Luther on music

January 30, 2010

In a preface for a schoolbook called Symphoniae jucundae (1538), Martin Luther expounded on the value of a musical education.  Everyone has some natural musical ability, he says, but a sound education

corrects, develops, and refines the natural music, [so that] then at last it is possible to taste with wonder (yet still not comprehend) God’s absolute and perfect wisdom in his wondrous work of music.  Here is it most remarkable that one single voice continues to sing the tenor, while at the same time many other voices trip lustily around it, exulting and adorning it in exuberant strains and, as it were, leading it forth in a divine dance, so that those who are the least bit moved know nothing more amazing in the world.  But any who remain unaffected are clodhoppers indeed and are fit to hear only the words of dung-poets and the music of pigs.

That man never minced words.  Preach it, separated brother.

(I came upon this quote in the first volume of Richard Taruskin’s Oxford History of Western Music.  He provides a more thorough citation, but I haven’t time to type it out just now, and I probably won’t do it later either.  I haven’t even got time to put a closing parenthesis on these remarks.

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