A systematic consideration of the multiple relationships between aesthetics and religion demands a sorting-out of concepts and issues. “Aesthetics” may be understood as practice (art) and as theory. It can refer to a number of overlapping subjects, including art, symbol, feeling, beauty, taste, imagination, and perception. A theological or religious aesthetics considers any of these topics in the light of God, revelation, and the sacred. The contemporary world has seen a renewal of interest in religious aesthetics. Art has been increasingly recognized as an important theological “text” that complements the written word, and as a crucial component of communication of the Christian message. The theological consideration of art and beauty is made complex by the secularization of the contemporary world, which raises the question of the relation of aesthetics to Christian “conversion.”
This chapter focuses on the applied aesthetics of Anglican worship. As a seventeenth-century development, with definitive roots in the sixteenth-century Reformation, as well as in the Western Catholic tradition, Anglican aesthetics is a complex interaction of all sorts of factors, theological, cultural, and historical, which at times make it appear contradictory, even dysfunctional. Beginning with the particular case study of the opening Eucharist of the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the chapter goes on to show how Anglican identity in worship has from its very beginnings been constantly evolving and responding to new contextual challenges. After discussing the importance of church music and hymnody and charting its development through the centuries, it moves on to describe the architectural shape of the liturgy which has also evolved along with changing patterns of worship. It concludes by suggesting that it will continue to evolve into the future in as yet uncharted ways.
Michael J. Gilmour
Few contemporary artists have endured so long, reinvented themselves so frequently and successfully (folk, rock, country, gospel music), and contributed in such diverse media (music, film, poetry, prose, sketches) as Bob Dylan. What is more, there may be no other artist of the 20th and 21st centuries with such an unusual list of significant honours: Grammy Awards; an Academy Award (2000); a Polar Music Prize (2000); a Kennedy Center Honour (1997); honorary doctorates (Princeton University; St Andrew's University); nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature; and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation (2008), among them. In addition to this impressive list, Bob Dylan's music and writing is often the subject of serious academic analysis from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including literary, cultural, religious, and music studies. This article argues that the use of the Bible in the songs and other art forms that comprise the Bob Dylan canon defies simplistic systematization and containment within categories. Dylan's art is idiosyncratic, involves constant blending and bending of his sources, and is often inconsistent; a biblical image or phrase used one way in one time and place may appear quite different in another.
On Sundays around Word and Table and at prayer during the week, Christians in their worship have created music for congregational assemblies and for choirs, spawning artistic “folk” music and “art” music by remarkably able composers, among them anonymous persons, as well as those whose names we know, such as J. S. Bach. Some Christians have objected to music, obliterating it altogether from worship or restricting it, but over the long haul it has blossomed artistically and freely in various styles and forms. This chapter describes positions that have been taken and gives a brief history of the church’s encounter with music, from generative psalms and canticles to the present.
This article focuses on the libretto and musical setting of The Messiah. Handel and his librettist, Charles Jennens, provide a rounded and convincing impression of Jesus as Messiah through textual and musical allusion and resonance. Part of the potency of the libretto lies in its ‘blanks’, what it leaves unsaid (and unsung), thus inviting the listener to construct the necessary connections. The music provides ‘harmony’ in more than just its musical sense, melding Old Testament prophecy to the Christian perspective in a way that exceeds what the texts can do on their own. Scraps of biblical text, only sporadically continuous, are somehow rendered part of the one work, or rather the one experience that the listener witnesses in a single performance. Music thus functions as a form of rhetoric, rendering a message convincing through emphasis, repetition, elaboration, and a rich array of emotional constructs that can capture the listener's attention over the span of time delineated by the musical forms.
Guy L. Beck
This chapter discusses the theoretical and practical dimensions of music in Hinduism, including the philosophy of sacred sound (Nāda-Brahman), the aesthetics of rasa (“taste”), the rise of Saṅgīta (music) as a component of pūjā (worship) and early drama, the Sanskrit musical treatises of Bharata and Dattila, the development of rāga (melodic pattern) and tāla (rhythmic cycle) from early scales and Sāma-Gāna (Sama-Veda chant), musical instruments, bhakti (devotion), and various classical and devotional genres of Bhakti-Saṅgīta, including Kriti, Dhrupad, Khyāl, Haveli-Saṅgīta, Samāj-Gāyan, Bhajan, and Nām-Kīrtan, within southern (Carnatic) and northern (Hindustani) traditions. Music is essential to Hindu mythology, where divine beings perform and instruct humans in the gentle art that facilitates both enjoyment (bhukti) and liberation (mukti). Prevalent in sacrifices, temple rites, domestic worship, sectarian movements and films, music is invariably part of Hindu worship in India or the Diaspora.
