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date: 27 January 2021


Abstract and Keywords

This introductory chapter lays the groundwork for the volume, outlining an “ethnomusicology of Christianity” directed at ways of defining and historicizing the relationship between Christianity and its musics in transnational and cross-cultural perspectives. It identifies the movement of Christian musics across space and time, tracking their circulation and transformation over a long historical canvas, as well as the broad range of modalities of encounter and exchange mediated by Christian musicking. The chapter addresses modes of musical imposition, exchange, and transformation in Western missions and colonial projects; cultural boundary openings and closings as managed musically by utopian Christian communities; Christian musics as tools for constructing and challenging “musical spaces”; Christian music within transnational flows of global capitalism; and the ways Christianity is part of musical experience in places where it is a seemingly ever-present dimension of everyday life.

Keywords: ethnomusicology of Christianity, missions, globalization, worship wars, music making, religious practice, cosmopolitanism, utopianism, colonialism

From Western European common practice to a panoply of modal musics, from highly professional cathedral choirs and orchestras to the millions of amateur singing groups, from the processional bands and pilgrims’ chants to the guitars and “new music” of revivals and youth camps, and from the folias de reis and congados of Brazilian vernacular Catholicism to Christian p’ansori in Korea, across the ages Christian worship has resonated to a diversity of musical sounds and styles. Wherever Christianity has established roots, it has become a locus of musical expression. The sounds of the world’s Christianities articulate historical connections as well as disjunctures, joining and dividing Christian communities across the globe.

This volume investigates the role of these diverse musics in the construction, circulation, experience, and practice of world Christianities. From its very emergence, a universalism within Christianity has pushed it outward across the world, particularly through mission work. Christian doctrine, however, has never traveled by itself; it has always been accompanied by its associated aesthetic and expressive forms and practices. Because of its potential to encourage collective communal activity, music has frequently served as a central pillar in the work of religious conversion, but it has also been crucial in sustaining Christian communities and to marking and making relations among Christians.

By studying Christian repertoires, new ways to characterize and nuance the movements and mixtures of world Christianities are made possible. This is because music is accessible as a circulating set of texts and practices that powerfully present ritual, theology, and identity logics in what are often experience-rich settings. Perhaps more profoundly, musical practices can also connect actors in different cultural and geographic locations, presenting a space of shared intimacy even when symbolic understandings of those practices diverge. In other words, the possibilities music has historically (p. 2) presented within world Christianity for sharing a sonic space and making music together suggest that if we wish to understand not only the divisions but also the ties that attend world Christianities, we need to take account of the ontological aspects of practice, of being together, and not focus only on the symbolic or meaningful aspects of Christian ritual and text.

In this introduction we lay the groundwork for addressing the arguments outlined above by asking how one might define and historicize Christianity and its relationship to music. The prevalence of missions, if this history is situated within Western colonial relations, is key here, but it is important to remember that “missions” take numerous forms, and that they are not the only means through which Christian aesthetic practices have circulated and continue to circulate globally. In identifying the breadth of ways Christianity and its musics move across space and time, our orientation articulates with a general shift in anthropological thinking away from a focus on geographical areas as stable repositories of culture, toward an understanding of “culture” as a site of encounter and exchange. Thus, by tracking the circulation and transformation of music over a long historical canvas, the study of Christian repertoires offers us a way to consider a broad range of modalities of encounter and exchange, which, taking place within a Christian framework, are suffused with moral overtones of a truth regime. These modalities might include the investigation of musical imposition, exchange, and transformation in Western missions and colonial projects; cultural boundary openings and closings as they are managed musically by utopian Christian communities; Christian musics as tools for constructing and challenging “musical spaces,” processes that can take place within worship as well as in the demarcation of sacred locations through monuments, processions, and pilgrimages; Christian music within transnational flows of global capitalism; and finally, the ways Christianity is part of musical experience in places where it is a seemingly ever-present dimension of everyday life. Through ethnographic studies of Christian repertoires in these diverse spheres, we hope to expand the understanding of the role of music in the formation of Christian identities as local as well as trans-local imaginings.

Ethnomusicologists and Christianity

Music has constituted a central avenue of participation in corporate worship for Christians: a widespread and highly diverse avenue of musicking when explored in a global frame. Until recently, however, ethnomusicological researchers in the United States have been relatively uninterested in (and sometimes even hostile toward) the cross-cultural study of Christian musics. One reason for this is surely that, in many of the canonical areas explored by the discipline, it is nearly impossible to dissociate Christianity from a history of missionizing projects, which have often been understood (across the disciplines) as modes of cultural imperialism and as threats to the integrity of local musics and cultures (Dunch 2002; Ringer 1991: 190).1

(p. 3) Several British and American anthropologists, in arguing for a comparative anthropology that takes Christianity seriously, have made comments that resonate with the ways ethnomusicology has engaged with Christianity. They observe that anthropology has often treated Christianity as a “secondary phenomenon” of other historical and material processes (Cannell 2006: 29). Joel Robbins contends that this is the result of the problematic status, within the academy, of mission efforts and “the seductions of the colonial or Western orders the missionaries represent, or of shifts in belief systems required by the ‘radical socioeconomic dislocation’ of global capitalism” (2004: 2).2 Thus Christianity is not read as a “cultural” site of inquiry with its own categories, values, and coherence, but rather as a “loss of culture” (Robbins 2004: 30). The problem here is twofold, argues theologian and anthropologist Lamin Sanneh: first, Christianity is elided with “modernization” (i.e., Westernization), and the relatively complicated variety of “missionary practices and effects on the ground” is ignored in favor of what are assumed to be imperialist “missionary motives,” limiting the geographic and cultural complexity of analyses that can be produced about both “Christianity” and “modernity”; second, this approach ignores the “profound indigenous self-understanding[s]‌” that in many cases characterize Christianities outside the West (Sanneh 1991: 174). Robbins (2004) suggests, then, that what is needed in an “anthropology of Christianity” is a perspective that focuses on the point of view of the Christians, giving them the same anthropological attention granted any other aspect of the culture under investigation.

It is worth noting, however, that outside the Anglo-American West, most notably in Latin America, where scholars have been far less hindered by the anxieties associated with the imperialist overtones of Protestant missionizing, an understanding of Christianity as an integral cultural backdrop has been operational more or less since the establishment of anthropology in the region, so much so that in Brazil, for example, Catholicism was considered central to sustaining a fatalistic ethos among the nation’s vast subaltern populations. Precisely because it was seen to have this pervasive conservative impact on society, anthropologists avoided research on Christianity, preferring to focus on arenas more likely to challenge these conformist forces. With the rise of liberation theology, anthropological orientations toward Catholicism shifted to focus more on Christian agency, first within the church itself (e.g., Bruneau 1982; Macedo 1986), then extending into the domain of vernacular Catholicism (e.g., Brandão 1981, 1985; Zaluar 1983; Maués 1995). One could argue, then, that in Latin America an “anthropology of Christianity” anticipated by several decades its contemporary Anglo-American counterpart.

Mainstream ethnomusicology has more or less mirrored anthropology in its engagement with Christianity (as Robbins and others have formulated it), in that it has generally been treated either as a component emerging in response to other local cultural and material systems, such that it becomes part of the background rather than the foreground of analysis (e.g., Titon 1988; Patterson 1995), or as an agent of cultural and musical loss in conjunction with other processes of Westernization or global capital.3 Michelle Kisliuk, for instance, wrestled with how to reconcile her desire to incorporate a strong sense of agency in her analyses of Central African Ba’aka people’s engagements (p. 4) with modernity (understood locally and in terms of appropriated Westernisms) and her concern that Ba’aka were abandoning traditional dances and musics because missionaries had called them “Satanic” (Kisliuk 1998). Kisliuk’s treatment of her coming to terms with this thorny analytical problem is thoughtful, persuasive, and self-reflexive, demonstrating her cognizance of the fact that, in the end, she too intervenes in Ba’aka society and articulates an ethical position in doing so. However, the question remains as to what perspectives might have emerged if the primary subjects of Kisliuk’s account were either the missionaries or the Christian Ba’aka—that is, if the question of how to analyze these musical developments had been framed in a way that focused on mission-related Christianity as it is experienced and lived by Ba’aka Christians. What transformations occurred in these new religious and musical materials, and how have they affected religiosity for the Ba’aka? Furthermore, in what ways were the missionaries transformed through their encounter and coexistence with the Ba’aka, and what changes did they or their institutions undertake afterward? How might these changes have articulated with and/or challenged global economies of power and meaning?

