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Christian music is music that has been written to express either personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life and faith. Common themes of Christian music include praise, worship, penitence, and lament, and its forms vary widely across the world.
Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.
Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.
Praise as a form of social interaction expresses recognition, reassurance or admiration. Praise is expressed verbally as well as by body language.
Like other forms of music the creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of Christian music varies according to culture and social context. Christian music is composed and performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or with a positive message as an entertainment product for the marketplace.
Among the most prevalent uses of Christian music are in church worship or other gatherings. Most Christian music involves singing, whether by the whole congregation (assembly), or by a specialized subgroup—such as a soloist, duet, trio, quartet, madrigal, choir, or worship band— or both. It is frequently accompanied by instruments, but some denominations (such as some Exclusive Brethren, the Churches of Christ, the Primitive Baptists and the Free Church of Scotland) or congregations still prefer unaccompanied or a cappella singing. Some groups, such as the Bruderhof, sing songs both with religious and non-religious meanings and words.For them, the act of singing is important. One of the earliest forms of worship music in the church was the Gregorian chant. Pope Gregory I, while not the inventor of chant, was acknowledged as the first person to order such music in the church, hinting the name "Gregorian" chant. The chant reform took place around 590–604 CE (reign of Pope Gregory I) (Kamien, pg. 65–67). The Gregorian chant was known for its very monophonic sound. Believing that complexity had a tendency to create cacophony, which ruined the music, Gregory I kept things very simple with the chant.
A choir is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which spans from the medieval era to the present, or popular music repertoire. Most choirs are led by a conductor, who leads the performances with arm and face gestures.
A responsory or respond is a type of chant in western Christian liturgies.
The Exclusive Brethren are a subset of the Christian evangelical movement generally described as the Plymouth Brethren. They are distinguished from the Open Brethren from whom they separated in 1848.
In the West, the majority of Christian denominations use instruments such as an organ, piano, electronic keyboard, guitar, or other accompaniment, and occasionally by a band or orchestra, to accompany the singing. But some churches have historically not used instruments, citing their absence from the New Testament. During the last century or so several of these groups have revised this stance.
The singing of the Eastern Orthodox is also generally unaccompanied, though in the United States organs are sometimes used as a result of Western influence.
Some worship music may be unsung, simply instrumental. During the Baroque period in Europe, the chorale prelude (for organ) was widely used, generally composed by using a popular hymn tune thematically, and a wide corpus of other solo organ music began to develop across Europe. Some of the most well-known exponents of such organ compositions include Johann Sebastian Bach, Dieterich Buxtehude, George Frideric Handel, François Couperin, César Franck and Charles-Marie Widor to name a few. Up to the present time, various composers have written instrumental (often organ) music as acts of worship, including well known organ repertoire by composers like Olivier Messiaen, Louis Vierne, Maurice Duruflé, and Jean Langlais.
The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, music, dance, painting, sculpture and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the mid-18th century. It followed Renaissance art and Mannerism and preceded the Rococo and Neoclassical styles. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well.
In music, a chorale prelude or chorale setting is a short liturgical composition for organ using a chorale tune as its basis. It was a predominant style of the German Baroque era and reached its culmination in the works of J.S. Bach, who wrote 46 examples of the form in his Orgelbüchlein, along with multiple other works of the type in other collections.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Art of Fugue, the Brandenburg Concertos, and the Goldberg Variations, and for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach Revival he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Western art musical canon.
The church sonata (for orchestra and chamber group) and other sacred instrumental musical forms also developed from the Baroque period onwards.
From the latter half of the 20th century to the present day in Western Christendom—especially in the United States and in other countries with evangelical churches—various genres of music originally often related to pop rock, have been created under the label of Contemporary Christian Music ("CCM") for home-listening and concert use. It can be divided into several genres and subgenres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to individual interpretation, and occasionally controversial. These genres (sometimes referred to as "style") like other forms of music may be distinguished by the techniques, the styles, the context and the themes, or geographical origin. Specific subgenres of CCM may include (but are not limited to): Christian country music, Christian pop, Christian rock, Christian metal, Christian hardcore, Christian punk, Christian alternative rock, Christian electronic dance music and Christian hip hop.
Pop rock is rock music with a greater emphasis on professional songwriting and recording craft, and less emphasis on attitude. Originating in the 1960s as an alternative to normal rock and roll, early pop rock was influenced by the beat, arrangements, and original style of rock and roll. It may be viewed as a distinct genre field, rather than music that overlaps with pop and rock. The detractors of pop rock often deride it as a slick, commercial product, less authentic than rock music.
Christian country music is music that is written to express either personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music. Christian country music is a form of Christian music and a subgenre of both Gospel music and Country music.
