Lutheran Alternatim Practices in the 16th and Early 17th Centuries: A Narrative of Liturgical Artistry and Accessibility
University of Kansas
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The musical and liturgical life of the church has always contained a great variety of performance practices. With the advent of the organ in the Middle Ages, a collaboration between organ and voice began, which eventually resulted in a rich vocabulary of musical practices known as alternatim. In this discussion, we will examine the history of Lutheran alternatim practices in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Recent scholars have begun to question the romanticized view of early Lutheranism as the great cultivator of congregational song. Joseph Herl argues that the development of congregational singing within the Lutheran church took 150 to 200 years to develop. As a result of this, we see the continuation of pre-Reformation liturgical-musical practices in early Lutheranism, including the alternatim tradition between choir and organ. Evidence for the development of this tradition includes Luther’s theological and liturgical writings, musical sources, church orders, and ecclesiastical visitations. Built on the foundation laid by the Buxheimer Orgelbuch and the Augsburger Orgelbuch, composers like Michael Praetorius began to combine organ, choir, and congregation into a single musical entity. The alternation possibilities this presented are best illustrated through the cantional genre of the period. Through this genre, composers were finally able to reconcile the artistic differences between choir, organ, and congregation, enabling the Lutheran alternatim tradition to reach its fullest potential.
- Dissertations 
- Music Dissertations and Theses 
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