggestions which strike across the mind
of the student of church history as he hears in a venerable English
cathedral the lofty strains which might elsewhere seem commonplace, but
which in their ancestral home are felt to be the natural speech of an
institution which has found in such structures its fitting habitation.



                               CHAPTER XI
               CONGREGATIONAL SONG IN ENGLAND AND AMERICA


The revised liturgy and musical service of the Church of England had not
been long in operation when they encountered adversaries far more bitter
and formidable than the Catholics. The Puritans, who strove to effect a
radical overturning in ecclesiastical affairs, to reduce worship to a
prosaic simplicity, and also to set up a more democratic form of church
government, violently assailed the established Church as half papist. The
contest between the antagonistic principles, Ritualism _vs._ Puritanism,
Anglicanism _vs._ Presbyterianism, broke out under Elizabeth, but was
repressed by her strong hand only to increase under the weaker James I.,
and to culminate with the overthrow of Charles I. and the temporary
triumph of Puritanism.

The antipathy of the Puritan party to everything formal, ceremonial, and
artistic in worship was powerfully promoted, if not originally instigated
by John Calvin, the chief fountain-head of the Puritan doctrine and
polity. The extraordinary personal ascendency of Calvin was shown not
only in the adoption of his theological system by so large a section of
the Protestant world, but also in the fact that his opinions concerning
the ideal and method of public worship were treated with almost equal
reverence, and in many localities have held sway down to the present
time. Conscious, perhaps to excess, of certain harmful tendencies in
ritualism, he proclaimed that everything formal and artistic in worship
was an offence to God; he clung to this belief with characteristic
tenacity and enforced it upon all the congregations under his rule.
Instruments of music and trained choirs were to him abomination, and the
only musical observance permitted in the sanctuary was the singing by the
congregation of metrical translations of the psalms.

The Geneva psalter had a very singular origin. In 1538 Clement Marot, a
notable poet at the court of Francis I. of France, began for his
amusement to make translations of the psalms into French verse, and had
them set to popular tunes. Marot was not exactly in the odor of sanctity.
The popularization of the Hebrew lyrics was a somewhat remarkable whim on
the part of a writer in whose poetry is reflected the levity of his time
much more than its virtues. As Van Laun says, he was “at once a pedant
and a vagabond, a scholar and a merry-andrew. He translated the
penitential psalms and Ovid’s Metamorphoses; he wrote the praises of St.
Christina and sang the triumphs of Cupid.” His psalms attained
extraordinary favor at the dissolute court. Each of the royal family and
the courtiers chose a psalm. Prince Henry, who was fond of hunting,
selected “Like as the hart desireth the water brooks.” The king’s
mistress, Diana of Poitiers, chose the 130th psalm, “Out of the depths
have I cried to thee, O Lord.” This fashion was, however, short-lived,
for the theological doctors of the Sorbonne, those keen heresy hunters,
became suspicious that there was some mysterious connection between
Marot’s psalms and the detestable Protestant doctrines, and in 1543 the
unfortunate poet fled for safety to Calvin’s religious commonwealth at
Geneva. Calvin had already the year before adopted thirty-five of Marot’s
psalms for the use of his congregation. Marot, after his arrival at
Geneva, translated twenty more, which were characteristically dedicated
to the ladies of France. Marot died in 1544, and the task of translating
the remaining psalms was committed by Calvin to Theodore de Beza (or
Bèze), a man of a different stamp from Marot, who had become a convert to
the reformed doctrines and had been appointed professor of Greek in the
new university at Lusanne. In the year 1552 Beza’s work was finished, and
the Geneva psalter, now complete, was set to old French tunes which were
taken, like many of the German chorals, from popular secular songs. The
attribution of certain of these melodies, adopted into modern hymn-books,
to Guillaume Franc and Louis Bourgeois is entirely unauthorized. The most
celebrated of these anonymous tunes is the doxology in long metre, known
in England and America as the Old Hundredth, although it is set in the
Marot-Beza psalter not to the 100th psalm but to the 134th. These psalms
were at first sung in unison, unharmonized, but between 1562 and 1565 the
melodies were set in four-part counterpoint, the melody in the tenor
according to the custom of the day. This was the work of Claude Goudimel,
a Netherlander, one of the foremost musicians of his time, who, coming
under suspicion of sympathy with the Huguenot party, perished in the
massacre on St. Bartholomew’s night in 1572.

A visitor to Geneva in 1557 wrote as follows: “A most interesting sight
is offered in the city on the week days, when the hour for the sermon
approaches. As soon as the first sound of the bell is heard all shops are
closed, all conversation ceases, all business is broken off, and from all
sides the people hasten into the nearest meeting-house. There each one
draws from his pocket a small book which contains the psalms with notes,
and out of full hearts, in the native speech, the congregation sings
before and after the sermon. Everyone testifies to me how great
consolation and edification is derived from this custom.”

Such was the origin of the Calvinistic psalmody, which holds so prominent
a place in the history of religious culture, not from any artistic value
in its products, but as the chosen and exclusive form of praise employed
for the greater part of two centuries by the Reformed Churches of
Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands, and the Puritan congregations
of England, Scotland, and America. On the poetic side it sufficed for
Calvin, for he said that the psalms are the anatomy of the human heart, a
mirror in which every pious mood of the soul is reflected.

It is a somewhat singular anomaly that the large liberty given to the
Lutheran Christians to express their religious convictions and impulses
in hymns of their own spontaneous production or choosing was denied to
the followers of Calvin. Our magnificent heritage of English hymns was
not founded amid the Reformation struggles, and thus we have no lyrics
freighted with the priceless historic associations which consecrate in
the mind of a German the songs of a Luther and a Gerhardt. Efficacious as
the Calvinistic psalmody has been in many respects, the repression of a
free poetic impulse in the Protestant Churches of Great Britain and
America for so long a period undoubtedly tended to narrow the religious
sympathies, and must be given a certain share of responsibility for the
hardness of temper fostered by the Calvinistic system. The reason given
for the prohibition, _viz._, that only “inspired” words should be used in
the service of praise, betrayed a strange obtuseness to the most urgent
demands of the Christian heart in forbidding the very mention of Christ
and the Gospel message in the song of his Church. In spite of this almost
unaccountable self-denial, if such it was, we may, in the light of
subsequent history, ascribe an appropriateness to the metrical versions
of the psalms of which even Calvin could hardly have been aware. It was
given to Calvinism to furnish a militia which, actuated by a different
principle than the Lutheran repugnance to physical resistance, could meet
political Catholicism in the open field and maintain its rights amid the
shock of arms. In this fleshly warfare it doubtless drew much of its
martial courage from those psalms which were ascribed to a bard who was
himself a military chieftain and an avenger of blood upon his enemies.

The unemotional unison tunes to which these rhymed psalms were set also
satisfied the stern demands of those rigid zealots, who looked upon every
appeal to the aesthetic sensibility in worship as an enticement to
compromise with popery. Before condemning such a position as this we
should take into account the natural effect upon a conscientious and
high-spirited people of the fierce persecution to which they were
subjected, and the hatred which they would inevitably feel toward
everything associated with what was to them corruption and tyranny.

We must, therefore, recognize certain conditions of the time working in
alliance with the authority of Calvin to bring into vogue a conception
and method of public worship absolutely in contradiction to the almost
universal usage of mankind, and nullifying the general conviction, we
might almost say the instinct, in favor of the employment in devotion of
those artistic agencies by which the religious emotion is ordinarily so
strongly moved. For the first time in the history of the Christian
Church, at any rate for the first time upon a conspicuous or extensive
scale, we find a party of religionists abjuring on conscientious grounds
all employment of art in the sanctuary. Beginning in an inevitable and
salutary reaction against the excessive development of the sensuous and
formal, the hostility to everything that may excite the spirit to a
spontaneous joy in beautiful shape and color and sound was exalted into a
universally binding principle. With no reverence for the conception of
historic development and Christian tradition, the supposed simplicity of
the apostolic practice was assumed to be a constraining law upon all
later generations. The Scriptures were taken not only as a rule of faith
and conduct, but also as a law of universal obligation in the matter of
church government and discipline. The expulsion of organs and the
prohibition of choirs was in no way due to a hostility to music in
itself, but was simply a detail of that sweeping revolution which, in the
attempt to level all artificial distinctions and restore the offices of
worship to a simplicity such that they could be understood and
administered by the common people, abolished the good of the ancient
system together with the bad, and stripped religion of those fair
adornments which have been found in the long run efficient to bring her
into sympathy with the inherent human demand for beauty and order.

With regard to the matter of art and established form in public worship
Calvinism was at one with itself, whether in Geneva or Great Britain. A
large number of active Protestants had fled from England at the beginning
of the persecution of Mary, and had taken refuge at Geneva. Here they
came under the direct influence of Calvin, and imbibed his principles in
fullest measure. At the death of Mary these exiles returned, many of them
to become leaders in that section of the Protestant party which clamored
for a complete eradication of ancient habits and observances. No
inspiration was really needed from Calvin, for his democratic and
anti-ritualistic views were in complete accord with the temper of English
Puritanism. The attack was delivered all along the line, and not the
least violent was the outcry against the liturgic music of the
established Church. The notion held by the Puritans concerning a proper
worship music was that of plain unison psalmody. They vigorously
denounced what was known as “curious music,” by which was meant
scientific, artistic music, and also the practice of antiphonal chanting
and the use of organs. Just why organs were looked upon with especial
detestation is not obvious. They had played but a very incidental part in
the Catholic service, and it would seem that their efficiency as an aid
to psalm singing should have commended them to Puritan favor. But such
was not the case. Even early in Elizabeth’s reign, among certain articles
tending to the further alteration of the liturgy which were presented to
the lower house of Convocation, was one requiring the removal of organs
from the churches, which was lost by only a single vote. It was a
considerable time, however, before the opposition again mustered such
force. Elizabeth never wavered in her determination to maintain the
solemn musical service of her Church. Even this was severe enough as
compared with its later expansion, for the multiplication of harmonized
chants and florid anthems belongs to a later date, and the ancient Plain
Song still included a large part of the service. Neither was Puritanism
in the early stages of the movement by any means an uncompromising enemy
to the graces of art and culture. The Renaissance delight in what is fair
and joyous, its satisfaction in the good things of this world, lingered
long even in Puritan households. The young John Milton, gallant,
accomplished, keenly alive to the charms of poetry and music, was no less
a representative Puritan than when in later years, “fallen on evil days,”
he fulminated against the levities of the time. It was the stress of
party strife, the hardening of the mental and moral fibre that often
follows the denial of the reasonable demands of the conscience, that
drove the Puritan into bigotry and intolerance. Gradually episcopacy and
ritualism became to his mind the mark of the beast. Intent upon knowing
the divine will, he exalted his conception of the dictates of that will
above all human ordinances, until at last his own interpretations of
Scripture, which he made his sole guide in every public and private
relation of life, seemed to him guaranteed by the highest of all
sanctions. He thus became capable of trampling with a serene conscience
upon the rights of those who maintained opinions different from his own.
Fair and just in matters in which questions of doctrine or polity were
not involved, in affairs of religion the Puritan became the type and
embodiment of all that is unyielding and fanatical. Opposition to the use
of the surplice, the sign of the cross in baptism, the posture of
kneeling at the Lord’s Supper, and antiphonal chanting, expanded into
uncompromising condemnation of the whole ritual. Puritanism and
Presbyterianism became amalgamated, and it only wanted the time and
opportunity to pull down episcopacy and liturgy in a common overthrow.
The antipathy of the Puritans to artistic music and official choirs was,
therefore, less a matter of personal feeling than it was with Calvin. His
thought was more that of the purely religious effect upon the individual
heart; with the Puritan, hatred of cultured church music was simply a
detail in the general animosity which he felt toward an offensive
institution.

The most conspicuous of the agitators during the reign of Elizabeth was
Thomas Cartwright, Margaret Professor of Divinity in the University of
Cambridge, who first gained notoriety by means of public lectures read in
1570 against the doctrine and discipline of the established Church. The
coarseness and violence of this man drew upon him the royal censure, and
he was deprived of his fellowship and expelled from the University. His
antipathy was especially aroused by the musical practice of the
established Church, particularly the antiphonal chanting, “tossing the
psalms from one side to the other,” to use one of his favorite
expressions. “The devil hath gone about to get it authority,” said
Cartwright. “As for organs and curious singing, though they be proper to
popish dens, I mean to cathedral churches, yet some others also must have
them. The queen’s chapel and these churches (which should be spectacles
of Christian reformation) are rather patterns to the people of all
superstition.”

