Alonso Mudarra (1546): Fantasia No.10 "Que contrahaze la harpa en la manero de Ludovico"

Martin Luther, leader of the German Reformation, was a gifted tenor, flutist, lutenist, poet, and composer.

As with most music students of his time, Luther had a grounding in both singing and the lute and was recognized as a skilled lute-player with a pleasant tenor voice.

For Luther, music was not a ‘dark art’ but one which he grasped as well as any other educated person of his time. He enjoyed singing and playing his lute at home. Some Christian writers of the past, notably Augustine, were distrustful of music and its emotional effect. Augustine was “afflicted with scruples of conscience whenever he discovered that he had derived pleasure from music and had been happy thereby” and “was of the opinion that such joy is unrighteous and sinful.”    Not so Luther. He affirmed as a great benefit the power of music to move the emotions. Luther wrote the following concerning music:

Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate — and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good?—what more effective means than music could you find?

This belief in the positive emotive quality of music was not to be restricted to the secular sphere. Luther felt that church music could and should move the emotions, as well. When presented with some choral canons by the composer Lukas Edemberger, Luther commented that “they were neither enjoyable nor pleasing because the composer seemed more interested in writing counterpoint than writing interesting music. ‘He has enough of art and skill, [Luther said,] but is lacking in warmth.