Luther on Music

(Wikimedia Commons/Jobst Gutknecht)

(Wikimedia Commons/Jobst Gutknecht)

"I, Doctor Martin Luther, wish all lovers of the unshackled art of music grace and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ!


I truly desire that all Christians would love and regard as worthy the lovely gift of music, which is a precious, worthy, and costly treasure given to mankind by God.


The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them.... In summa, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits...


Our dear fathers and prophets did not desire without reason that music be always used in the churches. Hence, we have so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God.


However, when man's natural musical ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift; we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace.


A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs."

- Martin Luther


frau musika

Of all the joys upon the earth

none has for us a greater worth

than what I give with my singing

and with others sweetly ringing.

Here cannot be an evil mood

where there are singing fellows good,

Here is no grudge, hate, rage, or row;

softened is all grief and sorrow;

greed, grief and animosity

depart with all melancholy.

Thus is ev’ryone well and free,

since in such joy no sin can be.

But it gives God more joy and mirth

than all the pleasures of the earth.

The devil’s works are confounded;

Evil murders are avoided.

Witness King David’s actions good,

who often quelled Saul’s even mood

by sweetly playing on the lyre

and thus escaped his murderous ire.

By truth divine and God’s own Word

the heart is stilled and is prepared;

such did Elisha once propound

when harping he the Spirit found.

The best time of the year is mine

when all the birds are singing fine.

The heav’ns and the earth are filled

with much good singing, clear and skilled.

Above all, the precious nightingale

makes all now joyful overall

with her delightful songs and lays

for which she must be thanked always,

but more so to God, our Maker,

who carefully created her

to be his own beloved songstress

and of musica a mistress.

Thus day and night she always sings,

Untiring praise to God she brings.

I too will sing my laud and praise,

Eternal thanks will I thus raise.

- Martin Luther (Luther’s Liturgical Music by Robin Leaver)

Vor allen Freuden auf Erden

Kann niemand keine feiner werden,

Denn die ich geb mit meinem Singen

Und mit manchem süßen Klingen.

Hier kann nicht sein ein böser Mut,

Wo da singen Gesellen gut,

Hier bleibt kein Zorn, Zank, Haß noch Neid,

Weichen muß alles Herzeleid;

Geiz, Sorg und was sonst hart an Leid,

Fährt hin mit aller Traurigkeit.

Auch ist ein jeder des wohl frei,

Daß solche Freud kein Sünde sei,

Sondern auch Gott viel bass gefällt

Denn alle Freud der ganzen Welt.

Dem Teufel sie sein Werk zerstört

Und verhindert viel böser Mörd.

Das zeugt Davids, des Königs Tat,

Der dem Saul oft gewehret hat

Mit gutem, süßem Harfenspiel,

Daß er in großen Mord nicht fiel.

Zum göttlichen Wort und Wahrheit

Macht sie das Herz still und bereit.

Solchs hat Elisäus bekannt,

Da er den Geist durchs Harfen fand.

Die beste Zeit im Jahr ist mein,

Da singen alle Vögelein,

Himmel und Erden ist der voll,

Viel gut Gesang da lautet wohl.

Voran die liebe Nachtigall

Macht alles fröhlich überall

Mit ihrem lieblichen Gesang,

Des muß sie haben immer Dank,

Viel mehr der liebe Herregott,

Der sie also geschaffen hat,

Zu sein die rechte Sängerin,

Der Musik eine Meisterin.

Dem singt und springt sie Tag und Nacht,

Seines Lobs sie nichts müde macht,

Den ehrt und lobt auch mein Gesang

Und sagt ihm einen ewigen Dank.

- Martin Luther