A further dynamic to consider in understanding ethnomusicology’s relations to Christianity derives from the fact that many ethnomusicologists across the world are institutionally located in schools of music that are for the most part invested in Western art music. This means that for many of them it becomes an important matter of everyday negotiation to assert the value of non-Western musical traditions, heightening ethnomusicology’s investments in musics that can be presented as “authentic” representatives of tradition within bounded cultural units.4 Moreover, many ethnomusicologists in the West were trained as Western art musicians and thus are heirs of Western art music’s dual affiliations with Christianity—through the long tradition of art music composed for the church and through the sublimation of sacrality into the romantic image of composer as genius, as inspired, and of the concert hall as temple or cathedral (Goehr 1992). If they then choose to invest themselves in non-Western musics, as many who decide to become ethnomusicologists do, they may well encounter the invocation of those kinds of “sacrality” that Nettl (1995) and Kingsbury (1988) found in American schools of music, in relation to art music marked as Western and Christian. While it would be a stretch to claim that Western art music is thus the “internally repugnant other” that Harding (1991) suggested American conservative Christianity is for anthropology—many ethnomusicologists love Western art music, and some study it—ideologies associated with Western art music continue to be a stumbling block within Western schools of music for the acceptance of non-Western musics as “art” and “music” of the same stature, a critique eloquently raised by Kofi Agawu (2003). These factors, while they point to laudable politics and ethics within ethnomusicology, might also account for some of the reticence with which ethnomusicologists have approached the musical ethnography of Christian groups as such.

With Sanneh, then, we argue that studies of Christianity and its musics must pay attention to the ground level, embracing both the historicity and the ethnographic present of those under investigation, and we agree that missions and mission-related musics have been too often examined reductively. But we would extend Sanneh’s exhortation to (p. 5) encompass not only missions but all the dynamics of movement and enclosure that have characterized Christianity and its musics. To take up these issues, we must first indicate what is to be understood by the “Christian world,” who belongs to it, and what musical practices might be encompassed within “Christian practice.” It is to these considerations that we now turn.

Tracing World Christianities

In problematizing the anthropological domain of “religion” more generally, Talal Asad (1993) showed that the category of the “religious” in medieval Europe differed from that of modern Europe; thus he suggests that scholars need to investigate how the category of the “religious” is constructed, and how it shifts over time in a given site, before identifying aspects of that site as “religious” (Keane 2007; Engelke 2007). Similarly, the realm of Christianity has been continuously constructed and reconstructed across time and space, its boundaries drawn and redrawn through processes of inclusion and exclusion among the diverse communities identifying themselves as Christian, whether or not these same groups identify each other as having an equally valid claim to being “Christian.” Indeed, the very dissemination of Christianity since its emergence in biblical times highlights the plurality in the nodes that comprise “world Christianity.” To illustrate the diversity of intra-Christian linkages and fissures, we offer a very schematic narrative of Christianity’s spread. Of course we make no claims to completeness here in addressing such a vast historical and geographical terrain; our narrative is instead a brief illustration and orientation that aims, first, to identify some of the historical expansions and divisions in Christianity that are helpful in understanding the arguments made in this book, and second, to point to the diversity of periods and motivations under which missions took place and to a variety of other ways in which Christianity has spread and continues to spread. Crucially, we argue that while Christianities are historically connected with one another, and thus many musical repertoires are shared among Christianities, many of the key linkages and expansions within Christian history are the products of schism and difference, which often are marked by the intentional use of musical differentiation as well.

A straightforward definition of Christianity might claim that it is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the scriptures; this locates Christianity theologically in its relationship to the monotheistic tradition of Judaism, textually in the scriptures, and historically in relation to the person of Jesus Christ. But scriptures must be interpreted, and, needless to say, interpretations vary widely. Nonetheless, some fundamental doctrines are broadly (if not universally) shared among churches (or within the Church, as Orthodox Christians, for example, might frame it), paramount among them being the concept of salvation. Salvation is premised on a dualistic universe comprising a spiritual and a material domain, in which it is held that (p. 6) human beings can only be admitted to the superior spiritual domain through the agency of the divine.

Much of Western Christianity’s soteriological orientation is linked to the doctrine of “original sin,” the notion that humans are born with a hereditary stain as a consequence of their descent from Adam, who sinned. In other words, all humans are born fallen creatures and therefore tend toward sinfulness and are mortal. To overcome their mortality, humans must somehow be redeemed—or saved—from sin. Through his own death and resurrection, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, creates the means for this redemption—the only means. This set of beliefs is rooted in Pauline texts, the earliest texts of the New Testament.5 Drawing on Paul, the doctrine of original sin was first developed in the second-century writings of Irenaeus, and formalized later in Augustine’s fourth- and fifth-century writing; other early Christian theologians, such as Origen, wrote on universal redemption.

Just as the early church engaged in heated debates over theologies of sin and salvation, these themes have continued to exercise world Christianities, with a broad range of ideas still being defended by different Christian groups. But both “original sin” and “universal redemption” justified Christianity’s concern with proselytization. Pauline texts, which indicated the availability of salvation to all by the grace of God through Christ, effected a crucial shift in evangelism (the spreading of the “good news” of Jesus) for the nascent Christians (Robert 2009: 10–14). While the immediate followers of Jesus Christ concerned themselves primarily with establishing Jesus as Messiah within Judaism, Paul began to proselytize the Gentiles as well as the Hellenic Jewish diaspora.

Paul’s letters record both proselytization and pastoral mediation aimed at nurturing and linking Christian churches and households, which often evidenced deep cultural and theological divisions. Evangelism by the early church, in the Pauline mode, focused on the Greeks living throughout Asia Minor and Syria, but it would soon spread to Europe—particularly the Balkans, Greece, and Rome—as well as to the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. Several scholars argue that in the same period—between the time of Paul and that of Constantine—Christianity (perhaps primarily) spread through interpersonal relationships and the medium of the household (Stark 1997; Meeks 2003). Independent of one another, the converts formed small, localized, self-sufficient communities that rearticulated Christian teachings in terms of their immediate surroundings, spawning, from the very beginning, as many Christianities as there were communities of Christians.

Perhaps the single most significant event that altered the direction of Christian expansionism was the conversion of Constantine in the early third century. In conquering Rome, Constantine created the conditions for the incorporation of Christianity into empire, which greatly facilitated its expansion. This transition, however, made for a radical shift in Christian theology and polity: Christianity would now have to be capable of legitimating the authority of the emperor and the social, economic, and militaristic project of Rome. Christian theology, too, became more unified as Christian communities became linked within the networks of empire, most (p. 7) significantly through the first Ecumenical Council, in which church leaders were called together by Constantine at his palace at Nicaea and wrote the Nicene Creed, a set of core doctrines that united much of the Christian world (McGuckin 2008: 14–15).

From the third century onward, then, concerted efforts to confer unity upon the myriad Christian communities (particularly those within the Roman Empire) were initiated, as state authorities believed, rightly or wrongly, that the unity of the empire could be more easily assured through religious unity across its territories. This is not to say, however, that theological disputes and divides in this period emerged from “state authorities” as if they were located outside of the church; indeed, the domain of the “secular” as an officially recognized divide between church and state was not yet instituted, so it is better to note that empires, states, and theological developments overlapped and intertwined. Although the Roman Empire fell long before the whole of Europe had been Christianized, Christian missions continued along and beyond the lines of empire, generating “national” churches that often developed quite unique profiles and traditions, despite the efforts of councils summoned to address contested doctrines and define orthodoxies and heresies.