The attack of Cartwright upon the rites and discipline of the Church of
England, since it expressed the feeling of a strong section of the
Puritan party, could not be left unanswered. The defence was undertaken
by Whitgift and afterward by Richard Hooker, the latter bringing to the
debate such learning, dignity, eloquence, and logic that we may be truly
grateful to the unlovely Cartwright that his diatribe was the occasion of
the enrichment of English literature with so masterly an exposition of
the principles of the Anglican system as the _Laws of Ecclesiastical
Polity_.

As regards artistic and liturgic music Hooker’s argument is so clear,
persuasive, and complete that all later contestants upon the ritualistic
side have derived their weapons, more or less consciously, from his
armory. After an eloquent eulogy of the power of music over the heart,
Hooker passes on to prove the antiquity of antiphonal chanting by means
of citations from the early Christian fathers, and then proceeds: “But
whosoever were the author, whatsoever the time, whencesoever the example
of beginning this custom in the Church of Christ; sith we are wont to
suspect things only before trial, and afterward either to approve them as
good, or if we find them evil, accordingly to judge of them; their
counsel must needs seem very unseasonable, who advise men now to suspect
that wherewith the world hath had by their own account twelve hundred
years’ acquaintance and upwards, enough to take away suspicion and
jealousy. Men know by this time, if ever they will know, whether it be
good or evil which hath been so long retained.” The argument of
Cartwright, that all the people have the right to praise God in the
singing of psalms, Hooker does not find a sufficient reason for the
abolition of the choir; he denies the assertion that the people cannot
understand what is being sung, after the antiphonal manner, and then
concludes: “Shall this enforce us to banish a thing which all Christian
churches in the world have received; a thing, which so many ages have
held; a thing which always heretofore the best men and wisest governors
of God’s people did think they could never commend enough; a thing which
filleth the mind with comfort and heavenly delight, stirreth up flagrant
desires and affections correspondent unto that which the words contain,
allayeth all kind of base and earthly cogitations, banisheth and driveth
away those evil secret suggestions which our invisible enemy is always
apt to minister, watereth the heart to the end it may fructify, maketh
the virtuous in trouble full of magnanimity and courage, serveth as a
most approved remedy against all doleful and heavy accidents which befall
men in this present life; to conclude, so fitly accordeth with the
apostle’s own exhortation, ‘Speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, making melody, and singing to the Lord in your hearts,’
that surely there is more cause to fear lest the want thereof be a maim,
than the use a blemish to the service of God.”[80]

The just arguments and fervent appeals of Hooker produced no effect upon
the fanatical opponents of the established Church. Under the exasperating
conditions which produced the Great Rebellion and the substitution of the
Commonwealth for the monarchy, the hatred against everything identified
with ecclesiastical and political oppression became tenfold confirmed;
and upon the triumph of the most extreme democratic and non-conformist
faction, as represented by the army of Cromwell and the “Rump”
Parliament, nothing stood in the way of carrying the iconoclastic purpose
into effect. In 1644 the House of Lords, under the pressure of the
already triumphant opposition, passed an ordinance that the Prayer Book
should no longer be used in any place of public worship. In lieu of the
liturgy a new form of worship was decreed, in which the congregational
singing of metrical psalms was all the music allowed. “It is the duty of
Christians,” so the new rule declares, “to praise God publicly by singing
of psalms, together in the congregation and also privately in the family.
In singing of psalms the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but
the chief care is to sing with understanding and with grace in the heart,
making melody unto the Lord. That the whole congregation may join herein,
every one that can read is to have a psalm-book, and all others not
disabled by age or otherwise are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for
the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient
that the minister, or some fit person appointed by him and the other
ruling officers, do read the psalm line by line before the singing
thereof.”[81]

The rules framed by the commission left the matter of instrumental music
untouched. Perhaps it was considered a work of supererogation to
proscribe it, for if there was anything which the Puritan conscience
supremely abhorred it was an organ. Sir Edward Deering, in his bill for
the abolition of episcopacy, expressed the opinion of the zealots of his
party in the assertion that “one groan in the Spirit is worth the
diapason of all the church music in the world.”

As far back as 1586 a pamphlet which had a wide circulation prays that
“all cathedral churches may be put down, where the service of God is
grievously abused by piping with organs, singing, ringing, and trowling
of psalms from one side of the choir to the other, with the squeaking of
chanting choristers, disguised in white surplices; some in corner caps
and silly copes, imitating the fashion and manner of Antichrist the Pope,
that man of sin and child of perdition, with his other rabble of
miscreants and shavelings.”

Such diatribes as this were no mere idle vaporing. As soon as the Puritan
army felt its victory secure, these threats were carried out with a
ruthless violence which reminds one of the havoc of the image breakers of
Antwerp in 1566, who, with striking coincidence of temper, preluded their
ravages by the singing of psalms. All reverence for sacred association,
all respect for works of skill and beauty, were lost in the
indiscriminate rage of bigotry. The ancient sanctuaries were invaded by a
vulgar horde, the stained glass windows were broken, ornaments torn down,
sepulchral monuments defaced, libraries were ransacked for ancient
service-books which, when found, were mutilated or burned, organs were
demolished and their fragments scattered. These barbarous excesses had in
fact been directly enjoined by act of Parliament in 1644, and it is not
surprising that the rude soldiery carried out the desires of their
superiors with wantonness and indignity. A few organs, however, escaped
the general destruction, one being rescued by Cromwell, who was a lover
of religious music, and not at all in sympathy with the vandalism of his
followers. Choirs were likewise dispersed, organists, singers, and
composers of the highest ability were deprived of their means of
livelihood, and in many cases reduced to the extreme of destitution. The
beautiful service of the Anglican Church, thus swept away in a single
day, found no successor but the dull droning psalmody of the Puritan
congregations, and only in a private circle in Oxford, indirectly
protected by Cromwell, was the feeble spark of artistic religious music
kept alive.

The reëstablishment of the liturgy and the musical service of the Church
of England upon the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660 has already been
described. The Puritan congregations clung with tenacity to their
peculiar tenets and usages, prominent among which was their invincible
repugnance to artistic music. Although such opinions could probably not
prevail so extensively among a really musical people, yet this was not
the first nor the last time in history that the art which seems
peculiarly adapted to the promotion of pure devotional feeling has been
disowned as a temptation and a distraction. We find similar instances
among some of the more zealous German Protestants of Luther’s time, and
the German Pietists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At many
periods of the Middle Age there were protests against the lengths to
which artistic music had gone in the Church and a demand for the
reduction of the musical service to the simplest elements. Still further
back, among the early Christians, the horror at the abominations of
paganism issued in denunciation of all artistic tendencies in the worship
of the Church. St. Jerome may not inaccurately be called the first great
Puritan. Even St. Augustine was at one time inclined to believe that his
love for the moving songs of the Church was a snare, until, by analysis,
he persuaded himself that it was the sacred words, and not merely the
musical tones, which softened his heart and filled his eyes with tears.
As in all these cases, including that of the Puritans, the sacrifice of
aesthetic pleasure in worship was not merely a reactionary protest
against the excess of ceremonialism and artistic enjoyment. The Puritan
was a precisian. The love of a highly developed and sensuously beautiful
music in worship always implies a certain infusion of mysticism. The
Puritan was no mystic. He demanded hard distinct definition in his pious
expression as he did in his argumentation. The vagueness of musical
utterance, its appeal to indefinable emotion, its effect of submerging
the mind and bearing it away upon a tide of ecstasy were all in exact
contradiction to the Puritan’s conviction as to the nature of genuine
edification. These raptures could not harmonize with his gloomy views of
sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. And so we find the most
spiritual of the arts denied admittance to the sanctuary by those who
actually cherished music as a beloved social and domestic companion.

More difficult to understand is the Puritan prohibition of all hymns
except rhymed paraphrases of the psalms. Metrical versions were
substituted for chanted prose versions for the reason, no doubt, that a
congregation, as a rule, cannot sing in perfect unity of coöperation
except in metre and in musical forms in which one note is set to one
syllable. But why the psalms alone? Why suppress the free utterance of
the believers in hymns of faith and hope? In the view of that day the
psalms were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit and contemporary hymns
could not be. We know that a characteristic of the Puritan mind was an
intense, an impassioned reverence for the Holy Scripture, so that all
other forms of human speech seemed trivial and unworthy in comparison.
The fact that the psalms, as the product of the ante-Christian
dispensation, could have no reference to the Christian scheme except by
far-fetched interpretation as symbolic and prophetic, did not escape the
Puritans, but they consoled themselves for the loss in the thought that
the earliest churches, in which they found, or thought they found their
ideal and standard, were confined to a poetic expression similar to their
own. And how far did they feel this to be a loss? Was not the temper of
the typical Puritan, after all, thoroughly impregnated with Hebraism? The
real nature of the spiritual deprivation which this restriction involved
is apparent enough now, for it barred out a gracious influence which
might have corrected some grave faults in the Puritan character, faults
from which their religious descendants to this day continue to suffer.

The rise of an English hymnody corresponding to that of Germany was,
therefore, delayed for more than one hundred and fifty years. English
religious song-books were exclusively psalm-books down to the eighteenth
century. Poetic activity among the non-conformists consisted in
translations of the psalms in metre, or rather versions of the existing
translations in the English Bible, for these sectaries, as a rule, were
not strong in Hebrew. The singular passion in that period for putting
everything into rhyme and metre, which produced such grotesque results as
turning an act of Parliament into couplets, and paraphrasing “Paradise
Lost” in rhymed stanzas in order, as the writer said, “to make Mr. Milton
plain,” gave aid and comfort to the peculiar Puritan views. The first
complete metrical version of the psalms was the celebrated edition of
Sternhold and Hopkins, the former a gentleman of the privy chamber to
Edward VI., the latter a clergyman and schoolmaster in Suffolk. This
version, published in 1562, was received with universal satisfaction and
adopted into all the Puritan congregations, maintaining its credit for
full two hundred and thirty years, until it came at last to be considered
as almost equally inspired with the original Hebrew text. So far as
poetic merit is concerned, the term is hardly applicable to the
lucubrations of these honest and prosaic men. As Fuller said, “their
piety was better than their poetry, and they had drunk more of Jordan
than of Helicon.” In fact the same comment would apply to all the
subsequent versifiers of the psalms. It would seem that the very nature
of such work precludes all real literary success. The sublime thought and
irregular, vivid diction of the Hebrew poets do not permit themselves to
be parcelled out in the cut and dried patterns of conventional metres.
Once only does Sternhold rise into grandeur—in the two stanzas which
James Russell Lowell so much admired:


    The Lord descended from above,
      And bowed the heavens most high,
    And underneath his feet he cast
      The darkness of the sky.

    On cherub and on cherubim
      Full royally he rode;
    And on the wings of all the winds
      Came flying all abroad.


The graces of style, however, were not greatly prized by the Puritan
mind. Sternhold and Hopkins held the suffrages of their co-religionists
so long on account of their strict fidelity to the thought of the
original, the ruggedness and genuine force of their expression, and their
employment of the simple homely phraseology of the common people. The
enlightened criticism of the present day sees worth in these qualities,
and assigns to the work of Sternhold and Hopkins higher credit than to
many smoother and more finished versions.

Sternhold and Hopkins partially yielded to Tate and Brady in 1696, and
were still more urgently pushed aside by the version of Watts in 1719.
The numerous versions which have since appeared from time to time were
written purely for literary purposes, or else in a few cases (as, for
example, the psalms of Ainsworth, brought to America by the Pilgrim
Fathers) were granted a temporary and local use in the churches. Glass,
in his _Story of the Psalter_, enumerates one hundred and twenty-three
complete versions, the last being that of Wrangham in 1885. This long
list includes but one author—John Keble—who has attained fame as a poet
outside the annals of hymnology. No other version ever approached in
popularity that of Sternhold and Hopkins, whose work passed through six
hundred and one editions.