Frank Burch Brown
When the arts are mapped onto the terrain of religion, art itself looks different, as does religion, and one sees more plainly how each shapes the other and, at times, becomes part of the other. There is a progressively wider distribution of religion scholarship concerned with artistic and aesthetic matters, whether explicitly religious or implicitly so (when it is often termed “spiritual”). That ever widening interest in religion and the arts is not, however, accompanied by an equally wide distribution of expertise. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts is designed to draw on the best international scholarship to open up cross-disciplinary conversation that is increasingly needed so as to understand a fuller range of artistic ways of being religious, and of religious ways of being artistic. Artistry, far from receding in religious significance, as Hegel had predicted, has developed a life of its own that, nonetheless, transfigures the realm of religion, and is in turned changed by the forms of religion, both old and new. The mutual transfiguration of art and religion, in a variety of modes, is something scholars of both art and religion need to acknowledge and study as that transpires in new ways, some of which are only now coming into view.
Following the advent of Islam, conquerors and conquered developed a new art music whose great success arose through the integration of disparate elements and a subtle process of Arabization. The new art is described in writings of the epoch as intertwined with related areas of knowledge. Quite early, a hostile attitude appeared on the part of radical jurists and theologians, who argued against the harmful influence of music and its devilish origin. They derived their evidence from the Qur’an and the hadīth (Traditions of the Prophet). In their opinion on art music, the partisans of the prohibition described other forms of sound combinations such as folk songs and the chanting or cantillation of Qur’ān as “non-music.” Unlike the hostile attitude of the radical theologians, the Sufi mystical orders exalt in their doctrine music and dance as an essential and vital part of their beliefs and ritual.
This chapter discusses music in Jewish contexts from the Bible until the present day. Music in Jewish religious life historically and at present includes cantillation of the Bible, the chanting of prayers, and synagogue song. Various forms of liturgical music developed among Ashkenazic Jews (Jews who lived in Europe) with nusach, modal chanting of prayers that was led by the chazzan. The artistically embellished prayer known as chazzanut is a unique musical and liturgical development. Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews (Jews whose heritage is in the Mediterranean and Middle East) adopted a range of musical styles from their surroundings. The adaptation of a known song in this region to religious poetry is known as piyyutim, a well established practice for hundreds of years. Comments on modern trends on a variety of issues conclude this chapter.
This article surveys the repertoire of Holocaust-related music — a category encompassing commemorative music, musical settings of relevant texts, and works dramatizing events in Holocaust history — in classical and popular genres, and places these works in the context of stylistic trends and cultural-political developments. It also identifies the repertoire's most frequently employed subjects and texts — the Warsaw ghetto, Auschwitz, Anne Frank (1929–1945), children's poetry from Theresienstadt — and discusses Holocaust representation in folk song, topical song, rock and roll, jazz, and rap.
Frank Burch Brown
Music has often been regarded as the most directly emotional of the arts and the art most intimately involved with religious and spiritual life. In the endeavor to understand music's relation to emotion and religion, a variety of approaches and disciplines are relevant. There are, for example, scientific and psychological studies that can yield insight into the character of musical and emotional response, and of music's access to the affective life. Thus, multiple disciplines are pertinent, from musicology (including ethnomusicology) and history to philosophy, psychology, and various branches of religious studies, particularly theology and comparative religions. This essay deals with historical perspectives, major theories, and current issues regarding music, emotion, and religion. It begins by considering classic and exceptionally enduring images and ideas of music, including the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus. It then considers musical ethics and metaphysics in the West from antiquity through the Renaissance. The essay also examines remaining issues and unresolved tensions about music, emotion, and religion.
Philip V. Bohlman
The growth of Jewish studies has made it possible to talk about Jewish music in entirely new and even radically different ways. Since the 1970s, the study of music has developed as one of the most productive areas of research in Jewish studies itself, and since the early 1990s discussions about Jewish music have assumed a position as one of the most challenging arenas for research and debate in musicology and ethnomusicology. For the purposes of this article, the subdisciplines and subfields of musical scholarship that have entered into productive dialogue with Jewish studies are included under the larger disciplinary umbrella of ‘Jewish music research’. The shift from Judaism and Jewish practice to music and musical practice has unfolded slowly during a period of about two centuries, but accelerated rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century, during which Jewish music research has virtually exploded.
