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Thread: Secular and Sacred

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    Default Secular and Sacred

    This is my first thread. I am a student at a community college looking to deepen my understanding of my course by the appropriate resources and pathways available to me.

    Secular music deals with love, says my classical music teacher, whereas sacred music adheres to the text of the church, primarily in the texts of Kyrie, Ave Maria, etc. (I believe there are four.)

    I created this threat to help me solidify my understanding of the concepts of the class by discussing the concrete use of certain vocabulary words.

    The second purpose is to compare and contrast secular music throughout the ages to modern secular music. I'm sure there is plenty to contrast, but what remains the same is what intrigues me.

    Seeing as I have a lot on my plate these days, I will do my best to answer promptly. All comments with life and knowledge affirming value are appreciated. If elaboration on the thread is needed, please ask.

    Adieux,

    okht

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    Senior Member Eschbeg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by okht View Post
    Secular music deals with love, says my classical music teacher, whereas sacred music adheres to the text of the church, primarily in the texts of Kyrie, Ave Maria, etc. (I believe there are four.)
    Your teacher is being way too simplistic in his or her explanation. For one thing, not all secular music is about love. Some secular music not about anything at all. For a second thing, some sacred music is about love too.

    For a third thing, not all sacred music is taken from the official texts of the church. The term for music taken from the texts of the church is "liturgical." All liturgical music is sacred but not all sacred music is liturgical. Some sacred music is taken from texts that are personally authored by a creative artist. That kind of music is non-liturgical but it's still sacred.

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    Parts of a mass:
    Kyrie
    Gloria
    Credo
    Sanctus & Benedictus
    Agnus Dei

    A variant is the Requiem, or Requiem Mass. The parts of that typically include:
    Introitus
    Kyrie
    Dies irae
    Tuba mirum
    Rex tremendare
    Recordare
    Confutatis
    Lacrimosa
    Domine
    Hostias
    Sanctus
    Benedictus
    Agnus Dei
    Communio

    Secular music can really deal with anything other than religious matters, not just love.

    There is a broad spectrum of religious music - masses, requiems, church cantatas and motets, liturgical music, vespers, lamentations. They are usually settings of church texts or scripture.

    Some prominent examples of religious works:
    Bach Mass in B Minor
    Beethoven Missa Solemnis
    Haydn Missa in Angustiis
    Mozart Requiem
    Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine
    Bach's cantatas (there are a lot of these)


    I don't know what more you are looking for here. What concepts do you want to discuss?

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    Senior Member Winterreisender's Avatar
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    It is interesting to look at composers who wrote both secular and sacred music to see if a stylistic difference can be detected. This isn't always the case. For example Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate sounds like something out of an opera... except for the lyrics of course: "Hallelujah Hallelujah x100..."

    But the church was a great patron of the arts so many composers came up with works which the church wanted to hear.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Yes far too simplistic. Secular music is not all about love. For example, Haydn's Seasons are secular but not exclusively about love. Similarly his Creation is not just from the sacred texts of the church.

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    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winterreisender View Post
    It is interesting to look at composers who wrote both secular and sacred music to see if a stylistic difference can be detected. This isn't always the case. For example Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate sounds like something out of an opera... except for the lyrics of course: "Hallelujah Hallelujah x100..."

    But the church was a great patron of the arts so many composers came up with works which the church wanted to hear.
    Great points. It's also interesting to observe when composers reuse the same musical material in both sacred and secular contexts. Sometimes noting the parallel will make the secular music seem a little bit sacred--or vice versa!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blancrocher View Post
    Great points. It's also interesting to observe when composers reuse the same musical material in both sacred and secular contexts. Sometimes noting the parallel will make the secular music seem a little bit sacred--or vice versa!
    Classic example (bit old) is the number of L'homme armé masses. Obrecht wrote one. Tinctoris wrote one. Josquin wrote two, as did Palestrina and Morales and Pierre de la Rue. Anonymous wrote scads. There are examples by Dufay, Busnois, Ockeghem and Regis. There are modern examples by Karl Jenkins and Peter Maxwell Davies. That's (technically) a parody mass and was frowned on by Trent.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    I've not heard anything like your instructor said, and I taught music for 40 years and have multiple degrees in the subject.

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    Perhaps a case might be made if we go back to the 12th century and the time of the troubadours and trouveres, that a lot of secular music was about love. Not all of it, and of course music without vocals wasn't about anything. But you might say the archetypal secular song of the medieval period is a love song. Maybe this is what the community college teacher meant?

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    What about the song of songs in the bible? Essentially a big set of erotic poems, nonetheless included in one of the most important religious texts of all time. As others have been saying, its no so simple as that.

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    I agree with the above posts; your teacher is over-simplifying to an egregious degree. Secular music can be about almost any non-religious subject; sacred music has something to say about some aspect of the theology of your faith (be it Christian or non-Christian). Prime texts for music for a Jewish service would be the Psalms with perhaps the Song of Solomon (aka the Song of Songs) close behind. Prime texts for a Christian service would add texts from the Gospels and Epistles (though there is considerably less in the Epistles which seems to invite being set to music). Then there are the hymns be poets such as Fanny J. Crosby, Charles Wesley, William Bradbury, who write texts which may be inspired by Biblical texts, but which do not quote them directly. The level of inspiration of those texts varies widely, yea even wildly. I hesitate even to mention some of the current "praise music" which is highly repetitive and seems to have been written by people who have smoked heavily for many years; much of it is far lower than I can sing comfortably, and much of it will be forgotten in thirty years. Yet the subejct matter is religious. And when talking about love, Greek has at least three words which we translate into English as "love"--eros (romantic love), philos (brotherly love) and agape (God's love--the love in spite of everything we do that is unloving). So, just because a song is about love, doesn't mean it isn't religious; it's the kind of love being described that makes the difference.

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