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Music: The Change From Spiritual To Secular

1804 words - 7 pages

The time between 1485 and 1660 marked a period of new beginnings for the people living in England; this time is known as the Renaissance. In England, the people were challenging their past beliefs; where before the Renaissance, England thrived basing their lives, government, and music off of God and his principles alone. During these one-hundred and seventy-five years, the English people started questioning their original principles about religion and established a yearning for information and proof based off of science instead of God. This desire caused many changes to form in England. The Renaissance period quickly became known as the rebirth of knowledge named by the change from God’s knowledge to the knowledge of man. The Renaissance brought on many changes to English culture especially in their music. There was a rise in secular, or non-religious music, instrumental music, and dance music. Although the English Renaissance occurred many centuries ago, the major changes in musical styles are evident in both spiritual and secular music.
Before the rebirth of knowledge, the only music in England was spiritual music. Since this time period was known as the Golden Age of the A Cappella Music Style, majority of the spiritual songs were sung in the a cappella music style. A cappella is when the choir sings without an instrumental accompaniment. There were two main styles other than a cappella, motets and masses. Motets and masses are quite similar, having only a few differences. A motet is a polyphonic piece of music having four to six voices all singing one religious text (Bower). Masses happen to be longer than a motet and were very important in the services in the Catholic Church. The Catholic masses had a very specific order in which they followed. This being “Kyrie” meaning Lord have mercy, “Gloria” meaning Glory be to God on High, “Credo” meaning I believe in one God, “Sanctus” meaning Holy, Holy, Holy Hosanna, “Benedictus” meaning blessed, and lastly “Agnus Dei” meaning Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us (Bower). The masses in the religious services had to be sung a cappella in this specific order or it was considered a disgrace and ruined the sacred pieces. The high priests of the Catholic churches were very strict on how the sacred music was sung and preserved.
With the change at hand in spiritual music, the Catholic high priests had to do something to correct the problems. The high priests felt that the secular feel and style of music that was becoming evident in spiritual music was tainting the sacred message in these pieces. The Council of Trent was called into affect to address this reoccurring issue. The Council of Trent lasted for eighteen years all of which used to decide the correct and just way to solve this musical predicament. The Council deliberated on this topic and came to agreement that the reason for the issue was the “irrelevant attitude of the church musicians” (Augusta County Public...

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