Module B8: Popular and multicultural music in contemporary worship

The spread of the use of popular and ethnically pluralistic (multicultural) music in contemporary worship extends back at least a century. This module requires consideration of three interconnected study areas (issues, situations, and repertoires) that address the issues that the church musician normally encounters, and thus avoids a merely historical approach. It is intended to stimulate critical and creative thinking regarding how music, popular culture and theology all interact in worship, pastoral ministry, and in the Christian community. It will require some familiarity with popular culture and music.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module you will not only have considered each of the separate Study Areas, but made connections between them, increasing your awareness of the issues and aesthetics involved in cultural plurality in worship music, of the functioning of such music, and the repertoires.

Mode of study

This module is not intended to duplicate material covered in Module B7, but rather to focus in detail on the relationship between popular music and contemporary worship. Nevertheless, there are inevitable overlaps between the two modules. You may find it useful to read the study details for Module B7 before tackling this module. Although the use of music from secular and non-western genres is nothing new in church music, modern usage has been poorly documented, posing problems for researchers. Your approach will most usefully be related to your own denomination and local experience, though you must be careful not to be too narrow in your approach. Where you lack a suitable resource for study in your own worshipping environment you could consider identifying a small group of nearby Christian communities where you can observe, participate in worship, and discuss their approach. Serious thinking about the issues based on targeted reading may prove more beneficial than extensive reading.

General reading

The bibliography tries to name suitable texts that should be obtainable either in print, or through libraries (if necessary by inter-library loan), or, occasionally, on the internet.

Study areas

1 Issues: principles, purpose, influences and judgement

1.1 The case for a ‘musical vernacular’ in worship: syntax, style, meaning, and social identity
1.2 The role of instrumentalists and vocal soloists in current sacred 'popular' music
1.3 Accessibility, involvement, evangelism and mission through music
1.4 The role of culture and music in defining personal and community identities through exclusion and inclusion
1.5 Cultural importation, expression and persuasion, and the theological importance of cultural pluralism and inclusion
1.6 The relationship between liturgical change, the charismatic and evangelical movements and the introduction of recent popular culture and music in worship
1.7 Dissemination: models and influences of television, the media, publishers and recording artists
1.8 Popular and culturally pluralistic music in worship: the process of genre identification, issues of quality and worth, multiculturalism and cultural eclecticism in the context of a theology of inclusivity

2 Situations

2.1 The relationship between liturgical change, the charismatic and evangelical movements and the introduction of recent popular culture and music in worship
2.2 Music for a culturally or ethnically distinct congregation
2.3 Popular and multicultural music in formal patters of worship
2.4 Pastoral issues in the development of a church music programme: embracing introduction of popular music while retaining continuity with previous Models of musical expression

3 Styles, repertoire and influences

3.1 ‘Light music’ repertoire and influences
3.2 Popular music repertoire and influences
3.3 African, Caribbean, Afro-American and Jazz repertoires and influences
3.4 ‘Folk music’ repertoires and influences
3.5 The roles of score or performance in identifying the pop music artefact
3.6 Simon Frith’s notion of voice in recordings, traditions of vocal tone, performance conventions, improvisation and skills required by performers and sound technicians in the performance and recording of popular music
3.7 Ensembles and scoring
3.8 Creating effective ‘contemporary’ ensembles (instrumental, vocal, or both) in the church context
3.9 Selecting 'popular'- style church music suitable for specified ensembles appropriate for (a) a given occasion in the Christian calendar (i.e. Easter) or (b) a set of scripture passages as provided by an inter-denominational lectionary for a given day in the church calendar

Study details

Work and Assessment

Although you may choose (or be directed by a supervisor in) your own pattern of study it must include those issues listed in the study areas above, and you are advised to take account of the recommended reading. Your reading must address issues in all three study areas. Two copies of all materials submitted for assessment should be forwarded to the Course Secretary and postmarked not later than 31 January or 30 June in the appropriate study period. The assessment of the module will be based on the following three requirements:

(1) Two essays from any two of the above-mentioned study areas. The Academic Board should first approve an essay topic. Each essay will be of 3,750-4,000 words. A bibliography of materials consulted should be appended to the essay. In undertaking the writing of essays you are advised to consult the guidance for presentation of written work in the general study notes. Topics might be:

A. Any outlined in the abovementioned study areas
B. A consideration of the work of an influential performer, composer or arranger
C. An analysis of a particular recording of a sacred or secular pop music work, giving consideration to its musical traditions, cultural context, the issue of ‘voice’ and performer identity.

