Sacred Music: Historical, Musical, Economic, and Psychological Perspectives

In music history classes (or any history courses for that matter), it is pretty predictable that teachers are going to expect students to start reading the beginning of their textbooks regarding such periods as the “Dark Ages,” and move forward to be able to analyze how thoughts about education and technology have been reformed over time…and how these changes have contributed to a much more sanitary lifestyle. Because the Roman Catholic Church was the ruling political institution of the Holy Roman Empire (or modern-day Europe), it exercised dominion over several educational subject matters, one of which was music. As a result, it is safe to say that all forms of music began in the church. A lot of people would automatically assume that music has strayed far from its religious roots. But, there are still large religious and spiritual communities which listen to sacred music not only at church, but, also for leisure, though their purposes for doing so may have changed over time.

*DISCLAIMER: This article does not attempt to demonstrate bias toward or against particular faiths; it would be difficult to examine every religion’s music history in depth. That being said, this entry focuses on religions with extensively documented musical changes over time. Discussion is open to sacred/worship music of any sort, so please be respectful of other people’s belief systems!*

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“You Stole My Music!” Issues of Chords and Copyright Across Genres

In previous centuries, what was called “quotation” of musical material (or using excerpts of another composer’s works within one’s own works) was not something to be ashamed of. The idea of musical quotation actually demonstrated musical prowess of the person who created his or her artwork to be referenced by later composers. For example, scholars argue that they can hear Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” theme in Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, which was composed about 40 years later. Yet, in the twenty-first century, attitudes toward musical ownership have radically changed. A recent example  is a court case that was ruled on in March of this year involving Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. against the estate of Marvin Gaye. Robin Thicke’s song, “Blurred Lines” is allegedly a take-off of Marvin Gaye’s song, “Got to Give It Up,” which was released in 1977. The “Blurred Lines” team lost the case, ultimately owing over $7 million to the Gaye estate.

There are, predictably, two sides to this issue: the musical side and the legal side. Read More »