Social hymn singing, unlike liturgic choir music, is entirely independent
of contemporary art movements. It flourishes only in periods of popular
religious awakening, and declines when religious enthusiasm ebbs, no
matter what may be going on in professional musical circles. Psalm
singing in the English Reformation period, whatever its aesthetic
shortcomings, was a powerful promoter of zeal in moments of triumph, and
an unfailing source of consolation in adversity. As in the case of the
Lutheran choral, each psalm had its “proper” tune. Many of the melodies
were already associated with tender experiences of home life, and they
became doubly endeared through religious suggestion. “The metrical
psalms,” says Curwen, “were Protestant in their origin, and in their use
they exemplified the Protestant principle of allowing every worshiper to
understand and participate in the service. As years went on, the rude
numbers of Sternhold and Hopkins passed into the language of spiritual
experience in a degree only less than the authorized version of the
Bible. They were a liturgy to those who rejected liturgies.”[82] It was
their one outlet of poetic religious feeling, and dry and prosaic as both
words and music seem to us now, we must believe, since human nature is
everywhere moved by much the same impulses, that these psalms and tunes
were not to those who used them barren and formal things, and that in the
singing of them there was an undercurrent of rapture which to our minds
it seems almost impossible that they could produce. In every form of
popular expression there is always this invisible aura, like the supposed
imperceptible fluid around an electrified body. There are what we may
call emotionalized reactions, stimulated by social, domestic, or
ancestral associations, producing effects for which the unsympathetic
critic cannot otherwise account.

Even this inspiration at last seemed to fade away. When the one hundred
years’ conflict, of alternate ascendency and persecution, came to an end
with the Restoration in 1660, zeal abated with the fires of conflict, and
apathy, formalism, and dulness, the counterparts of lukewarmness and
Pharisaical routine in the established Church, settled down over the
dissenting sects. In the eighteenth century the psalmody of the
Presbyterians, Independents, and Separatists, which had also been adopted
long before in the parochial services of the established Church, declined
into the most contracted and unemotional routine that can be found in the
history of religious song. The practice of “lining out” destroyed every
vestige of musical charm that might otherwise have remained; the number
of tunes in common use grew less and less, in some congregations being
reduced to a bare half-dozen. The conception of individualism, which was
the source of congregational singing in the first place, was carried to
such absurd extremes that the notion extensively prevailed that every
person was privileged to sing the melody in any key or tempo and with any
grotesque embellishment that might be pleasing to himself. These
fantastic abuses especially prevailed in the New England congregations in
the last half of the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth
centuries, but they were only the ultimate consequences of ideas and
practices which prevailed in the mother country. The early Baptists
forbade singing altogether. The Brownists tried for a short time to act
upon the notion that singing in worship, like prayer, should be
extempore. The practical results may easily be imagined. About the year
1700 it seemed as though the fair genius of sacred song had abandoned the
English and American non-liturgic sects in despair.

Like a sun-burst, opening a brighter era, came the Wesleyan movement, and
in the same period the hymns of Dr. Isaac Watts. Whatever the effect of
the exuberant singing of the Methodist assemblies may have had upon a
cultivated ear, it is certain that the enthusiastic welcome accorded by
the Wesleys to popular music as a proselyting agent, and the latitude
permitted to free invention and adoption of hymns and tunes, gave an
impulse to a purer and nobler style of congregational song which has
never been lost. The sweet and fervent lyrics of Charles and John Wesley
struck a staggering blow at the prestige of the “inspired” psalmody.
Historians of this movement remind us that hymns, heartily sung by a
whole congregation, were unknown as an element in public worship at the
time when the work of the Wesleys and Whitefield began. Watts’s hymns
were already written, but had as yet taken no hold upon either dissenters
or churchmen. The example of the Methodists was a revelation of the power
that lies in popular song when inspired by conviction, and as was said of
the early Lutheran choral, so it might be said of the Methodist hymns,
that they won more souls than even the preaching of the evangelists. John
Wesley, in his published directions concerning congregational singing,
enjoined accuracy in notes and time, heartiness, moderation, unanimity,
and spirituality as with the aim of pleasing God rather than one’s self.
He strove to bring the new hymns and tunes within the means of the poor,
and yet took pains that the music should be of high quality, and that
nothing vulgar or sensational should obtain currency.

The truly beneficent achievement of the Wesleys in summoning the aid of
the unconfined spirit of poesy in the revival of spiritual life found a
worthy reinforcement in the songs of Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Although
his deficiencies in the matter of poetical technic and his frequent dry,
scholastic, and dogmatic treatment have rendered much the greater part of
his work obsolete, yet a true spiritual and poetic fire burns in many of
his lyrics, and with all necessary abatement his fame seems secure. Such
poems as “High in the Heavens, eternal God,” “Before Jehovah’s awful
throne,” and “When I survey the wondrous cross” are pearls which can
never lose their place in the chaplet of English evangelical hymnody. The
relaxing prejudice against “uninspired” hymns in church worship yielded
to the fervent zeal, the loving faith, the forceful natural utterance of
the lyrics of Watts. In his psalms also, uniting as they did the
characteristic modes of feeling of both the Hebrew and the Christian
conceptions, he made the transition easy, and in both he showed the true
path along which the reviving poetic inspiration of the time must
proceed.

What has come of the impulse imparted by Watts and the Wesleys every
student of Christian literature knows. To give any adequate account of
the movement which has enriched the multitude of modern hymn-books and
sacred anthologies would require a large volume.[83] No more profitable
task could be suggested to one who deems it his highest duty to expand
and deepen his spiritual nature, than to possess his mind of the jewels
of devotional insight and chastened expression which are scattered
through the writings of such poets as Charles Wesley, Cowper, Newton,
Faber, Newman, Lyte, Heber, Bonar, Milman, Keble, Ellerton, Montgomery,
Ray Palmer, Coxe, Whittier, Holmes, the Cary sisters, and others equal or
hardly inferior to these, who have performed immortal service to the
divine cause which they revered by disclosing to the world the infinite
beauty and consolation of the Christian faith. No other nation, not even
the German, can show any parallel to the treasure embedded in English and
American popular religious poetry. This fact is certainly not known to
the majority of church members. The average church-goer never looks into
a hymn-book except when he stands up to sing in the congregation, and
this performance, whatever else it may do for the worshiper, gives him
very little information in regard to the artistic, or even the spiritual
value of the book which he holds in his hand. Let him read his hymn-book
in private, as he reads his Tennyson; and although he will not be
inclined to compare it in point of literary quality with Palgrave’s
_Golden Treasury_ or Stedman’s _Victorian Anthology_, yet he will
probably be surprised at the number of lyrics whose delicacy, fervor, and
pathos will be to him a revelation of the gracious elements that pervade
the minor religious poetry of the English tongue.

Parallel with the progress of hymnody, and undoubtedly stimulated by it,
has been the development of the hymn-tune and the gradual rise of public
taste in this branch of religious art. The history of the English and
American hymn-tune may easily be traced, for its line is unbroken. Its
sources also are well known, except that the origins of the first
settings of the psalms of Sternhold and Hopkins are in many cases
obscure. Those who first fitted tunes to the metrical psalms borrowed
some of their melodies (the “Old Hundredth” is a conspicuous instance)
from the Huguenot psalter of Marot and Beza, and others probably from
English folk-songs. There were eminent composers in England in the
Reformation period, many of whom lent their services in harmonizing the
tunes found in the early psalters, and also contributed original
melodies. All these ancient tunes were syllabic and diatonic, dignified
and stately in movement, often sombre in coloring, in all these
particulars bearing a striking resemblance to the German choral. Some of
the strongest tunes in the modern hymnals, for example, “Dundee,” are
derived from the Scotch and English psalters of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, and efforts are being made in some quarters to
bring others of the same source and type into favor with present-day
congregations. This severe diatonic school was succeeded in the
eighteenth century by a taste for the florid and ornate which, in spite
of some contributions of a very beautiful and expressive character, on
the whole marked a decline in favor of the tawdry and sensational. If
this tendency was an indication of an experimenting spirit, its result
was not altogether evil. Earnest and dignified as the old psalm-tunes
were, the Church could not live by them alone. The lighter style was a
transition, and the purer modern school is the outcome of a process which
strives to unite the breadth and dignity of the ancient tunes with the
warmth and color of those of the second period. Together with the
cultivation of the florid style we note a wider range of selection. Many
tunes were taken from secular sources (not in itself a fault, since, as
we have seen, many of the best melodies in the Lutheran and Calvinistic
song-books had a similar origin); and the introduction of Catholic tunes,
such as the peerless “Adeste Fideles” and the “Sicilian hymn,” together
with some of the finest German chorals, greatly enriched the English
tune-books.

In comparatively recent times a new phase of progress has manifested
itself in the presence in the later hymnals of a large number of musical
compositions of novel form and coloring, entirely the product of our own
period. These tunes are representative of the present school of Church of
England composers, such as Dykes, Barnby, Smart, Sullivan, Monk, Hopkins,
and many others equally well known, who have contributed a large quantity
of melodies of exceeding beauty, supported by varied and often striking
harmonies, quite unlike the congregational songs of any other nation.
Composed for the noble ceremony of the Anglican Church, these tunes have
made their way into many of the non-liturgic sects, and the value of
their influence in inspiring a love for that which is purest and most
salutary in worship music has been incalculable. Much has been written in
praise of these new Anglican tunes, and a good deal also in depreciation.
Many of them are, it must be confessed, over-sophisticated for the use of
the average congregation, carrying refinements of harmony and rhythm to
such a point that they are more suitable for the choir than for the
congregation. Their real value, taken collectively, can best be estimated
by those who, having once used them, should imagine themselves deprived
of them. The tunes that served the needs of former generations will not
satisfy ours. Dr. Hanslick remarks that there is music of which it may
correctly be said that it once was beautiful. It is doubtless so with
hymn-tunes. Church art can never be kept unaffected by the secular
currents of the time, and those who, in opera house and concert hall, are
thrilled by the impassioned strains of the modern romantic composers,
will inevitably long for something at least remotely analogous in the
songs of the sanctuary. That is to say, the congregational tune must be
appealing, stirring, emotional, as the old music doubtless was to the
people of the old time, but certainly is no longer. This logical demand
the English musicians of the present day and their American followers
assume to gratify—that is, so far as the canons of pure art and
ecclesiastical propriety will allow—and, in spite of the cavils of
purists and reactionaries, their melodies seem to have taken a permanent
place in the affections of the Protestant English-speaking world. The
success of these melodies is due not merely to their abstract musical
beauty, but perhaps still more to the subtle sympathy which their style
exhibits with the present-day tendencies in theology and devotional
experience, which are reflected in the peculiarly joyous and confiding
note of recent hymnody. So far as music has the power to suggest definite
conceptions, there seems to be an apt correspondence between this
fervent, soaring, touching music and the hymns of the faith by which
these melodies were in most instances directly inspired.

So far as there are movements in progress bringing into shape a body of
congregational song which contains features that are likely to prove a
permanent enrichment of the religious anthology, they are more or less
plainly indicated in the hymnals which have been compiled in this country
during the past ten or twelve years. Not that we may look forward to any
sudden outburst of hymn-singing enthusiasm parallel to that which
attended the Lutheran and Wesleyan revivals, for such a musical impulse
is always the accompaniment of some mighty religious awakening, of which
there is now no sign. The significance of these recent hymnals lies
rather in the evidence they give of the growth of higher standards of
taste in religious verse and music, and also of certain changes in
progress in our churches in the prevailing modes of religious thought.
The evident tendency of hymnology, as indicated by the new books, is to
throw less emphasis upon those more mechanical conceptions which gave
such a hard precision to a large portion of the older hymnody. A finer
poetic afflatus has joined with a more penetrating and intimate vision of
the relationship between the divine and the human; and this mental
attitude is reflected in the loving trust, the emotional fervor, and the
more delicate and inward poetic expression which prevail in the new
hymnody. It is inevitable that the theological readjustment, which is so
palpable to every intelligent observer, should color and deflect those
forms of poetic and musical expression which are instinctively chosen as
the utterance of the worshiping people. Every one at all familiar with
the history of religious experience is aware how sensitive popular song
has been as an index of popular feeling. Nowhere is the power of
psychologic suggestion upon the masses more evident than in the domain of
song. Hardly does a revolutionary religious idea, struck from the brains
of a few leading thinkers and reformers, effect a lodgment in the hearts
of any considerable section of the common people, than it is immediately
projected in hymns and melodies. So far as it is no mere scholastic
formula, but possesses the power to kindle an active life in the soul, it
will quickly clothe itself in figurative speech and musical cadence, and
in many cases it will filter itself through this medium until all that is
crude, formal, and speculative is drained away, and what is essential and
fruitful is retained as a permanent spiritual possession.

