Sing to the Lord a New Song: Early Church Music
Plainsong, a body of traditional chants used in the Roman Church, is monophonic, consisting of a single, unaccompanied melodic line in free, rather than measured, rhythm. Althought the Proper of the Roman rite (that part which changes according to the date) was settled around the end of the 7th centruy, regional variations in chant style were common throughout the Latin West. This all changed when Pepin, King of the Franks, began the process of imposing Roman chant on the Guals, a process completed by his son Charlemagne, who, once elevated to Holy Roman Emperor in 800, aggressively spread Roman chant throughout the empire to consolidate religious and secular power. Thus, by unifying liturgical practice, a cultural community began. No longer did each tribe and region celebrate Mass in its own way. Suddenly, "European" culture was born, and the course of Western music history was forever changed. As a result, musical notation for chants was now written down.
Striftsbibliothek Sankt Gallen Codex 381
Early 10th Century
This copy of the St. Call Codex 381 is a full-color photographic reproduction of the original, one of the oldest collections of chant from the 10th century. Located in present-day Switzerland, the Abbey of St. Gall, especially its celebrated scriptorium, played an important role in Catholic and intellectual history. Its library, virtually untouched by the ravages of war, is an ideal place to study more than 1100 years of chant. The markings above the text are neumes, or musical notation, that guide the singer in performing the music.
Manuscript Leaf from Antiphonal in Latin
Late 14th Century
This original vellum manuscript leaf is from a German antiphonal, a service book that contains the sung portions of the daily devotions performed by members of the clergy and members of religious orders. The small size of both the Latin text and the neumes (musical notation) on this leaf indicates that it would have been used by an individual singer. The neumes used here are known as Hufnagel neumes, the name deriving from the German word for horseshoe nails, which the notes resemble. The text is from Luke, a festival celebrating the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth.
Manuscript Leaf from Antiphonal in Latin
This original vellum manuscript leaf is from a Spanish antiphonal. Antiphonals are service books that contain the sung portions of the cycle of daily devotions performed by members of the clergy and members of religious orders. The large size of both the Latin text and the neumes (musical notation) on this leaf indicates that it would have been performed by a choir. The clef sign locates the note C, and this example is in the Dorian mode, one of 8 church modes, or systems of pitch organization, in common use at that time. The text, used on various apostles' feast days, is taken from Matthew 19.
Polyphony is a musical texture consisting of two or more independent voices. Within the context of Western music tradition, the term usually refers to music of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. It displays a connection to the emerging Gothic style of architecture. Just as ornate cathedrals were built to house holy relics, organa (plainchant melodies with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony) were written to elaborate Gregorian chant, which too was considered holy. One voice (called the tenor, from the Latin tenere, "to hold") sang the notes of the chant elongated to enormous length. While this voice, the vox principalis, held the chant, one, two, or three other voices, known as the vox organalis (or vinnola vox, the "vining voice") were notated above it with quicker lines moving and weaving together. Over time, organa provided the means through which music evolved from a single line to multiple lines of equal value.
Early 11th-12th Centuries
The Winchester Troper was originally copied out and used at Winchester Cathedral in England. Tropes, musical and/or textual additions to plainchants, render the chants appropriate for a particular occasion or festival of the church. The Winchester Troper is a foundational text for the study of Anglo-Saxon musical and liturgical practice and neume notation. The most innovative element of the collection is a series of 174 organa for two voices, representing a musical practice not recorded elsewhere in Europe before the 13th century. This copy is a photographic reproduction of the original.
Magnus Liber Organi
circa 1250 [Photographic facsimile]
The Magnus Liber Organi, or "Great Book of Organum", is the largest and most important source for the influential composers centered around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Compiled during the 12th and 13th centuries, its most noted contributors included Léonin and his successor Pérotin. This work represents a step in the evolution of Western music between plainsong and the intricate polyphony of the later 13th and 14th centuries. The music of the Magnus Liber was used in the liturgy of the church throughout the feasts of the church.
Motetti A, numero trentatre
Venice, 1502 [Photographic facsimile]
Ottaviano Petrucci (1466-1539) was an Italian printer who produced the first printed music with movable type in 1501, the secular work Harmonice Musices Odhecaton A. His 1502 collection of motets, polyphonic musical settings for chorus of Latin texts, is perhaps the earliest example of sacred music printed with movable type and contains works by Josquin, Compère, Agricola, and others. Petrucci's work revolutionized music distribution and helped establish the Franco Flemish style's dominance throughout Europe for the next century.
