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Saturday morning quotes 2.37: More from Martin Luther

February 2, 2013

We return to the wisdom of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), who is well-known as a religious reformer but less known as a musician.  Having composed a great number of hymns based on the elements of the contemporary 16th century Tenorlied style, Luther was responsible for instigating the vernacular Psalm settings that became a staple in 16th- and 17th-century domestic music.

Variations on Luther’s hymn tunes were woven into elaborate polyphonic fantasias for the lute, some of the best found in the rare music of Matthias Reymann in his Noctes musicae, studio et industria (1598).  And, of course, Luther’s music and sentiment was JS Bach’s bread and butter.

Here it must suffice to discuss the uses of this great thing called music. But even that transcends the greatest eloquence of the most eloquent, because of the infinite variety of its forms and benefits. We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions – to pass over the animals – which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them. No greater commendation than this can be found – at least not by us. For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage those full of hate–and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good? – what more effective means than music could you find?

– Martin Luther Symphoniae jucundae, 1538

What more can be said?

2 Comments
  1. Good quote. Calvin compared music to a funnel that allowed song to be poured directly into the heart. Not bad, but he used this as a warning not to sing anything but hymns and psalms.

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  1. Martin Luther despre muzică | Marius Cruceru

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