Christianity indeed may have given some degree of cultural unity to Europe, particularly during the High Middle Ages; as Philip Jenkins argues, it did so to a significant degree in the Near East as well (2008). But these unities were not achieved without triggering an institutional schism within the church: the separation of the Eastern and Western churches in 1054, foreshadowed centuries earlier in the debate over the doctrine of the Filioque, in which a change to the Nicene Creed was seen by Easterners as the introduction of a hierarchical structure within the Trinity (McGuckin 2008: 20). This schism was preceded by those between the groups that became the Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East (Jenkins 2008: x–xi), differing in their beliefs about the relationship between the divine and human elements in Jesus Christ. These schisms point to an important dynamic in the history of Christianity: while the orientation within Christianity is to lay claim to universal truths, not only material differences but also the interpretive nature of the scriptures and of Christian theological writing (a site of contest as well as commonality) laid the groundwork for a diversity of Christianities.

Western observers have often seen the differences between Orthodox and Catholic Churches (sometimes glossed as “Eastern” versus “Western”) as primarily a matter of religious orientation—the one more transcendental, contemplative, and mystical, the other more immanent and pragmatic—but from Orthodox theological perspectives, unity, identity, and schism are defined in terms of doctrine (McGuckin 2008: 5, 26). While Orthodoxy sees itself as the “true” church for steadfastly keeping to the doctrines laid out by the Apostolic Fathers and Ecumenical Councils, the Roman Catholic Church operates according to the principle of the “development of doctrines,” the idea that, even if doctrines remain unchanged, their meanings unfold over time, such that as knowledge and understandings develop, so too does the interpretive wisdom of the church. Orthodoxy has retained, for the most part, a degree of unity in terms of doctrine, though it is structured through “national” institutions (i.e., Russian Orthodox (p. 8) Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Polish Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, etc.) (McGuckin 2008: 26) of remarkable cultural diversity.6

But in the West, following the onset of the Protestant movement in the 16th century, Christianity experienced ever greater fragmentation. This fragmentation included, of course, the Protestant Reformation and its impact on religiosity in Europe, but also the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic expansion to Africa, South America, and the Far East. The “radical” wing of the Reformation, including the Anabaptists and the Nonconformist churches, produced yet another series of fragmentations, compounded by the move to America of many nonconformists (Baylor 1991; Dyck 1993). Both among these “radical” sects, some of which were strongly evangelical in orientation, and within more mainline Protestant churches, the 19th century saw a large expansion of missions. These missions overlapped with Euro-colonialism and interacted with it in a complex variety of ways. Missions represented a set of institutions and practices that, despite often being complicit with colonial administration, were not coterminous with it. Crucially, too, as these colonies became nations in the mid-20th century, churches that were formerly mission-related and often led by foreigners became nationalized and increasingly led by citizens of the new nations. Finally, in early 20th-century America, the Pentecostal movement, which located authentic Christianity in direct encounters with the Holy Spirit, began, and spread so rapidly that it is now possible to speak of “global Pentecostalism” (Anderson et al. 2012).

This long series of fragmentations in Christianity is not a story of succession; instead, it has resulted in a highly diverse landscape of Christian groups in competition with one another, each with its own set of doctrinal truths, its modes of promoting and conceptualizing religiosity, and its musical and expressive forms. Yet it also indexes links between branches, articulated through common doctrines, repertoires, and practices that could be—and often have been—deployed to mutual benefit.

The Sounds of World Christianities

Over the centuries, the world’s Christianites have developed a wide range of musical traditions. The early Roman church, for example, sang its mass in unison chants, in a set of melodic modes (often called the “church modes”), which themselves have names pointing to a geographic diversity of musical practices; unison chant is still a part of worship today in many churches. Protestants contributed a broad set of religious poetry, sung as hymns, and a new set of possibilities for liturgical order, distinct from the mass—and distinct too from Orthodox liturgy. Some nonconformist Protestant churches grew and articulated their resistance to states and to the larger churches dominant in their regions with their own hymnody, such as the still-used Amish Ausbund. Some Protestant hymns were sung to popular tunes (as were earlier tropes), aimed at connecting economically disadvantaged persons (and originally, the illiterate) with Christian doctrines and practices. In the modern period, the use of popular tunes in hymnody began to (p. 9) point to an articulation between the (now-separate) spheres of “sacred” and “secular.” This provides us with another persistent spectrum among modern Western churches for both worship service order and musical styles: “high church” practices, which tend toward strict observance of the liturgy of the mass and musics that can be located in its history, as distinct from secular musics; and “low church” practices, which tend toward alternate liturgical orders (sometimes drawing on the mass, sometimes distinct from it) and toward musics that overlap with popular and folk musics. And of course, many other distinctions between musical practice and service types in Orthodox, Catholic, mainline Protestant, and Nonconformist and Pentecostal churches could be drawn—but so could commonalities (Engelhardt 2008). Though Christian groups may have a broad repertoire of some shared beliefs and practices, linked largely through historical overlaps, the processes of music making and the musics made are also linked to doctrinal orientations and religious identities. In effect, the songs Christians sing articulate their historical connections and their divisions, marking boundaries between Eastern and Western Christianities, “high” and “low churches,” “official” and “folk” churches, Catholicism and Protestantism, one Protestant denomination and another, historical Protestantism and Pentecostalism, and so on, these links and fissions themselves shifting over time.

The diverse ways in which Christian communities mark their links and differences also index ways in which Christianity circulates. Consider, for example, the history of the Jesuits in relation to musical production. From the mid-16th century onward, the Jesuits worked extensively as both educators in Europe and missionaries abroad (Aracena 1997; Castagna 1999; Mörner 1999; Summers 1999). While Jesuit musical practices in Europe tended towards the conservative, abroad they both propagated Western culture, through the establishment of such musical institutions as choirs and orchestras attached to their missions, and engaged in the documentation and the borrowing of non-Western musics—in part through transcriptions and descriptions published and read in Europe. Though Jesuit work took place within the framework of paternalist missionizing and education, it also enabled and added to an unequal but multilateral international bureaucracy, transnationally linking institutions that themselves became “owned” parts of local culture. The cateretê, for instance, is an Amerindian dance said to have been adopted by the Jesuits in Southeastern Brazil in their efforts to convert the natives during the early colonial period (de Andrade 1989: 120), yet today it is practiced throughout rural Brazil as a devotional dance to Saint Gonçalo among independent communities far from the (generally disapproving) clerical gaze. Quite surprisingly, this dissemination took place through informal means, completely outside the confines of the institutional framework of the church.

As this example demonstrates, Christian enclaves can be effective vehicles of music circulation, demarcating the historical trajectories of those involved in them. European radical Reformationists, for instance, saw the Americas as both a new frontier for the advancement of a “purified” Christianity as well as a distant and safe refuge from religious persecution. Descendants of these movements have attracted attention from American ethnomusicological writers, such as Jeff Titon (1988), Beverly Bush (p. 10) Patterson (1995), William Dargan (2006), and Kiri Miller (2008). Titon, for example, studied sacred speech, chant, and song among Appalachian Baptists in the Fellowship Independent Baptist Church of Stanley, Virginia. His folklife-oriented analysis of the broader way of life of this congregation emphasized the role of both tradition and agency in accounting for the choices that marked the community as economically and socially different from the mainstream of U.S. society (Titon 1988: 58), as it continues to negotiate its distinctiveness in an ever-changing world. Similarly, in the backlands of Brazil, millenarian folk prophets such as Antônio Conselheiro, Padre Cícero Romão, and Pedro Batista (da Cunha 1944; Della Cava 1970; Monteiro 1974; Pessar 2004) amassed large followings in the early 20th century among the dispossessed, confronting the rationalizing forces of modernity; the benditos of these groups are still sung in such pilgrimage centers as Juazeiro and Canudos (Pessar 2004: 30–31; Santos 1998), continuously resanctifying the trajectories that link devotees of the past to the supplicants of today.

