English hymns and their tunes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
Parks, Edna Dorintha
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The purpose of this research was to supply information necessary to clarify our understanding of the first English hymns and tunes. The objectives of this writer were: 1. To establish the fact that congregational hymn singing has never been forbidden in the Anglican church and has been used since the Reformation was established by Elizabeth I. 2. To examine the early hymn tunes against the background of the musical practice of the period, and ascertain from an analysis of the music if these small compositions reflected the transition from the sixteenth century strict polyphonic writing based on the ecclesiastical modes, to the chordal writing of the seventeenth century; the latter using major and minor scales and a freer treatment of dissonance. 3. To make available an index of the first lines of English hymns written between 1539-1707, showing the date of their first publication, and the earliest date at which they were sung. For the purpose of the research, hymn was defined in much the same way as the definition given by Carl F. Price in his article "What is a Hymn" published in The Papers of the Hymn Society, No. 6, New York, 1937. A hymn was poetry suitable for congregational singing when joined with a tune. It expressed either God's purpose in the life of man or man's praise or prayer to God. Throughout the dissertation~referred to poetry; hymn tune, to music. The dates 1539-1707 were chosen for the limits of the period covered in the index because the first English hymns were published around 1539, and 1707 was the date of Isaac Watts first hymnal. It has been thought that Isaac Watts was the "father of the English hymn." A few writers have indicated that this idea was not grounded on fact, but no detailed study had been made of the hymns written before the time of Watts. The number of hymns written between 1539 and 1707 was sought by this writer to prove that the freely composed hymn in England was a well established form before the time of Watts. Every effort was made to distinguish between freely composed hymns and psalms in meter, scriptural paraphrases, and translations from other languages. Only freely composed hymns, written originally in English, were included in the index. The realization of the objectives of the research showed the following results: 1. Quotations from psalters and hymnals showed nine bases for the belief that congregational hymn singing in the vernacular dated from 1559 in the Anglican church. 2. The tunes faithfully reflected the musical practice and atmosphere of the period in which they were written. 3. The tunes which were capable of arousing the finest religious experiences, even though not as popular as other tunes of the period, were necessarily whose which in themselves were works of art. These tunes have survived and are being used to-day. 4. The index of first lines of hymns written in English between 1539-1707 showed 960 hymns by 60 authors, 60 hymns by unidentified authors, and 7 hymns by unknown authors but dating from the period. This number was sufficient to dispel the idea that the English hymn was born with the publication of Watts' hymns. 5. The contribution of Isaac Watts would seem to have been the successful way in which he merged the very free paraphrase of the psalm with the already flowing stream of freely composed hymns, and won acceptance for the religious song which resulted from this union. The sharp distinction between metrical psalms and freely composed was usually not made after his publications.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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