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Martin Luther′s Effect on the Music of the Reformation
Martin Luther was born and raised up in Eisleben, Saxony, southeast of Germany. He was born in 1483 to Hans and Margarette Luther, who were farmers[1]. Luther’s father worked hard as a miner, and the father wanted him to have a good future. Martin Luther joined the school at the age of seven and in 1498; he enrolled to study logic, rhetoric, and grammar after which he compared the experience of the hell and the purgatory. Martin Luther later joined the University of Erfurt to further his education. Martin Luther studied to be a lawyer but due to what happened to him in July 1505 changed the course of his life[2]. Martin Luther was caught up in a terrifying thunderstorm where he cried out for help as he said, “Save me, St. Anne, and I’ll become a monk!” After the event, Luther was to become a monk, a decision which was very challenging to him as his parents wanted him to be a lawyer. He feared to break the promise of becoming a monk and the fears of hell and the wrath of God on him led him to salvation.
His early experiences at the monastery were difficult as his religious enlightenment was not met. He got appointed to attend a delegate’s church conference in Rome while at the age of twenty – seven. What he experienced in the conference discouraged him when he saw how corrupt and immoral the Catholic priests were[3]. When he went back to his country, Luther decided to take a theological course; he studied and became an enlightened theology professor. Martin Luther read the Bible most of the times before attending lectures. The continuous reading of the Bible, gave him a different believe that only faith can bring salvation and this was a significant moment in his life and set the reformation motion.
Martin Luther got angry with the Catholic Church in 1517 when Pope Leo X requested the congregates for assistance to build the church. The issue angered Luther to the extent that he decided to write ninety-five-page theses which he nailed on the institution’s door. His intention was, they discuss the points he highlighted on the theses. This was a direct criticism of the corruption and other immoral acts within the Catholic Church. With the help of the press, the ninety-five theses paper circulated in Germany within two weeks as it took two months to go all over Europe. The church responded to his claims by stopping the defiance deeds. In 1518, Luther had a met Cardinal Thomas Cajetan where he was ordered by the authority of Pope to revoke his ninety-five-page theses[4]. Luther refused and said that he could only do that unless the scriptures prove him wrong. The meeting ended with no solution since Luther declined to recant his work and this led to the church to excommunicate him. As he continued to lecture, he made it clear to the public that Pope had no powers to interpret the Bible. The Catholic considered this as a direct attack to the papacy. Lastly, the Pope decided to excommunicate Luther; this was in 1520.
One early morning in 1546, Luther told his close allies that he was ready to die and thanked God for the son given. After some hours he suffered an epileptic stroke and passed on after some few hours.In the early 16th century, the environment was not friendly as people were not happy with what they underwent as the Roman Catholic Church was plunged into corrupt deeds within the Church ranks[5]. The tension was high, and there was unease among the people. In response to these troubled souls, Martin Luther broke his silence on the 31st day of October 1517. One special day, Luther decided to deliver a letter with the heading “The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” In this message, Martin Luther highlighted the challenges the challenges faces by the Catholic Church in Europe. With the changes, there came worship, common traditions, church practices, and music. This led to the split of the Catholic Church and other religions emerged. One of the religions that were formed as a result of the Catholic split is the Lutheranism that followed the teachings and practice of Martin Luther[6]. Lutheranism religion came up with a new way of worship as they used music to in worship and praises. The whole church used the same language that could be understood by everyone.
This was not only a significant moment for the church and music history but a history of both the church and the music history. Martin Luther’s famous quote, “Music is God’s greatest gift. It had often so stimulated and stirred me that I felt the desire to preach.” Pushed him during the moments, he associated with the Catholic Church. Since Luther did not want to lose his old traditions, he combined the old ways of worship with the new one and came up with new ways of praising the Lord using music. He did all these to emphasis and purported God’s will. Luther’s idea can be traced to the present practices by the churches. Today church services have been borrowed across denominations as prophesized by Luther. As Luther continued with his new church, he used the Catholic way of mass during his church service although they followed guidelines that were not strict compared to the Catholic traditions. In the new religion started by Luther, service was not only led by one or few individuals, but all members participated in the service.
