In The Key of Reform: The Role Martin Luther’s Music Played in the Reformation and Beyond

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CONFERENCE: Showcase of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (SOURCE)

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Gaskill, Brogan
Music; Religion
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Five-hundred years have passed since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. As an ambitious, German monk grieving the corruption in the Catholic church, Luther served as the catalyst in what would be the most transformative time in Western religious thought. One of the ways he spread his doctrine and influence throughout Europe was the medium of music. In my writing, I exhibit how Luther utilized hymns and church music to embed his reformed theology in the minds of many. By first presenting the historical and religious context of Luther’s life, I explain how his environment ultimately led him to use music as a way to transform the Church. Afterwards, I discuss how congregational singing and the common vernacular in his songs proved to be vital elements of Luther’s liturgy, especially in light of historical criticism over his relationship with music. Furthermore, the German’s affinity for song, personal journey of faith, and views on God’s Word all combined to create a variety of hymns rooted in Scripture. My writing examines three hymns in particular: “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee,” “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice,” and “Jesus Christ, Our God and Savior,” which reveal Luther’s methodology and theology in worship music. Ultimately, my writing exhibits how Luther’s hymns determined the way in which Christians worshiped and viewed their God, demonstrating the power and importance of music in one’s perception of a higher being overall.