The Psalter – A Journey through 1,500 Years of Music

June 5, 2023 - June 9, 2023
June 5-9, 2023, 10:00 am-12:00 pm Eastern (online)
New HavenCT

The Psalter is the hymn book of the Bible. The 150 psalms have been an integral part of both Jewish and Christian musical traditions, and over the centuries they have inspired countless composers to create important works. The course will explore the richness and power of the Psalter through an examination of the relationship between Scripture and music. What happens to the biblical text over time and as it is interpreted in different musical and religious traditions?

We will study selected psalms and trace their musical tradition from Gregorian Chant to twentieth-century composer Arnold Schönberg, from Catholic composers such as Lasso to the Protestant masters Bach and Handel.

Prof. Rathey will send out some readings for preparation, as email attachments, closer to the start of the course.


Markus Rathey is the Robert S. Tangeman Professor of Music History at Yale University where he teaches at the Institute of Sacred Music and the Divinity School. His research has shown new paths for the study of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sacred vocal works. His book Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: Music, Theology, Culture (Oxford University Press, 2016) is the first study of this composition in English, and it not only sheds new light on Bach’s compositional practice but it also locates the oratorio within the religious and social landscape of eighteenth-century Germany. Rathey’s second recent book is an introduction to Bach’s Major Vocal Works (Yale University Press, 2016). Within the short time since its publication, the book has become a standard work on Bach’s sacred vocal music, praised for its depth but also its accessibility. As one reviewer highlights, it is a prime example for “bringing musicology to the public.” He frequently serves as a commentator on J.S. Bach and on the relationship of music and religion for a number of major media outlets, including The Wall Street JournalThe Los Angeles TimesThe Economist, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR 3), BBC Radio, and Swedish Radio.