How does secular music differ from sacred music?

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Sacred music is music associated with religious or spiritual worship. It differs from secular music not in terms of the music itself but through having religious subject matter. In almost all Christian sacred music, the subjects are taken from the Biblical Old or New Testaments—or from closely related apocryphal stories that have a Biblical basis or connection.

Secular music is music that does not primarily have a religious subject, though it can mention the divine or holy. Its emphasis is on ordinary, everyday content: love, work, nature, grief, and folk stories. Secular and sacred types of music both run the gamut in emotional tone from somber to joyous.

Oratorio and opera are examples of musical forms that are very similar, although oratorio is sacred and opera is secular. Opera arose from the desire to expand oratorio during the Renaissance to encompass secular subject matter. Opera, like oratorio, adopted instrumentation and vocal singing to tell an often dramatic story. In the...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 16, 2020
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