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The relationship between religious thought and the theory and practice of church music in England, 1603-c.1640

Citation: Webster, Peter (2001) The relationship between religious thought and the theory and practice of church music in England, 1603-c.1640. Doctoral thesis, University of Sheffield.

This thesis explores the ways in which people in early Stuart England understood the place of music in worship, its effect on the auditor, and the task of determining what was appropriate music for the task. Central to this is the task of exploring the validity of the trend in current historiography to assign to the ‘Laudian’ movement a polemically and practically distinctive view of music in worship. Part One deals with the published and manuscript discussions of the nature and role of music. It contends that in the 1630s music became associated with one of the two rival conspiracy theories of Popish tyranny and Puritan profanity and subversion (chapters 1 and 2). In subsequent chapters (3-7), it examines the common language in which music was discussed; the use of Biblical, patristic and continental authorities; and continental and broader philosophical understandings of music. It is concluded that no clear theologies of church music can be attributed to church parties as identified in the historiography to date. In Part Two, the thesis considers the surviving musicological evidence of practice in cathedral and collegiate churches from 1603 onwards, to attempt to discern any patterns of distinctive usage in ‘Laudian’ institutions. It examines the use of musical instruments (ch.9), the incidence of various anthem texts (ch. 11), the singing of parts of the liturgy, and the incidence of compositions in various styles (ch. 12). It is argued that much ‘Laudian’ practice was indistinguishable from that in non-Laudian cathedrals, and that the habit of the scholars to extrapolate a ‘Laudian’ style from the work of John Cosin is a misleading one. Overall, it is then concluded that the necessary place that church music has been given in the Laudian experiment is not a tenable one, either in theory or practice. There was no necessary relationship between Laudian churchmanship and elaborate church music.

Additional Information: Chapter 1 - The polemical context of the Personal Rule; Chapter 2 - The ‘Puritan’ view of ‘right’ church music; Chapter 3 - Understandings of the Bible and church music; Chapter 4 - Musical precedent in the early and medieval church; Chapter 5 - The case of reformed Europe; Chapter 6 - The musical universe: microcosm and macrocosm; Chapter 7 - The legislative position of the Church; Chapter 8 - The sources of English cathedral music; Chapter 9 - The use of musical instruments; Chapter 10 - The distinctiveness of the musical practice of John Cosin; Chapter 11 - Anthem texts and the homogeneity of Stuart musical practice; Chapter 12 - The relationship between musical style and religious allegiance;
Creators: Webster, Peter and
Subjects: Music
Keywords: cathedrals, John Cosin, Puritanism, Laudianism, music, Peterhouse, Durham cathedral
Divisions: Publications Department
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 2001 (completed)


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