Religion on Musical Development

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Religion's Profound Effect on Musical Development

Religion has been an important part of man's life. Man has allowed religion to control and influence his life in many different ways, affecting both his behavior and his actions. So its not surprising that music, one of man's earliest expressive forms, has also been influenced by religion. Religion has had an effect on man's music all throughout history, from the early Egyptians to even now. So it is only natural that Western music should also have been affected by religion. Western music, and its development by composers, has been strongly influenced by the Christian religion, especially in the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. The music in these periods laid the foundation for all the different types of music we enjoy today.

During the Medieval period the Catholic Church had an enormous amount of power and control over the people of that time. The Medieval period began with the collapse of the Roman Empire around the year 450. Then with much of Europe in disarray, the Roman Catholic Church, the main unifying force at the time, unified many cultures together. "All segments of society felt the powerful influence of the Roman Catholic Church. In this age of faith, hell was very real and heresy was the gravest crime" (Kamien 63). The church controlled everything and it was of greatest importance in this period. "Very little non-Christian music from this period survived, due to its suppression by the Church and the absence of music notation…" (History of Music). The enormous Gothic Cathedrals and churches demonstrate how powerful and important the church was. The amount of physical labor put into each one shows the devotion of the people to God and the church in the medieval time period. Life in these times revolved around the church so it makes sense that the music of this time also revolved around it. The composers of this era were often involved with the church. They were usually priests, monks, or nuns. For example Hildegard of Bingen, a nun from Germany, who, wrote many musical pieces and other forms of art.

"For over one thousand years the official music of the Roman Catholic church had been Gregorian Chant, which consists of melody set to sacred Latin texts and sung without accompaniment" (Kamien 67). The credit for developing Gregorian chant music, also known as plainchant, goes to Pope Gregory the first. In reality, Gregorian chant had evolved over many centuries from Jewish synagogues. The Gregorian chant was basically the main type of music in the medieval period. Gregorian chants were monophonic in nature and were used by the Catholic Church to add an otherworldly quality to the mass. "Chant survived and prospered in monasteries and religious centers throughout the chaotic years of the early middle ages, for these were the places of greatest stability and literacy" (Medieval Music). Gregorian chant was the only type of music that was generally accepted by the church. All instrumental musical pieces were rejected by the church because of its idea that they were more secular in nature. The church had the power to, and usually did, censor secular music that it found to be objectionable. This caused the development of possibly, many other types of music to be hindered.

"At first Gregorian melodies were passed along by oral tradition, but as the number of chants grew to thousands, they were notated to ensure musical uniformity throughout the western church" (Kamien 69). So it was church music that needed a musical notation system. This system is a great advancement in musical development.

For many years the church's music was predominantly monophonic in texture. Eventually the church started to drift away from the monophonic texture of music and added a second voice to its chant. "Monks in monastery choirs began to add a second melodic line to Gregorian chant. In the beginning, this second line was improvised, not written down; it duplicated...
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