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2011 | 1 | 141-155

Article title

Idee i wzorce muzyczne luteranizmu w zderzeniu z kulturą ludową


Title variants

Musical Ideas and Models of Lutheranism in Collision with Folk Culture

Languages of publication



The clash of Lutheranism with traditional culture is the subject of research by contemporary Scandinavian hymnologists, who propose a creation of a separate research discipline: ethnohymnology. The use of traditional historical methods and those borrowed from anthropology and ethnomusicology allows for observation of normative and unchanging ideas (i.e. contained within sources of ideas and patterns) on one hand, and dynamic elements transmitted by oral tradition on the other. According to Martin Luther’s presumptions, an excellent and widespread model of music should be a monophonic religious hymn inspired by Gregorian chant, pre-Reformation church hymns, and German folk songs. A huge role in the dissemination of such a repertoire among the common people was played by songbooks used during individual and family prayers. For local communities, they were almost relics that were not parted with both in everyday life and during holidays. Most often, the songbooks contained no musical notation, so people were learning the melodies of the songs by ear during church services, or at home from their parents and grandparents. In 19th-century sources, the predominant level in the liturgy of the Lutheran rural churches was evaluated as appalling, and congregation singing was described as chaotic and devoid of any artistic rules. According to contemporary scholars, calls to unify and improve the artistic merit appeared in Scandinavian churches with the wave of a widespread movement of renewal, which emerged in the German Lutheran Church in the early 19th century. These relations also confi rm the presence of a characteristic style of Lutheran singing called “the old way of singing” in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries. Originally, the term used to describe a singing style that existed during several centuries in the parish churches of England (from the 15th to the 18th century), and it was later adopted, by analogy, from English musicology. As the main determinants of the old practice, the following factors are mentioned: isolated communities, diffi cult access to churches, replacing church services with family prayer, lack of organs in churches, and lack of codifi ed collections of hymn tunes. Characteristic features of the style are: slow tempo, very loud singing, a melismatic richness and heterophony resulting from superimposing variants of the melodies. After the reform, this style was eliminated from the liturgy and survived only fragmentarily within situations outside the church (during individual prayer, work, folk customs), or was cultivated by pietistic religious communities. This is confi rmed by fi eld recordings conducted in the 20th century in the Scandinavian countries, the Baltic countries, as well as Masuria.


  • Instytut Sztuki, Polska Akademia Nauk, Warszawa


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