Academic journal article The Hymn

Christian Music: A Global History

Academic journal article The Hymn

Christian Music: A Global History

Article excerpt

Christian Music: A Global History by Tim Dowley. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2011. 264 pp. ISBN 978-0745953243. $35.00.

Dowley undertakes the ambitious task of furnishing "a new popular history of Christian music of all eras, all regions, and all varieties." A fool's errand? Perhaps; however, with numerous titles under his belt geared toward making scripture and church history accessible to readers of all ages, Dowley is well equipped for the challenge. Having made the requisite apologies for the inevitable gaps in coverage which arise from attempting a project of such scope, Dowley unfolds a lucid and engaging, if admittedly breathless, narrative of sacred music throughout the ages.

Dowley structures his narrative around topical divisions which will be familiar to students of music history. He begins with an exploration of music in biblical times as described in scripture, and moves forward chronologically with chapters that touch on Medieval and Renaissance polyphony, music of the Lutheran Reformation and the Anglican tradition, the American gospel tradition, and both concert hall and contemporary sacred music in the twentieth century. Dowley's prose style is fluid and direct, and evinces a passion and respect for his material, particularly the works of the great masters of the common practice period. The volume is richly illustrated and beautifully formatted. This would make an excellent text for a late high school or first-year undergraduate course in sacred music.

For coverage of the musical and cultural traditions with which he is less familiar, Dowley has sought the help of a number of experts who add their voices to the narrative. …

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