(2) Submission of an annotated bibliography (optionally in note form) for works from the following

Bibliography: This must contain a short paragraph for each of:

A. Two works (only those marked by an asterisk) in Section 1
B. The Tagg article and one other work from Section 2
C. One or two works from each of Section 3 and 4
D. Not required and optional: related works not from the BIBLIOGRAPHY that the student has read, and /or a related annotated discography.

Works chosen must reflect the candidate’s work in all three Study Areas, and the annotated bibliography should conclude by noting any special factors or difficulties encountered.

(3) Notated realisation/arrangement, based on a lead sheet set annually by the Academic Board, for a standard rock band consisting of lead and rhythm guitars, keyboard(s), and drum set, and optionally, melody or percussion instruments found in your worship community.


(* = Highly recommended)

1. Popular Music And Culture

Adorno, Theodor W. Adorno, ‘On Popular Music’

*Banfield, Stephen (ed.), The Twentieth century (Oxford, Blackwell, 1995) (Series title: Blackwell history of music in Britain vol. 6)

Bennett, Tony (ed.), Rock and popular music: politics, policies, institutions (London, Routledge, 1993)

Brackett, D., Interpreting popular music (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Clarke, Donald (ed.), The Penguin encyclopedia of popular music (London, Penguin, 1990.

Cohn, Nik, Pop from the beginning (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969)

Frith, Simon, 1986. "Art Versus Technology: The Strange Case of Popular Music" in Media, Culture and Society 8, 3: 263-279

*Frith, Simon, Performing Rites (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996)

Frith, Simon, The sociology of rock (London, Constable, 1978)

Frith, Simon and Andrew Goodwin (eds.), On record: rock, pop and the written word (London, Routledge, 1990)

*Garofalo, Reebee, Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the USA, 2nd edition (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2002)

Goehr, Lydia. The imaginary museum of musical works: an essay in the philosophy of music (Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1992)

Green, Lucy, How popular musicians learn: a way ahead for music education (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2001)

Hamm, Charles, Putting popular music in its place (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Hayward, Philip (ed.), Widening the horizon: exoticism in post-war popular music (Sydney, John Libbey, 1999)

Horner, Bruce and Thomas Swiss (eds.), Key terms in popular music and culture (Oxford, Blackwell, 1999)

Laing, Dave, The sound of our time (London, Sheed & Ward, 1969)

MacKinnon, Niall, The British folk scene: musical performance and social identity (Buckingham, Open University Press, 1993)

*Manuel, Peter, Popular musics of the non-Western world: an introductory survey (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1990)

*Middleton, Richard (ed.), Reading pop: approaches to textual analysis in popular music (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000)

Middleton, Richard, Studying popular music (Milton Keynes, Open University Press, 1990)

Mitchell, T., Popular music and local identity: rock, pop and rap in Europe and Oceania (London, Leicester University Press, 1996)

Negus, Keith, Producing pop: culture and conflict in the popular music industry (London, E. Arnold, 1992)

Oliver, Paul, Max Harrison, William Bolcom, The new Grove gospel, blues and jazz: with spirituals and ragtime (London, Macmillan, 1986)

Robinson, Deanna Campbell, Elizabeth B. Buck, Marlene Cuthbert, the International Communication and Youth Consortium, et. al., Music at the margins: popular music and global cultural diversity (London, Sage, 1991) (Series title: Communication and human values)

Shuker, Roy, Understanding popular music (London, Routledge, 1994)

Taylor, Timothy Dean, Global pop: world music, world markets (London, Routledge, 1997)

Toop, David, Ocean of sound: aether talk, ambient sound and imaginary worlds (London, Serpent's Tail, 1995)

Van der Merwe, Peter, Origins of the popular style: the antecedents of twentieth-century popular music (Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1989)

2. Pop Music Analysis

Everett, Walter, Expression in Pop-Rock Music: A Collection of Critical and Analytical Essays (New York, Garland, 2000)

Covach, John and Boone, Graeme M., Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997)

Middleton, Richard (ed.), Reading pop: approaches to textual analysis in popular music (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000)

*Tagg, Philip, “The musical ‘work’: an evaluative charge

3. Worship Music And Popular Culture

Abbington, James, Readings in African American church music and worship (Chicago, GIA Publications, 2001)

