THE LOST LUTHER MOTET - IN PACE IN IDIPSUM BY LUDWIG SENFL Posted 12 Sep 2017
The Motet Was Lost, But Now It’s Found
The Lost Luther Motet - In pace in idipsum by Ludwig Senfl
Once upon a time, people sang in Latin at church, or rather got to watch accomplished musicians sing in Latin, lovely, somewhat boring motets. Every. Single. Sunday. Of. Their. Lives.
There are literally thousands of motets handed down to us from the Renaissance. Thousands and thousands of pieces that nearly all sound alike and are certain to insure a quality nap during church. I know you are almost as excited as I am to discover one more.
Musicologists make their living by unearthing “lost” or unpublished versions of scores…Perhaps they really wanted to be archeologists, but could not handle the heat or the dirt (I have first hand knowledge of people like this: my husband hates dirt.). They therefore had to take their digging indoors. Musicologists…the indoor archeologists.
Be that as it may, one such manuscript was “unearthed” by scholar Ole Kongsted (for now… since some musicologist with nothing else to do might choose to challenge this claim and thus go down in the annuls of history as THE ONE who set this motet straight and discredited the life work of Professor Kongsted). I’m telling you, it’s a musicologist eat musicologist world out there.
This motet is rather interesting as motets go because Martin Luther was involved in the inspiration of this motet. Martin Luther, you know, that guy who complained about ecclesiastical corruptions so loudly and constantly that he was therefore and for all time credited with sparking the Protestant Reformation. Not to be confused with Martin Luther King, Jr., who was obviously his son.
Luther was a very accomplished musician and like all good preachers thought he knew more about music than his music ministers. OK, well….in this case, maybe he did. He had extensive musical training from childhood, sang in choirs, played the lute, and studied composition even in college. He was so passionate about music that he sought to get to know famous musicians like Josquin Deprez and Ludwig Senfl. Yep, he was a groupie. He even started to write them fan mail asking them to write special pieces JUST FOR HIM. He clearly did not have enough to do. What, with starting a new religion, preaching in various churches, dealing with (ahem, nurturing) parishioners, meetings with students, maintaining his status as Europe’s best selling author, raising his many children, taking on the Pope, and trying to stay alive, it’s amazing he had time to write fan mail.
Because Luther was such a trouble maker for the Pope, his fate and that of the Protestant movement was to be determined at an uber important meeting called the Diet of Augsburg 1530. Luther obviously had a stake in the outcome of that meeting, but could not safely attend so he did the next best thing…he hid nearby and tried to influence the negotiations and the common people in the surrounding area by sending out letters and stirring the pot with his sarcastic and witty fliers. He spent six months running the campaign of his life in the safety and isolation of the Coburg Fortress.
Luther was naturally a gregarious person and being in isolation took its toll on him. He began a correspondence with one of his favorite composers, Ludwig Senfl with whom he shared his troubles. He wrote,
“The world hates me and scorns me and I in turn am disgusted with the world and despise it, May the Good Shepherd take my soul.”
In his despair, Luther would chant Psalm 4, “In Pace in idipsum dormiam et requiescam” (I will lay me down in peace and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makes me dwell in safety) and finally asked Senfl to send him an arrangement of the chant possibly for his requiem. Luther turned to music to sooth his troubled soul. Just in case Senfl didn’t know the melody, Luther sent it to him with the words. With no Prozac available to sooth his weary soul he turned to music. Muzac, not Prozac!
Though we don’t have Senfl’s response, the story, as captured in the foreword to the Lutheran hymnal in 1554, is that Senfl ignored his request! Instead, he sent him a setting of Psalm 118:17, “Non moriar sed vivam et narrabo Domini” (I shall not die, but live, and proclaim the works of the Lord). Sometimes the musician knows what the preacher needs. In this case, Senfl happened to also be a priest, but with very sympathetic leanings towards his cause. (Senfl later left the priesthood and got married…another story altogether.)
Luther was so inspired by Senfl’s version, that he set the same tune and wrote his own version, which for those of you choir geeks who want to learn it, is much easier to sing…and a lot shorter. He even inscribed the words on his wall. Talk about a super fan!
Senfl later sent the requested, In pace in idipsum to Luther, but there is no evidence that Luther tried to create his own version of that one too. He probably got too busy after he was able to leave the castle. Plus, he wasn’t depressed anymore.
In Pace in idipsum has been lost nearly 500 years, but due to the efforts of musicologist, Ole Kongsted, we have ONE MORE MOTET that choirs can sing to under attended early music concerts. Thank you Ole. It was lost, but now it’s found…and so are we. And it is stunningly beautiful. No, really, In Pace in idipsum is a shining star in the sea of Renaissance motets. Now that it’s found we can do the next best thing…record it and now we can go down in the annuls of history. In fact, we are the FIRST to release a recording of this lost motet.
For a special twist, we had the stunningly beautiful soprano, Adriana Ruiz, sing the cantus firmus rather than a male. We made that decision simply because she was prettier than the guys. Luther made a bunch of music reforms, but they did not necessarily include women singing in the worship service. However, it was occasionally done in other situations. You can check out our version here:
While you are investigating “the lost motet” you should explore the rest of the album. It has another motet or two (we had to…one motet just feels lonely), classical with a little bit of pop like pieces…by yours truly, other Luther inspired pieces, but not the boring kind, and features the angelic voice of 13 year old singing star, Sarah Copus, who at the ripe old age of 11 was already on the New Age Billboard Charts. See the video here.
Luther was Europe’s #1 Best Selling Author. In celebration of his 500th Anniversary, help us celebrate by putting him in the number one spot on the Billboard Charts buy buying the album here.