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Music in Early Christian Literature (Cambridge Readings in the Literature of Music) [Paperback]

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Item Number 156743  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.02" Width: 6.07" Height: 0.51"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 7, 1989
Publisher   Cambridge University Press
ISBN  0521376246  
EAN  9780521376242  


Availability  149 units.
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Item Description...
This book provides a collection of some 400 passages on music from early Christian literature - New Testament to c. 450 AD - newly translated from the original Greek, Latin, and Syriac. As there are no musical sources of the period, music historians must rely upon remarks about music in literary sources to gain some knowledge of early Christian liturgical music. This volume makes a large and representative collection of the material conveniently available. The passages are arranged chronologically and regionally in eleven chapters with brief commentary. An introduction sets out the major subjects and themes of the original source material.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Early Christian Perspectives on Music  Feb 14, 2007
This is an excellent book for music historians or for those who are just curious enough to be amateur music theologians like me. James McKinnon has collected a large and diverse representative selection of source writings on music from the first 450 years of the early Church. One quickly learns that there is no one "early Christian perspective," but a range of views across time and space.

As McKinnon states in his introduction, there are "four principle categories of material." These are:
1. "That chorus of denunciation directed against pagan musical customs...."
2. "Passages that signal acceptance of music as one of the liberal or encyclical arts."
3. "Musical images or figures of speech."
4. "Passages that shed some light on early liturgical chant."

Given these diverse themes, readers may not find all excerpts of personal interest. Yet the diversity is representative of early Christian thought and helped me gain a more rounded understanding of their musical concerns.

Most interesting to me were the passages that shed light on Christian understandings of the morality of various musical practices, such as musical "styles," music in worship, or instrumentation. I learned that such understandings varied widely, from the Christians of the first century and a half, who have left little record of their thoughts on the matter ("the first hint of the polemic against pagan music appeared in the work of the late second-century converted rhetorician Tatian"), to converted Greeks clearly influenced by Plato and other pagan philosophers who also condemned certain musics as immoral, to the monastic desert fathers whose main musical activity seems to have been unadorned chanting of psalms, to post-Constantinian authors caught up in the finer points of developing liturgical traditions. Thus, while it is reasonably clear that the first generation church practiced a cappella singing in worship, it is less clear how much this was due to theological beliefs and how much it was due to the unsettled nature of the often-persecuted early church and its "birth" in the Jewish synagogue.

There are 398 excerpts in all, ranging from one sentence to nearly a page in length. Each excerpt, as well as each individual author, is helpfully prefaced by a brief explanatory note.

This book will answer some of your questions about how music has been viewed by the Early Church. It will almost certainly raise an equal number of new questions unanswered by the historical record, reminding you that Christians of each age, including our own, must "work out [our own] salvation with fear and trembling" anew by God's Spirit in light of His Word.

Scholarly and fascinating--highly recommended!
 

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