Swee Hong Lim
This article looks at the practice of music and hymnody in various Asian contexts that are not necessarily Methodist, but are significant in affording us a glimpse of the general state of music and hymnody in Asia. At the same time, it offers some thoughts on the contextualisation of church music that can elucidate current developments in music and hymnody. It is crucial that ‘hymnody’ is not taken in its strictest hymnological sense, i.e., strophic verses set to music. Rather, it needs to be defined as pieces of music sung by the congregation in Christian worship. Hymnody needs to encompass strophic, composed, and short, repetitive song types.
Frank Burch Brown
Religious uses of music are highly varied, manifold, and yet selective. Some traditions, such as Islam, are wary of employing music in worship. By contrast, the Christian Mass can sometimes be musical throughout. Music’s powers, often regarded religiously as God-given, have much to do with its intimate connection with emotion. Music is involved in trance or in mystical states, and engages in acts of prayer, proclamation, and praise. It functions communally to establish religious identity. When combined with specific Christian teachings, music can also function sacramentally. Since antiquity, moreover, music has been associated with mathematical order and harmony, tuning the soul to the divine and to the cosmos. In all these ways music appears able to transform, and not merely reflect, religious perceptions and experience.
Jeremy S. Begbie
Order and Uniformity, Decorum, and Taste: Sermons Preached at the Anniversary Meeting of the Three Choirs, 1720–1800
The Three Choirs Festival is considered the world’s oldest music festival, dating back to the eighteenth century, when it was known as the Anniversary Meeting of the Three Choirs. This article focuses on the sermons preached during the Anniversary Meetings of the Three Choirs from 1720-1800. There are only twenty-nine published sermons that survive from the more than eighty Anniversary Meetings that were held during this period. The sermons offer valuable insights about the social, political, and religious context of eighteenth-century English church music, and the attitudes of those who sought to uphold its continued use.
David W. Stowe
Religious music functions both to create group identities and to dissolve social boundaries. Historically, American music has been characterized by racial and religious crossover. While many ethnic groups have participated in constituting American music, the most seminal crossovers have occurred between African and European Americans. Jazz was shaped largely by the interactions of Jews and African Americans. Gospel music developed from the interaction of vernacular slave spirituals, Protestant hymns, and the secular blues. Christian hymns have been thoroughly indigenized by many Native American groups. Compared to Buddhists and Jews, American Hindus and Muslims have made few musical adaptations of their worship music, but their music has been widely sampled in American popular styles. In recent decades, mainline Protestant hymnals have come to reflect the deeply multicultural reality of American sacred song.
Music, a source of motivation, well-being, entertainment, and survival in diverse lives of African Americans, has afforded them experiences of signifying their humanity amidst horrific oppression, while engaging in creativity, worship, and rituals of celebration. Rooted within African traditions, where sacred and secular are one, some African American musical genres are more fluid, engaging a tension between how people label and use music. This music shares common traditions and attributes. Using themes of poetry, praise, power, protest, philosophy, and politics, this analysis of African American sacred and secular music: (1) introduces the socio-historical, cultural, cosmological origins and terminology of this music; (2) examines selected musical typologies, from antebellum Spirituals to hip-hop and contemporary classical African American music that foregrounds tenets of so-called sacred and secular music; (3) explores a religious/spiritual impact of these cultural artifacts; and (4) concludes with a literature review of scholarship regarding African American sacred and secular music.
Rosalind I. J. Hackett
Sounding or listening practices are central to most forms of religious activity, and in some traditions particular spirits or deities, even the universe itself, may be associated with particular sounds. The chapter explores the significance and potential of a sound-based approach to the study of religion using the themes of voice, ritual instruments, and spatiality. Such an approach is timely given the growing attention to the phenomenon of sound, noise, and silence in a range of academic disciplines from ethnomusicology to ecology, and physics to phenomenology. A more sonically aware religious studies provides new analytical insights into forms of religious mediation, expression, and communication, notably in those cultures that do not privilege visuality. Moreover, new forms of technological mediation that have transformed the capacity to amplify, record, transmit, modify, and repurpose religiously or spiritually significant sounds call for our scholarly attention.