He clearly recognizes the benefits of music, but he also recognizes the danger of exalting the music or style of music over the words. He notes that when he does this, he needs to repent: "When in my own case it happens that the singing has a more powerful effect on me than the sense [or meaning] of what is sung, I confess my sin and my need of repentance, and then I would rather not hear any singer." (10.33.50)
If what Augustine says is right, this raises a critical question: Since the "worship wars" focus primarily on style rather than the substance of songs, is the whole debate a sign of misplaced and even sinful priorities in our worship? After all, there are plenty of lyrically and doctrinally bad hymns and praise songs, but we generally don't fight about those; we fight more about style. So should we divide church services according to "traditional" and "contemporary"? Doesn't this potentially show a sinful attachment to the style rather than the substance? Would a complete rejection of either "traditional" or "contemporary" worship styles also be a sign of sinful attachment?
I don't have all the answers on these points, but I do have plenty of questions, and I think Christians could benefit from drawing on Augustine's wisdom here. If we do so, we will acknowledge the proper role of style and beauty in pointing us to God but also the constant temptation to love the beauty and style of a song more than the God to whom it should point. If the "love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit," (Rom. 5:5), then how can we do any less than recognize the foolishness of divisive quarreling over musical style? Isn't that grieving the very God we claim to want to worship? But then, maybe what the worship wars teach us is that the focus of our worship is generally not the true God, but an idol: ourselves.