Published: Jonathan Rhodes Lee

Jonathan Rhodes Lee (Music) has published an article in the international, peer-reviewed journal Eighteenth-Century Music. Lee's article, "Music, Morality, and Sympathy in the Eighteenth-Century English Sermon," examines the phenomenon of the music sermon, published in large numbers throughout the 18th century. This article demonstrates that the ideas of sympathy and sensibility characteristic of so much 18th-century thought are vital to understanding these publications.

There is an evolution in this literature of the notion of sympathy and its link to musical morality, a development in the attitude towards music among clergy, with this art of sympathetic vibrations receiving ever higher approbation during the century's middle decades. By the time that Adam Smith was articulating his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and Handel's oratorios stood as a fixture of English musical life, religious thinkers had cast off old concerns about music's sensuality. They came to embrace a philosophy that accepted music as moral simply because it made humankind feel, and in turn accepted feeling as the root of all sociable experience. This understanding places the music sermon of the 18th century within the context of some of the most discussed philosophical, social, literary, musical, and moral-aesthetic concepts of the time.

 

 

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