Instruments, Use of

   Because sacred music is so closely associated with sacred texts, it is primarily a vocal music the world over. Attitudes toward the use of instruments vary widely with religion and within sects of religions.
   Some traditions exclude instruments completely and intentionally because instruments are too closely associated with the secular world, have unseemly connotations, or simply because religious authorities and the faithful believe that the human voice is given to man to praise the divine. These would include most kinds of traditional chant but also traditional Jewish piyyutim, many kinds of Roman Catholic polyphony, and psalmody of the reformed Protestant churches. Despite the widespread mention of instruments in the Psalter and elsewhere in the Bible, Jewish authorities forbad the use of STET instruments in worship after the destruction of the Temple in A. D. 70 as a sign of mourning. It is thought that early Christian liturgy, which took much from Jewish ritual, also avoided instruments in order to distinguish its music from that of pagan rites. The call to prayer (‘adhān) and chanting of the Qu’rān (tajwīd) in traditional Islam have always been strictly vocal.
   Some types of sacred music, usually less complex and more popular, may employ instruments if they are conveniently available to support the singing, but they are perfectly integral without them. Lutheran and other Protestant hymnody typically uses a pipe organ accompaniment, and American gospel songs and spirituals use a piano. In some areas, Buddhist chant may be articulated by bells or clappers. Islamic qawwali may be introduced and accompanied by a harmonium.
   Other kinds of sacred music have traditionally used specific instruments, to the exclusion of others, so that those instruments have acquired sacred connotations for the culture. In Western Christianity, the pipe organ would be the example par excellence. In African and North American Indian rituals, specific drums would have such roles.
   Since 1600, Western Jewish and Christian sacred music has increasingly adopted the instruments, along with their techniques and idioms, of the secular world. Organ accompaniment to Jewish liturgical chant, concerted cantatas in Lutheran churches, symphonic masses and Requiems in Catholic churches, and in the 20th-century the use of all manner of popular instruments in praise choruses and gospel music have all excited controversy among traditionalists and reformers within each religion.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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