The technological developments linked to the popular music industry have also become vehicles for the circulation of Christian repertoires. In turning her attention to the circulation of Kenyan gospel music, Jean Kidula (2000) has discussed ways in which this has occurred. Kidula claims that, by drawing on European hymnody and on a variety of African and Western popular musics, Kenyan gospel was able to thrive while earlier genres that drew on hymnody, such as makwaya, failed to achieve broad popularity as mediated popular musics in the country, in part because it did not engage with “indigenous idioms, proverbs, and metaphors.” But Christianity was pervasive enough in public culture that the Kenyan government’s television station included Christian programming, and invited pioneering gospel artist Faustin Munishi to perform in 1986. Munishi “opened the gospel market” by drawing on a diversity of European and Kenyan resources, transforming Western hymns (such as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”) and biblical and Swahili proverbs (Swahili itself was a recently chosen national language). In other words, European hymns, a repertoire propped up by the weight of colonial authority and the structure of privileges within it, were reframed within and shouldered up against Kenyan elements that were part of a postcolonial nation-building project, and the hybrid outcome of this encounter helped build a national media economy for music in Kenya.

In contrast to Protestant and Catholic narratives rooted in the Euro-colonial moment in Western history, such as those offered above, we might point to descriptions of Christian musics practiced in long-lived Orthodox Christian cultures, such as that of the churches of Ethiopia (Shelemay 1986) or of the Indian state of Kerala (Ross 1979; Puthussery 2003; Palackal 2004), where, as Joseph Palackal shows in his chapter in this volume, the “St. Thomas Christians” have resisted a variety of Latin and Anglo European influences, but have maintained melodies linking them to the ancient cosmopolitanism of Syriac Christianity. Ulrich Beck reminds us that early Christianity was itself a paradigm case of the cosmopolitan imagination, in which individuals reimagined themselves simultaneously in a global and local light, in this case using cultural elements borrowed from both Hebrew and Greek sources (Beck 2004: 147–148; Beck and Sznaider 2007). Or we might suggest that diasporic Korean Protestant churches in the (p. 11) West, and their spectrum of musics—from Christian K-pop to Western religious classical choral music—could represent another kind of cosmopolitanism, in which diasporic agents rearticulate themselves using symbols shared (as commodities and repertoires) between their imagined origins and their (equally imagined) diasporic home.

This fragmentary set of stories suggests that contemporary Christian musics and world Christianities, while situated in a global framework that at its very broadest level is that of a shared religious claim, are at best difficult to depict and at worst profoundly distorted when constructed as a single story. There is no single central narrative on which to draw, and there are of course many other stories that we might have chosen to tell. But these stories also demonstrate that music continues to circulate multilaterally and to powerful effect on the transnational linkages that characterize Christianity.

An Ethnomusicology of Christianity

Christian worship in the world today resounds to a wide range of sounds and musics. As Christianity spread across the globe, Christian repertoires moved as well, adapting and changing in response to local circumstances and agencies. In tracking the spread of Christian repertoires across the globe, an ethnomusicology of Christianity must also interrogate the role of music in Christian worship and practice. The choice of music used and the practices employed in its performance within Christian ritual provide key indicators of the diversity in the modes of religiosity across world Christianities. Indeed, many of the “worship wars” (Herl 2004; Dueck 2011) in contemporary churches in the Western world have been sparked by the introduction of “contemporary worship music,” which in many congregations is displacing traditional hymn singing. While some Christians argue that Christian popular music is necessary to attract young people into the church, to other Christians this music sounds “worldly” rather than religious and worshipful, and its texts, in opposition to traditional hymns, are thought to lack poetic depth and the potential to promote thoughtful contemplation.

These kinds of debates among Christians suggest as much about the centrality of particular experiences of Christian worship as they do about the importance of theologized understandings of what it means to engage in Christian worship. In exploring music in world Christianities, then, the chapters in this book often not only trace musical debates among Christians, but also highlight a tension for the researcher between understanding the musical practices of Christians in terms of their meanings and understanding them as quite particular ways of being-in-the-world together. Anthropologists of Christianity based in Britain and the U.S. have often focused on Christianity’s symbols and their meanings; for example, Asad’s work toward historicizing the nature of “religion” (and “Christianity”) centered on the ways the concept of the “symbol” has been defined (Asad 1993). Webb Keane’s central analytical concept, on which Engelke also draws, is the “semiotic ideology,” pointing to the need to historicize the ways the idea of “symbol” is defined and constructed in a given time and place (Keane 2007; Engelke 2007).

(p. 12) And yet the ability to access symbolic meanings is historically delimited and particular; as Martin Stokes (citing Ardener) argued about ethnicities, religiosities “demand to be seen from the inside” and may not be accessible at all from the outside (Stokes 1994: 7). Religiosities (including Christian ones) present more profound problems for etic analysis than do ethnicities, since while ethnicities emplace their subjects and others within a system of social oppositions, religiosities are modes of experiencing what is “real” and sets of conditions for how religious subjects can know what is “real.” And as the work of Taylor (2007) and Goldstone and Hauerwas (2011) suggests, deep epistemic differences can characterize not only the relationship between secular Western researchers of religion and their subjects, but also the relationship between religiosities in different places and times. What, then, does it mean to speak of “what it means to make music as a Christian” within a world of Christianities that are separated by profound epistemic differences?

We argue here that musical practice and experience present ways to understand Christian musics that are of equal importance to the exploration of Christian musical meanings, theologies, or symbols. Music and the making of music are central pillars in the production of religiosity within religious practice for many Christian communities across the globe. For example, Suzel Ana Reily (2002) has shown how, among the mummer-like ensembles known as folias de reis that re-enact the journey of the Wise Men during the Christmas season in southeastern Brazil, the participatory musicking that takes place during folia performances allows the faithful to “enchant” their religious ideals into existence: what is proclaimed as truth in the texts of the music is simultaneously experienced in the social interactions promoted through collective musical performance. Religiosity in this sphere, as in many subaltern Christian communities around the world, involves the promotion of experiences that articulate a Christian ideal of egalitarianism and mutual obligations; collective musicking instates this (sacred) ideal and sustains it throughout performance—which can involve many hours of continuous musicking.

The egalitarian ethos of subaltern religious sensibilities in Brazil contrasts with the modes of religiosity promoted by the Portuguese authorities during the colonial period, which centered on a baroque aesthetic of ostentation. A grand procession constituted the highlight of every patron saint festival, and these events were—and still are—structured in such a way as to allow for the integration of all sectors of society, though they also clearly demarcated the social status of each participant. In effect, processions collectively dramatized a particular conception of the divine order for society. There is no doubt that baroque ostentations have been used by power holders to display their social positions, but the sense of empowerment that derives from the ability to stage such a grand production has played a pivotal role in sustaining baroque religious sensibilities among vast communities of Catholics with links to the Iberian peninsula. In the former mining towns of Minas Gerais, for instance, local populations continue to make large investments of their time, talents, and money to promote their annual festivals, in order to relive the strong emotions deriving from collective encounters with the sacred that occur during the festival (Reily 2011: 52).

