A Mighty Fortress of Outdated Information

For my research topic, I chose to write about Martin Luther’s Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott and how it has played a crucial role in the Reformation and the future of music in general. I wanted to learn more about Martin Luther and his compositions because my hometown church’s music director always talks about him in conversation, which sparked my interest to learn more.

So far, my research process has been somewhat challenging. It’s been plenty easy for me to find information on Luther himself, but it’s been a bit harder to find specific information on his hymns and how they have influenced the future of music. It’s obvious to me that Luther changed the way modern day Protestants use music in the church, but it’s been harder to find sources that give quotable examples. I really enjoyed Robin A. Leaver’s Luther on Music that we were assigned to read for class, but although relevant, not a lot of topics discussed in the article can be used specifically for elaboration on Ein feste Burg. I also spent a lot of time going through the readings from the assigned chapters by Richard Taruskin in Oxford History of Western Music. Yet again, however, I continued having trouble finding background information on the hymn itself.

Luckily, I found what I thought would be the motherlode of Ein feste Burg information: a small, dusty, and ancient looking little book called Luther’s Battle Song by Bernhard Pick. This little book focuses on the creation and impact Ein feste Burg had on Protestant Germany, but on the downside, also happened to be 100 years old. The book talked about the time in which the hymn was written, the reasons it may have been written, and even included manuscripts and lyrical interpretations. While much of the information is valid, a lot of it is outdated. I felt I shouldn’t use some of the information on why the hymn was written or who actually wrote it because I found conflicting information on other websites while getting ideas of what to write about. After that, I continued finding more and more books that had a lot of information on Ein feste Burg, but they were also all written in 1917, likely as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Reformation. I’m hesitant to rely too much on these potentially outdated sources, but I haven’t had much luck yet finding solid information from newer sources either.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my research on Ein feste Burg so far, but also know that I need a lot more “beefy” information in order to make my paper and podcast solid. While I’ve found a lot of facts, I’m still searching for articles that back up the cause and effect relationship Ein feste Burg (and Martin Luther’s hymns in general) have had on modern day Christian church music.

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