Article written by 2007 DPDF Visual Culture fellow Erin Lambert:
Calvin’s rejection of the arts in religious contexts and his limitation of music to psalm singing have long been tropes of Reformed austerity. Yet in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, he employs the terms of the aural culture in which he lived in order to offer a precise description of his ideals of musical beauty. Focusing particularly on Calvin’s description of the “sweetness” of music, this essay reassesses his thought about music in light of the writings of Renaissance theorists and recent musicological studies of genre and aesthetics. In this light, a vital function for Calvin’s discussion of music emerges. In the Institutes, Calvin transforms music’s beauty into metaphor, and uses it to articulate his arguments about the Christian’s perception of God.