(p. 13) In sum, we want to recall that Christianity is not only about meanings, but is also a sphere of practice and experience. Christianities are not only meaningful; they are being-ful—something that becomes increasingly evident and accessible when participation in the music of Christianities is at the center of the research process. The Zionist congregations that John Blacking ([1980] 1995) documented in South Africa not only chose their hymns for the eschatology of their texts; rather, the way they performed them—singing in a slow, multilayered, harmonic polyphony with extended ornamentation and polyrhythmic handclapping and drumming—made it possible for these Christians to “get the right feeling and bring the Holy Spirit to the congregation” ([1980] 1995, 215). Blacking’s study, like many other musical ethnographies, is a testament to ethnomusicology’s ability to access lived Christian experience. With an analytical toolkit prepared to study musical performance as a site of “feelingful” social relationships emerging from embodied performative practices, an ethnomusicology of Christianity can turn its attention to Christian encounters of acoustic co-presence (Feld and Brenneis 2004), those settings in which participants “tune in” to one another (Schutz [1951] 1977), creating an “enchanted” encounter even when the symbolic meanings of their musical practices do not—or even cannot—cohere. Acoustic “co-presence,” therefore, need not index “consonance”; instead, it is becoming present to one another in a shared sonic space.

Just as a musical co-presence can affect insider participants, scholars have noted that something happens when they engage in making music with their research associates: in this not-yet-representational space of shared practice, new understandings can emerge, affecting both the researcher and the researched. The theorization of such field experiences marked a significant shift in the discipline, placing musical encounters at its very core. Significantly, in Timothy Cooley’s notable historical account of this shift, he turned to the stories of several missionaries, beginning with the writings of 16th-century French missionary Jean de Léry (Cooley 1996: 6–8). During the year de Léry lived in close proximity to the Tupinambá Indians of Brazil, he observed their singing and dancing, which at times seemed distinctly savage and demonic, at others “so harmonious that no one could say they did not know music” (de Léry [1578] 1980: 214). When he burst out singing Psalm 104 in the company of a group of natives, overwhelmed by the beauty of the verdant jungle, his companions were mesmerized. One of them exclaimed: “In truth you sang marvelously well and I felt content to hear a song that reminded me of a friendly nation, our neighbors. But we do not understand your language, so explain your song” (de Léry [1578] 1980: 220). In de Léry’s account, music is presented as a primary vehicle in cross-cultural dialogue: while his respect for their music allowed him to describe Tupinambá belief systems, it was their respect for his music that createed the space for him to explain his theologies.

As ethnomusicology shifts with anthropology from seeing cultures as “discontinuous in space (and hence discrete) and continuous in time (and hence authentic and enduring)” to “continuous in space (and hence interconnected) and discontinuous in time (and hence constantly hybridizing, syncretizing, creolizing)” (Robbins 2004: 5), we are called increasingly to focus not on what Nettl once called “cultural grey-out,” (p. 14) but instead on, as Robertson puts it, the particular and rich grain of “global culture or cultures” (Nettl 1983: 345; Robertson 2007, 1970). The particular empirically existing transnational networks, rooted in both material and ideological exchanges, which are not “new” but long-lived, that Christianity and its musics present has special value for this project because music (as both media and performance practice) can be tracked historically as it circulates across, transforms, and is transformed by linguistic and cultural boundaries. While ethnomusicology can contribute to the project Robbins outlines, involving a more nuanced and historicized understanding of the modalities of “hybridizing, syncretizing, [and] creolizing,” it is especially well equipped to locate this understanding within an experiential framework that identifies the impact of these modalities on the conceptualization of religiosity—that is, of how Christianity is experienced and lived.

Over the past decade or so, a body of ethnomusicological writing that Jeffers Engelhardt has recently called an “ethnomusicology of Christianity” (2009: 33–34) has begun to emerge, encompassing studies dedicated specifically to a cultural understanding of Christian musics and musicking (e.g., Kidula 2000, 2013; Butler 2002; Reily 2002; Lange 2002; Rommen 2006, 2007b; Sherinian 2007, 2012; Butler 2008; Dueck 2008; Engelhardt 2008; Ingalls 2011), as well other studies which to a greater or lesser extent address intercultural musical exchange and Christianity (e.g., Friedson 1996; Kisliuk 1998; Erlmann 1999; Magowan 2007; Titon 1988; Patterson 1995; Dargan 2006). The themes emerging from this new body of literature are multiple and overlapping, including an interest in the role of missions (and associated institutions, particularly mission schools) and missionaries in musical exchange (Kisliuk 1998; Erlmann 1999; Magowan 2007); agency and the hybridization of Christian repertoires in colonial and postcolonial contexts (Reily 2002, 2006; Lucas 2002; Mendoza 2000); inter-Christian relations and musical confrontations (Mazo 2006; Dueck 2011; Barz 2003); the performance of Christian narratives of migrancy, diaspora, and territoriality (Erlmann 1996; Muller 1999); an interest in the history of Christian missions as a window on or forerunner to other processes of globalization and syncretism (Comaroff 1985; Friedson 1996); and an interest in translocally circulating Christian repertoires and aesthetics (Rommen 2007a; Butler 2008; Engelhardt 2008; Ingalls 2008).

While drawing and extending upon the issues above, this handbook has been divided into five parts, each framed in terms of particular modalities of enabling and enclosing Christian musical circulation: missions and musical imposition, exchange, and institutional linkage; the musical construction of Christian spaces as contexts of utopian community and refuge; inter- and intra-Christian musical competition that shifts musical boundaries in sacred space; Christian media flows and musical markets; and the cosmopolitan identities articulated by musics that draw on broadly circulating Christian public cultures. These dynamics both cut across the (geographically and culturally) bounded areas in which ethnomusicology has historically been invested and represent contested and “owned” traditions within those areas.

(p. 15) The Volume and the Contributions

Part 1: Mission Musics, Relationships, and Responses

The first section in this volume looks at how face-to-face interactions established by missionary travels and local agents affected Christian musics, aiming to respond to Lamin Sanneh’s call to describe “missionary practices and effects on the ground” rather than seeing them only as aftereffects or materially oriented instruments of colonialism. This requires historical and field research designs that take seriously both insider and missionary understandings of their musical practices. While this orientation is squarely situated in a Western Christian history, and a predominantly Protestant one at that, it has been formative in Western ethnomusicology’s writing traditions and canonical areas and thus forms an apt starting place for the volume.

We begin with Julia Byl’s chapter, which confronts head on the methodological problems associated with taking account both of insider Christian perspectives and the violence and inequity inscribed in colonial records. Through a case study on the Toba Batak of Northern Sumatra, Byl focuses on a model 19th-century German missionary, whose success in the almost complete conversion of the Toba was predicated on a politics of selective tolerance, in which certain local codes and practices were encouraged, while others were identified for replacement with Christian practices and emblems. Through a discussion of the musical tensions involved in this process of selective exchange, Byl explores the ways in which the first missionaries negotiated identities that encompassed both their benevolent Christian convictions and their roles as effective agents of colonial power. For their part, Toba responses to the politics of missionization have also been complex and shot through with contradictions: as an institution, the church stood as a structure bolstering their defiant confrontation of Muslim Indonesia, while internally, its implementation is remembered in terms of colonial policies and alliances.

In contrast, Fiona Magowan’s chapter, which focuses on the durability of “mission music” among the Yolngu, an Australian indigenous people, approaches questions of musical transfer between missionaries and Yolngu over 30 years through theological and performative meanings that have shaped their religious politics. “Mission music” is marked as a genre by its association with the early missionaries among the Yolngu, but it coexists with an array of Christian musics that reflects the international cultural economies of both hymnody and Christian popular music—its localizing place marked through the tension of its simultaneous performance with these other genres in a Yolngu mission festival. Magowan argues that “mission music,” despite its mobile, nonlocal origins, has become an experiential and textual sign of the “local” as it is adopted and used by local actors over time. Performative charisma carries Yolngu-missionary relationships, transforming them across time. Extensive work with missionaries and travel to foreign mission fields has also created transnational continuities between white and (p. 16) black, inviting new modes of place-making and multiple place-memories to be reflected in the performance of Yolngu song.

