1st Edition

Music as Propaganda in the German Reformation

By Rebecca Wagner Oettinger Copyright 2001
    450 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Over the first four decades of the Reformation, hundreds of songs written in popular styles and set to well-known tunes appeared across the German territories. These polemical songs included satires on the pope or on Martin Luther, ballads retelling historical events, translations of psalms and musical sermons. They ranged from ditties of one strophe to didactic Lieder of fifty or more. Luther wrote many such songs and this book contends that these songs, and the propagandist ballads they inspired, had a greater effect on the German people than Luther’s writings or his sermons. Music was a major force of propaganda in the German Reformation. Rebecca Wagner Oettinger examines a wide selection of songs and the role they played in disseminating Luther’s teachings to a largely non-literate population, while simultaneously spreading subversive criticism of Catholicism. These songs formed an intersection for several forces: the comfortable familiarity of popular music, historical theories on the power of music, the educational beliefs of sixteenth-century theologians and the need for sense of community and identity during troubled times. As Oettinger demonstrates, this music, while in itself simple, provides us with a new understanding of what most people in sixteenth-century Germany knew of the Reformation, how they acquired their knowledge and the ways in which they expressed their views about it. With full details of nearly 200 Lieder from this period provided in the second half of the book, Music as Propaganda in the German Reformation is both a valuable investigation of music as a political and religious agent and a useful resource for future research.

    Contents: Introduction; Music as Propaganda: Popular song as a source for Reformation History; Luther, Lieder, and the power of song; Song and sanctity: the struggle for ownership of devotional music; The making of a contrafactum: music and mockery in the Reformation; Popular song as resistance: the role of music in the 1548 interim; Songs for the end of time: The Antichrist in Reformation polemical song; The significance of Reformation-era song; Songs of the Reformation: Catalogue of songs; Bibliography; Indexes.


    Rebecca Wagner Oettinger

    Prize: Winner of the 2001 Bainton Book Prize in Art and Music History '... a valuable addition to the history of the Reformation... clear, concise, and engaging...Rebecca Wagner Oettinger has opened the door to a relatively unexamined area of Reformation scholarship, and her study will prove to be a starting point for future explorations of Reformation musical and social history. In her introduction, Oettinger states that she hopes to "fill one of the gaps in the history of popular culture, that of music and role it played in the lives of German Christians during the early Reformation". With Music as Propaganda in the German Reformation, she not only has successfully filled this particular gap but also has provided a framework for other scholars to join in her work.' Journal of Musicological Research ' Rebecca Oettinger has written a stimulating contribution to the discussion of popular religion in the Reformation... In all [...] instances Oettinger shows considerable skill in knitting together historical material and detailed musicological insights. The musical evidence is deftly treated with a judicious sense of what is required to lead the non-specialist through the argument... This is interdisciplinary scholarship at its best.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History '... compelling... a gold mine for those interested in further analysis of the nature of the powerful impact popular music had on the German reformation... One of the many attractive features of this well-documented study is that Oettinger regularly places the reader in the context of the songs discussed... The encyclopedic "catalogue of songs", in the original and in English translation, makes this volume a gold mine for those interested in further analysis of the nature of the powerful impact popular music had on the German Reformation.' German Studies Review '... a pioneering study. Oettinger has uncovered a treasure trove of invaluable material... Rebecca Oettinger has done a great service in