Christian rock is a form of rock music that features lyrics focusing on matters of Christian faith, often with an emphasis on Jesus, typically performed by self-proclaimed Christian individuals. The extent to which their lyrics are explicitly Christian varies between bands. Many bands who perform Christian rock have ties to the contemporary Christian music labels, media outlets, and festivals, while other bands are independent.
Called Christian pop or gospel in a generalized form, this is a relatively new musical movement and has now evolved into a large number of musical genres by region that comes in a Christian context. This movement appeared as a form of evangelization for the young but the genre is best known and seen in the Evangelical or Protestant proselytizing movements, often using rhythms similar to those in secular music.
CCM is not a musical genre like the other genres. When a song is identified as "Christian" it takes into account the lyrics and the songwriters and performers, rather than musical style. Therefore, one can say that CCM is diverse and there are Christian songs that are sung to the rhythm of salsa, reggae, rock, folk, hip-hop or rap, ballads, pop, country, singer-songwriters and even extreme music such as punk or heavy metal.
In the 1980s and 1990s, contemporary Christian music played a significant role in Evangelical Christian worship.A great variety of musical styles has developed traditional praise.
Similar developments took place in other language, for example the German Neues Geistliches Lied and Korean Contemporary Christian music.
Christian music is supported by a segment of the general music industry which evolved as a parallel structure to the same. Beginning in the 1970s and developing out of the Jesus movement, the Christian music industry subsequently developed into a near-billion dollar enterprise. By the 1990s the genre had eclipsed classical, jazz, and new-age music, and artists began gaining acceptance in the general market.
Today, Christian music is available through most available media. Christian music is broadcast over the radio, television, or the Internet. Christian Albums and video recordings (CD, LP, digital download, DVD, etc.) have been increasingly more popular and have continued to increase in sales.
Christian Musicals is another growing area, especially with the help of the internet. Church drama groups frequently enjoy performing musical dramas which can be downloaded on-line for free use.
In the US several Christian music festivals have been organized. They are common in the summertime and draw many different people, specifically those from organized groups such as church youth groups and campus groups. In addition to music festivals like those that are part of the Christian Festival Association, there are also many Christian conferences which focus more on speakers, but usually also have musical performances, especially for a Worship service.
The Ichthus Music Festival started in 1970. Today festivals are held annually around the world, and may draw upwards of 100,000 people.
New Zealand's Parachute Music Festival, the largest Christian music festival in the Southern Hemisphere, began in 1989 and is held annually at Mystery Creek Events Centre outside the city of Hamilton.
England's Big Church Day Out Festival began in 2009 and has annual attendance of approximately 20,000.
Like any musical group or act, many Christian musical artists perform concerts in concert halls, bars & clubs, or outdoor venues, as well as in church-related venues. Sometimes it may be for pure entertainment, other times with the intention of witnessing (evangelizing by bearing witness of one's faith), and other times may be part worship as well.
A cappella music is specifically group or solo singing without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It contrasts with cantata, which is usually accompanied singing. The term "a cappella" was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato style. In the 19th century, a renewed interest in Renaissance polyphony coupled with an ignorance of the fact that vocal parts were often doubled by instrumentalists led to the term coming to mean unaccompanied vocal music. The term is also used, albeit rarely, as a synonym for alla breve.
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word hymn derives from Greek ὕμνος (hymnos), which means "a song of praise". A writer of hymns is known as a hymnodist. The singing or composition of hymns is called hymnody. Collections of hymns are known as hymnals or hymn books. Hymns may or may not include instrumental accompaniment.
An antiphon is a short chant in Christian ritual, sung as a refrain. The texts of antiphons are the Psalms. Their form was favored by St Ambrose and they feature prominently in Ambrosian chant, but they are used widely in Gregorian chant as well. They may be used during Mass, for the Introit, the Offertory or the Communion. They may also be used in the Liturgy of the Hours, typically for Lauds or Vespers.
Religious music is music performed or composed for religious use or through religious influence. Ritual music is music, sacred or not, performed or composed for or as ritual.
Contemporary Christian music is a genre of modern popular music which is lyrically focused on matters concerned with the Christian faith. It formed as those affected by the 1960s Jesus movement revival began to express themselves in a more contemporary style of music than the hymns, Gospel and Southern gospel music that was prevalent in the church at the time. Today, the term is typically used to refer to pop, rock, or praise & worship styles.
Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song of the Roman Catholic Church. Gregorian chant developed mainly in western and central Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries, with later additions and redactions. Although popular legend credits Pope Gregory I with inventing Gregorian chant, scholars believe that it arose from a later Carolingian synthesis of Roman chant and Gallican chant.
The Christian music industry is a small part of the larger music industry, that focuses on traditional Gospel music, Southern gospel, contemporary Christian music, and alternative Christian music. It is sometimes called the gospel music industry, although this designation is not a limitation on the musical styles represented.
