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Sound, Music and Religion


story, myth, rhetoric and doctrine (the written word is an extension of the spoken word. ... 6 ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Sound, Music and Religion

Sound, Music and Religion
  • The Power of Sound

Everywhere One Goes
  • Sounds are everywhere
  • Church
  • Temple
  • Synagogue
  • Mosque
  • Other Sacred Gatherings.
  • Sounds are in
  • Music
  • Prayer
  • Liturgy
  • Spoken word (read and otherwise)
  • Shouts.

Audio Symbols
  • There are three categories
  • non-verbal
  • music, sound
  • nonconceptual verbal
  • words used in chants and spells (used in the word
    itself as opposed to the concept the word
  • conceptual verbal
  • story, myth, rhetoric and doctrine (the written
    word is an extension of the spoken word. It is
    an extension of the sound).

A word about Speech
  • The speech act is
  • Fragile
  • Impermanent
  • Intimate
  • It is also
  • unique, engaging a speaker and a listener in a
    specific existential situation. All that
    transpires is the formation of words, symbols of
    sound, stemming from thoughts.
  • The words fill the space with the power of the
    sounds. Native Religions by Sam Gill

A Closer Examination
  • Nonverbal
  • Nonceptual verbal

The Power of Sound
  • An Old Influence

a long time ago . . . . .
  • The power of music/sound has been recognized by
    many including Plato who devotes some space to it
    in his classic work The Republic.

  • He rationalized that rhythm and harmony affect
    the inner most part of a person and that the
    desired effect for rhythm and harmony is to
    produce grace inwardly. He said of music and
    poetry . . .

Platonic words
  • . . . rhythm and harmony permeate the inner part
    of the soul more than anything else, affecting it
    most strongly and bringing it grace, so that if
    someone is properly educated in music and poetry,
    it makes him graceful, but if not, the opposite.
    Republic 401d-e.

What Music Does
  • It sets the mood
  • Music helps the participant to experience a mood
    or sensation which enhances the worship
    experience or spirituality.
  • Native Spirit Pueblo Sunrise
  • When used with lyrics it describes a story or
    articulates an idea
  • Music often tells a story or an idea. It can be
    a testimony or it can be a tribute to a god,
    person or spirit.
  • Mahalia GSH1 Didnt It Rain

  • It encourages or sends a message.
  • Sometimes music encourages a person to move on or
    hold on when life gets weary or sometimes it
    gives a positive message.
  • Donnie McClurkin - Stand

Music is inseparable from religion
  • Robert Ellwood in Introducing Religion From
    Inside and Outside has divided music into five
    categories with regard to its function in

The Five Categories
  • Tribal
  • Chants/Mantras (nonconceptual verbal)
  • Liturgical
  • Hymns/Devotional
  • Performance

  • Tribal music is associated with dance, ritual or
    ceremony of some kind. Usually heavy with rhythm
    and percussion. It may include shaman songs
    (religious leaders), chants or melodies song by
    shamans. It is noted as being communal and very
    often associated with some sort of ritual or
    ceremony and performed by particular people
    (shamans, seer, etc.,)
  • For example (no 7 of yellow disk)

Chants and Mantras
  • Chants or the rhythmic, repetitious, monotone or
    quasi-monotone singing of religious words or
    texts predate written text.
  • The style helps in memorization, ease in
    listening and creates a particular kind of
    atmosphere. As parts of magic formulas "the the
    very sound--vibrations--of the words themselves
    was part of the power."

Effect of Chants and Mantras
  • In later times only religious professionals and
    academics were concerned about them.
  • Although many songs have lost some their literal
    meaning through their performances by certain
    orders and groups they create a sense of
    communion and fellowship and invoke a "religious
    aura" and channel certain kinds of feeling.
  • Some examples are Gregorian chants and Hindu
    chants. (see Rel. Disk 2 for Gregorian)

  • The word means public duty or responsibility. It
    is a form of public worship.
  • Liturgical pieces are what most people are
    familiar with. This music is called liturgical
    because of its intended use in a religious
    service as the formal liturgy. Usually it is a
    regular part of the service although it is often
    song by choirs and musically it is more elaborate
    than chants.
  • An Jewish example (See Rel. Disk 2 Adonai Shema)

  • Hymn pieces although are also sung during
    services have devotion as a main focus of their
    intent. They expresses tender, deep, feelings in
    their words and melodies. (e.g. Jesus the Very
    Thought of Thee) They may also have a "military"
    feel to them like "Onward Christian Soldiers").
  • A Christian example (M. Jackson, no. 2 of GSH1
    My God Is Real)
  • Another example (Little Richard, no. 10 of rel.
    songs var. Precious Lord) There is a story
    behind this song.

  • Performance music like oratorios (Handel's
    Messiah), spiritual songs, organ voluntaries
    (classical, baroque, etc.) and much contemporary
    Christian music. These songs are based on
    religious themes and create a religious mood,
    though they may not be strictly parts of worship
    and its orchestration of symbols, and may well be
    performed separately from formal worship, at
    concerts and festivals.
  • Two Christian examples Handels Hallelujah Chorus
    (St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Soulful Messiah)

  • Sometimes one puts together music and dramatic
  • Video Clip from Hampton VA

The Challenge
  • However, problematic for some religious
    practioners, especially some Christians, is that
    sometimes the distinction between secular and
    sacred is blurred.
  • There are songs which sound secular. For
  • Minnie the Moocher
  • Cab Calloway (no. 4 var. rel. 1)
  • Its Alright
  • Joe May and Winnona Carr (no. 8 var. rel. 1)

Contemporary Times
  • Another example
  • One Nation Under a Groove
  • Funkadelic (no. 6, rel. vol. 1)
  • Stomp
  • Kirk Franklin (no. 5, rel. vol. 1)
  • Dance Tunes
  • Edwin Hawkins rendition of Oh Happy Day (no. 2,
    rel. song. var.) garnered criticism from many who
    wanted there to be a greater distinction between
    secular and sacred.

  • Mary Mary demonstrate this dilemma in their song
  • Some secular songs have religious appeal.
    Carol Kings (no. 13, rel. songs var.) Youve
    Got A Friend is an example.

  • Many artists like Aretha Franklin took the
    gospel sound to the secular studio. Sometimes
    there is a blending. For example, she and noted
    Gospel musician, James Cleveland collaborated on
    song which included the words from Precious
    Lord and Youve Got a Friend.
  • In Precious Lord, a particularly religious song
    and Youve Got a Friend a secular with some
    spiritual overtones (no. 1, var. rel. songs 1) is
    an example of a mix of the profane and holy.

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