If we were able to view the present movement in popular religious verse
from a sufficient distance, we should doubtless again find illustration
of this general law. Far less obviously, of course, than in the cases of
the Hussite, Lutheran, and Wesleyan movements, for the changes of our day
are more gradual and placid. I would not imply that the hymns that seem
so much the natural voice of the new tendencies are altogether, or even
in the majority of cases, recent productions. Many of them certainly come
from Watts and Cowper and Newton, and other eighteenth-century men, whose
theology contained many gloomy and obsolete tenets, but whose hearts
often denied their creeds and spontaneously uttered themselves in strains
which every shade of religious conviction may claim as its own. It is
not, therefore, that the new hymnals have been mainly supplied by new
schools of poetry, but the compilers, being men quick to sense the new
devotional demands and also in complete sympathy with them, have made
their selections and expurgations from a somewhat modified motive,
repressing certain phases of thought and emphasizing others, so that
their collections take a wider range, a loftier sweep, and a more joyful,
truly evangelical tone than those of a generation ago. It is more the
inner life of faith which these books so beautifully present, less that
of doctrinal assent and outer conformity.

These recent contributions to the service of praise are not only
interesting in themselves, but even more so, perhaps, as the latest terms
in that long series of popular religious song-books which began with the
independence of the English Church. _The Plymouth Hymnal_ and _In
Excelsis_ are the ripened issue of that movement whose first official
outcome was the quaint psalter of Sternhold and Hopkins; and the contrast
between the old and the new is a striking evidence of the changes which
three and a half centuries have effected in culture and spiritual
emphasis as revealed in popular song. The early lyrics were prepared as a
sort of testimony against formalism and the use of human inventions in
the office of worship; they were the outcome of a striving after
apostolic simplicity, while in their emotional aspects they served for
consolation in trial and persecution, and as a means of stiffening the
resolution in times of conflict. The first true hymns, as distinct from
versified psalms, were designed still more to quicken joy and hope, and
yet at the same time a powerful motive on the part of their authors was
to give instruction in the doctrines of the faith by a means more direct
and persuasive than sermons, and to reinforce the exhortations of
evangelists by an instrument that should be effective in awaking the
consciences of the unregenerate. It is very evident that the hymnals of
our day are pervaded by an intention somewhat different from this, or at
least supplementary to it. The Church, having become stable, and having a
somewhat different mission to perform under the changed conditions of the
time, employs its hymns and tunes not so much as revival machinery, or as
a means for inculcating dogma, as for spiritual nurture. Hymns have
become more subjective, melodies and harmonies more refined and alluring;
the tone has become less stern and militant; the ideas are more universal
and tender, less mechanical and precise; appeal is made more to the
sensibility than to the intellect, and the chief stress is laid upon the
joy and peace that come from believing. It is impossible to avoid
vagueness in attempting so broad a generalization. But one who studies
the new hymn-books, reads the prefaces of their editors, and notes the
character of the hymns that are most used in our churches, will realize
that now, as it has always been in the history of the Church, the guiding
thought and feeling of the time may be traced in popular song, more
faintly but not less inevitably than in the instructions of the pulpit.
When viewed in historic sequence one observes the growing prominence of
the mystical and subjective elements, the fading away of the early
fondness for scholastic definition. Lyric poetry is in its nature
mystical and intuitive, and the hymnody of the future, following the
present tendency in theology to direct the thought to the personal,
historic Christ, and to appropriate his example and message in accordance
with the light which advancing knowledge obtains concerning man’s nature,
needs, and destiny, will aim more than ever before to purify and quicken
the higher emotional faculties, and will find a still larger field in
those fundamental convictions which transcend the bounds of creeds, and
which affirm the brotherhood of all sincere seekers after God.



                              CHAPTER XII
                  PROBLEMS OF CHURCH MUSIC IN AMERICA


In the foregoing sketch of the rise and growth of music in the Western
Church no account was taken of a history of church music in America. If
by art history we mean a record of progressive changes, significant of a
persistent impulse which issues in distinctive styles and schools, the
chronicles of ecclesiastical song in this country hardly come within the
scope of history. No new forms or methods have arisen on this side of the
Atlantic. The styles of composition and the systems of practice which
have existed among us have simply been transferred from the older
countries across the sea. Every form of church music known in Europe
flourishes in America, but there is no native school of religious music,
just as there is no American school of secular music. The Puritan
colonists brought with them a few meagre volumes of metrical psalms, and
a dozen or so of tunes wherewith to sing them in the uncouth fashion
which already prevailed in England. They brought also the rigid
Calvinistic hostility to everything that is studied and uniform in
religious ceremony, and for a century or more they seemed to glory in the
distinction of maintaining church song in the most barbarous condition
that this art has ever suffered since the founding of Christianity. It
was not possible that this state of affairs could endure in a community
that was constantly advancing in education and in the embellishments of
life, and a bitter conflict arose between puritanic tradition and the
growing perception of the claims of fitness and beauty. One who would
amuse himself with the grotesque controversies which raged around this
question among the pious New England colonists, the acrid disputes
between the adherents of the “usual way” and the “rulable way” of singing
psalmody, the stern resistance to choirs and to organs, and the quaint
annals of the country singing-school, may find rich gratification in some
of the books of Mrs. Earle, especially _The Sabbath in Puritan New
England_. The work of such reformers as William Billings in the
eighteenth century and Lowell Mason in the nineteenth, the first concerts
of the Handel and Haydn Society, the influx of the German culture
shifting all American music upon new foundations, are all landmarks which
show how rapid and thorough has been our advance in musical scholarship
and taste, but which also remind us how little of our achievement has
been really indigenous.

In spite of the poverty of original invention which forbids us to claim
that American church music has in any way contributed to the evolution of
the art, there is no epoch in this art’s history which possesses a more
vital interest to the American churchman of the present day. We have
found amid all the fluctuations of ecclesiastical music, mediaeval and
modern, Catholic and Protestant, one ever-recurring problem, which is no
sooner apparently settled than new conditions arise which force it once
more upon the attention of minister and layman. The choice of a style of
music which shall most completely answer the needs of worship as the
conceptions and methods of public worship vary among different
communities and in different epochs, and which at the same time shall not
be unworthy of the claims of music as a fine art,—this is the historic
dilemma which is still, as ever, a fruitful source of perplexity and
discord. The Catholic and Episcopal Churches are less disturbed by this
spectre than their non-liturgic brethren. An authoritative ritual carries
its laws over upon music also; tradition, thus fortified, holds firm
against innovation, and the liturgic and clerical conception of music
gives a stability to musical usages which no aberrations of taste can
quite unsettle. But in the non-liturgic churches of America one sees only
a confusion of purposes, a lack of agreement, an absence of every shade
of recognized authority. The only tradition is that of complete freedom
of choice. There is no admitted standard of taste; the whole musical
service is experimental, subject to the preferences, more or less
capricious, of choir-master or music committee. There is no system in the
separate societies that may not be overthrown by a change of
administration. The choir music is eclectic, drawn indiscriminately from
Catholic, German, and English sources; or if it is of American
composition it is merely an obvious imitation of one of these three. The
congregational music ranges from the German choral to the “Gospel song,”
or it may, be an alternation of these two incongruous styles. The choir
is sometimes a chorus, sometimes a solo quartet; the latter mainly forced
to choose its material from “arrangements,” or from works written for
chorus. Anon the choir is dismissed and the congregation, led by a
precentor with voice or cornet, assumes the whole burden of the office of
song. These conditions are sufficient to explain why a distinct school of
American church music does not exist and never can exist. The great
principle of self-determination in doctrine and ecclesiastical
government, which has brought into existence such a multitude of sects,
may well be a necessity in a composite and democratic nation, but it is
no less certainly a hindrance to the development of a uniform type of
religious music.

There would be a much nearer approach to a reconcilement of all these
differences, and the cause of church music would be in a far more
promising condition, if there were a closer sympathy between the standard
of music within the Church and that prevailing in educated society
outside. There is certainly a diversity of purpose between church music
and secular music, and corresponding distinctions must be preserved in
respect to form and expression. A secularized style of church music means
decadence. But the vitality of ecclesiastical art has always seemed to
depend upon retaining a conscious touch with the large art movements of
the world, and church music has certainly never thrived when, in
consequence of neglect or complacency, it has been suffered to become
inferior to its rival. In America there is no such stimulating
interaction between the music of the Church and that of the concert hall
and the social circle as there has been for centuries in Germany and
England. The Church is not the leader in musical culture. We are rapidly
becoming a musical nation. When one sees what is going on in the opera
houses, concert halls, colleges, conservatories, public schools, and
private instruction rooms, contrasting the present situation with that of
fifty years ago, the outcome can easily be predicted. But the music of
the Church, in spite of gratifying efforts here and there, is not keeping
pace with this progress, and the Church must inevitably suffer in certain
very important interests if this gap is permitted continually to widen.

There are many causes for this state of affairs, some incidental and
avoidable, others lying in the very nature of music itself and the
special service which the Church requires of it. Perhaps the chief
difficulty in the way of a high artistic development of religious music
is the opinion, which prevails widely among the most devout, that music
when allied to worship must forego what seems the natural right of all
art to produce pleasure as an end in itself, and that it must subordinate
itself to the sacred text and employ its persuasive powers solely to
enforce divine truth upon the heart,—meaning by divine truth some
particular form of religious confession. Whether this view is true or
false, whenever it is consistently acted upon, it seems to me, music
declines.

Now it is evident that music is less willing than any other art to assume
this inferior station. Architecture serves a utilitarian purpose, the
pleasure of the eye being supplementary; painting and sculpture may
easily become didactic or reduced to the secondary function of ornament.
But of all the arts music is the most sensuous (I use the word in its
technical psychologic sense), direct, and penetrating in its operation.
Music acts with such immediateness and intensity that it seems as though
it were impossible for her to be anything but supreme when she puts forth
all her energies. We may force her to be dull and commonplace, but that
does not meet the difficulty. For it is the very beauty and glory of
music which the Church wishes to use, but how shall this be prevented
from asserting itself to such an extent that devotion is swept away upon
the wings of nervous excitement? Let any one study his sensations when a
trained choir pours over him a flood of rapturous harmony, and he will
perhaps find it difficult to decide whether it is a devotional uplift or
an aesthetic afflatus that has seized him. Is there actually any
essential difference between his mental state at this moment and that,
for instance, at the close of “Tristan und Isolde”? Any one who tries
this experiment upon himself will know at once what is this problem of
music in the Church which has puzzled pious men for centuries, and which
has entered into every historic movement of church extension or reform.

A little clear thinking on this subject, it seems to me, will convince
any one that music alone, in and of itself, never makes people religious.
There is no such thing as religious music _per se_. When music in
religious ceremony inspires a distinctly prayerful mood, it does so
mainly through associations and accessories. And if this mood is not
induced by other causes, music alone can never be relied upon to create
it. Music, even the noblest and purest, is not always or necessarily an
aid to devotion, and there may even be a snare in what seems at first a
devoted ally. The analogy that exists between religious emotion and
musical rapture is, after all, only an analogy; aesthetic delight, though
it be the most refined, is not worship; the melting tenderness that often
follows a sublime instrumental or choral strain is not contrition. Those
who speak of all good music as religious do not understand the meaning of
the terms they use. For devotion is not a mere vague feeling of longing
or transport. It must involve a positive recognition of an object of
worship, a reaching up, not to something unknown or inaccessible, but to
a God who reveals himself to us, and whom we believe to be cognizant of
the sincerity of the worship offered him; it must involve also a sense of
humility before an almighty power, a penitence for sin, a desire for
pardon and reconciliation, a consciousness of need and dependence, and an
active exercise of faith and love. Into such convictions music may come,
lending her aid to deepen them, to give them tangible expression, and to
enhance the sense of joy and peace which may be their consequence; but to
create them is beyond her power.

The office of music is not to suggest concrete images, or even to arouse
definite namable sentiments, but rather to intensify ideas and feelings
already existing, or to release the mind and put it into that sensitive,
expectant state in which conceptions that appeal to the emotion may act
unhampered. The more generalized function of music in the sanctuary is to
take possession of the prepared and chastened mood which is the
antecedent of worship, to separate it from other moods and reminiscences
which are not in perfect accord with it, and to establish it in a more
complete self-consciousness and a more permanent attitude. This
antecedent sense of need and longing for divine communion cannot be
aroused by music alone; the enjoyment of abstract musical beauty, however
refined and elevating, is not worship, and a musical impression
disconnected from any other cannot conduce to the spirit of prayer. It is
only when the prayerful impulse already exists as a more or less
conscious tendency of the mind, induced by a sense of love and duty, by
the associations of the time and place, by the administration of the
other portions of the service, or by any agencies which incline the heart
of the believer in longing toward the Mercy Seat,—it is only in alliance
with such an anticipatory state of mind and the causes that produce it
that music fulfils its true office in public worship. It is not enough to
depend upon the influence of the words to which the music is set, for
they, being simultaneous with the music, do not have time or opportunity
to act with full force upon the understanding; since the action of music
upon the emotion is more immediate and vivid than that of words upon the
intellect, the latter is often unregarded in the stress of musical
excitement. However it may be in solo singing, it is not possible or even
desirable that the words of a chorus should be so distinct as to make the
prime impression. Those who demand distinct articulation, as though the
religious effect of church song hung solely upon that, do not listen
musically. At any rate they see but a little way into the problem, which
is concerned not with the effect of words but of tones. The text and
music reinforce each other when the words are known to the hearer before
the singing begins, aiding thus to bring about the expectancy of which I
have spoken, and producing that satisfaction which is felt when musical
expression is perceived to be appropriate to its poetic subject.

