“‘To be songe to the tune of [the] 25th psalme’: Adapting The Whole Booke of Psalmes for Personal Devotion and Communal Singing,” Reformation 27, No. 1 (2022), 65-84.

By the end of the sixteenth century, The Whole Booke of Psalmes (1562, with yearly reprints) had become a symbol of English Protestantism, and its monophonic metrical psalms a hallmark of English Protestant music. Yet the psalter’s success, illustrated by its rapid and enthusiastic adoption by the English people for public worship and private devotion, was due in part to audiences failing to use it as directed. Close study of 133 editions, 222 book-copies, shows that in their use of the book, many readers of the WBP freely adapted this psalter to navigate a myriad of problems related to its printing—memorization demanded by page turns, conflicting tune references, and music typesetting errors—and to accommodate their own religious and musical desires. Congregations and individuals interacted with their WBPs in a dynamic process, freely adapting its texts, music, and even the pages themselves for purposes of convenience, recreation, and devotion.

Samantha Arten, “Singing as English Protestants: The Whole Booke of Psalmes’ Theology of Music,” Yale Journal of Music and Religion 5, No. 1 (2019): 1-34.

This journal is open access; my article can be found here:

The Whole Booke of Psalmes, first published in 1562, became the most visible symbol of English Protestant music-making through its immense popularity and its perceived Protestant authority and monarchical authorization, and the psalter was directly responsible for the formation of the Church of England’s musical culture. Through close reading of the hymnal’s words about music—the versified texts of the psalms themselves, particularly the paraphrases of those psalms that speak directly about music, singing, worship, and instruments, and also other material including the versified hymns and prefatory matter—I argue that the WBP promoted a particular theology of music in Reformation England. Examining how questions of participation, accessibility, text selection, aesthetics, and instrumentation are presented in the psalter, I expand scholars’ understanding of the varied Protestant theologies of music to include study of the metrical psalter that functioned as propaganda, educational material, and a devotional tool for the Church of England. The WBP reflected the importance of communal liturgical musical practice for Protestants and presented a consistent portrait of the desirable theological aesthetic of congregational church music, one that drew upon aspects of both Lutheran and Calvinist theologies. According to the WBP, singing like a Protestant in Elizabeth’s England meant singing monophonic congregational hymnody using metricized texts from Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer, and especially from the Book of Psalms. The WBP also falls on the pro-organ side of the English debate, taking a definitive stand in support of the use of instruments in church, and the psalter places strong emphasis on the attitude of the individual even as it advocates for singing in community.

Samantha Arten, “The Origin of Fixed-Scale Solmization in The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” Early Music 46, No. 1 (Feb., 2018): 149-165.

William Bathe’s c. 1596 Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song and Thomas Morley’s 1597 Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke describe a solmization system that is fixed and static, replacing the medieval gamut that went back to Guido d’Arezzo. This approach became standard in the seventeenth century. My research demonstrates that the English shift from traditional hexachords to fixed scales was initiated a generation earlier in The Whole Booke of Psalmes. First printed in 1562, many editions of this psalter, beginning in 1569, featured a music typeface that contained solmization syllables, along with a new preface that explained their use. Thus the earliest documentation of fixed-scale solmization comes from Protestant religious reformers and the English Reformation’s hymnal. I explain how The Whole Booke of Psalmes systematized the assignment of solmization syllables to absolute pitches, and I compare this system with continental hexachord theory, Bathe’s and Morley’s treatises, and four earlier Genevan music books dated 1550-1562 which also printed solmization syllables. Finally, I suggest that fixed-scale solmization was a uniquely English Protestant innovation.

Samantha Arten, “Tavener, John,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and the Arts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 395-398.

In this encyclopedia article, I discuss Tavener’s use of scriptural texts in his compositions, the ways in which Tavener’s compositional output reflected his own evolving faith, and contemporary theologians’ perspectives on Tavener’s musical theology.