What Is Secular Music? - Historic Influence + Modern Variations Sunday October 30 2022, 10:30 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
What Is Secular Music? - Historic Influence + Modern Variations

What Is Secular Music?

Although the history behind secular music is hard to pin down and complex in nature, the definition of it is pretty simple. Secular music is all music that is not used for religious purposes. Religious music is often referred to as sacred music instead. 

Secular music covers a ton of different genres that are known today, including jazz, hip-hop, pop, rock, and folk music. The trick is that some of these genres have composers that are religious, and use religious lyrics in these styles that are normally secular. 

But it is important to note that the religious lyrics that are sometimes used in secular styles of music are a bit different from sacred texts that were used for holy music in the past. Modern religious music has a variety of original texts, while traditional sacred music features text straight from the holy books of varying religions. 

When Did Secular Music Become A Thing?

Historically, secular music used to dominate the music world much more than it does now. During the times of the Middle Ages and The Renaissance period, the only music that was notated and documented was sacred music. 

This is not to say that secular music was not around. Throughout ancient history, in places like Greece and Egypt, secular music was definitely a thing. People liked to perform the music of secular mature for entertainment, but they didn't write it down. 

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance era, monks of that time were the ones who made it their mission to document and write out all of the sacred music that was being performed so that the choirs could have something to read and learn.

Secular music, on the other hand, was often written and performed for fun, or by artists who were being somewhat exclusive about their material and didn't care to get it redistributed for other people to use and take for their own.

Who Are The Secular Music Pioneers?

While some very old secular songs were performed in Latin during the Middle Ages, minstrels in Europe around that time were best known for singing and performing secular music. At first, minstrels were the term for all types of performers, including jugglers and acrobats, the term later strictly described singers and musicians. 

Secular songs from minstrel performers often told entertaining stories about the vast and amazing lands across the globe, while most were fiction and meant to get a laugh.

Shortly after these performers started to get some shine and gain the attention of royalty for their performances, a new group of musicians by the name of troubadours came into existence and were especially popular in France around the 15th century. 

Troubadors were more serious performers who sang relatable songs about love and loss, which really gained the interest of royal family members who were looking for entertainment that wasn't as "foolish" as the minstrels provided. 

What Instruments Are Associated With Secular Music?

Several well-known instruments that are still used in music today were used by minstrels and troubadours hundreds of years ago. This is proof of how much classic secular music has influenced the many styles of music that we listen to, thanks to Western music culture!

Minstrel performers often had harps (not the big ones commonly seen today), bagpipes, flutes, fiddles, and kettledrums to perform with. These were easy to travel with since they were often small and lightweight instruments. 

Troubadours relied more on their voices as they mainly performed with the lute. A lute is like the original version of a guitar that just has a bit of a different shape to it and is much lighter. But, many music scholars will say that even though people think the guitar was inspired by the lute, it is not its true successor. 

How Much Music Is Secular In The World?

During the Middle Ages and The Renaissance period, secular music was in the minority when it came to the overall music industry. In modern times, the roles have been reversed, and most of the music that has been made in the last century has been largely secular. 

Keep in mind that this doesn't mean that all secular music has an anti-religious message to it! Many popular songs today reference ideas that relate to religion and spirituality, while also referencing other ideas that technically make these songs secular. 

Can Religious People Enjoy Secular Music?

This is a tricky question that many argue about even today. Many people in the Christian community, for example, say that it is a sin to listen to any music that is not pleasing to God. Secular music is often banned in the homes of religious families to avoid the temptations of sin from influencing the listener.

On the other hand, some Christians would say that music itself is a gift from God that glorifies Him when we actively perform, so long as the music is not vulgar. Music that speaks of general joy, happiness, and love that does not encourage or glorify any sins can be enjoyed by religious people, according to this line of thought.

What do you think about listening to secular music if you are a deeply religious person? 

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Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!

If you are ever in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services for your music project or brand, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her song services page. As an Amazon Associate, Yona Marie earns from qualifying purchases. Amazon and other affiliate products are recommended to genuinely help readers and keep this site up and running as well.

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