The new religion ensured that all people from different vernacular understood and participated in the service actively. From Luther’s point of view, his intention was not to finish the Latin but to bring divine services understood and accessible by everyone since not all people were able to read Latin. With the new religion, people sung tuneful hymns known as the choruses with melodic lines which were accessible to most worshipers to learn and understand. Luther was aware of musical conventions since he had been a singer and a composer too. As time passed by, the music grew, and the Lutheran music gradually evolved from the composition to the choruses[7]. As the churches grew, so did the choruses, the hymns, and the songs at large. With time, the motets started to integrate new styles of imitations leading to the breakage of the Franco-Flemish culture of Josquin. On the other hand, the incorporation caused a division within the church. With the opposition, the only option was that the motets were to be performed by the choir members and this resembled the Catholic culture.
During Lutheran service, the congregation would sing the melody part accompanied by a musical instrument such as pianos, drum sets, and guitars. Later on, a major controversy emerged on the use of worldly or secular tunes to being used as the foundation for sacred songs. Most believers disagreed with the use of secular tunes in churches; they believed that the tunes had no room in the modern Christianity and not worthy to be performed in religious places. Martin Luther’s comment on the use of secular tunes was that Christians should be careful and avoid distorted minds that pollute the music[8]. Luther had no issue with the use of secular tunes in churches. Luther believed in the principle of two different kingdoms with description, the provider of both secular and sacred music is God and the only difference is that the secular is composed to serve a different purpose. Martin Luther says that, since music is God’s given gift, he finds no reason for rejecting secular tunes in sacred choruses since all music comes from God. Towards the eighteenth century, no change can be realized but a widening of the church music. During the seventeenth century, sacred music was used to for the congregation to say and sing with believes that the music will get deeper into the believer’s hearts and not just ears.
Martin Luther thought that anyone who is not singing is not a believer and they have not heard of the blissful tribute but, are headed the wrong old ways. However, the secular tunes gained more popularity as new and more things are used to change the attitudes towards sacred and secular music. Music composers realized that they had the capability to influence the emotions of the believers. This type of combination of the existing types following their position in Lutheran Divine Service, chorale preludes many times took place before the very chorales to prepare the congregation for the hymn[9]. Hearing these hymns, psychologically prepared the audience with the tunes thus enabled them to sing comfortably. However, most preludes that have currently been preserved are elongated and unfit for provisions. It depicts how most choruses preludes were interfered with by those who were the organizers. This mostly occurred during the reign of Baroque and was an essential skill needed for any organist to be. Lutheran Churches also maintained this culture that they adopted.
The leader first plays some preludes to familiarize the audience with the incoming song. The prior composed preludes would sometimes be played during holidays like Easter. This would take longer time than the other ones, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” which in most cases were written by Luther himself[10]. This is practiced to stress on the joy that audience ought to have during such festive season in Lutheran Churches. With that, we understand the teachings of the Luther that states our celebration of the earthly and divine blessings as given to us by the Almighty. A revolution occurred during this period, and this happened between the Bach and Baroque, this time there was a significant change within the Lutheran church such as the new types of the composed songs, the introduction of other new practices that emerged plus the other controversies that came up. All that happened were all within the context of the word of God combined with the experience of M. Luther[11]. Most of the activities have found their ways to the present world are currently practiced. It is clear that music is at the core of the Lutheran church and it is one of the church foundation practices. Martin Luther winds by quoting, “The devil, the creator of saddening care and disquieting worries, takes flight with the sound of music.”
Marin Luther contributed a lot to the success and reformation on the use of the hymns. He was able to integrate secular and sacred music in the hymns in order make a theological change within the religion culture. This led to justifications for the songs to be sung by people from all walks of life regardless of faith, the songs were sung by the housewives while washing the dirty items, the songs are sung in pubs and other places considered unholy[12]. The songs were both doxological and pedagogical that passed the message from the Bible and good moral. The songs shaped the lives of the believers as they got messages from the good news gospel and to push away the idols in our hearts and give room to Christ who is the Savior of mankind. After the introduction of the hymns, Luther composed and wrote many songs, despite his efforts, he was not able to match the number of hymns done by other great composers like Charles Wesley[13]. Hymns composed by Martin Luther were deeper theologically and had a social effect. Luther’s hymns were theological because he is a former monk. From the analysis, it is clear that Luther’s hymns could be understood in various vernaculars since be believed that God’s word for everyone and everyone should follow it and not the language of the wealthy and educated.
