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The funeral dance is one of the most frequent of such observances, and dread of divine wrath and the hope of propitiation by means of rites pleasing to the offended power form a frequent occasion for rhythmic evolution and violent bodily demonstration. Far more commonly, however, does the sacred dance assume a representative character and become a rudimentary drama, either imitative or emblematic. It depicts the doings of the gods, often under supposition that the divinities are aided by the sympathetic efforts of their devotees. Certain mysteries, known only to the initiated, are symbolized in bodily movement.
Representations of religious processions and dances are found upon the monuments of Egypt and Assyria. The priests represented in their dances the course of the stars and scenes from 36 I. Origins of Sacred Music the histories of Osiris and Isis. The dance of the Israelites in the desert around the golden calf was probably a reproduction of features of the Egyptian Apis worship. The myths of many ancient nations represent the gods as dancing, and supposed imitations of such august examples had a place in the ceremonies devoted to their honor.
The dance was always an index of the higher or lower nature of the religious conceptions which fostered it. Among the purer and more elevated worships it was full of grace and dignity. It was among the Greeks, however, that the religious dance developed its highest possibilities of expressiveness and beauty, and became raised to the dignity of an art. The dance was therefore cultivated as a coequal with music and poetry; educators inculcated it as indispensable to the higher discipline of youth; it was commended by philosophers and celebrated by poets.
It held a prominent place in the public games, in processions and celebrations, in the mysteries, and in public religious ceremonies. Every form of worship, from the frantic orgies of the drunken devotees of Dionysus to the pure and tranquil adoration offered to Phoebes Apollo, consisted to a large extent of dancing. The ancient dance, it must be remembered, had as its motive the expression of a wide range of emotion, and could be employed to symbolize sentiments of wonder, love, and gratitude.
It was not unworthy of the place it held in the society of poetry and music, with which 4. The Hellenic dance, both religious and theatric, was adopted by the Romans, but, like so much that was noble in Greek art, only to be degraded in the transfer. The priest would often lead the dance around the altar on Sundays and festal days. The Christians sometimes gathered about the church doors at night and danced and sang songs. There is nothing in these facts derogatory to the piety of the early Christians.
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They simply expressed their joy according to the universal fashion of the age; and especially on those occasions which, as for instance Christmas, were adaptations of old pagan festivals, they naturally imitated many of the time-honored observances. The dance was a dangerous reminder of the heathen worship with all its abominations; and since many pagan beliefs and customs, with attendant immoralities, lingered for centuries as a seductive snare to the weaker brethren, the Church bestirred itself to eliminate all perilous associations from religious ceremony and to arouse a love for an absorbed and spiritual worship.
Religious processions are frequent in Christian countries, but the participants do not, like the Egyptians and Greeks, dance as they go. Origins of Sacred Music where the dance had already reached a high degree of artistic development, music was still in dependent infancy. The only promise of its splendid future was in the reverence already accorded to it, and the universality of its use in prayer and praise.
So far as the people had a share in the religious functions, vocal music was employed by them in hymns to the gods, or in responsive refrains. In its instrumental forms it was used to assist the singers to preserve the correct pitch and rhythm, to regulate the steps of the dance, or, in an independent capacity, to act upon the nerves of the worshipers and increase their sense of awe in the presence of the deity.
Even in the Hebrew temple service the blasts of horns and trumpets could have had no other purpose than that of intensifying emotions of awe and dread. In certain occult observances, such as those of the Egyptians and Hindus, relationships were imagined between instruments or melodies and religious or moral conceptions, so that the melody or random tone of the instrument indicated to the initiate the associated principle, and thus came to have an imputed sanctity of its own.
This symbolism could be employed to recall to the mind ethical precepts or religious tenets at solemn moments, and tone could become a doubly powerful agent by uniting the effect of vivid ideas to its inherent property of nerve excitement. All ancient worship was ritualistic and administered by a priesthood, and the liturgies and ceremonial rites were intimately associated with music. The oldest literatures that have survived contain hymns to the gods, and upon the most ancient monuments are traced representations of instruments and players.
Among the literary records discovered on the site of Nineveh are collections of hymns, prayers, and penitential psalms, addressed to the Assyrian deities, designed, as expressly stated, for public worship, and which Professor Sayce compares to the English Book of Common Prayers. On the Assyrian monuments are carved reliefs of instrumental players, sometimes single, sometimes in groups of considerable numbers. Allusions in the Bible indicate that the Assyrians employed music on festal occasions, that hymns to the gods were sung at banquets and dirges at funerals.
The kings maintained bands at their courts, and provided a considerable variety of instruments for use in the idol worship. Primitive and Ancient Religious Music Dickinson 39 There is abundant evidence that music was an important factor in the religious rites of Egypt. The testimony of carved and painted walls of tombs and temples, the papyrus records, the accounts of visitors, inform us that music in Egypt was preeminently a sacred art, as it must needs have been in a land which, as Ranke says, there was nothing secular.
Music was in the care of the priests, who jealously guarded the sacred hymns and melodies from innovation and foreign intrusion. In musical science, knowledge of the divisions of the monochord, systems of keys, notation, etc. The Greeks certainly derived much of their musical practice from the dwellers on the Nile.
