1. Overview: Christianity began and developed in a culturally rich area of the ancient world. This Cultural Perspective discusses the influences of these various cultures, especially Judaism, on the music and worship practices of the early Christian church.
Issues: We live in a multicultural society, and we often think that this is a uniquely modern and American condition. Our study of history shows us that this is not the case. Still, it is helpful to consider the role of cross-cultural influences in our own society.
What constitutes influence, and how do we recognize it in music?
What influences from other cultures, or ethnic groups do you see in music that you are familiar with (sacred or secular)?
Do you view such influences as positive or negative? Why?
Project: There are a number of ways that we can investigate cross-cultural influences in music without having a strong musical background. Here are some projects that might interest you.
Talk to someone who is involved in sacred music (of any tradition) and ask how the music of that tradition has been influenced in recent years. What is the source of that influence, and how is it viewed by different generations?
Investigate the music of your own tradition (sacred or secular). What influences do you find? Are they acknowledged influences (the Beatles’ use of Indian music, for example), or are they more covert (the influence of African-American music on many popular styles)?
Look at your own portion of society. What are the sources of influence on fashion, entertainment, language, etc.? Why do you think we choose to borrow from other cultures, and what qualities do we look for? Do we want to find something different or something that seems familiar?