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Celebrating Reformation 500: Luther’s Thoughts on Music

“I would certainly like to praise music with all my heart as the excellent gift of God which it is and to commend it to everyone. But I am so overwhelmed by the diversity and magnitude of its virtues and benefits that…as much as I want to commend it, my praise is bound to be wanting and inadequate.” (1538)

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April, 1538 ~ After enjoying some singing in the home of a friend, Luther expressed his warm appreciation of music

MUSIC IS NEXT TO THEOLOGY “Music is an outstanding gift of God and next to theology. I would not want to give up my slight knowledge of music for a great consideration. And youth should be taught this art; for it makes fine, skillful people.”

MUSIC A GIFT OF GOD “…for music is an endowment and a gift of God, not a gift of men. It also drives away the devil and makes people cheerful.”

MUSIC MUST BE IN SCHOOLS “He who knows music has a good nature. Necessity demands that music be kept in the schools.” “I greatly desire that youth, which, after all, should and must be trained in music and other proper arts, might have something whereby it might be weaned from the love ballads and the sex songs and, instead of these, learn something beneficial…”

MUSIC SHOULD SERVE GOD “…I would gladly see all the arts, especially music, in the service of Him who as given and created them.”

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JANUARY, 1532 ~ One day Luther is said to have commented as follows on the wholesome influence of music.

SINGING FREES THE HEART “Singing is the finest art and practice. He who is singing has no quarrel with the world and is not concerned with contentions in a law court. Singers are neither worried nor sad but shake all cares from their souls.”

MUSIC OF EVERY KIND SHOULD PRAISE GOD “A new miracle deserves a new song, thanksgiving, and preaching. The new miracle is that God through His Son has parted the real Red, Dead Sea and has redeemed us from the real Pharaoh, Satan. This is singing a new song, that is, the holy Gospel, and thanking God for it. God help us to do so. Amen.
“Christian musicians should let their singing and playing to the praise of the Father of all grace sound forth with joy from their organs and whatever other beloved musical instruments there are…”
“Looking at music itself you will find that from the beginning of the world it has been instilled and implanted in all creatures, individually and collectively. For nothing is without sound or harmony.”

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April 1532 ~ In one of Luther’s “Table Talks,” he discusses his insight into the polyphonic music of his day.

POLYPHONIC MUSIC “How strange and wonderful it is that one voice sings a simple unpretentious tune (or tenor, as the musicians call it) while three, four, or five other voices are also sung; these voices play and sway in joyful exuberance around the tune and with ever-varying art and tuneful sound wondrously adorn and beautify it, and in a celestial roundelay meet in friendly caress and lovely embrace; so that anyone, having a little understanding, must be moved and greatly wonder, and come to the conclusion that there is nothing rarer in the whole world than a song adorned by so many voices.”
“May [music] continue to be so for the whole church and for all it serves as it continues to praise God and proclaim His Word to all the world through His good and gracious gift of music in the psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles that compose the unique treasury we call the church’s song.”

Quotes are taken from:
What Luther Says. Compiled by Ewald M. Plass
Luther’s Works. Vol. 53

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