October 15 Readings/Class Notes – History
St. Augustine on Music
What does Augustine feel are the advantages and disadvantages of music in a
– Born in 354.
– Tells the story of Augustine's conversion to Christianity
– Augustine admits that he thinks he is too focussed on the sensuous aspect
– Afraid that music may take him away from the teachings of Christ.
– Music will distract from the words – not a religious experience, but purely an
– Plato is concerned that there will be political conflict in society.
“I am inclined to approve of the custom of singing in church, in order that by
indulging the ears weaker spirits may be inspired w/ feelings of devotion. Yet
when I find the singing itself more moving than the truth which it conveys, I
confess that this is a grievous sin, and at those times I would prefer not to hear
the singer.” (St. Augustine, The Confessions)
Bach's St. Matthew Passion
– written in 1727 in Leipzig
– Always dreamed of writing “a well-regulated church music”
– About the suffering of Jesus – narrative passion
– Passion is a musical narrative – tells a story, but is not staged (no
How might Augustine's thoughts apply to this work?
How does Bach use muse to accomplish making the music serve the text?
Opening chorus – more than making it clear – Bach enacts a kind of Christian
conversion through the text, and through the texture.
– One group who asks the people to join in
– The other group asks who, where, what?
The Musical Materials
– In vocal music, an instrumental refrain that alternates with texted (that is,
“The congregational hymn of the German Protestant church service. Typically, it
possesses certain formal and stylistic traits appropriate to its lay purposes: sim