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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningHistory of the Trombone(Moderator: bhcordova) questions about music and religion
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jalapeno

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« on: Nov 06, 2017, 02:05PM »

1) Why has religious music been marginalized in most examinations of music history?

2) Should we pay more attention to the historical and social importance of religion and music after
1750? If so, how? If not, justify the continuance of its marginal position.
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« Reply #1 on: Nov 06, 2017, 02:37PM »

1) Why has religious music been marginalized in most examinations of music history?


I didn't get that sense when I was in Music History classes. There were so many masses and Magnificats and Ave Marias... it was like trying to tell apart all the Madonnas in an art museum.


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2) Should we pay more attention to the historical and social importance of religion and music after
1750? If so, how? If not, justify the continuance of its marginal position.

I think it's just that by that time, the interesting developments, the key ones that lead to yet other interesting developments tend to be in the instrumental fields (concertos, symphonies, sonatas, suites, tone poems) which don't have any text to secure them to a religious purpose. Also, the people commissioning music tended to not be church powers anymore but secular people.

It also may represent the reality that by 1750 religious differences were no longer matters of life-and-death conflict and there was less clamour to make large musical monuments to one's faith.

There are numerous scholarly books on religious music in any era if you feel the need to study further.
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MrPillow
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« Reply #2 on: Nov 06, 2017, 03:10PM »

What religious elements do you think have been marginalized?
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jalapeno

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« Reply #3 on: Nov 07, 2017, 06:38AM »

What religious elements do you think have been marginalized?

It’s a question for a essay and I’m looking for insight !

About the lack of religious aspects over other narratives in most discussion of let’s say Mozart, Mahler, Beethoven, Debussy, Ravel, even popular music, modernism, jazz etc

Music after 1750
Thanks for the insight !
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 07, 2017, 07:53AM »

I don't think the religious elements of the "ode to joy" have been minimized at all.

Nor of Mahler's resurrection.

We can name a billion, I think they are given plenty of discussion.

Heck even in more current times, we had a pretty good discussion of religion with Sun Ra.

Not sure what you think is being marginalized, but at my public university we discussed it quite a bit and I didn't take the pre 1750 courses (I was an engineering major, and took what I liked).

Cheers,
Andy
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Andrew Elms
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« Reply #5 on: Nov 07, 2017, 08:13AM »

1) Why has religious music been marginalized in most examinations of music history?

2) Should we pay more attention to the historical and social importance of religion and music after
1750? If so, how? If not, justify the continuance of its marginal position.


I haven't had a lot of music history.  It's impossible to avoid some when playing and singing in groups and going to concerts.  But I may not have the bigger picture.

What I have been exposed to was not marginal at all.  Think of the rich tradition of church sponsored masses, the choral preludes Bach wrote, etc.  Think of John Rutter and similar, the rich body of chant and plainsong, etc. 

What I have never been exposed to is non-Christian, non-Eurocentric music history.

Your 1750 date suggests you are focused on Christianity and dead white men composers.  That may not be all that exists. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #6 on: Nov 07, 2017, 08:23AM »

I think the problem is the use of "marginalized", which suggests something has unfairly been pushed to the side.

We don't speak little of religion in the work of Mozart, Mahler, Beethoven, Debussy, Ravel, etc... not because we're suppressing something but because there isn't much there there.

OK, all I know is what I've read... maybe there is a huge conspiracy to hide these composers' religious devotion? Is that the premise?  These guys were going to mass every day and preaching on the street corners and we're just not being told about it? Maybe.

Mozart made one casual reference to his music coming "from God" so there's that.

To make that case you'll go beyond saying it's suppressed to finding evidence to prove there's more to know.


That said, I don't get the sense that Mahler and religion is not talked about. Just about every significant coverage of him has to go into him being Jewish, being discriminated against, having to convert to Catholicism... I always wonder if it is over-emphasized


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« Reply #7 on: Nov 07, 2017, 09:04AM »

I think the problem is the use of "marginalized", which suggests something has unfairly been pushed to the side.

We don't speak little of religion in the work of Mozart, Mahler, Beethoven, Debussy, Ravel, etc... not because we're suppressing something but because there isn't much there there.

OK, all I know is what I've read... maybe there is a huge conspiracy to hide these composers' religious devotion? Is that the premise?  These guys were going to mass every day and preaching on the street corners and we're just not being told about it? Maybe.

