Back to Home

God & Science Forum Message

Forums: Atm · Astrophotography · Blackholes · Blackholes2 · CCD · Celestron · Domes · Education
Eyepieces · Meade · Misc. · God and Science · SETI · Software · UFO · XEphem
RSS Button

Home | Discussion Forums | God and Science | Post

Be the first pioneers to continue the Astronomy Discussions at our new Astronomy meeting place...
The Space and Astronomy Agora
No Organs In Early Organum

Forum List | Follow Ups | Post Message | Back to Thread Topics | In Response To
Posted by Aurino Souza on November 1, 2002 14:52:54 UTC

Hi Richard,

The development of organum illustrates my point that the church has inhibited the development of music.

OK, let's be sincere here: I don't know what would have happened to music if the Church had not interfered with it. So I'm not claiming music is better thanks to the Church, all I'm saying is Western music came to be what it is thanks for the most part to the Church.

It was called organum because it was accompanied by an instrument, which came to be called the organ. Instrumental accompanient is necessary for most trained singers to maintain harmony.

I can't remember the origin of the word organum, but it doesn't really have anything to do with the organ, it's the other way around actually. In medieval sacred music, organum refers to the technique of singing the same melody in two voices separated by a consonant interval. That's when the concept of harmony was born, and it was born in the church. Here's a nice website on the subject if you're interested:

And well-trained singers don't need instrumental accompaniment. Gregorian chant, the music of the Orthodox church, and any a-capella piece, including barbershop quartets, are sung without any instrumental accompaniment.

The Greeks never invented harmony, even though Pythagoras worked out its number theory, just because all instrumental music was considered to be a lower form of music.

I think you're right in that instrumental music was considered a lower form of music, but if you think about it most people still think that way. When was the last time an instrumental piece made it to the Billboard charts?

This persisted in the early church and never changed in the eastern orthadox church where the music became stagnant.

I think the problem with the Orthodox church is that it never accepted influence from secular music. That is not true of the Roman church, at least not true ever since organs were first introduced sometime in the Renaissance.

In the 600 to 800 AD period, instrumental music and harmony began to enter the western or Catholic church. It began in monasteries as an adjunct to the service. In the service itself, non-rhymical plainsong remained entrenched. The more conservative elements of the church were opposed to the use of instruments.

That is true even on this day. According to the Vatican, "unaccompanied plainchant is the only kind of music that is appropriate for the liturgy". The way I see it the story is a bit more complicated and it has to do with my argument that the Church belongs to the people, not to a few bishops entrenched in their ivory towers. If you walk into any Catholic church today, it's far more likely that you'll hear some pop tune than the Gregorian chant prescribed by the Vatican.

So it is true that western music developed in the church. But that was largely a result of outside, secular influences which initiated the use of instruments in the monasteries and later the church, in particular the Church of Notre Dame in Paris. Indeed, the development of music in the Europeon church was mostly due to the influence of the northern church starting with Charlemagne, even though he made plainsong or Gregorian chant the official music of the church. But I read that the northern peoples, the Celts, Franks, Goths, Anglos,etc., needed more inspiring forms of music.

I don't dispute that, but if you study the history of Catholic liturgical music you'll see that secular and sacred music always influenced each other. That is certainly true of the concept of harmony, which was developed in the Church and only much later incorporated in secular music.

My guess is that the northern church had to compete with the rather rousing secular music that the northerners had already developed, and so had to incorporate it into the church. It is because of this that the Catholic Church, as opposed to the Eastern Church, has always been open to all forms of music, and it is probably why the Catholic Church sponsored the development of western music up to Bach.

Well, I think the major strength of the Catholic church is its ability to change, despite its reputation for orthodoxy. That is what makes it the largest and longer-lasting institution in human history. I think some credit must be given for that, regardless of one's personal beliefs.

However, I disagree that western music went into decadence as soon as the church stopped its funding. I think the best classical music was composed after it was set free from the church.

Most people seem to share that opinion, as the so-called Romantic period in music is by far the most popular. But that is not what I meant. The truth is that the Catholic church was the largest employer of musicians through much of European history, and when the Church stopped hiring musicians they became jobless. While opera and concert music were still fashionable, some of them could make a living as performers or composers, but that has not been the case for the most part of the previous century when music became just a form of superficial entertainment devoid of any moral or spiritual values.

In fact, I think the reason opera and concert music went out of fashion is simply due to the fact that people no longer hear their counterparts in the church. When was the last time you heard a real choir or a traditional orchestra in a church? I never did, and I was quite surprised when I learned that that was commonplace in previous times.

It's nice to talk about music and the Church with a well-informed person such as yourself; I hope my posts are not boring you.



Follow Ups:

Login to Post
Additional Information
About Astronomy Net | Advertise on Astronomy Net | Contact & Comments | Privacy Policy
Unless otherwise specified, web site content Copyright 1994-2024 John Huggins All Rights Reserved
Forum posts are Copyright their authors as specified in the heading above the post.
"dbHTML," "AstroGuide," "ASTRONOMY.NET" & "VA.NET"
are trademarks of John Huggins