Martin Luther (1482-1546)
Martin Luther's challenge to the Roman Catholic church's practices and doctrines precipitated the Protestant Reformation. Luther, a German Augustinian monk, declared his intolerance for the corruption of the Roman Church in 1517 by nailing his 95 theses of contention to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. He would eventually suffer excommunication and exile as a result. Not only a theological reformer, Luther was also well-regarded as a musician. His hymns, which include the text of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, inspired the development of congregational singing. From 1525-1529, he was actively engaged in developing a new church by establishing a supervisory church body, writing a clear summary of the new faith in the form of two catechisms, and creating a new form of the worship service. Luther's service included congregational singing of hymns and psalms in German, as well as of parts of the liturgy, including his unison setting of the Creed.
Martin Luther - Duetsche Messe
This copy of Martin Luther's Duetsche Messe is a line-cut reproduction of the Michael Lotter edition. In response to demands for a liturgy in German, and collaborating with the composer Johann Walther on the music, in early 1526 Luther published this important work. This German mass was not intended to be a replacement for his 1523 Latin mass, but merely an alternative that would appeal especially to the "simple people." In this publication, Luther set forth his famous precepts for the order and performance of the Mass in the German language.
William Byrd (1540-1623)
William Byrd was a student of Thomas Tallis, the leading composer of the Chapel Royal, and may have served as a Chapel Royal choirboy in his youth. Even though he remained a Catholic throughout his life, he obtained the prestigious post of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1572. This career move vastly increased Byrd's opportunities to widen his scope as a composer and to make important contacts at Court. Elizabeth I, a moderate Protestant who shunned the more extreme forms of Puritanism, retained a fondness for elaborate music and ritual. Overlooking Byrd's Catholicism, she granted him several favors, including a joint exclusive patent with Tallis for printing music and ruled music paper in 1575. Byrd's output of Anglican church music is surprisingly small, but it stretches the limits of elaboration then regarded as acceptable by some reforming Protestants who regarded highly wrought music as a distraction from the Word of God. His post in the Chapel Royal was briefly suspended in the 1580s when he ran into serious trouble over his associations with more radical Catholics.
Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur
Taking advantage of their monopoly on printing music, in 1575 Thomas Tallis and William Byrd produced their grandiose Cantiones sacrae, the first collection of Latin sacred motets published in England. Dedicated to the Queen herself, it offers a retrospective selection of Tallis's own work alongside compositions from his most gifted pupil. One of the 15 works by Byrd is split into three separately numbered sections, and one of the 16 by Tallis into two, in order to bring the apparent total to 17 pieces by each composer, corresponding to the length of the Queen's reign.
The Council of Trent (1545-1563)
The Council of Trent was the 16th century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to have been one of the Church's most important councils; it would be over 300 years before the church's next council, Vatican II. The Council issued condemnations of what it defined as Protestant heresies and defined church teachings in the areas of scripture and tradition, original sin, justification, sacraments, the Eucharist in Holy Mass, and the veneration of saints. It issued numerous reform decrees in an effort to answer Protestant disputes. Decrees concerning sacred music and religious art, though inexplicit, were subsequently amplified by theologians and writers to condemn many Renaissance and medieval practices, such as elaborate polyphony, greatly affecting the development of these art forms. The Council also attempted to restrict variations of the Mass found in regional missals and the spread of liturgical texts of doubtful orthodoxy.
This copy of the Missale Romanum, the liturgical book that contains the texts and rules for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Catholic Church, is a line-cut reproduction of the original. It was the first Missale Romanum printed after the Council of Trent, which sought to clarify church teachings and counter what it defined as Protestant heresies. To eliminate the confusion caused by regional practices, Pope Pius V ordered that it be used throughout the Roman church.
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer, first published in 1549, was a product of the English Reformation following the break from the Roman Catholic Church. It includes the words of structured services of worship including the Psalms to be sung between the readings. This copy was printed in 1614 and is bound into the Library's copy of the Geneva Bible printed in 1608.