The next two chapters explore the ways Christian communities draw on transnational musical resources to address national and local concerns. Through the experience of the Sabaot of western Kenya, Julie Taylor’s perspective highlights the complex dialectic that engages Western and African Christians in ongoing cultural exchange (in the period well after these groups have ceased to understand this relationship as one of “missionary” to “missionized”). Taylor describes several musical workshops that she (as an ethnomusicologist associated with SIL International, formerly the Summer Institute of Linguistics) and Sabaot Christians undertook together in response to their search for a “traditional mix” that could assign Christian lyrics and meanings to songs in a local musical idiom. The work of SIL International has sometimes been criticized, within ethnographic disciplines, as Western intervention in local cultural practices.7 But Taylor’s detailed account shows a degree of local initiative and invitation of non-Western agents using Western actors (like Taylor) as musical and cultural resources, which, it might be argued, exceeds the kinds of invitations that accompany many ethnomusicologists’ entries into a field.

Harold Anderson explores the way Maori innovated on the music and religion that European colonialists brought with them to Aotearoa/New Zealand, constructing a synthesis that transcended both the European and the native. For Maori, Christianity was conceived within an economic framework, such that cultural misunderstandings served as resources in a process of cultural selection involving both the preservation of some elements and rejection of others in an effort to enhance power among Maori. Against the backdrop of past mission encounters, Anderson focuses on the Ratana Church, founded by the visionary prophet T. W. Ratana in the early 20th century. Ratana purposefully used music and performance in forging his syncretic brand of Christianity, creating new repertoires aligned with his project of finding a place for Maori in the new nation. This vision continues to be celebrated each year at the powhiri (ceremony of encounter), where Aotearoa New Zealand is performed through the confluence of diverse cultures, traditions, and worldviews.

The last two chapters in this part focus on the ways the musical aspects of mission relationships feed back into the musical practices of Westerners, while retaining traces of past mission encounters. Jonathan Dueck’s contribution highlights the negotiations of musical meanings that a Canadian Christian working with a church development agency encountered in an Assemblé Chrétien du Tchad congregation in Moundou, Chad. Dueck notes that missionary work and Christian development agencies historically overlap in Chad (and elsewhere), but that development workers often differentiate their work from missions in a kind of Western Christian auto-critique. And yet while the worker on whom the chapter focuses framed her own role as a cultural learner, she found that she was sometimes understood as a missionary, and as such was asked to teach music. In (Christian) development relationships, then, the remembered history of missions and its musical dimensions can persist and constrain musical meanings and interactions.

(p. 17) Finally, Chris Hale offers an auto-ethnographic account exploring the band Aradhna’s concerts for Indian and white audiences in the West. While the band’s repertoire and origin derive from Indian Christian bhajans that emerged from 19th-century mission-related Indian churches, the band’s concerts seek to present (North Indian) Hindu modalities of devotion (marked by the term “bhakti”), which focus on Jesus Christ as the “God of choice.” Reflecting on Aradhna’s concert/service at an American Hindu temple with mostly Indo-diasporic members and at a “kirtan” gathering in California of mostly Euro-American “spiritual seekers,” Hale argues that Aradhna’s performances are sometimes received as an alternative to Eurocentric Christianity—an intermediary space that rejects “Christianity” as Eurocentric frame and instead places devotion to Jesus in a Hindu cultural/community frame identified by its practitioners as “Yeshu bhakti.”

Part 2: Utopias and Alternative Modernities

As a truth regime, Christianity has been marked historically by opposing politics: a thrust toward expansion and encompassment and a tendency to demarcate difference and enclose: that is, to promote salvation and protect the saved. Countless Christian communities across the ages have attempted to create safe havens for themselves through the construction of symbolic boundaries (Barth 1969), and often music and musical practices have played a central role in this process. Yet even as such “sects” set themselves apart from their broader surroundings, their musical heritage enters flows of circulation. The chapters in this section address the tensions in the dynamic interactions between Christian insiders and outsiders surrounding the Christian community. They ask: How has music mediated between a religious safe haven and an imagined hostile world? And how is the dynamic of enclavement implicated in music circulation and exchange?

Glaura Lucas’s chapter orients us toward the tactical construction of insider and outsider meanings that were assigned simultaneously to a colonial Christian institution in Brazil, ultimately leading to the emergence of what could be called “black Catholicism.” She shows how the “dialogue of misunderstandings” between white colonizers and black slaves served as a mechanism for both translating cultural difference and developing procedures for protecting central African values and worldviews. By comparing historical and contemporary forms of the Congado ritual, a black devotional tradition that developed in the former mining regions within the brotherhoods dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary in the 18th and 19th centuries, Lucas argues that slaves and their descendants used these Christian institutions, valued by the Portuguese, as contexts of refuge and an arena in which to congregate and develop collective forms of worship. Music was pivotal in the reformulation of African identities, providing a sphere for interactions so as to enable intra-group communication that excluded non-black observers.

Tala Jarjour offers an account of the Syrian Orthodox community of St. George’s church in Aleppo, Syria, who fled to Syria to escape the persecution they had experienced in Turkey. She focuses her account on the dynamics of memory and identity as embodied in (p. 18) the yearly shubqono, the ritual of forgiveness a Syriac chant that accompanies Great Lent, when community members reconcile with one another and bow 40 times, asking for forgiveness for their wrongdoings. This event is a touchstone for all Suryani communities in the area, including evangelicals and other individuals who have left the Orthodox church for other faiths, all of whom feel tied to Edessa, imagined as a common point of origin and seat of learned ancient Syriac Christianity, thus displacing a series of other sites of origin and transit where the group’s survival was threatened. By conceptualizing “identity” in terms of wujūd and ‘intimā’ (being and belonging), Jarjour shows how these two aspects of Suryaniness are still present in chant and ritual.

Judith Klassen discusses the politics of language use in collective singing among Mennonites in northern Mexico. The group moved to Mexico from Canada in order to distance itself from the worldly influences of modern technologies and secular society generally. In the new environment, the German language stands as a symbolic marker, distinguishing Mennonites from the wider society. Klassen shows how further in-group linguistic distinctions are marked through uses of High and Low German (drawing on the wider class associations of the two linguistic forms), in which a distinct “a” (pronounced “au”) from Low German is often employed in contexts of High German use. The chapter explores what happens when this distinctive pronunciation is used politically in collective song as an expression of defiance by individual singers, and the tensions that result when collective song becomes a space for “phonological expressions of difference.”

In the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, Marie Jorritsma investigated the Sunday services of “coloured” people, a South African racial category that encompasses those who are neither “native” Bantu-speaking peoples nor whites. Noting persistent traces of local “Khoisan” and Euro-colonial music traditions in the church music, she argues that the nuances of music performance reveal social histories that may no longer be consciously acknowledged by the performers. In an account that resonates with Lucas’s, Jorritsma characterizes these persistent historical traces in coloured performance style as “hidden transcripts” (following James Scott). Through the powerful historiographic tool of ethnomusicological listening, Jorritsma points to colonial as well as “African” traces surviving in contemporary musics and locates both encounter and resistance in contemporary performance styles. Jorritsma contends that through their weekly performances, South Africa’s coloured congregations have resisted the negative stereotypes of inauthenticity and in-between-ness commonly attached to them, claiming a place for themselves in the wider musical landscape of the nation.

Thérèse Smith’s chapter points to the relationship of a church to its surrounding secular context. She outlines the relationship of an African American Missionary Baptist Church congregation to their surrounding community in Mississippi in the 1980s, drawing on the insider binary of “saint-sinner,” which demarcates not only people, but also spaces, texts, and musical sounds. She points to the strong role that individual scriptural interpretation and performance plays in this church and traces several church performances that show the nuanced and flexible nature of the boundary between “saint” and “sinner.” Interestingly, while the dominant local popular music—blues—is generally (p. 19) categorized as “sinner” music, it is sometimes allowed as music for listening to (but not performing) in certain contexts because of a nuanced understanding of the relationship of listening (located outside the person) and performance (located inside the person) to the Christian believer. In addition, knowledge of blues and other popular genres becomes important for believers in interpreting sermons, where speech slides into musical performance and references these genres as symbols to narrate the “saint-sinner” binary.