The controversial stand together with the opinions of the translations and other issues he differed with the Catholic Church, made his life to be in danger and he got protection from powerful people like the Wise Prince Fredrick. Luther’s translated hymns were so influential and spread across the world very first that some German humanists like Johann complained[14]. His work was multiplied, and printers helped in covering wider regions. From the analysis, it is clear that Luther’s work spread very fast because the work could be read by shoemakers, women and also the ignorant people accepted the Lutheran gospel. Some of the individuals memorized the hymns and mastered them because they were happy, comfortable and understood the dialect.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Bibliography

Barber, John. “Luther and Calvin on Music and Worship.”Thirdmill.org: Biblical Education.For the World.For Free. Last modified July 1, 2006. http://thirdmill.org/articles/joh_barber/PT.joh_barber.Luther.Calvin.Music.Worship.html
Johnston, William. “William Johnston’s Website | Music History I – Martin Luther, the German Reformation, and Their Impact on Sacred Music.”William Johnston’s Website.Last modified December 13, 2009. https://william.johnstonhaus.us/2009/12/13/music-history-i-martin-luther-the-german-reformation-and-their-impact-on-sacred-music/.
Sabzghabaei, Daniel. “Martin Luther and Early Lutheran Church Music: Reformation to Eighteenth Century – Daniel Sabzghabaei.” Daniel Sabzghabaei. Last modified 2016.https://danielsabzghabaei.com/martin-luther/.
 
[1]Barber, John. “Luther and Calvin on Music and Worship.”Thirdmill.org: Biblical Education.
[2]Sabzghabaei, Daniel. “Martin Luther and Early Lutheran Church Music: Reformation to Eighteenth Century – Daniel Sabzghabaei.” Daniel Sabzghabaei. Last modified 2016.
[3]Johnston, William. “William Johnston’s Website | Music History I – Martin Luther, the German Reformation, and Their Impact on Sacred Music.”William Johnston’s Website.Last modified December 13, 2009. https://william.johnstonhaus.us/2009/12/13/music-history-i-martin-luther-the-german-reformation-and-their-impact-on-sacred-music/.
[4]Barber, John. “Luther and Calvin on Music and Worship.”Thirdmill.org: Biblical Education.
[5]Johnston, William. “William Johnston’s Website | Music History I – Martin Luther, the German Reformation, and Their Impact on Sacred Music.”William Johnston’s Website.Last modified December 13, 2009. https://william.johnstonhaus.us/2009/12/13/music-history-i-martin-luther-the-german-reformation-and-their-impact-on-sacred-music/.
[6]Johnston, William. “William Johnston’s Website | Music History I – Martin Luther, the German Reformation, and Their Impact on Sacred Music.”William Johnston’s Website.Last modified December 13, 2009. https://william.johnstonhaus.us/2009/12/13/music-history-i-martin-luther-the-german-reformation-and-their-impact-on-sacred-music/.
[7]Sabzghabaei, Daniel. “Martin Luther and Early Lutheran Church Music: Reformation to Eighteenth Century – Daniel Sabzghabaei.” Daniel Sabzghabaei. Last modified 2016.
[8]Sabzghabaei, Daniel. “Martin Luther and Early Lutheran Church Music: Reformation to Eighteenth Century – Daniel Sabzghabaei.” Daniel Sabzghabaei. Last modified 2016.
[9]Barber, John. “Luther and Calvin on Music and Worship.”Thirdmill.org: Biblical Education.For the World.For Free. Last modified July 1, 2006.
[10]Johnston, William. “William Johnston’s Website | Music History I – Martin Luther, the German Reformation, and Their Impact on Sacred Music.”William Johnston’s Website.Last modified December 13, 2009. https://william.johnstonhaus.us/2009/12/13/music-history-i-martin-luther-the-german-reformation-and-their-impact-on-sacred-music/.
[11]Barber, John. “Luther and Calvin on Music and Worship.”Thirdmill.org: Biblical Education.For the World.For Free. Last modified July 1, 2006.
[12]Barber, John. “Luther and Calvin on Music and Worship.”Thirdmill.org: Biblical Education.For the World.For Free. Last modified July 1, 2006.
[13]Barber, John. “Luther and Calvin on Music and Worship.”Thirdmill.org: Biblical Education.For the World.For Free. Last modified July 1, 2006.
[14]Sabzghabaei, Daniel. “Martin Luther and Early Lutheran Church Music: Reformation to Eighteenth Century – Daniel Sabzghabaei.” Daniel Sabzghabaei. Last modified 2016.