Hearing Faith

Music as Theology in the Spanish Empire


Hearing Faith explores the ways Roman Catholics in the seventeenth-century Spanish Empire used music to connect faith and hearing. From the Royal Chapel in Madrid to Puebla Cathedral in colonial Mexico, communities celebrated Christmas and other feasts with villancicos, a widespread genre of vernacular poetry and devotional music. A large proportion of villancico texts directly address the nature of hearing and the power of music to connect people to God. By interpreting complex and fascinating examples of “music about music” in the context of contemporary theological writing, the book shows how Spanish Catholics embodied their beliefs about music, through music itself. Listening closely to these previously undiscovered and overlooked archival sources reveals how Spanish subjects listened and why.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Andrew A. Cashner, PhD (2015, University of Chicago), is an assistant professor of music at the University of Rochester. Recipient of the American Musicological Society’s 2015 Alfred Einstein Award, he published a critical edition of Villancicos about Music in 2017.
“Cashner combines forensic musical and textual analysis to reveal the villancico as an unexpected site for theological discourse and in doing so opens the way for the much more comprehensive study of music as theology in the vast Spanish empire that his title invites. One is left wondering if a similar methodology applied to the unstudied repertories of music composed in and for Jesuit colleges and missions might reveal further insights into the multiple relationships between music and theology.”
Michael Noone, Boston College. In: Journal of Jesuit Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2021), pp. 329–332.

List of Illustrations and Tables

Part 1 Listening for Faith

1 Villancicos as Musical Theology
 1 Singing about Singing
 2 Paying Attention to Villancicos
 3 Music about Music in the Villancico Genre
 4 Theological Listening in the Neoplatonic Tradition

2 Making Faith Appeal to Hearing
 1 “The Sense Most Easily Deceived”
 2 Well-Tempered Hearing
 3 Accommodating and Training the Ear
 4 Impaired Hearers, Incompetent Teachers: “Villancicos of the Deaf”
 5 Failures of Faithful Hearing

Part 2 Listening for Unhearable Music

3 Christ as Singer and Song (Puebla, 1657)
 1 “Voices of the Chapel Choir” and the “Unspeaking Word”
 2 Music about Music in the Voices of Puebla’s Chapel Choir
 3 Devotion to Christ as Singer and Song
 4 Establishing a Pedigree in a Lineage of Metamusical Composition
 5 “All Who Heard It Were Amazed”

4 Heavenly Dissonance (Montserrat, 1660s)
 1 Cererols and the Boys’ School Choir of Montserrat
 2 The “New Consonance”
 3 Worldly and Heavenly Music
 4 Genealogies of Heavenly Music
 5 The Problem of Perfection

5 Offering and Imitation (Zaragoza, 1650–1700)
 1 “Let Voices Ascend to Heaven”: From Bruna to Ambiela
 2 Christ as a Vihuela (Cáseda)
 3 Conclusions

All interested in the relationship between music, poetry, theology, and popular religion in villancicos of the Spanish Empire. Scholars and students of music, literature, historians of religion, popular culture; performers. Keywords: Spain, Mexico, Latin America, villancico, devotional music, Spanish literature, poetry, theology, seventeenth century, interpretation, hearing, senses, popular religion, Roman Catholicism, spirituality.
  • Collapse
  • Expand