Jesuit Music during the Reductions

I just found this… here is something in the meantime… enjoy!


What was the impact of music on the Natives in the Reductions in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds


The discovery of the New World hundreds of years ago sparked a necessity amongst Europeans to explore further into the world and deeper into the lands they had already discovered for better or for worse. After analyzing the peoples of these foreign lands, the Europeans set off to establish colonies where they would attempt to trade and establish a government to rule over them, in some cases the Europeans would trade common items, such as flour, in return for Native people that would become slaves working for the Europeans. As the journeys abroad become more frequent, the Society of Jesus saw an opportunity to send missionaries abroad and attempt to evangelize many of the local peoples. To gain attention from the Natives, showing European art and music was found to be successful and would soon grow on the Natives, making them eager to learn how to sing and write. This was all accomplished through the Jesuit Reductions that would group the Natives together in communities in order to evangelize and help the colonial powers tax them. Music became of large interest to the Natives with many attending schools and participating with the Jesuits during mass and other events that would contain music in any way. With this being said, what was the impact of music on the Natives in the Reductions in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds?


As previously mentioned, during the age of exploration, the Jesuits would take the advantage of spreading the word of god to the native people discovered by the dominant European countries involved in the discovery of the New World. Spain, Portugal, France, and a few others primarily controlled travel to the foreign lands, the three mentioned were heavily influential to the Jesuits and vice versa in the late sixteenth century. The Jesuits, who were formed earlier on in the same century, would set out to evangelize the people of the New World and attempt to establish a stronger influence in the world. On arrival to the New World, the Jesuits would experience hostility in some areas with some Jesuits being killed by groups of Natives. The Jesuits arrived in Brazil in 1549 after an attack on their first voyage which killed 40 Jesuits, all of which posthumously becoming saints. Months after arriving in Brazil, the Jesuits would be overwhelmed with disgust after realizing the current lifestyle of the Natives along with enslavement by European powers. Fr. Antonio Blasquez wrote in a letter describing the voluntary slavery from the Natives, which would express the necessity for implementing European culture amongst the indigenous people stating:


“ … Among them, there is no love or loyalty. They sell themselves, putting more value on a wedge or a knife than on the liberty of a nephew or a close relative. They exchange them for iron, and their misery is such that sometimes they exchange them for a little flour. “


Later on, the Jesuits would arm some of the Natives within their Reductions and attempt to bring more Natives into their communities in order to prevent the enslavement. This would result in Jesuit relations with the colonial powers involved in the slave trade deteriorating and eventually expelling the Jesuits from their colonies and countries.


Once the Jesuits settled themselves within the foreign territory, a Jesuit named Anchieta lured in the Natives with hymns and music in order to settle the Natives within fixed communities in Brazil. Anchieta arguably laid the groundwork for the future Jesuit Reductions, the first Reduction being built in South Americas Juli in 1576. The Reductions would be created in order to group the indigenous Natives together in communities that contained a style that matched the Europeans, ensuring that taxing, evangelization, and labor amongst the Natives would be increasingly less difficult for the Europeans and the Jesuit missionaries within the Americas. Furthermore, the Reductions would assist in the creation of a culture amongst the Natives throughout the Americas by bringing technology and European art that would help achieve success in gaining the Natives attention and creating a friendly connection between each other as well.


In the late eighteenth century, the Jesuits would be removed from many countries in Europe, leading to many Jesuits being removed from the colonies they were working with. However, the progress they achieved within their Reductions would prove very successful, making some of the ruling powers suspicious in regards to how the Jesuits quickly established their presence amongst the Natives. The gathering of Natives by the Jesuits would be difficult in some areas, however, throughout the many years the Jesuits would see an increasingly large growth in population within their reductions. The Guarani people are a South American group of indigenous peoples in Paraguay, the Jesuits received peace amongst the large group of Natives. The evangelization of the Guarani were one of the most successful missions the Jesuits took, with 30 Reductions being established for the Guarani alone and furthermore, by the time the Jesuits were expelled from Spain and its colonies in 1767 by Charles III, there was between 80,000 and 120,000 Guarani living throughout all of the Jesuit reductions in Paraguay. The Jesuits also opened colleges and churches in all areas of under their influence especially in Mexico City, six hundred boys attended both Jesuit schools and churches.This would help define the culture that would be present amongst the Native people in these areas.


The Jesuits brought to the New World many different styles of art that they discovered and studied from all the places they were able to travel to. All of the art carried over by the Jesuits and Europeans interested many of the Natives, one of the prominent arts transferred over to the Americas was music. Music was one of, if not the most popular amongst the Natives as it didn’t require much understanding of European culture or language. This was due to the use of the many instruments created by the Europeans which were transported over with many of the Jesuits which would help create a music culture that over time would transform into the culture that represented the different ethnic groups of this period. After the Reductions were established and the missionaries became settled in their developed communities, the Jesuits would create a musical culture as the Natives would start to create their very own musical instruments, one of which being the first Organ in creole by Ignacio Paica. Furthermore, Paica went on to create the first Harpsichord by the Natives, which caused a “ great sensation in those times. “ New instruments would be created as well by the Natives furthering the impact of the Jesuits on the peoples of the Reductions as it would help continue to assist in the formation of a culture amongst them.


