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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.
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.
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 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 R&B, Christian electronic dance music and Christian hip hop.
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.[ citation needed ]
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 a performance by a singer or a singing group without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. The term a cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato musical styles. 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, 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 hymnist. 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.
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.
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 any type of music that is performed or composed for religious use or through religious influence. It may overlap with ritual music, which 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 and worship styles.
Jesus music, known as gospel beat music in the United Kingdom, is a style of Christian music that originated on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This musical genre developed in parallel to the Jesus movement. It outlasted the movement that spawned it and the Christian music industry began to eclipse it and absorb its musicians around 1975.
Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song in Latin 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.
Melisma is the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic, in which each syllable of text is matched to a single note. An informal term for melisma is a vocal run.
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.
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 honour 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.
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.
Traditional black gospel is music that is written to express either personal or a communal belief regarding African American Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music. It is a form of Christian music and a subgenre of Black gospel music.
Church music in Scotland includes all musical composition and performance of music in the context of Christian worship in Scotland, from the beginnings of Christianisation in the fifth century, to the present day. The sources for Scottish Medieval music are extremely limited due to factors including a turbulent political history, the destructive practices of the Scottish Reformation, the climate and the relatively late arrival of music printing. In the early Middle Ages, ecclesiastical music was dominated by monophonic plainchant, which led to the development of a distinct form of liturgical Celtic chant. It was superseded from the eleventh century by more complex Gregorian chant. In the High Middle Ages, the need for large numbers of singing priests to fulfill the obligations of church services led to the foundation of a system of song schools, to train boys as choristers and priests. From the thirteenth century, Scottish church music was increasingly influenced by continental developments. Monophony was replaced from the fourteenth century by the Ars Nova consisting of complex polyphony. Survivals of works from the first half of the sixteenth century indicate the quality and scope of music that was undertaken at the end of the Medieval period. The outstanding Scottish composer of the first half of the sixteenth century was Robert Carver, who produced complex polyphonic music.
Black gospel music is a genre of African-American Christian music. It is rooted in the conversion of African slaves to Christianity, both during and after the trans-atlantic slave trade, starting with work songs sung in the fields and, later, with religious songs sung in various church settings, later classified as Negro Spirituals.
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 carols 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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