Jan Zwart – Willem Mudde. Musical-hermeneutic investigations (I)

by Jan Hage | Photo's: collectie familie Zwart | Het ORGEL | Year 115 | (2019) | Issue 3

Music is one of the means by which the church manifests itself. It is truly an important means, because it speaks without words in a living manner directly from the heart to the heart. Through music the church communicates its beliefs to a specific audience, whether members or non-members, and does it in different, sometimes very different ways. In evangelical circles affiliation is sought with the mainstream or youth culture, and use is made of popular music in which affirmations of love from secular love songs are projected on God and Jesus. In reformed circles, traditional very slow congregational singing is still maintained. And what can one make of the French cathedral organ style, which in the course of the 20th century has both instrumentally and idiomatically taken on ever louder, more dissonant, more crushing forms? It is no coïncidence: in all these examples music is a meaningful representation of the church or sect.
In his dissertation Muziek als missie {Music as mission} Jan Hage treats the church-musical development of Willem Mudde, who developed from pupil and follower of Jan Zwart into a fervent advocate of the German church music renewal. Zwart’s church music is different from that of Mudde. Moreover, the difference is not simply a matter of musical taste, but is a change of paradigm with theological, cultural, sociological, and psychological implications. He seemed to adopt the characteristics of both the music of Zwart and those of German church music, but specific questions about the content could not be asked in that context. In this article the author attempts a hermeneutic interpretation of both types of music. This first part discusses the music of Jan Zwart.