They possessed an extensive variety of instruments, from the little tinkling sistrum up to the profusely ornamented harp of twelve or thirteen strings, which towered above the performer. From such an instrument as the latter it would seem as though some kind of harmony must have been produced, especially since the player is represented as using both hands.
Music never failed at public or private festivity, religious ceremony, or funeral rite. As in all ancient religions, processions to the temples, carrying images of the gods and offerings, were attended by dances and vocal and instrumental performances. Lyrical poems, containing the praises of gods and heroes, were sung at public ceremonies; hymns were addressed to the rising and setting sun, to Ammon and the other gods.
The Value Of Sacred Music An Anthology Of Essential Writings 1801 1918 2008
According to Chappell, the custom of caroling or singing without words, like birds, to the gods existed among the Egyptians—a practice imitated by the Greeks, from whom the custom was transferred to the Western Church. The chief instrument of the temple worship was the sistrum, and connected with all the temples in the time of the New Empire were companies of female sistrum players who stood in symbolic relations to the gods as inmates of his harem, holding various degrees of rank.
These women received high honors, often of a political nature. They referred its invention to the gods, and imputed to it thaumaturgical properties. The Hebrews were the only ancient cultivated nation that did not assign to music a superhuman source. The Greek myths of Orpheus, Amphion, and Arion are but samples of hundreds of marvelous tales of musical effect that have place in primitive legends.
Not only particular melodies, but the different modes 40 I.
The Dorian mode was considered bold and manly, inspiring valor and fortitude; the Lydian, weak and enervating. Associations of race character would lead to similar interpretation. The Dorian mode would seem to partake of the sternness and vigor of the warlike Dorian Spartans; the Lydian mode and its melodies would hint at Lydian effeminacy. Another explanation of the ancient view of music as possessing a controlling power over emotion, thought, and conduct lies in the fact that music existed only in its rude primal elements; antiquity in its conception and use of 4.
Music did not advance so far among the ancients that they were able to escape from this naturalistic conception. Even in modern life numberless instances prove that the music which exerts the greatest effect over the impulses is not the mature and complex art of the masters, but the simple strains which emanate from the people and bring up recollections which in themselves alone have power to stir the heart. Where music is bound up with a ritual, innovation in the one is discountenanced as tending to loosen the traditional strictness of the other.
I have laid stress upon this point because this attempt of the religious authorities in antiquity to repress music in worship to a subsidiary function was the sign of a conception of music which has always been more or less active in the Church, down even to our own day. As soon as musical art reaches a certain stage of development it strives to emancipate itself from the thralldom of word and visible action, and to exalt itself for its own undivided glory.
Friedmann, Jonathan L. 1980-
Strict religionists have always looked upon this tendency with suspicion, and have often strenuously opposed it, seeing in the sensuous fascinations of the art an obstacle to complete absorption in spiritual concerns. Since this outbreak of the spirit of rebellion occurred only when Hellenistic religion was no longer a force in civilization, its results were 42 I. Origins of Sacred Music felt only in the sphere of secular music; but no progress resulted, for musical culture was soon assumed everywhere by the Christian Church, which for a thousand years succeeded in restraining music within the antique conception of bondage to liturgy and ceremony.
Partly as a result of this subjection of music by its allied powers, partly, perhaps, as a cause, a science of harmony was never developed in ancient times. That music was always performed in unison and octaves, as has been generally believed, is, however, not probable. But the absence from the ancient treatises of any but the most vague and obscure allusions to the production of accordant tones, and the conclusive evidence in respect to the general lack of freedom and development in musical art, is proof positive that, whatever concords of sounds may have been occasionally produced, nothing comparable to our present contrapuntal and harmonic system existed.
The music so extravagantly praised in antiquity was, vocally, chant, or recitative, ordinarily in a single part; instrumental music was rude and un-systematized sound, partly a mechanical aid to the voice and the dance step, partly a means of nervous exhilaration. The modern conception of music as a free, self-assertive art, subject only to its own laws, lifting the soul into regions of pure contemplation, where all temporal relations are lost in a tide of self-forgetful rapture—this was a conception unknown to the mind of antiquity.
R The student of the music of the Christian Church naturally turns with curiosity to that one of the ancient nations whose religion was the antecedent of the Christian, and whose sacred literature has furnished the worship of the Church with the loftiest expression of its trust and aspiration.
There is no reason to suppose that music was further developed among the Hebrews than among the most cultivated of their neighbors. Their music, like that of the ancient nations generally, was entirely subsidiary to poetic recitation and dancing; it was un-harmonic, simple, and inclined to be coarse and noisy. Although in general use, music never attained so great honor among them as it did among the Greeks.
Primitive and Ancient Religious Music Dickinson 43 could be used to adorn the courts of Jehovah, or could be employed in the ascription of praise to him. No authentic melodies have come down to us from the time of the Israelitish residence in Palestine.
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No treatise on Hebrew musical theory or practice, if any such ever existed, has been preserved. We may be certain that if the Hebrews had possessed anything distinctive, or far in advance of the practice of their contemporaries, some testimony to that effect would be found. We are not so much in the dark in respect to the use and nature of Hebrew instruments, although we know as little of the style of music that was performed upon them.
Our knowledge of the instruments themselves is derived from those represented upon the monuments of Assyria and Egypt, which were evidently similar to those used by the Hebrews. The Hebrews never invented a musical instrument. Not one in use among them but had its equivalent among nations older in civilization.