Finally, Zoe Sherinian’s chapter explores the relationship between musical practice and social critique in South India. Theologian Theophilus Appavoo draws together Christian and “village Hindu” beliefs and symbols to make a set of folk songs that criticize the caste system and construct an alternative Indian modernity, one based on the sharing of food, in India’s oppressed Dalit community in Tamil Nadu (Dalit means “broken,” a politicized term claimed by members of the untouchable caste). While narratives of secularization that draw on the church-sect typology often characterize the emergence of sects as to some degree rationalizing forces that accelerate secularization (in the West) because they see sacraments as merely “symbolic,” Appavoo’s songs capitalize on the political space for religious difference that is part of Indian political discourses of “modernization” (drawing in part on European “modern” models), but mediate that difference through folksong, a traditional musical form that is broadly accessible to and modifiable by the Dalit community.

Part 3: Struggles over Musical Space/Competing Christianities

In contrast to the chapters in the second part, which describe music being used by smaller or less powerful Christian communities partially to manage their relationship to larger or more powerful communities, this section aims to draw attention to the everyday conflicts that derive from the coexistence of religious difference in multicultural societies. Music—along with the aesthetic dimensions of religiosity more generally—is frequently at the center of debates concerning religious convictions, as these arenas embody the very emblems of faith and serve as setting in which encounters with the sacred take place. Similarly, the spaces of the sacred, and the sounds emplaced within them, resonate in relation to their position within the wider social sphere. To address these issues, the chapters in this section deal with “worship wars,” looking at the deployment of music in the demarcation of positions within such struggles. They also discuss the ways in which religious groups demarcate and contest territorial boundaries through music and sound. Such territorial claims are commonly registered in the volume of sound emanating from churches; in the bands accompanying religious parades and processions, and in their appropriation of the streets; and in pilgrimages and the establishment of pilgrimage sites and the repertoires with which they are associated. This section, in other words, turns to questions of power as they are relevant to local/global Christian musical interactions.

(p. 20) Two chapters focus on the ways music is defended in conflicts within transnational Catholicism, and a third chapter looks at a similar dynamic in an Orthodox community. Caroline Bithell’s chapter offers a history of a local religious institution—the Corsican confraternity—which constructs itself as a local alternative to a global religious bureaucracy—the Catholic hierarchy. In Corsica, the confraternities provide an alternate institutional space for (conservative) local musical and expressive traditions to continue, despite the shifts in musical and liturgical practices stemming from Vatican II. Suzel Ana Reily’s chapter also discusses the implications of the universalist thrust of the Roman Catholic Church for local traditions. Whereas in Brazil local music making has been historically linked to Catholic practice, the clergy’s understandings of “the popular” derive from their interpretations of Vatican II directives along with a preoccupation with liturgical fidelity. In this setting, lay religious repertoires are being discouraged in favor of folk-like musics rooted in imagined local traditions. But alongside a clash in musical aesthetics, Reily shows how the musical practices associated with the new repertoire actually mitigate against collective singing, while threatening to shift local practices from the religious sphere to, at best, a secular, folklorized arena.

Joseph Palackal’s chapter, on the other hand, shows how a variety of southern Indian Christian groups in Kerala who trace their origins to the apostolic and Chaldean/East Syriac sources of Christianity in the area have defended their linkages with Syriac musical traditions against the incursions of foreign Catholic and Anglican missionaries, and later a wider variety of Catholic and Protestant movements within India. In part, Palackal suggests, they accomplished this by only selectively accepting musical, liturgical, and theological elements that arrived with each of these missions. But more recently they have accomplished this by retaining chant melodies even as congregations began to sing in vernacular languages.

The next three chapters focus on the way national identities articulate with musical conflicts within a Christian group. Jacqueline Witherow addresses the complexities of multiple Protestantisms commonly hidden by the polarized representations of sectarianism in Northern Ireland through a study of the flute bands of Protestant parading. Bands participating in parades strategically deploy a distinct set of emblems to construct their vision for the future of the province, ranging from militaristic triumphalism to carnivalesque inversions. In effect, the public arena of the parades now constitutes a central platform for the collective negotiation of what it means to be Protestant in a postconflict era.

In contrast, Natalie Zelensky explores the ways in which disjunct meanings are assigned to musical practice (and the consequent differences in preferred musical practice) held by multiple generations of Russian Orthodox immigrants to America, some of whom identified as “Soviet” and some of whom are descended from tsarists. But common meanings emerge from these differences, such as in the form of the reconstruction of a composite “Russian” national diasporic identity incorporating music characterizing these different generations of Russians.

Barbara Rose Lange explores the musical negotiation of the ethnic inequalities between Roma and Magyar that characterize secular life in Hungary among Pentecostal (p. 21) believers from both groups. The ethos of “spiritual brotherhood” within Hungarian Pentecostalism constitutes the theological ground for these negotiations, in which both ethnic communities have modified their musical performance styles to participate in a common “brotherhood,” though the secular inequalities between the ethnicities mean that these changes are not equally made (or equally easily demanded) by both groups.

Part 4: Flows, Media, Markets, and Christian Musics

The fourth section is concerned with what happens when a media economy is built around not only market logic, but also an ideational and moral logic; it explores how religious media economies work and how they are understood by both Christian and non-Christian producers and consumers. Ethnomusicologists focused on popular music have drawn most heavily on models of capitalist modes of production and expansion as a central underlying assumption about the ways in which music has become commoditized and circulated and why these outcomes occurred. Christian popular musics, however, have most often not been highly lucrative endeavors, and both in their production and consumption the particularly Christian goals—of evangelism, worship, and sharing Christian community—of their agents must somehow articulate with the market logic of the large-scale major record labels with which most Christian record labels overlap.8 As Antoine Hennion (1989), Jean-Pierre Vignolle (1980), and Keith Negus (1999) have pointed out, major record labels are not monoliths; they are composed of a large number of individual agents for whom aesthetic and cultural considerations come into play. Christianity, then, adds an additional shared sphere of contested ideational and aesthetic considerations, in which a wide diversity of producers and consumers of Christian-mediated musics can be agents—in addition to their movement in the overlapping spheres of “secular” popular music production and consumption (Dueck 2005).9 The chapters in this part try to take seriously the ways individuals understand and narrativize their musical and aesthetic work within overlapping Christian and secular media economies and associated cultural flows.

The three first chapters focus on the work of intermediaries—advertisers, theologians, executives, and pastors and music leaders—in an American Christian music economy. Ingalls’s chapter explores the work of a set of U.S. Christian music industry executives, who traveled to the United Kingdom and experienced UK performances, modeled not on the short-term emotional curve of the single song, but on the long-term emotional curve of a worship service. They began to locate “authentic” worship in the developing UK style—largely through their own embodied experiences of worship—and laid the groundwork for the “British invasion” of the U.S. evangelical Christian music market. As Ingalls (in this volume) aptly puts it, diverse “religious rationales [exist] side by side, and in many ways justify, the capitalist logic within the evangelical media industry.” Anna Nekola traces the theological and marketing currents that characterize “worship” as “lifestyle,” moving “worship” from the collective and noncommercial domain of church into a set of commodities, including music, that can be purchased and consumed (p. 22) as “worship” individually in private domains, like one’s car or house. Deborah Justice explores the ways American mainline pastors, musicians, and laypeople have navigated the divergent media economies of hymnody and popular music and accommodated both by creating multiple worship services—shared by a single congregation—that reflect the aesthetics and symbolic resonances of each repertoire.