Mozart made one casual reference to his music coming "from God" so there's that.

To make that case you'll go beyond saying it's suppressed to finding evidence to prove there's more to know.


That said, I don't get the sense that Mahler and religion is not talked about. Just about every significant coverage of him has to go into him being Jewish, being discriminated against, having to convert to Catholicism... I always wonder if it is over-emphasized



Would we have heard Mahler's great works if he had not converted, under duress? Don't know. But many of his themes point to his own personal suffering which the Jews and Jesus did suffered as well. Ad his songs and symphonies reflect that (klezmer, resurrection, etc). But he was more of a cultural Jew than a religious Jew. So religion comes in to play more as history than actual religion. And that is probably what is stressed more these days than the actual faith of the composer. Except maybe for Bruckner and others where faith was central to them.
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« Reply #8 on: Nov 07, 2017, 09:57AM »

You might consider this resource:

https://www.amazon.com/Music-Through-Eyes-Faith-Harold/

Doug Yeo recommended it some years ago and I read it, but it is so long I don't remember much about whether it looked at history.

It is Christian centric of course. 
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« Reply #9 on: Nov 07, 2017, 02:03PM »

I wouldn't say religious music has ever been marginalized.

Roughly half the composers and works we examined in all three music history classes and all 4 theory classes were religious in nature and origin. Grab any music history book - you'll find that many of the major composers benefitted from either the patronage of the church or the patronage of a royal family that promoted certain religious ideals.

I didn't go to a catholic church growing up and I was confused as to why I had to learn the standard form of the mass when I went to a music college (NOT a religious college either). We had tests over it - most of us "evangelicals" didn't do well on the Mass quizzes.

Bach... I mean, the guy we base our theory off of and the guy we probably analyze more than any other wrote hundreds of religious works.

One could easily argue that without the patronage of the church western music wouldn't be what it is.

It's only in pretty recent american history that religion has been marginalized in our general culture - and one could easily argue even that's not the case seeing how often the religion of a candidate comes up in just about every major national election.
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« Reply #10 on: Nov 07, 2017, 02:14PM »

Spend five seconds learning about Bernstein and religion hits you pretty hard in the 20th century American face.
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« Reply #11 on: Nov 11, 2017, 03:59PM »

1) Why has religious music been marginalized in most examinations of music history?

2) Should we pay more attention to the historical and social importance of religion and music after
1750? If so, how? If not, justify the continuance of its marginal position.


What?

It's not marginalized,  we talk about it all the time in music theory and history classes, whenever we approach a composer, some major biographical info is his or her religion and how it relates to his music. Countless books and essays about such topics.

I think however I can give you an lead on why you might think that. Up until the 18th century, religious music was either at the forefront of musical innovation or not far behind it (the same composers who wrote innovative secular madrigals then applied those innovations to their motet, for example). Much, much of the musical life was centered around the church. Monteverdi didn't only write religious music (in fact his most important works are secular), but his main employment was in a church.

Then throughout the 17th century more and more attention was brought to instrumental music and virtuosity, which in turn influenced religious music, and religious music stopped being at the forefront of innovation and started only trailing behind. Then the 18th century brought in the Enlightenment and the triumph of rationalism. It was only logical that secular music would then strengthen its place as the most innovative.

It stayed that way ever since. Religious music has been on the conservative side since then. That doesn't mean it's not important or historically relevant. But the study of history is very often the study of progress, and starting with the mid 17th to early 18th century at the latest, religion was no longer the driving force of progress in western music.

Moreover the 18th century sees the rise of the bourgeoisie, meaning a gradual shift into the 19th century of patronage, from clergy and nobility towards secular bourgeoisie. This leads to the possibility of having independent "freelance" composer who do not depend from the church anymore - Mozart and Beethoven are good examples. Simultaneously you start seeing separation of church and state, meaning state sponsored composer no longer have writing music for religious services as their main purpose. And you start having musicians joining forces and creating secular and independant musical institutions, the birth of the modern symphony orchestra.


Mozart wrote some amazing religious music. In fact, all my favorite Mozart works are sacred works. But his most progressive music was not his religious music. His impact on the future of opera is far greater than his impact on the future of sacred music. That's why we talk about it more. Same with Beethoven. There is some great religious music he wrote but it barely had any influence on progress in music when compared to his symphonies, string quartets and piano sonatas. What is more influencial and a bigger contribution to music history, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique or his Requiem? The list goes on.
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