Friday, May 16, 2008


I love listening to Renaissance music. It is about the only kind of music that I can listen to and do other things. Much of this music is in Latin and periodically I hear a mass part, a Sanctus, or Kyrie ,and immediately know the words and the use of the music. It adds to my prayer during the day.
Some of it is lively dance music that was clearly not for religious setting but it also adds delight to my work.

The harmonies are not the usual ones that we are used to—there is no Bach, Mozart or Beethovenish sound to this work. It is much more primitive in its harmony and even when the choral works are full of long polyphonic lines, the counterpoint has a lushness to it that even Brahms could not accomplish.

I sometimes wonder what it was like to be a priest or pastor when this music was new. What was in the hearts of the people who heard this music for the first time? What was in the hearts of those who wrote this music? I wonder if it was considered irreligious, or did it make the folks uneasy? Would have the sounds of trumpets in the belfry called for a parish council meeting or a call for more “traditional” music? It during this era that Luther nailed his 95 discussion questions on the door of Wurtenburg kirche. I don’t think I would have like being a pastor at that time—it was too much like our own era—schism whispered in every pub. But it was a time of great faith if the music is any indication and if the volume of religious music can be taken as a barometer.

What I have been taught about the Renaissance is that it was a time of great art, a result of escalating economic wealth. People had the time and the resources to enjoy great beauty and engage in theological inquiry. But it was also a time of wars and greed. Perhaps that is what gave rise to the theological discussion. This was theological discussion that went outside of the monastery—into the lives of common folk. But at the same time it was a time when many were so disgusted with the Church that they made outrageous mockery of the Church. It sounds much like today.

No, I do not worry that the Church is going to hell in a hand basket. I just look at the theological discussion that is going on in the blog world. The Church will be changed by my era. It will not look like it does today in 100 years from . Deo gratias! I do wish that modern religious music had the kind of depth to it as did the Renaissance, but hey, who knows who will be listening to it some 500 years from now and wondering what our era is like?

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