In his book, Wiser Than Despair: The Evolution of Ideas in the Relationship of Music and the Christian Church, Quentin Faulkner provides a helpful description of how the domination of the Church during the Middle Ages affected worship and music, for good and for ill:
- Financial support for the church was from taxes; therefore “in no way, then, was the church dependent on popular opinion.” In fact, it dictated what popular opinion would be.
- All activities in the church (including music) were geared to the learned ecclesiastical aristocracy.
- The medieval church continued and intensified the conservatism of the early church.
- Christianity permeated all of life, including all artistic endeavors.
- Medieval Christians were just as fully world-conscious as their early Christian forebears.
- There was an almost total emphasis on God’s radical transcendence, to the exclusion of his immanent, personal quality.
- The church’s liturgy was splendid, ceremonial, and ritualistic in part because it was considered to be the divinely revealed earthly counterpart of the worship of God in heaven.
- Since the liturgy was considered to be not of earthly, but rather of heavenly origin, it became essential, indeed crucial that its conduct be as “perfect” as humanly possible.
- The clergy controlled and made all music in the church.
- Music practice followed theory and was carefully controlled by it.
- “Musicality” meant reflective of divine harmony rather than subjective expression.
Quentin Faulkner, Wiser Than Despair, 88-92.