The spirit of worship, therefore, must be aroused by favoring conditions
and means auxiliary to music,—it is then the province of music to direct
this spirit toward a more vivid consciousness of its end. The case is
with music as Professor Shairp says it is with nature: “If nature is to
be the symbol of something higher than itself, to convey intimations of
him from whom both nature and the world proceed, man must come to the
spectacle with the thought of God already in his heart. He will not get a
religion out of the mere sight of nature. If beauty is to lead the soul
upward, man must come to the contemplation of it with his moral
convictions clear and firm, and with faith in these as connecting him
directly with God. Neither morality nor religion will he get out of
beauty taken by itself.”

The soundest writers on art maintain that art, taken abstractly, is
neither moral nor immoral. It occupies a sphere apart from that of
religion or ethics. It may lend its aid to make religious and moral ideas
more persuasive; it may, through the touch of pure beauty, overbear
material and prosaic interests and help to produce an atmosphere in which
spiritual ideas may range without friction, but the mind must first have
been made morally sensitive by other than purely artistic means. It is
the peculiar gift of music that it affords a speedier and more immediate
means of fusion between ideas of sensuous beauty and those of devotional
experience than any other of the art sisterhood. It is the indefiniteness
of music as compared with painting and sculpture, the intensity of its
action as compared with the beauty of architecture and decoration, which
gives to it its peculiar power. To this searching force of music, its
freedom from reminiscences of actual life or individual experience, is
due the prominence that has been assigned to music in the observances of
religion in all times and nations. Piety falls into the category of the
most profound and absorbing of human emotions—together with such
sentiments as patriotism and love of persons—which instinctively utter
themselves not in prose but in poetry, not in ordinary unimpassioned
speech, but in rhythmic tone. Music is the art most competent to enter
into such an ardent and mobile state of mind. The ecstasy aroused in the
lover of music by the magic of his art is more nearly analogous than any
other producible by art to that mystic rapture described by religious
enthusiasts. Worship is disconnected from all the concerns of physical
life; it raises the subject into a super-earthly region—it has for the
moment nothing to do with temporal activities; it is largely spontaneous
and unreflective. The absorption of the mind in contemplation, the sense
of inward peace which accompanies emancipation from the disturbances of
ordinary life, those joyous stirrings of the soul when it seems to catch
glimpses of eternal blessedness, have a striking resemblance to phases of
musical satisfaction where the analytical faculties are not called into
exercise. Hence the readiness with which music combines with these higher
experiences. Music in its mystic, indefinable action seems to make the
mood of prayer more active, to interpret it to itself, and by something
that seems celestial in the harmony to make the mood deeper, stronger,
more satisfying than it would be if shut up within the soul and deprived
of this means of deliverance. Music also, by virtue of its universal and
impersonal quality, furnishes the most efficient means of communication
among all the individuals engaged in a common act; the separate
personalities are, we might say, dissolved in the general tide of rapture
symbolized by the music, and the common sentiment is again enhanced by
the consciousness of sympathy between mind and mind to which the music
testifies, and which it is so efficient to promote.

The substance of this whole discussion, therefore, is that those who have
any dealing with music in the Church must take into account the inherent
laws of musical effect. Music is not a representative art; it bears with
it an order of impressions untranslatable into those of poetry or
painting. To use Walter Pater’s phrase, “it presents no matter of
sentiment or thought separable from the special form in which it is
conveyed to us.” It may, through its peculiar power of stimulating the
sensibility and conveying ideas of beauty in the purest, most abstract
guise, help to make the mind receptive to serious impressions; but in
order to excite a specifically religious feeling it must coöperate with
other impressions which act more definitely upon the understanding. The
words to which the music is sung, being submerged in the mind of a
music-lover by the tide of enchanting sound, are not sufficient for this
purpose unless they are known and dwelt upon in advance; and even then
they too need reinforcement out of the environment in which the musical
service is placed. The singing of the choir must be contrived and felt as
a part of the office of prayer. The spirit and direction of the whole
service for the day must be unified; the music must be a vital and
organic element in this unit. All parts of the service must be controlled
by the desire for beauty and fitness. Music, however beautiful, loses
something of its effect if its accompaniments are not in harmony with it.
This desideratum is doubtless most easily attained in a liturgic service.
One great advantage of an ancient and prescribed form is that its
components work easily to a common impression, and in course of time the
ritual tends to become venerable as well as dignified and beautiful. The
non-liturgic method may without difficulty borrow this conception of
harmony and elevation, applying it so far as its own customs and rules of
public worship allow. How this unity of action in the several factors of
a non-liturgic service may best be effected is outside the purpose of
this book to discuss. The problem is not a difficult one when minister,
choir leader, and church members are agreed upon the principle. In every
church there are sanctities of time and place; there are common habits of
mind induced by a common faith; there are historic traditions,—all
contributing to a unity of feeling in the congregation. These may all be
cultivated and enhanced by a skilfully contrived service, devised and
moulded in recognition of the psychologic law that an art form acts with
full power only when the mind is prepared by anticipation and congenial
accessories.

This conclusion is, however, very far from being the end of the matter.
The most devout intention will not make the church music effective for
its ideal end if the aesthetic element is disregarded. There seems to be
in many quarters a strange distrust of beauty and skill in musical
performance, as if artistic qualities were in some way hostile to
devotion. This distrust is a survival of the old Calvinistic fear of
everything studied, formal, and externally beautiful in public worship.
In other communities the church music is simply neglected, as one of the
results of the excessive predominance given to the sermon in the
development of Protestantism. It is often deemed sufficient, also, if the
church musicians are devout men and women, in forgetfulness of the fact
that a musical performance that is irritating to the nerves can never be
a help to devotion. These enemies to artistic church music—hostility,
indifference, and ignorance—are especially injurious in a country where,
as in America, the general knowledge and taste in music are rapidly
growing. Those churches which, for any reason whatever, keep their
musical standard below the level of that which prevails in the educated
society around them are not acting for their own advantage, materially or
spiritually. President Faunce was right when he told one of the churches
of his denomination: “Your music must be kept noble and good. If your
children hear Wagner and the other great masters in their schools, they
will not be satisfied with ‘Pull for the shore’ in the church.” Those
churches, for example, which rely mainly upon the “Gospel Songs” should
soberly consider if it is profitable in the long run to maintain a
standard of religious melody and verse far below that which prevails in
secular music and literature. “The Church is the art school of the common
man,” says Professor Riehl; and while it may be answered that it is not
the business of the Church to teach art, yet the Church cannot afford to
keep its spiritual culture out of harmony with the higher intellectual
movements of the age. One whose taste is fed by the poetry of such
masters as Milton and Tennyson, by the music of such as Händel and
Beethoven, and whose appreciations are sharpened by the best examples of
performance in the modern concert hall, cannot drop his taste and
critical habit when he enters the church door. The same is true in a
modified degree in respect to those who have had less educational
advantages. It is a fallacy to assert that the masses of the people are
responsive only to that which is trivial and sensational. In any case,
what shall be said of a church that is satisfied to leave its votaries
upon the same intellectual and spiritual level upon which it finds them?

In all this discussion I have had in mind the steady and more normal work
of the Church. Forms of song which, to the musician, lie outside the pale
of art may have a legitimate place in seasons of special religious
quickening. No one who is acquainted with the history of religious
propagation in America will despise the revival hymn, or deny the
necessity of the part it has played. But these seasons of spiritual
upheaval are temporary and exceptional; they are properly the beginning
not the end of the Church’s effort. The revival hymn may be effective in
soul-winning, it is inadequate when treated as an element in the larger
task of spiritual development.

There is another reason for insistence upon beauty and perfection in all
those features of public worship into which art enters—to a devout mind
the most imperative of all reasons. This is so forcibly stated by the
great Richard Hooker that it will be sufficient to quote his words and
leave the matter there. Speaking of the value of noble architecture and
adornment in connection with public acts of religion, he goes on to say:
“We do thereby give unto God a testimony of our cheerful affection which
thinketh nothing too dear to be bestowed about the furniture of his
service; as also because it serveth to the world for a witness of his
almightiness, whom we outwardly honor with the chiefest of outward
things, as being of all things himself incomparably the greatest. To set
forth the majesty of kings, his vicegerents in this world, the most
gorgeous and rare treasures which the world hath, are procured. We think
belike that he will accept what the meanest of them would disdain.”[84]

In urging onward the effort after beauty and perfection in church music I
have no wish to set up any single style as a model,—in fact, a style
competent to serve as a universal model does not exist. There can be no
general agreement, for varied conditions demand diverse methods. The
Catholic music reformer points to the ancient Gregorian chant and the
masterpieces of choral art of the sixteenth century as embodying the
ideal which he wishes to assert. The Episcopalian has the Anglican chant
and anthem, noble and appropriate in themselves, and consecrated by the
associations of three eventful centuries. But the only hereditary
possession of the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and other
non-liturgic bodies is the crude psalmody of the early Calvinists and
Puritans which, unlike the Lutheran choral, has none of the musical
potencies out of which a church art can be developed. In these societies
there is no common demand or opportunity which, in the absence of a
common musical heritage, can call forth any new and distinctive form of
ecclesiastical song. They must be borrowers and adapters, not creators.
The problem of these churches is the application of existing forms to new
conditions—directing the proved powers of music along still higher lines
of service in the epoch of promise which is now opening before them.

In this era just upon us, in which new opportunities demand of the Church
in America new methods throughout the whole range of its action, music
will have a larger part to play than even heretofore. It is of great
importance that her service should be employed intelligently. Both
ministers and choir leaders should be aware of the nature of the problems
which ecclesiastic music presents. They should know something of the
experience of the Church in its historic dealings with this question, of
the special qualities of the chief forms of church song which have so
greatly figured in the past, and of the nature of the effect of music
upon the mind both by itself alone and in collusion with other religious
influences. How many ministers and choir-masters are well versed in these
matters? What are the theological seminaries and musical conservatories
doing to disseminate knowledge and conviction on this subject? In the
seminaries lectures are given on liturgiology and hymnology; but what are
hymns and liturgies without music? And how many candidates for the
ministry are prepared to second the efforts of church musicians in
musical improvement and reform? I am, of course, aware that in a few of
the seminaries of the non-liturgic denominations work in this department
of ecclesiology has been effectively begun. In the conservatories organ
playing and singing, both solo and chorus, are taught, but usually from
the technical side,—the adaptation of music to the spiritual demands of
the Church is rarely considered. Every denomination needs a St. Cecilia
Society to convince the churches of the spiritual quickening that lies in
genuine church music and the mischief in the false, to arouse church
members to an understanding of the injury that attends an obvious
incongruity between the character of the music and the spirit of prayer
which it is the purpose of the established offices of worship to create,
and to show how all portions of the service may act in harmony.

The general growth in musical culture, which is so marked a feature of
our time, should everywhere be made to contribute to the benefit of the
Church. The teaching of music in the public schools should be a means of
supplying the churches with efficient chorus singers. The Church must
also offer larger inducements to musicians and musical students. Here we
touch upon a most vital point. If the Church wants music that is worthy
of her dignity, and which will help her to maintain the place she seeks
to occupy in modern life, she must pay for it. The reason why so few
students of talent are preparing themselves for work in the Church as
organists and choir leaders is that the prospect of remuneration is too
small to make this special study worth their while. The musical service
of the Church is, therefore, in the vast majority of cases, in the hands
either of amateurs or of musicians who are devoting themselves through
the entire week to work which has nothing to do with the Church. A man
who is trained wholly or chiefly as a pianist, and who gives his strength
and time for six days to piano study and teaching, or a singer whose
energy is mainly expended in private vocal instruction, can contribute
little to the higher needs of Church music. It is not his fault; he must
seek his income where he can find it. The service of the Church is a side
issue, and receives the benefit which any cause must expect when it is
given only the remnants of interest and energy that are left over from a
week’s hard labor. There is a host of young musicians to whom church work
is exceedingly attractive. Let the Church magnify the importance of its
musical service, and raise its salaries in proportion, and an abundant
measure of the rising musical talent and enthusiasm will be ready at its
call.

