A hymn tune is the melody of a musical composition to which a hymn text is sung. Musically speaking, a hymn is generally understood to have four-part (or more) harmony, a fast harmonic rhythm (chords change frequently), and no refrain or chorus.
From the late sixteenth century in England and Scotland, when most people were not musically literate and learned melodies by rote, it was a common practice to sing a new text to a hymn tune the singers already knew which had a suitable meter and character.
There are many hymn tunes which might fit a particular hymn: a hymn in Long Metre might be sung to any hymn tune in Long Metre, but the tunes might be as different as those tunes that have been used for centuries with hymns such as Te lucis ante terminum, on one hand, and an arrangement of the calypso tune used with Jamaica Farewell, on the other.
Famous quotes containing the words hymn and/or tune:
“The starting point of the human and the end,
That in which space itself is contained, the gate
To the enclosure, day, the things illumined
By day, night and that which night illumines,
Night and its midnight-minting fragrances,
Nights hymn of the rock, as in a vivid sleep.”
—Wallace Stevens (18791955)
“The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne
Burned on the water. The poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them. The oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes.”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)