The following three chapters explore the ways popular music genres and popular musicians, both in records and in live settings, move in and out of Christian spaces. Mellonee Burnim tracks the global circulation of gospel music, a movement enabled by the transnational record industry, noting in particular the ways some Afro-diasporic audiences receive and participate in the music in continuity with African American religious practice. In contrast, Europeans may receive the music as “spiritual,” but not necessarily as religious, evidencing little understanding of African American Christian performance contexts for gospel; Japanese audiences, for their part, access the music as a secular performance practice tied to images of African Americans from such “secular” American films as Sister Act.

Jennifer Ryan, in a striking counterpart to the narrative offered previously in Smith’s chapter, traces the demarcation of sacred and secular space among Christian blues musicians in Memphis’s tourist music strip, Bealle Street, drawing attention to the way in which the performative dynamics of sacred musical practices—particularly the ecstasy of Pentecostal worship—are mirrored in the secular and commercial Bealle Street performances by Christian blues players.

Finally, Matthew Unger, who focuses on Christian extreme metal, presents an interesting problematic: while the musical and visual features of Christian extreme metal are remarkably continuous with “secular” extreme metal, which typically positions itself in opposition to Christianity, Christian extreme metal fans themselves experience their music as qualitatively different from “secular” extreme metal. Unger suggests that this apparent contradiction shows powerfully how religious symbols circulate in contemporary Western culture: religious symbols have been divested of their truth value but have not disappeared. Instead they circulate as symbols: that is, as meanings with powerful experiential consequences. This allows for a surprising flow of symbols and meanings between secular and Christian extreme metal, and at the same time, for qualitatively unique experiences attending the two forms.

Part 5: Cosmopolitan Identities and Everyday Lives

The final part focuses on “the Christian world,” both as an imagined universe and a lived environment. In large parts of the world, Christianity is so historically embedded in the cultural ethos that it is not only a feature of identity politics among practicing and nominal Christians, but also affects those who identify with other belief systems. The contributions in this part therefore address processes in the normatization of Christian values and practices, looking in particular at how repertoires and musical practices transcend the immediate religious community, linking them to wider local, national, and even (p. 23) transnational networks and flows. To put it another way, Christianities might be understood as one of many seemingly contradictory identities and sets of practices that actors can deploy as they navigate between a particular and a cosmopolitan identity, operating within a frame that Natan Sznaider (2011) calls “rooted cosmopolitanism.” Thus, the contributions in this section ask how “the Christian world” is musically experienced within contexts marked by rooted cosmopolitanism. How do Christians, Christian repertoires, and Christian emblems flow within it? What impact does “the Christian world” have on groups identified with other belief systems?

The three chapters introducing this part focus on the ways music tied to everyday Christianity links and mobilizes differently situated actors. Luisa Nardini’s chapter examines the construction of a “Christian world” by looking at a repertoire of Italian Catholic chant that envisions a cosmopolitan Europe by drawing on local geographical and mythic symbols and placing them in a set of shared—cosmopolitan—biblical, theological, and liturgical elements. Jennifer Sinnamon documents the ways local Palestinian Christians deploy transnational Christian musics and a universally known Christian symbolic place—Bethlehem—on the one hand, and musics and symbols that circulate in the Arab world on the other, to awaken feelings of resistance among local Palestinians and among journalists and an international audience of media coverage for Bethlehem’s Christmas celebrations. Sinnamon suggests that Arab world musics and transnational Christian musics constitute broader audiences and pools of emotional and symbolic resonance that local Palestinian Christians deploy for a world audience in an attempt to mobilize support at local and transnational levels for their cause. Melvin Butler explores “Pentecostalism” not as a denomination but as a globally recognized affective quality that not only unites a divergent set of Haitian churches of different denominations, but also enables his participation through its continuities with his experience as a Pentecostal church member in America.

The final two chapters in this part consider the role of nations and regions in establishing particular and delimited frameworks in which Christian musics and symbols, self-evident and broadly distributed though they are, can circulate. Keith Howard describes the attempts professional Korean Christian musicians have made to construct a relationship between their faith—an important part of Korean public culture though not the majority religion—and Korean traditional music, by incorporating Christian narratives into traditional musical forms, such as p’ansori. Howard notes that both Christianity and Korean traditional music constitute powerful symbols of the place of Korea (for Koreans) in the globalized world; however, because of the contradictory logics of two transnationally imagined identity politics—one imagining Korea as modern and privileging the Western, and the other focusing on Korean “heritage” and privileging the “Korean”—the institutional spaces of Korean traditional music and Christian music have remained separate and distinct.

Jeffers Engelhardt concludes the section by offering a reading of the many musical overlaps and exchanges between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Estonians. This overlap creates musical commonalities that speak to the “secular” backdrop of Estonian Christianity—here meaning a public culture long constituted in relation to multiple (p. 24) Christianities (and at present multiple religions). Modern secularity is also the backdrop, Engelhardt argues, for the ethnomusicological study of world Christianities, Orthodox and otherwise.

The volume is brought to a close by Philip Bohlman’s insightful discussion, which frames world Christianities as a continuous dialogue within, across, and between worlds—the human world of the everyday and the divine (utopian) world of God. To mediate this contradiction inherent to Christianity—and perhaps to the human experience more generally—Christian soteriological and eschatological doctrines take the shape of continuous journeys aimed at transcending the boundaries of both the sacred and the secular, producing an (altered) return that re-creates the everyday world, where difference is ever present. The intertextuality of music maps the trajectories of these journeys, embodying the multiple encounters generating the continuous re-creation.

We realize that a volume like this one can only be partial, fragmentary, a beginning place for thinking through the musics of global Christianities. But we hope it shows some of the power of ethnomusicology’s distinctive research traditions for this kind of inquiry, which (since Mantle Hood) have held a privileged place for learning and performing music together with those one wishes to study, despite boundaries that are encountered (and sometimes crossed) in the process. Our chapters illustrate the broad variety of connections between religious subjects, articulated on problematic and fractured geographic and epistemic lines, across deep divides in knowing and in meaning, that characterize world Christianities. An ethnomusicology of Christianity, then, is perhaps of special value for thinking, historically and ethnographically, about the ways that music can engender Christian religious experiences, relationships, and differences that cut across time and space.


The authors would like to thank Matthew Unger, Pamela Reaves, and Jeffers Engelhardt for their helpful comments on and conversations relevant to this introduction.


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(1.) See Cannell (2006: 9–12) for an overview of a similar disciplinary context in anthropology.

(2.) For related discussion exploring overlaps and disjunctures between the missionary and anthropological worlds, see Plotnicov et al. (2007) and Fountain’s (2013) later reflections.

(3.) Steve Feld’s reflections on his work in Bosavi—which offers so much to the kind of study we wish to pursue in this book in its attention to sound and sociality—can be read as an example of this perspective on Christianity, when he notes that “the missionaries had trashed much of the ceremonial life, so I didn’t concentrate on that” (Feld and Brenneis 2004: 464).

(4.) The deep concerns some ethnomusicologists have about “cultural grayout” has not meant, however, that we have more generally eschewed the study of globally circulating musics; in fact, this has been a major interest of ethnomusicologists, particularly since the emergence of “world beat” as a commercial category in the 1980s. For a critical overview, see Stokes (2004).

(5.) According to E. P. Sanders, Paul’s writing on salvation is not systematic and points to both a necessity to accept salvation through the grace offered in Christ and the (apparently contradictory) idea of a universal redemption for creation (Sanders 2001: 41–42, 127–128).

(6.) Of course there are theological differences between the national churches we describe here as well, which might be articulated in terms of “heterodoxy” versus “orthodoxy.”

(7.) See Gow’s polemical chapter (2006) and Titon’s (2011) more measured discussion; see also the dialogue between archivist John Vallier (2003a, 2003b) and SIL International-associated ethnomusicologists Brian Schrag and Neil Coulter (2003).

(8.) See Mall (2012).

(9.) As the above suggests, this part recognizes the ways that the global recording industry remains centered in the West, with its divide between “sacred” and “secular.”