Gospel music is a genre of Christian music. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of gospel music varies according to culture and social context. Gospel music is composed and performed for many purposes, including aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, and as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Gospel music usually has dominant vocals with Christian lyrics. Gospel music can be traced to the early 17th century, with roots in the black oral tradition. Hymns and sacred songs were often repeated in a call and response fashion. Most of the churches relied on hand clapping and foot stomping as rhythmic accompaniment. Most of the singing was done a cappella. The first published use of the term "gospel song" probably appeared in 1874. The original gospel songs were written and composed by authors such as George F. Root, Philip Bliss, Charles H. Gabriel, William Howard Doane, and Fanny Crosby. Gospel music publishing houses emerged. The advent of radio in the 1920s greatly increased the audience for gospel music. Following World War II, gospel music moved into major auditoriums, and gospel music concerts became quite elaborate.
Anglican church music is music that is written for Christian worship in Anglican religious services, forming part of the liturgy. It mostly consists of pieces written to be sung by a church choir, which may sing a cappella or accompanied by an organ.
The Gradual is a chant or hymn in the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church, and among some other Christians. It gets its name from the Latin gradus meaning step because it was once chanted on the step of the ambo or altar. In the Tridentine Mass it is sung after the reading or chanting of the Epistle and before the Alleluia, or, during penitential seasons, before the Tract. In the Mass of Paul VI, the Gradual is usually replaced with the Responsorial Psalm. Although the Gradual remains an option in the Mass of Paul VI, its use is extremely rare outside monasteries. The Gradual is part of the Proper of the Mass.
Southern gospel music is a genre of Christian music. Its name comes from its origins in the Southeastern United States whose lyrics are written to express either personal or a communal faith regarding biblical teachings and Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music. Sometimes known as "quartet music" for its traditional "four men and a piano" set up, southern gospel has evolved over the years into a popular form of music across the United States and overseas, especially among baby boomers and those living in the Southern United States. Like other forms of music the creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of southern gospel varies according to culture and social context. It is composed and performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or as an entertainment product for the marketplace.
Church music is music written for performance in church, or any musical setting of ecclesiastical liturgy, or music set to words expressing propositions of a sacred nature, such as a hymn.
In Christianity, worship is the act of attributing reverent honor and homage to God. In the New Testament, various words are used to refer to the term worship. One is proskuneo which means to bow down to God or kings.
Mozarabic chant is the liturgical plainchant repertory of the Visigothic/Mozarabic rite of the Catholic Church, related to the Gregorian chant. It is primarily associated with Hispania under Visigothic rule and with the Catholic Visigoths/Mozarabs living under Islamic rule, and was soon replaced by the chant of the Roman rite following the Christian Reconquest. Although its original medieval form is largely lost, a few chants have survived with readable musical notation, and the chanted rite was later revived in altered form and continues to be used in a few isolated locations in Spain, primarily in Toledo.
Contemporary Catholic liturgical music encompasses a comprehensive variety of styles of music for Catholic liturgy that grew both before and after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The dominant style in English-speaking Canada and the United States began as Gregorian chant and folk hymns, superseded after the 1970s by a folk-based musical genre, generally acoustic and often slow in tempo, but that has evolved into a broad contemporary range of styles reflective of certain aspects of age, culture, and language. There is a marked difference between this style and those that were both common and valued in Catholic churches before Vatican II.
Contemporary worship is a form of Christian worship that emerged within Western evangelical Protestantism in the 20th century. It was originally confined to the charismatic movement, but is now found to varying extents in a wide range of churches, including many which do not subscribe to a charismatic theology. Contemporary worship is generally characterised by the use of contemporary worship music in an informal setting. Congregational singing typically comprises a greater proportion of the service than in conventional forms of worship. Where contemporary worship is practiced in churches with a liturgical tradition, elements of the liturgy are frequently kept to a minimum. The terms historic worship, traditional worship or liturgical worship are sometimes used to describe conventional worship forms and distinguish them from contemporary worship.
The term Gospel Song, first used by Philip Bliss, was created in order to describe a new genre of spiritual songs that originated out of the church hymn singing tradition and was meant to support the preacher's message, the Gospel, at huge gatherings of faithless audiences during the Great Awakening of the Methodist Church in the U.S. during the late 19th century by finding new, easy to learn expressive melodies and using a repetitive structure of Verses and Choruses.
Hymnody in continental Europe developed from early liturgical music, especially Gregorian chant. Music became more complicated as embellishments and variations were added, along with influences from secular music. Although vernacular leisen and vernacular or mixed-language Carol (music) were sung in the Middle Ages, more vernacular hymnody emerged during the Protestant Reformation, although ecclesiastical Latin continued to be used after the Reformation. Since then, developments have shifted between isorhythmic, homorhythmic, and more rounded musical forms with some lilting. Theological underpinnings influenced the narrative point of view used, with Pietism especially encouraging the use of the first person singular. In the last several centuries, many songs from Evangelicalism have been translated from English into German.
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