The musical problem of the non-liturgic Church in America is, therefore,
not one of creation, but of administration. Whatever the mission of the
Church is to be in our national life, the opportunities of its music are
not to be less than of old, but greater. It is evident that the notion of
conviction of sin and sudden conversion is gradually losing the place
which it formerly held in ecclesiastical theory, and is being
supplemented, if not supplanted, by the notion of spiritual nurture. The
Church is finding its permanent and comprehensive task in alliance with
those forces that make for social regeneration; no longer to separate
souls from the world and prepare them for a future state of existence,
but to work to establish the kingdom of God here on earth; not denying
the rights of the wholesome human instincts, but disciplining and
refining them for fraternal service. In this broader sphere art,
especially music, will be newly commissioned and her benign powers
utilized with ever-increasing intelligence. The Church can never recover
the old musical leadership which was wrested from her in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries by the opera, the choral society, and the
concert system, but in the twentieth she will find means of coöperating
with these institutions for the general welfare.

The council of Carthage in the fourth century laid this injunction upon
church singers: “See that what thou singest with thy lips thou believest
in thy heart; and what thou believest in thy heart thou dost exemplify in
thy life.” This admonition can never lose its authority; back of true
church music there must be faith. There comes, however, to supplement
this ancient warning, the behest from modern culture that the music of
the sanctuary shall adapt itself to the complex and changing conditions
of modern life, and while it submits to the pure spirit of worship it
shall grow continually in those qualities which make it worthy to be
honored by the highest artistic taste. For among the venerable traditions
of the Church, sanctioned by the wisdom of her rulers from the time of
the fathers until now, is one which bids her cherish the genius of her
children, and use the appliances of imagination and skill to add strength
and grace to her habitations, beauty, dignity, and fitness to her
ordinances of worship.



                              BIBLIOGRAPHY


List of books that are of especial value to the student of church music,
not including works on church history. Books that the author deems of
most importance are marked by a star.


*Ambros. Geschichte der Musik, 5 vols. and index. Leipzig, Leuckart,
1880-1887.

*Archer and Reed (editors). The Choral Service Book. Philadelphia,
General Council Publication Board, 1901.

*Bacon and Allen (editors). The Hymns of Martin Luther set to their
Original Melodies, with an English Version. New York, Scribner, 1883.

Bäumker. Das Katholische-deutsche Kirchenlied. Freiburg, Herder, 1886.

Burney. General History of Music, 4 vols. London, 1776.

*Caecilien Kalendar, 5 vols.; Haberl, editor. Regensburg, 1876-1885.

Clément. Histoire générale de la musique religieuse. Paris, Adrien le
Clere, 1861.

Chappell. History of Music from the Earliest Records to the Fall of the
Roman Empire. London, Chappell.

Chrysander. Georg Friedrich Haendel, 3 vols. (unfinished). Leipzig,
Breitkopf & Haertel, 1856-1867.

*Coussemaker. Histoire de l’harmonie au Moyen Age. Paris, Didron, 1852.

*Curwen. Studies in Worship Music, 2 vols. London, Curwen.

Davey. History of English Music. London, Curwen, 1895.

*Dommer. Elemente der Musik. Leipzig, Weigl, 1862.

*Dommer. Handbuch der Musikgeschichte. Leipzig, Grunow, 1878.

Duen. Clement Marot et la psautier huguenot, 2 vols. Paris, 1878.

Duffield. English Hymns. New York, Funk, 1888.

Duffield. Latin Hymn Writers and their Hymns. New York, Funk, 1889.

Earle. The Sabbath in Puritan New England. New York, Scribner, 1891.

Engel. Musical Instruments (South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks).
London, Chapman & Hall.

*Engel. The Music of the Most Ancient Nations. London, Murray, 1864.

Fetis. Biographie universelle des Musiciens, 8 vols. with 2 supplementary
vols. by Pougin. Paris, Didot.

*Gevaert. La Mélopée antique dans le Chant de l’Église latine. Gand,
Hoste, 1895.

*Gevaert. Les Origines du Chant liturgique de l’Église latine. Gand,
Hoste, 1890.

Glass. The Story of the Psalter. London, Paul, 1888.

Gould. Church Music in America. Boston, Gould, 1853.

*Grove. Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 4 vols. London, Macmillan,
1879-1890.

*Haberl. Magister Choralis, tr. by Donnelly. Regensburg and New York,
Pustet, 1892.

Häuser. Geschichte des Christlichen Kirchengesanges und der Kirchenmusik.
Quedlinburg, Basse, 1834.

Hawkins. General History of the Science and Practice of Music, 3 vols.
London, 1853.

*Helmore. Plain Song (Novello’s Music Primers). London, Novello.

Hoffman von Fallersleben. Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenliedes bis auf
Luther’s Zeit. Hannover, Rümpler, 1861.

Hope. Mediaeval Music. London, Stock, 1894.

*Horder. The Hymn Lover. London, Curwen, 1889.

Hughes. Contemporary American Composers. Boston, Page, 1900.

*Jakob. Die Kunst im Dienste der Kirche. Landshut, Thomann, 1885.

*Jebb. The Choral Service of the United Church of England and Ireland.
London, Parker, 1843.

*Julian. Dictionary of Hymnology. London, Murray, 1892.

Kaiser and Sparger. A Collection of the Principal Melodies of the
Synagogue. Chicago, Rubovits, 1893.

*Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch; Haberl, editor. Regensburg, begun in
1886.

Koch. Geschichte des Kirchenliedes und Kirchengesanges, 8 vols.
Stuttgart, Belser, 1866.

*Köstlin. Geschichte des Christlichen Gottesdienstes. Freiburg, Mohr,
1887.

*Kretzschmar. Führer durch den Concertsaal: Kirchliche Werke. Leipzig,
Liebeskind, 1888.

*Kümmerle. Eucycloplëdie der evangelischen Kirchenmusik, 4 vols.
Gütersloh, Bertelsmann, 1888-1895.

Laughans. Geschichte der Musik des 17, 18 und 19 Jahrhunderts, 2 vols.
Leipzig, Leuckart, 1887.

La Trobe. The Music of the Church. London, Seeley, 1831.

Liliencron. Deutsches Leben im Volkslied um 1530. Stuttgart, Spemann,
1884.

Malim. English Hymn Tunes from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Time.
London, Reeves.

*Marbecke. The Book of Common Prayer with Musical Notes; Rimbault,
editor. London, Novello, 1845.

Maskell. Ancient Liturgy of the Church of England.

McClintock and Strong. Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and
Ecclesiastical Literature. New York, Harper, 1867-1885.

*Mees. Choirs and Choral Music. New York, Scribner, 1901.

Mendel-Reissmann. Musikalisches Conversations-Lexikon, 11 vols. Leipzig,
List & Francke.

Naumann. History of Music, tr. by Praeger, 2 vols. London, Cassell.

*Neale. Hymns of the Eastern Church. London, 1882.

*O’Brien. History of the Mass. New York, Catholic Pub. Soc., 1893.

*Oxford History of Music, 6 vols.; Hadow, editor. Oxford, Clarendon
Press, now appearing.

*Parry. Evolution of the Art of Music. New York, Appleton, 1896.

Perkins and Dwight. History of the Handel and Haydn Society. Boston,
Mudge, 1883-1893.

Pothier. Les Melodies gregoriennes. German translation by Kienle.

*Pratt. Musical Ministries in the Church. New York, Revell, 1901.
Contains valuable bibliography.

*Proctor. History of the Book of Common Prayer. London, Macmillan, 1892.

Riemann. Catechism of Musical History, 2 vols. London, Angener; New York,
Schirmer.

Ritter, A. W. Zur Geschichte des Orgelspiels. Leipzig, Hesse, 1884.

Ritter, F. L. Music in America. New York, Scribner, 1890.

Ritter, F. L. Music in England. New York, Scribner, 1890.

Rousseau. Dictionnaire de Musique.

Rowbotham. History of Music, 3 vols. London, Trübner, 1885-1887.

Same, 1 vol.

Schelle. Die Sixtinische Kapelle. Wien, Gotthard, 1872.

Schlecht. Geschichte der Kirchenmusik. Regensburg, Coppenrath, 1879.

Schletterer. Geschichte der kirchlichen Dichtung und geistlichen Musik.
Nördlingen, Beck, 1866.

Schletterer. Studien zur Geschichte der französischen Musik. Berlin,
Damköhler, 1884-1885.

*Schubiger. Die Sängerschule St. Gallens. Einsiedeln, Benziger, 1858.

Spencer. Concise Explanation of the Church Modes. London, Novello.

*Spitta. Johann Sebastian Bach, 3 vols., tr. by Clara Bell and J. A.
Fuller Maitland. London, Novello, 1884-1888.

Spitta. Musikgeschichtliche Aufsätze. Berlin, Paetel, 1894.

Spitta. Zur Musik. Berlin, Paetel, 1892.

*Stainer. The Music of the Bible. London, Cassell, 1882.

Stainer and Barrett. Dictionary of Musical Terms. Boston, Ditson.

Thibaut. Purity in Music, tr. by Broadhouse. London, Reeves.

*Wagner, P. Einführung in die gregorianischen Melodien. Freiburg
(Schweiz), Veith, 1895.

Winterfeld. Das evangelische Kirchengesang, 3 vols. Leipzig, Breitkopf &
Haertel, 1845.

Winterfeld. Johannes Gabrieli und sein Zeitalter, 2 vols. Berlin,
Schlesinger, 1834.

*Wiseman. Lectures on the Offices and Ceremonies of Holy Week. Baltimore,
Kelly, 1850.



                                 INDEX


                                   A

  Act of Supremacy, 325, 328, 329.
  Agathon, pope, 110.
  Agnus Dei, 90.
  Ahle, 266.
  Ainsworth, psalm-book of, 376.
  Altenburg, 266.
  Ambrose, St., 58;
      introduces psalm singing into Milan, 66.
  Anerios, the, 133, 168.
  Anthem, Anglican, 346;
      its different forms, 348;
      periods and styles, 353.
  Aria, Italian, origin of, 190;
      its supremacy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 191;
      its introduction into church music in Italy, 193, 269;
      influence upon German church music, 267, 269, 318;
      adoption into the cantata, 273;
      into the Passion music, 276, 280.
  Art, Catholic conception of religious, 70, 174;
      Calvinist and Puritan hostility to art in connection with worship,
          363, 369, 372.
  Asor, 23.
  Assyrians, religious music among the, 12.
  Attwood, 354.
  Augustine, missionary to England, 117.
  Augustine, St., quoted, 51, 67;
      traditional author, with St. Ambrose, of the Te Deum, 58;
      effect of music upon, 372.


                                    B

  Bach, Johann Sebastian, his relation to German church music, 282,
          287, 289;
      the Bach family, 284;
      Bach’s birth, education, and official positions, 286;
      condition of German music in his early days, 287;
      his organ music, 290, 292;
      fugues, 292;
      choral preludes, 295;
      cantatas, 300;
      style of his arias, 304;
      of his choruses, 305;
      Passion according to St. Matthew, 307;
      compared with Händel’s “Messiah,” 307;
      its formal arrangement and style, 308;
      performance by Mendelssohn, 312;
      the Mass in B minor, 204, 211, 312;
      national and individual character of Bach’s genius, 314;
      its universality, 316;
      decline of his influence after his death, 317.
  Bach Society, New, 322.
  Bardi, 188.
  Barnby, 355, 383.
  Battishill, 354.
  Beethoven, his Mass in D, 119, 200, 204, 210.
  Behem, 229.
  Benedictus, 88.
  Bennett, 355.
  Berlioz, his Requiem, 199, 200, 204.
  Beza, 360.
  Bisse, quoted, 338.
  Boleyn, Anne, 326.
  Bonar, 381.
  Boniface, 118.
  Bourgeois, 360.
  Boyce, 354.
  Brethren of the Common Life, 234.
  Bridge, 355.
  Buxtehude, 292.
  Byrd, 350.


