Christian music

Christian music is music created by or adapted for the Christian church.

There is virtually no record of the earliest music of the Christian church except a few New Testament fragments of what are probably hymns. Some of these fragments are still sung as hymns today in the Orthodox Church, including "Awake, awake O sleeper" on the occasion of someone's baptism.

Being Jewish, Jesus and his disciples would most likely have sung the psalms from memory. However, without a centralised music industry, the repertoire of ordinary people was much greater than it is today, so they probably knew other songs too. Early Christians continued to sing the psalms much as they were sung in the synagogues in the first century.


Early Biblical references

The gospels of Matthew (26:30) and Mark (14:26) state that Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples immediately before his betrayal. The apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians (5:19) exhorted the church at Ephesus to speak to each other "in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord". In the book of Colossians (3:16) he also encouraged the church at Colossae to teach and admonish each other with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs".

Early Church history

Aside from hymns taken from the Bible itself, the earliest hymn still in use today is probably O Gladsome Light (Greek Φως 'Ιλαρον, Phôs Hilaron). In the fourth century, Basil the Great referred to it as already being a rather old hymn.

Some of the popularity of Arianism in the fourth century can be attributed to the catchy songs that the priest Arius composed in its support. The popularity of the songs helped increase the popularity of his teachings. Ephrem the Syrian composed a number of hymns later in the fourth century that supported what eventually came to be recognised as more orthodox doctrines.

Troparia and Kontakia are two early forms of hymns that became incorporated into the Church's worship.

At the conclusion of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, Emperor Justinian I is reputed to have composed a hymn summarising the council's conclusion, Only begotten Son. That hymn was since incorporated into the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom and is still widely sung today.

Gregorian chant

Main article: Gregorian chant

Around the 8th to 10th centuries, Gregorian chant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied singing, developed in the Catholic church, based on earlier models of Byzantine music which made their way from the East. When used today, Gregoryian chant is mainly used by the participants in the Mass, not the congregants, though there are exceptions.


Main article: Hymn

The tradition of Christian hymns in the English language is closely tied to Protestantism. Protestant hymns can range from the Reformation organ pieces of J. S. Bach to the American folk hymns found in The Sacred Harp. Martin Luther composed a number of hymns in the 16th century, reportedly borrowing some of their melodies from popular tavern drinking songs of that period. Another famous hymn composer is Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley. Some hymns, particularly Christmas carols, are widely embraced by various denominations while many hymns are restricted to certain religious traditions. In some cases this is due to doctrinal differences reflected in the words of the song but in many cases it is the result of tradition and the use of denominationally-produced or -approved hymnals.

The use of hymns was a factor in several historic schisms among Protestant denominations with more traditional members insisting on the use of only the psalms in the service.

Contemporary Christian music

Main article: Contemporary Christian music

The most recent common form of Christian music is Contemporary Christian music, or CCM. This draws most of its influence from secular music of the late 20th century and is the most popular kind of Christian music in the Western world. Although there are many Christian music acts in the mainstream music industry, the term CCM usually refers specifically to artists within the Christian music industry that are played on Christian radio.

Brazilian Christian music

While Brazilian Protestantism came to be dominated by pasteurised CCM-influenced pop music, there was a period from the 1970s to the early 1990s when there was a creative movement adapting various Brazilian styles, mainly MPB, to religious meanings and even congregational singing.

Very little is left of this movement, known simply as 'Música Evangélica' to contrast with the pop, commercialised, CCM-like 'Música Gospel', there are still individual groups or persons continuing the creative tradition, such as Guilherme Kerr. Furthermore, there are a few individuals creating Brazilian Christian music out of any specific movement or school, the most famous one being Elomar Figueira de Mello, who is considered by some the greatest living Classical music composer for his erudite, regionalist music escaping current nihilism common in Contemporary music.

See also

Religious music
Buddhist - Christian - Hindu - Jewish - Muslim - Native American - Rastafarian - Shinto - Zoroastrian

it:Musica sacra nl:Christelijke muziek


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