Catholic Music—Study Aids

Catholic Culture Unit #3 — Music
Covers Catholic influence on Western Music and innovations introduced by the Church, such as Gregorian chant, staff notation, polyphony, and harmonic progression. Other topics include Liturgical music, hymns, and composers.

Information Pages

These pages summarize much of the material needed to study for the Catholic Music unit review questions and are derived from Public domain sources.

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Catholic Influence on Music—Overview
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Glossary of Musical Terms
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Liturgical Music
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Composers and Musicians
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Music Periods and Schools
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Traditional Hymns
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Printable Homework Questions

Worksheet
Online Videos of Interest

Since Music is primariy an audio experience, a Video series rather than a book is recommended for the study of Catholic Influence on Music. In spite of its secular orientation, the first two episodes of Howard Goodall's BBC Story of Music cover many important developments in musical practic and theory attributed to the Church. The series does not cover the contributions of some outstanding Catholic composers (Palestrina, etc.) or liturgical music, but is otherwise an excellent source.

  • BBC Howard Goodall's Story of Music - Part 1: Age of Discovery
    This 58 minute video by Howard Goodall of the BBC provides an excellent introduction to the history of Western Music, starting from Greek and Roman times and continuing through the late 16th century, with early Italian Opera. In spite of the secular viewpoint, the enormous contributions of the Church to Musical theory and practice during the early Middle Ages is unmistakeable. Almost every important musical from Gregorian Chant, to simple 'Organum' harmonies, to the development of musical notation, to polyphony, and increasingly sophisticated musical instrumentation, was sponsored and produced by the Catholic Church.
  • BBC Howard Goodall's Story of Music - Part 2: Age of Discovery
    This is the second part of a BBC series on the history of Music. While the first part emphasized innovations in musical notation, chords, and polyphony, this series develops more advanced topics regarding musical scales and harmony, such as the circle of fifths, modulation, chord progression, and counterpoint. Featured artists include Bach and Handel, both 18th century musical geniuses whose innovations laid the basis for what we now consider Classical music. By the end of the 18th century, Western music composition and instrumentation had advanced to a point that the Church was no longer the primary vehicle for advancement in music, as it was for the previous millenium.
Other Suggested Videos

There is no "Recommended Reading" for the Catholic Influence on Music Unit. Seton's music DVD series is worthwhile, but much of it covers the modern era where as the Q/A material for the Music unit focuses on an earlier period (800-1700) when vocal, liturgical, and choral music was dominant.

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DVD: Discovering Music     by Carol Reynolds
"Discovering Music, 300 Years of Interaction in Western Music, Arts, History, and Culture, is a lively and entertaining romp through history, and adds a serious study of music and the arts to your homeschool curriculum. Also suitable for adults who want to expand their understanding of Classical music and the arts."


Websites Links of Interest

The first several websites below are mostly informational, and focus on medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods, when the influence of the Catholic Church on music was the greatest.

The internet is full of examples of beautiful Catholic music. Three of the links below are websites of Catholic religious orders well known for their classical musical productions, but there are many others. The informational page, listed above, covering Traditional Catholic Hymns also links to several dozen well known Latin classics.