A psalter is a collection of translations of all or part of the Book of Psalms in poetic meter, meant to be sung as hymns in private or corporate worship. Although the Psalms had always had a place of honor in Christian liturgies, the composition and use of metrical psalters became even more important during the Protestant Reformation, especially in its Calvinist manifestation. With the Psalms now in regular meter, and using tunes that all would know, for the first time a large group of untrained singers could learn and sing Biblical texts together. Many Reformed churches adopted the doctrine of exclusive, unaccompanied psalmody; every hymn sung in worship had to be an actual translation of a Psalm or some other Biblical passage. Although the original center of this important movement was in Geneva, the practice of metrical psalm singing during worship was quickly adopted by Protestant groups in Switzerland, Holland, France, England, and Scotland, as well as throughout the Lutheran regions.
The Genevan Psalter is a collection of metrical Psalms created under the supervision of John Calvin to encourage congregational participation during worship. The first edition appeared in 1539, but this 1562 edition was the first to contain settings of all 150 psalms, mostly based on the work of French poet Clément Marot, and French theologian Théodore de Bèze. The Genevan Psalter has been in uninterrupted use to the present day by Huguenot and other French speaking Protestant churches, and many of the tunes used in the psalter can still be found in most modern hymnals.
Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter
Thomas Sternhold, Groom of the Robes to Henry VIII and Edward VI, was the principal author of the first English metrical versions of portions of the Psalms (1547). Later augmented with settings by John Hopkins, they were often bound into various editions of the Bible. Very popular and widely circulated, as a separate volume they were re printed more than 400 times between 1550 and 1640, and continued in regular use in some congregations until the late 18th century. This copy is bound with the Centennial Library's 1613 edition of the King James Bible.
The Bay Psalm Book
This Bay Psalm Book is a facsimile of the first edition, the earliest printed English work in colonial America. It is a complete translation of the Psalms in English meter, produced by the Puritans on their own press only 10 years after their arrival in America and only 20 years after the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. Although none of the text settings remain in use today, many of the tunes to which they were sung have survived. The first edition to include notated music was the ninth edition (1698).
From Hymns to Gospel Songs
The Protestant Reformation resulted in two conflicting approaches to the use of hymns in the church. One considered that anything not directly supported by the Bible was to be rejected. All hymns that were not direct quotations from the Bible fell into this category and thus, instead of hymns, Psalms were chanted to very basic melodies. The other approach, using hymns to teach principles of faith to worshipers, produced an explosion of hymn writing and congregational singing. Martin Luther, the German reformer and author of many hymns, the most famous being A Mighty Fortress is our God, was a proponent and user of this approach. The principal impetus for early English hymnody came in the late 17th century from the hymn writer Isaac Watts. Watts and others tended to paraphrase biblical texts and Watts is credited with having written the first English hymn which was not a direct paraphrase of Scripture. The evangelical revival of the mid-18th century under John and Charles Wesley firmly established this new concept of hymnody in England and America. Wesley developed a focus, building on the work of Watts and others, of expressing in hymns one's personal feelings in the relationship with God. Many of Wesley's hymns used a variety of experimental meters, and John Wesley's translations introduced many of the finest German hymns to the English audience. The contribution of the Wesley's, along with the Second Great Awakening in America, led to a new style of hymn called gospel. The result was an explosion of sacred music writing with Fanny Crosby, Philip P. Bliss, Ira Sankey, and others producing testimonial music for revivals, camp meetings, and evangelistic crusades. This tune style was named "gospel song" as distinct from hymns.
Village Hymns for Social Worship
Hymns and Sacred Poems
John and Charles Wesley
This copy of Hymns and Sacred Poems is a photographic facsimile of the first edition published in London in 1739. While John Wesley published two hymnals prior to this, one in 1737 in America and the other in 1738 in England, this is the first time Charles Wesley emerged on the scene of published sacred poetry with a significant number of contributions. This volume is important for an understanding of Wesleyan theology and the nature of the emerging Methodist movement.
The Olney Hymns, first printed in England in 1779, was a collaboration of John Newton and William Cowper, the poet. The hymns were written for use in Newton's rural church in Olney, England. This copy of the Olney Hymns was printed in New York in 1808.
Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs
Isaac Watts First published 1707
Isaac Watts' Hymns and Spiritual Songs first appeared in print in 1707. Since the death of Watts, versions of that hymnal have been republished by many and included additional hymns. This copy of the Watts hymnal was printed in Cincinnati in 1840 and includes 200 to 300 additional hymns Afrom the best authors."
Village Hymns for Social Worship
This hymnal, printed in New York in 1827, was "designed as a supplement to the Psalms and hymns of Dr. Watts." The hymns included are both from Watts' original and new hymns not formerly published in any other hymnal.