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From mass to politicised concert mass: a study of the transition of the mass from music for the Eucharist to ideological concert music

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posted on 13.06.2019, 02:00 by Rocke, Stephanie Joan
In the thirteenth century the mass cycle became established as a sacred musical form. By the end of the twentieth century the politicised concert mass had overshadowed it. Surprisingly, despite becoming a significant contributor to the Western art music repertoire, the concert mass has never attracted serious scholarship. While individual concert masses have been the subject of some studies, the form itself has received only limited attention, and never been comprehensively defined. This anomaly is addressed here by investigating three main topic areas: the variety of attitudes to sacred music within the Roman Catholic Church, the changing social, political and religious nature of Western societies, and the text of the mass itself. Focusing particularly on the twentieth century, this study brings together selected sources that span eight centuries to show that at each stage of the transition of the liturgical mass to its politicised form it has reflected changing attitudes towards religion in Western societies. While analysis of elements of key transitional concert masses provides the most substantive evidence, as a work of historical musicology that deals with religious as well as musical changes, the research of historians, sociologists and religious studies scholars, among others, has also been drawn upon. In combination, these primary and secondary sources reveal that it was the convergence of a range of human-centred impulses that brought about the establishment of first the concert mass in the later eighteenth century and then the politicised concert mass in the twentieth century. Whereas Renaissance masses presented God to humankind, and concertised masses presented humankind to God, politicised concert masses present humankind to humankind.


Principal supervisor

Paul Watt

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Philosopical, Historical and International Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts