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Christian Reception of the ‘New-Music’ Debate in the Church Fathers and Clement of Alexandria

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image of Greek and Roman Musical Studies

Evaluative judgments about musical innovations occur from the late fifth century BC in Greece and Rome and are reflected in similar discussions of Christian authors in the first centuries of the Empire. This article explores how pedagogical, theological, moral, and spiritual considerations motivate judgments on contemporary pagan musical culture and conclusions about the Christian attitude towards music. Biblical references to music inspire both allegorical interpretations and the defense of actual musical practice. The perhaps most intriguing Christian transformation of the ancient musical worldview is presented in Clement of Alexandria’s Protrepticus. Well-known classical music-myths serve here to introduce a superior ‘New Song’. Harmony, represented in the person of Christ who unites a human and a divine nature, becomes the ultimate principle of both cosmos and human nature. This conception allows music to become a prominent expression of the Christian faith and even inform the moral life of believers.

Affiliations: 1: Legion of Christ College of Humanities 475 Oak Avenue, Cheshire, CT 06410USA


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