Begbie, Jeremy, ‘The Spirituality of Renewal Music’, Anvil, Vol. 8, No. 3 (1991)

Cox, Harvey Gallagher, Fire from heaven: the rise of Pentecostal spirituality and the reshaping of religion in the twenty-first century (Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley, 1995)

Crawford, Richard, America’s musical life: a history (London, W.W. Norton, 2001)

Cray, Graham, ‘Justice, rock and the renewal of worship’, chapter in Robin Sheldon (ed.), In Spirit and in Truth (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1989)

Day, Thomas, Why Catholics can't sing: the culture of Catholicism and the triumph of bad taste (New York, Crossroad, 1991)

Forbes, Bruce David and Jeffrey H. Mahan (eds.), Religion and popular culture in America (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2000)

González, Justo L. (ed.), Alabadle!: Hispanic Christian worship (Nashville. Tennessee, Abingdon Press, 1996)

Patterson, Beverly Bush, The sound of the dove: singing in Appalachian Primitive Baptist churches (Urbana, Illinois, University of Illinois Press, 1995)

Sanders, Cheryl Jeanne, Saints in exile: the Holiness-Pentecostal experience in African American religion and culture (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996)

Sheldon, Robin (ed.), In Spirit and in Truth: Exploring Directions in Music in Worship Today (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1989)

Southern, Eileen, The music of black Americans: a history, 3rd ed. (London, W. W. Norton, 1997)

Tracy, Steven C. (ed.), Write me a few of your lines: a blues reader (Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 1999)

*Stout, Daniel A. and Judith M. Buddenbaum (eds.), Religion and popular culture: studies on the interaction of worldviews (Ames, Iowa, Iowa State University Press, 2001)

Young, Alan, Woke me up this morning: Black gospel singers and the gospel life (Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1997)

4. Music, Faith, Liturgy and Pastoral Concerns

*Begbie, Jeremy, Music in God’s Purposes (Edinburgh, Handsel Press, 1989)

Blanchard, John, Pop goes the Gospel (Darlington, Evangelical Press, 1989)

Burrows, Helen, ‘Choral Music and the Church of England 1970-1995: a study of selected works and composer-church relations’, PhD thesis (Norwich, University of East Anglia, 1999), especially Chapter 2

Church of England Archbishops' Commission on Church Music, In Tune with Heaven, The Report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Church Music (London, Church House/Hodder and Stoughton, 1992)

Deiss, Lucien, Visions of liturgy and music for a new century (Collegeville (Minn.), Liturgical Press, 1996)

Fenwick, John and Bryan Spinks, Worship in Transition: The Twentieth Century Liturgical Movement (Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1995)

Funk, Virgil C. (ed.), Music in Catholic Worship: The NPM Commentary (Washington DC, Pastoral Press, 1982)

Griffiths, Richard, ‘Religion and the Arts’, Theology, XCV, No. 763 (January/February 1992)

Hollenweger, Walter J., ‘Music in the Service of Reconciliation’, Theology, Vol. XCII, No. 748 (July 1989)

Jasper, David and R.C.D. Jasper, Language and the Worship of the Church (London, General Synod of the Church of England, 1994)

Hopkinson, Bill, ‘Changes in the Emphases of Evangelical Belief 1970-1980: evidence from new hymnody’, Churchman, Vol. 95, No. 2 (1981)

Jeffrey, P., Chant, Liturgy and Culture (Washington DC, Pastoral Press, 1992)

Johansson, Calvin M., Discipling music ministry: twenty-first century directions (Peabody (MA), Hendrickson Publishers, 1992)

Johnson, Lawrence C., The Mystery of Faith: The Ministers of Music (Washington (DC), Pastoral Press, 1983)

Leach, John, Liturgy and Liberty (Tunbridge Wells, MARC Europe, 1989)

McDonnell, Kilian, Charismatic Renewal and the Churches (New York, Seabury Press, 1976)

Moger, Peter. ‘An Examination of some Relationships between Music and Theology with some Principles for the Use of Music in Christian Worship’, B.A. dissertation (Durham, University of Durham, 1993)

Spurr, Barry, ‘Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs 2’, Faith and Worship, No. 36 (Summer 1994)

Ward, Pete, Youth Culture and the Gospel (London, Marshall Pickering, 1992)

Wilson-Dickson, Andrew, A Brief History of Christian Music (Oxford, Lion Publishing, 1997), especially Part 9