The Jesuit schools, cathedrals, and convents all incorporated music into both of their liturgies or curriculum with hymns being one of the first popular attractions the missionaries presented to the Natives. Many of the Colegios established by the Society taught Natives with the Reductions how to create and play instruments, along with singing. Some Jesuits who studied music at schools in Europe went on overseas missions to the Reductions to assist in the missionary work taking place furthermore, some of these missionaries involvement would have a tremendous impact on the culture and evangelization amongst the Native peoples. Louis Berger for example, traveled to Paraguay to assist with the Reductions and while there made excellent musicians out of the indigenous Natives in Paraguay who would perform for the many new Jesuits coming into the Americas. Music came to play a huge role in connecting with the Natives, with composers coming to the Reductions and leaving a mark on the history of the Natives. Domenico Zipoli is one of the most influential, accomplished, and important composers that traveled to the Reductions that housed the Guarani, working as a church organist and composer until his death. Zipoli would first perform some of his composed pieces in the colonies where they would circulate rapidly amongst all of the missionaries in the New World, being performed when many popular Jesuits would come to visit the foreign lands. Zipoli would also create many choral pieces of work that would be sung by many of the Natives that  approached the teaching of music from the Jesuits, many of which would be used during masses. Martin Schmidt would become another popular name amongst Jesuit musicians as well, working with the Chiquitos who were another peaceful Native group. Schmidt would build a few churches in South America, all of which containing multiple of each instrument used in the masses and ceremonies. While accomplishing this, Schmidt would teach many of the Natives and compose pieces of work to be performed, many of which contained both instrumental and choral pieces. Schmidt would go on to record many of the most famous musical work composed in the New World and Europe, creating a collection of compositions crucial to the understanding of music in the Reductions and Americas at this time, with work from other composers such as Zipoli being included within it making Schmidt one of the most important missionaries of this time. Anton Sepp is another prominent Jesuit who traveled to Paraguay in order to assist the missionaries. Once he arrived, he would be immediately drawn in due to the establishment the Jesuits had created in the New World stating:


“  … every pueblo has a beautiful big church, a belfry with four or five bells, one or two organs, one golden major altar, two to four lateral altars, one pulpit completely covered with gold. In addition, there are many paintings made on wood, and which are good, though painted by the Indians themselves. “


Sepp would go on to establish schools for music and furthermore, Sepp would update the collection of music in the colonies, supervise the creation of new instruments, and pioneer the “ Stile Moderno “ in the missions of the Jesuit Order. Sepp’s additions to the colonies were extremely important and highly influential in the creation of culture in the New World and, his additions impacted future Jesuit missions overall which would make him an important individual in Jesuit history.


These individuals who taught the Natives how to sing and play instruments that they built, established a daily activity amongst them that was praised by many Jesuits in the New World. In nearly all of the Reductions, music was available for all the Natives to learn and then play, or sing, under the supervision of them. In some of the musically talented Jesuits free time, the writing of new music was embraced amongst them in order to give the Native peoples new material to work with. For example, while in the New World Zipoli created numerous works that were primarily for vocals with accompaniment by instruments that would be used for the holy mass, along with compositions for vespers, psalms, and some songs written for specials occasions such as Thanksgiving. It is even stated Zipoli possibly wrote an Opera, another form of entertainment that the Natives quickly appealed to.


The Reductions that were created by the Jesuits were of incredible importance to the development of culture amongst the Natives furthermore, the Reductions also helped to establish rule over the locals as they grouped the Natives up instead of being scattered about which would make it difficult for the European colonial powers to input law into the New World. Music strengthened the unity of the Natives and their religious aspect as well, through singing and playing instruments of songs relating to the bible and God, prior to the Jesuits the Natives were nomadic tribal savages as some would say. Some of these Natives that became trained in the arts of music, would become some of the best builders of instruments and musicians of their time, such as the Guarani organ builder. In conclusion, the impact of music in the Jesuit Reductions tremendously encouraged unity furthermore, music created a culture amongst the Natives and without these Reductions, the works of Zipoli and other composers would have arguably never been created or discovered.


Primary Sources:


Blasquez, Fr. Antonio, Letter to the Fathers and Brothers at Combra, 1555. Quoted in





Sepp, Anton, 1712. Quoted in Nawrot, Piotr, Teaching of Music and the Celebration of

Liturgical Events in the Jesuit Reductions. 2004.


Secondary Sources:


Andrews, Jean. “Opera on the Margins in Colonial Latin America: Conceived under the

Sign of Love.” In Rewriting Classical Mythology in the Hispanic Baroque, edited

by Torres Isabel, 171-88. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK; Rochester, NY, USA: Boydell

and Brewer, 2007. Accessed 1 May 2018.


Hager, Alan. “The Map of New Paraguay: A Crisis in Jesuitism.” Proceedings of the

Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society. 17: (1993): 90-98. Accessed on

1 May 2018.


Kennedy, T. Frank. “Colonial Music from the Episcopal Archive of Concepción, Bolivia.”

Latin American Music Review / Revista De Música Latinoamericana 9:1 (1988):

1-17. doi:10.2307/779997.


Nawrot, Piotr. “Teaching of Music and the Celebration of Liturgical Events in the Jesuit

Reductions.” Anthropos 9:1 (2004): 73-84. Accessed on 1 May 2018.


O’Malley, John W. The Jesuits a History from Ignatius to the Present. Lanham, MD:

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014.


Worcester, Thomas. The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits. Cambridge: Cambridge

Univ. Press, 2008.

Music Critic and Historian.

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