All descriptions of the death of members of monastic communities in the Middle Ages have in common that music and song are part of the scenario. Nobody had to die in silence. The community accompanied their brothers and sisters on their last journey with singing. Death and dying are also important subjects in the history of music. Beginning in the Renaissance, we have countless magnificent settings of the Requiem, the mass for the dead: the Requiems by Mozart and Verdi, and the German Requiem by Brahms, have become staples in the world’s concert halls. Yet they are not only concert pieces, but each of them reflects a unique way of dealing with the sorrows of death, the fear of dying, and the hopes for a world to come.
The course will explore different responses to death and dying in the history of Western music: music and palliative care in the Middle Ages, settings of the traditional Requiem text by Mozart and others, protestant funeral compositions by composers such as Bach, Schütz, Purcell, and Handel, and other works that show modes of reflecting on death throughout history. The course will also look into ways in which we, in contemporary ministry, can use music in funerals and in the care for the dying. What works, what does not? What types of music have been used successfully? How can we learn from the past in our own ways of using music in funerals? The course is geared towards a general audience of musicians and music lovers; a background in music is not required. Some course readings may be emailed out to course participants as PDF attachments before the start of the course.