                                    C

  Caccini, 188, 189, 190.
  Calvin, his hostility to forms in worship, 358, 363;
      adopts the psalms of Marot and Beza, 360.
  Canon of the Mass, 89.
  Cantata, German church, 270, 272;
      origin and development, 273.
      See also Bach.
  Cartwright, his attack upon the established Church, 367.
  Cary sisters, 381.
  Cassell, quoted, 45.
  Catherine, wife of Henry VIII., 326.
  Celestine I., pope, 110.
  Chalil, 22.
  Chant, nature of, 40, 97;
      the form of song in antiquity, 40;
      its origin in the early Church, 51;
      its systematic culture in the Roman Church, sixth century, 67.
  Chant, Anglican, 336, 340;
      Gregorian movement in the Church of England, 342;
      first harmonized chants, 345.
  Chant, Catholic ritual, epoch of, 93;
      liturgic importance, 94, 99, 405;
      general character, 95, 104;
      different classes, 103;
      rhythm, 105;
      rules of performance, 105;
      origin and development, 99, 109;
      key system, 113;
      mediaeval embellishment, 115;
      extension over Europe, 117;
      legends connected with, 122;
      later neglect and revived modern study, 126;
      use in the early Lutheran Church, 260;
      “Gregorians” in the Church of England, 337, 341.
  Charlemagne, his service to the Roman liturgy and chant, 118.
  Charles II., king of England, his patronage of church music, 352.
  Cherubini, mass music of, 204, 213.
  Choral, German, sources of, 260;
      at first not harmonized, 262;
      later rhythmic alterations, 263;
      its occasional adoption by Catholic churches, 264;
      its condition in the seventeenth century, 265;
      decline in the eighteenth century, 266;
      choral tunes in the cantata, 274, 302;
      in the Passion music, 280;
      as an element in organ music, 290, 294;
      use in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, 308, 309, 311.
  Choral, or Cathedral mode of performing the Anglican service, 333.
  Clement of Alexandria, quoted, 54;
      his song to the Logos, 56.
  Clement VII., pope, 326.
  Colet, 327.
  Common Prayer, Book of, 328, 330;
      musical setting by Marbecke, 337, 369.
  Communion, 90.
  Congregational singing, its decline in the early Church, 48;
      vital place in Protestant worship, 223;
      in Germany before the Reformation, 228 _et seq._;
      not encouraged in the Catholic Church, 240;
      in the Church of Luther, 242;
      among the Puritans, 376.
  Constantine, edicts of, 62.
  Constitutions of the Apostles, 47.
  Cosmas, St., 60.
  Counterpoint, mediaeval, growth of, 140, 148.
  Counter-Reformation, 156, 264.
  Cowper, 381, 387.
  Coxe, 381.
  Cranmer, 328, 329, 331, 337.
  Credo, 88.
  Croce, 168.
  Cromwell, 369, 371, 372.
  Crotch, 354.
  Crüger, 266.
  Curwen, quoted, 343.
  Cymbals, 24, 26.


                                    D

  Dance, religious, its prominence in primitive worship, 3;
      twofold purpose, 5;
      among the Egyptians, 6;
      among the Greeks, 6;
      in early Christian worship, 8.
  David, his contribution to the Hebrew ritual, 24.
  Day’s psalter, 345.
  Deutsche Messe, Luther’s, 245, 247.
  Dies Irae, 60.
  Discant, first form of mediaeval part writing, 138.
  Dubois, 217.
  Durante, 213.
  Dvořák, his Requiem, 204, 219;
      Stabat Mater, 219.
  Dykes, 383.


                                    E

  Eccard, 271.
  Eckart, 229, 231.
  Edward VI., king of England, 327, 328.
  Egyptians, religious music among the, 12.
  “Ein’ feste Burg,” 251, 252, 253, 259, 264, 302.
  Ekkehard V., quoted, 121.
  Elizabeth, queen of England, 327, 329, 332, 358.
  Ellerton, 381.
  Ephraem, 57.
  Erasmus, 327.
  Eybler, 207.


                                    F

  Faber, 381.
  Faunce, quoted, 403.
  Female voice not employed in ancient Hebrew worship, 29;
      similar instances of exclusion in the modern Church, 30.
  Festivals, primitive, 4;
      in the early Church, 65.
  Flagellants, 231.
  Folk-song, as possible origin of some of the ancient psalm
          melodies, 31;
      German religious, before the Reformation, 228 _et seq._;
      German secular, transformed into religious, 232;
      folk-tunes as sources of the Lutheran choral, 261.
  Formula Missae, Luther’s, 245.
  Franc, 360.
  Franck, 218.
  Frank, 266.
  Frauenlob, 229.
  Frescobaldi, 292.
  Froberger, 292.
  Fuller, quoted, 375.


                                    G

  Gabrieli, Giovanni, 170.
  Gabrielis, the, 93, 133, 170.
  Galilei, 188.
  Garrett, 355.
  Gerhardt, 266, 311.
  Gevaert, works on the origins of the Gregorian chant, quoted, 109.
  Gibbons, 350, 352.
  Gibbons, Cardinal, quoted, 75, 84.
  Gigout, 217.
  Gloria in excelsis, 58, 87.
  Glossolalia, 44.
  Goss, 355.
  Gottfried von Strassburg, 229.
  Goudimel, 154, 360.
  Gounod, mass music of, 199, 200, 213, 216.
  Gradual, 88.
  Greeks, religious music among the, 14, 19;
      Greek influence upon early Christian worship, 42, 63, 65;
      relation of Greek music to Christian, 52.
  Green, quoted, 117.
  Greene, 354.
  Gregorian Chant, see Chant, Catholic ritual.
  Gregory I., pope, his traditional services to the ritual chant,
          107;
      objections to this tradition, 108.
  Gregory II., pope, 113.
  Gregory III., pope, 113.
  Grell, 212, 321.
  Guilmant, 217.


                                    H

  Händel, 279, 297, 306, 319, 323, 354;
      the “Messiah,” 307.
  Hammerschmidt, 266.
  Harmony, virtually unknown in ancient music, 18;
      beginnings in modern music, 130;
      change from mediaeval to modern, 201.
  Hartmann von Aue, 229.
  Hasler, 271.
  Hauptmann, 321.
  Havert, 212.
  Haydn, mass music of, 205, 208;
      “The Creation” stimulates formation of choral societies in Germany,
          319.
  Haves, 354.
  Hazozerah, 22.
  Heber, 381.
  Hebrews, did not assign a superhuman source to music, 14;
      their employment of music, 20;
      nature and uses of instruments, 21;
      ritualistic developments under David and Solomon, 24;
      psalms and the method of singing them, 27.
  Henry VIII., king of England,
      declares himself head of the English Church, 325;
      not the originator of the Reformation in England, 316;
      changes in policy, 328.
  Hervé, 122.
  Hezekiah, restoration of the temple worship by, 25.
  Holmes, 381.
  Hooker, author of _The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity_,
      his defence of the music and art of the established Church,
          367, 404.
  Hooper, 329.
  Hopkins, 355, 383.
  Horder, author of _The Hymn Lover_, 381 n.
  Hucbald, 136.
  Hus, founder of Bohemian hymnody, 233.
  Hymn-books, early Bohemian, 233;
      first Lutheran, 249;
      Catholic German, 264;
      recent American, 385.
      See also Psalmody.
  Hymns, their first appearance in Christian literature and worship,
          42, 46;
      Greek hymns in the early Christian Church, 56.
  Hymns, Bohemian, 233.
  Hymns, English and American, 379 _et seq._;
      “uninspired” hymns not permitted by Calvin and the Puritans,
          361, 373;
      hymns of Watts and the Wesleys, 379;
      beauty and range of the later English and American hymnody,
          380.
  Hymns, Latin, 60, 235.
  Hymns, Lutheran, historic importance of, 225, 303;
      introduction into the liturgy, 247;
      first hymn-books, 249.
      See also Luther.
  Hymns, pre-Reformation German, their history and character, 228;
      not liturgic, 240.
  Hymns, Syrian, 57.
  Hymn-tunes, English, 382.
  Hymn-tunes, German, see Choral.


                                    I

  Ignatius, St., traditional introduction of chanting into the Church
          by, 48.
  Ildefonso, St, 118.
  Instruments, how first used in worship, 3, 10;
      their use in Egyptian ceremonies, 12;
      among the Greeks, 14;
      among the Hebrews, 21, 32;
      not used in the early Church, 54.


                                    J

  Jakob, quoted, 77, 175.
  James, St., liturgy of, 49.
  Jean de Muris, quoted, 146.
  Jebb, quoted, 333, 335, 339.
  Jews, see Hebrews.
  John Damascene, St., 60.
  John the Deacon, author of a life of Gregory I., 108.
  Jomelli, 213.
  Joaquin des Prés, 133, 154.


                                    K

  Kahle, 376, 381.
  Kiel, 212, 321.
  Kinnor, 21.
  Kretzschmar, quoted, 306.
  Kunrad der Marner, 229.
  Kyrie eleison, 57, 87;
      popular use in Germany, 229.


                                    L

  Lanciani, quoted, 63.
  Lang, Andrew, quoted, 7.
  Laodicea, injunction in regard to singing by council of, 50, 51.
  Lassus, 93, 133, 154, 167, 172.
  Latimer, 329.
  Lemaire, quoted, 116.
  Leo I., pope, 110.
  Lesueur, 214.
  “Lining out,” 370.
  Liszt, criticisms upon Paris church music, 206;
      imagines a new style of religious music, 214.
  Liturgy, Anglican, 329;
      modes of rendering, 333 _et seq._;
      intoning of prayers, 337.
  Liturgy, Catholic, origin of, 81, 83;
      language of, 82;
      outline and components of, 87;
      a musical liturgy, 92.
  Liturgy, Luther’s, see Formula Missae, and Deutsche Messe.
  Liturgy of St. James, 49, 50;
      of St. Mark, 49.
  Longfellow, translation of “O gladsome light,” 58.
  Lotti, 133.
  Louis IX., king of France, 148.
  Luther, his service to German hymnody, 226, 243, 248;
      his reform of the liturgy, 244;
      his theory of worship, 245;
      origin of his hymns, 250;
      their spirit and literary style, 251;
      nature of his work for congregational music, 258;
      Luther not a composer of tunes, 259;
      quoted, 260.
  Lyric poetry, two forms of, 27.
  Lyte, 381.


                                    M

  Mackenzie, 355.
  Marbecke, his musical setting of the English Prayer Book, 337.
  Marot, psalm translations of, 359.
  Martin, 355.
  Mary, queen of England, reaction under, 329, 332.
  Mass, theory of, 83, 91, 240;
      different kinds of, 85;
      in England, 328, 332.
      See also Liturgy, Catholic.
  Milman, 381.
  Milton, 365.
  Mixed mode of performing the Anglican service, 335.
  Monk, 355, 383.
  Montgomery, 381.


                                    N

  Naninis, the, 168.
  Neale, quoted on the Greek hymns, 59.
  Nebel, 22.
  Netherlanders, age of the, 149.
  Neukomm, 207.
  Newman, 381.
  Newton, 381, 387.
  Nicholas I., pope, 122.
  Notker Balbulus, reputed founder of the Sequence, 121.


                                    O

  Oblation of the Host, 88.
  Offertory, 88.
  Opera, invention of, 186, 188;
      ideal and form of early Italian, 190;
      opera and church, 193.
  Oratorio, its rise in Germany and effect on church music, 319.
  Organ music, its beginnings in Venice, 169, 171;
      in the German Protestant Church, 269, 270, 290;
      Bach’s organ works, see Bach.
  Organs, Puritan hatred of, 365, 370;
      destroyed by the Puritans, 371.
  Organum, 136.
  Osmund, bishop of Salisbury, 331.


                                    P

  Pachelbel, 292.
  Palestrina, 93, 133, 151;
      the Mass of Pope Marcellus, 152, 154;
      myth of the rescue of church music by Palestrina, 152;
      compared with Lassus, 173.
  “Palestrina style,” 158;
      tonality, 158;
      construction, 159;
      tone color, how produced, 166;
      aesthetic and religious effect, 173, 177;
      limits of characterization, 178.
  Palmer, 381.
  Parallelism in Hebrew poetry, 28.
  Parochial mode of performing the Anglican service, 335.
  Passion music, German, 270, 272;
      origin and early development, 274;
      from Schütz to Bach, Hamburg Passions, 280.
  Passion play, 274.
  Pater, quoted, 400.
  Paul, St., his injunction in regard to song, 42;
      allusion to the glossolalia, 44.
  Pergolesi, 213.
  Philo, 48.
  Pietism, its effect on church music, 266, 319.
  Plain Song, see Chant, Catholic ritual; also Chant, Anglican.
  Plato, his opinion of the purpose of music, 14.
  Pliny, his report to Trajan concerning Christian singing, 47.
  Plutarch on the function of music, 15.
  “Pointing,” 341.
  Post-Communion, 90.
  Prayer Book, see Common Prayer, Book of.
  Preface, 88.
  Psalmody, Puritan, 369, 373;
      methods of singing, 377, 405.
  Psalms, how sung in the ancient Hebrew worship, 27;
      adopted by the Christians, 41;
      antiphonal psalmody in Milan in the fourth century, 66;
      in Rome in the fifth century, 67;
      in the Church of England, see Chant, Anglican;
      metrical psalm versions, see Psalmody.
  Psalter, Geneva, origin of, 359.
  Psaltery, 23.
  Purcell, 347, 352.
  Puritanism, 324, 327, 358, 364 _et seq._
  Puritans, their hostility to artistic music, 365 _et seq._;
      their attacks upon episcopacy and ritualism, 366, 369;
      their ravages in the churches, 371;
      their tenets and usages maintained after the Restoration, 372;
      Puritan music in America, 390.


