Hymnologist Paul Westermeyer comments on Martin Luther’s hymn tune sources:
Luther’s sources were Gregorian chant, medieval vernacular hymns, and two secular folk melodies that didn’t have staying power and themselves were abandoned for new tunes. Luther did not use “popular music.” The distinction between sacred and secular was not nearly so strong for him as for us, but he did distinguish what was appropriate to worship. The tune Luther wrote for his metrical version of the Sanctus, for example, is adapted from Gregorian chant and is neither easy nor “popular,” though I have heard some Lutheran congregations sing it with love and incredible force.
He then cites hymnologist Eric Routley’s agreement:
The very last thing Luther was, or could have been, was what we now call an adapter of popular styles. He had no use for the “popular” in the sense of the careless, or the standards of ignorance. His melodies are the kind of melody which would appear in a pre-Reformation polyphonic motet, their mixture of basic measure with syncopation being what that style generated. The Minnesinger songs were of the same kind, and it is far removed from the popular music, the carol music.
How does this differ from common arguments using Luther today, and what implications does this have for the relationship between the church’s song and pop culture?