Music and the experience of worship: continuity and change in Reformation Bristol and Gloucestershire, 1530-1642

Barnes, Christopher (2022). Music and the experience of worship: continuity and change in Reformation Bristol and Gloucestershire, 1530-1642. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis examines the multitude of factors involved in the development of contrasting experiences of worship, and particularly the nature and role of musical practices within worship, throughout the Reformation, until around 1642. Through the close study of the geographically adjacent yet highly contrasting regions of Bristol and Gloucestershire it challenges existing scholarly narratives surrounding changes in musical practices within worship throughout the Reformation by presenting a much more varied soundscape than hitherto expressed. It also nuances relationship – often polarised by modern historical and musicological scholarship – between certain musical practices and forms of religious identity, exposing the micropolitics that frequently informed such changes on the ground.

Chapter One of the thesis seeks to identify many of the agents that influenced changes within practices of worship by thematically examining how financial and social factors, institutions, and people were all able to effect change. Chapters Two, Three, and Four examine how these various factors influenced musical practices within worship, focussing on the development of singing, organs, and bells within worship respectively. All four chapters draw heavily from a wide range of sources, including extant churchwardens’ accounts, consistory court records, cathedral records, and records of civic institutions, to provide a detailed study into the development of experiences of worship throughout Reformation Bristol and Gloucestershire.

Through the close examination of practices, this thesis will demonstrate how a whole host of agents were able to influence experiences of worship, either independently or interacting with a combination with other factors. It will also show the unique character of each church’s soundscape of worship, illustrating the micropolitics involved in any change in musical practice. Whilst preferences for certain practices are certainly attributable to particular religious groups, the relationships between actual practices and identities were often more nuanced than hitherto recognised. As such, music within worship was, under the right conditions, often more flexible and durable than existing scholarship has suggested.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
M Music and Books on Music > M Music


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