                                    R

  Recitative, 188.
  Reformation in England, its nature, causes, and progress, 325 _et
          seq._
  Reinken, 295.
  Reinmar der Zweter, 229.
  Renaissance, its influence upon musical development, 185, 187, 272;
      parallel between Renaissance religious painting and Catholic
          Church music, 194.
  Requiem Mass, 85.
  Rheinberger, 212.
  Richter, 321.
  Ridley, 329.
  Robert, king of France, 147.
  Romanus, 119.
  Rossini, religious music of, 207, 213.


                                    S

  Sachs, 229.
  St. Cecilia Society, 180, 212.
  St. Gall, convent of, as a musical centre, 118.
  Saint-Säens, 217.
  Sanctus, 88.
  Savages, religious sentiment among, 2;
      methods of religious expression, 3.
  Schaff, quoted, 44.
  Scheidt, 292.
  Schleiermacher, 321.
  Schola Cantorum, 181, 288 n.
  Schop, 266.
  Schubert, masses of, 199, 200, 211.
  Schubiger, quoted, 119.
  Schütz, greatest German composer before Bach and Händel, 277;
      his education and musical methods, 277;
      Symphoniae sacrae, 278;
      dramatic religious works, 278;
      Passion settings, 278;
      his isolated musical position, 279.
  Sechter, 207.
  Seminaries, theological, and church music, 406.
  Senfl, 264.
  Sequence, 88;
      origin and early character, 121.
  “Service,” Anglican, 345.
  Shairp, quoted, 398.
  Shophar, 22.
  Sistrum, 23.
  Six Articles, 328.
  Smart, 355, 383.
  Spencer, Herbert, quoted, 5, 15.
  Speratus, 249.
  Spitta, quoted, 322.
  Stainer, 355;
      quoted, 342.
  Stanford, 355.
  Sternhold and Hopkins, psalm version of, 375, 377.
  _Stile famigliare_, 151, 158, 159.
  Sullivan, 355, 383.
  Swelinck, 292.
  Symbolism, in ancient music, 11, 14.
  Synagogue, worship in the ancient, 33;
      modified by the Christians, 41.
  Synesius, 57.


                                    T

  Tallis, 168, 345, 350.
  Tate and Brady, psalm version of, 376.
  Tauler, 229, 231, 238.
  Taylor, Bayard, quoted, 254.
  Te Deum, 58.
  Therapeutae, 48.
  Thirty Years’ War, 264, 265, 285.
  Thomas à Kempis, 224.
  Tones, Gregorian, 100.
  Tones, psalm, see Tones, Gregorian.
  Toph, 22.
  Tours, 355.
  Tractus, 88.


                                    U

  Ugab, 22.


                                    V

  Van Laun, quoted, 359.
  Vehe, 264.
  Venice, church music in, 168.
  Verdi, his Requiem, 199, 200, 213, 218.
  Vittoria, 133, 168.


                                    W

  Wackernagel’s collection of German pre-Reformation hymns, 228.
  Wagner, P., quoted, 104.
  Walther, Johann, 249, 259, 260, 264.
  Walther von der Vogelweide, 229.
  Watts, psalm version of, 376;
      hymns, 379, 380, 387.
  Wesley, Charles, 379, 381.
  Wesley, John, 379.
  Wesleyan movement, revival of hymn singing in the, 379.
  Whittier, 381.
  Wiclif, 327.
  Willaert, 133, 168, 169.
  Winterfeld, quoted, 170.
  Wiseman, quoted, 76.
  Witt, founder of St. Cecilia Society, 180.
  Wrangham, 376.



                               Footnotes


[1]Brinton, _The Religions of Ancient Peoples._

[2]Brown, _The Fine Arts_.

[3]Spencer, _Professional Institutions: Dancer and Musician_.

[4]Lang, _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_.

[5]A full account of ancient Assyrian music, so far as known, may be
   found in Engel’s _Music of the Most Ancient Nations_.

[6]“Long ago they [the Egyptians] appear to have recognized the principle
   that their young citizens must be habituated to forms and strains of
   virtue. These they fixed, and exhibited the patterns of them in their
   temples; and no painter or artist is allowed to innovate upon them, or
   to leave the traditional forms and invent new ones. To this day no
   alteration is allowed either in these arts, or in music at
   all.”—Plato, _Laws_, Book II., Jowett’s translation.

[7]Chappell, _History of Music_.

[8]Erman, _Life in Ancient Egypt_, translated by Tirard.

[9]See Plato, _Republic_, book iii.

[10]Ambros, _Geschichte der Musik_.

[11]Gen. xxxi. 27.

[12]Ex. xix.

[13]Jos. vi.

[14]Num. x. 2-8.

[15]2 Chron. v. 12, 13; xxix. 26-28.

[16]2 Chron. xiii. 12, 14.

[17]1 Sam. x. 5.

[18]Chappell, _History of Music_, Introduction.

[19]For extended descriptions of ancient musical instruments the reader
   is referred to Chappell, _History of Music_; Engel, _The Music of the
   Most Ancient Nations_; and Stainer, _The Music of the Bible_.

[20]2 Sam. vi. 5.

[21]2 Sam. vi. 14, 15.

[22]1 Chron. xvi. 5, 6.

[23]1 Chron. xxiii. 5.

[24]1 Chron. xxv.; 2 Chron. v. 12. See also 2 Chron. v. 11-14.

[25]2 Chron. xxix. 25-30.

[26]Ezra iii. 10, 11.

[27]Neh. xii.

[28]_Synagogue Music_, by F. L. Cohen, in _Papers read at the
   Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition_, London, 1847.

[29]Ps. cxiii-cxviii.

[30]Eph. v. 19; Col. iii. 16.

[31]1 Cor. xii. and xiv.

[32]Schaff, _History of the Christian Church_, I. p. 234 f.; p. 435.

[33]1 Cor. xiv. 27, 28.

[34]Chappell, _History of Music_.

[35]Among such supposed quotations are: Eph. v. 14; 1 Tim. iii. 16; 2
   Tim. ii. 11; Rev. iv. 11; v. 9-13; xi. 15-18; xv. 3, 4.

[36]_Constitutions of the Apostles_, book. ii. chap. 57.

[37]Hefele, _History of the Councils of the Church_, translated by
   Oxenham.

[38]St. Augustine, _Confessions_.

[39]Klesewetter, _Geschichte der europäich-abendländischen Musik_.

[40]For an exhaustive discussion of the history of the Te Deum see
   Julian’s _Dictionary of Hymnology_.

[41]_Hymns of the Eastern Church_, translated, with notes and an
   introduction by J. M. Neale, D.D.

[42]Lanciani, _Pagan and Christian Rome_.

[43]St. Augustine, _Confessions_, book ix. chap. 7.

[44]St. Augustine, _Confessions_, book ix. chap. 6.

[45]Gibbons, _The Faith of our Fathers_, chap. 24.

[46]_Caecilien Kalendar_ (Regensburg), 1879.

[47]Wiseman, _Four Lectures on the Offices and Ceremonies of Holy Week as
   performed in the Papal Chapels, delivered in Rome, 1837_.

[48]Jakob, _Die Kunst im Dienste der Kirche_.

[49]Sermon by Dr. Leonhard Kuhn, published in the _Kirchenmusikalisches
   Jahrbuch_ (Regensburg), 1892.

[50]O’Brien, _History of the Mass_.

[51]Gibbons, _The Faith of our Fathers_.

[52]The musical composition commonly called a Mass—such, for instance as
   the Imperial Mass of Haydn, the Mass in C by Beethoven, the St.
   Cecilia Mass by Gounod—is a musical setting of those portions of the
   office of the Mass that are invariable and that are sang by a choir.
   These portions are the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Benedictus,
   and Agnus Dei. The musical composition called Requiem, or Mass for the
   Dead, consists of the Introit—Requiem aeternam and Te decet hymnus,
   Kyrie eleison, Dies Irae, Offertory (Domine Jesu Christe),
   Communion—Lux aeterna, and sometimes with the addition of Libera me
   Domine. These choral Masses must always be distinguished from the
   larger office of the Mass of which they form a part.

[53]It is worthy of note, as a singular instance of the exaltation of a
   comparatively unimportant word, that the word Mass, Lat. Missa, is
   taken from the ancient formula of dismissal, Ite, missa est.

[54]Wagner, _Einführung in die Gregorianischen Melodien_.

[55]Sauter, _Choral und Liturgie_.

[56]Gevaert first announced his conclusions in a discourse pronounced at
   a public session of the class in fine arts of the Academy of Belgium
   at Brussels, and which was published in 1890, under the title of _Les
   Origines du Chant liturgique de l’ Église latine._ This essay was
   amplified five years later into a volume of 446 pages, entitled _La
   Mélopée antique dans le Chant de l’ Église latine_. These works are
   published by Ad. Hoste, Ghent.

[57]Lemaire, _Le Chant, ses principes et son histoire_.

[58]Green, _Short History of the English People_.

[59]Montalembert, _The Monks of the West_, vol. ii.

[60]Montalembert, _The Monks of the West_, vol. ii.

[61]_Ibid._

[62]Ambros, _Geschichte der Musik_, vol. ii.

[63]The offices, chiefly conventual, in which the chant is employed
   throughout are exceptions to the general rule.

[64]This distinction between harmony and counterpoint is fundamental, but
   no space can be given here to its further elucidation. The point will
   easily be made clear by comparing an ordinary modern hymn tune with
   the first section of a fugue.

[65]Mendelssohn, in his letter to Zelter describing the music of the
   Sixtine Chapel, is enthusiastic over the beautiful effect of the
   _abellimenti_ in Allegri’s Miserere.

[66]Winterfeld, _Johannes Gabrieli und sein Zeitalter_.

[67]Jakob, _Die Kunst im Dienste der Kirche_.

[68]Wackernagel, _Das deutsche Kirchenlied von der ältesten Zeit bis zu
   Anfang des XVII. Jahrhunderts_.

[69]Hoffmann von Fallersleben, _Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenliedes
   bis auf Luther’s Zeit_.

[70]Taylor, _Studies in German Literature_.

[71]Koch, _Geschichte des Kirchenliedes und Kirchegesanges der
   christlichen insbesondere der deutschen evangelischen Kirche_.

[72]Bacon and Allen, editors: _The Hymns of Martin Luther set to their
   Original Melodies, with an English Version_.

[73]The performance of Bach’s cantatas by the Catholic Schola Cantorum of
   Paris is one of many testimonies to the universality of the art of
   this son of Lutheranism.

[74]Kretzschmar, _Führer durch den Concertsaal; Kirchliche Werke_.

[75]Arsène Alexandre, _Histoire populaire de la Peinture_.

[76]Spitta, _Zur Musik: Wiederbelebung protestantischer Kirchenmusik auf
   geschichtlicher Grundlage_.

[77]Jebb, _Choral Service of the United Church of England and Ireland_.

[78]An edition of Marbecke’s Book of Common Prayer with Notes, edited by
   Rimbault, was published by Novello, London, in 1845.

[79]Curwen, _Studies in Worship Music_.

[80]_Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity_, book v., secs. 38 and 39.

[81]It appears from this injunction that the grotesque custom of “lining
   out” or “deaconing” the psalm was not original in New England, but was
   borrowed, like most of the musical customs of our Puritan forefathers,
   from England.

[82]Curwen, _Studies in Worship Music_.

[83]This has been done by several writers, but by no other in such
   admirable fashion as by Horder in his delightful book, _The Hymn
   Lover_ (London, Curwen, 1889).

[84]Hooker, _Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity_, book v. chap. 15.



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