Monday, October 12, 2009

Religion, globalisation and popular music

Presentation by Leah Aspinall

The article Introduction, Special issue on religion, globalisation and popular music, edited by Lynn Schofield Clark provides an introduction to the world of music, where it has come from, to where it is today, paying particular attention to religion, globalisation and music as a popular cultural form.

Music, Clark says is a cultural form that has a very unique role in the maintenance and change of religion across the world. The article suggests that music originally came from different cultures and traveled across distances to new locations giving those separated from their homeland a link through music that many religious acts couldn’t deliver. However as the article goes on this is no longer the case as music particularly cultural music is introduced not only to those who have a connection with it but to those who care to listen through the new technology of the internet, mp3’s, file-sharing and other platforms therefore changing music into a commodity rather than a cultural product. Because music has become this commodity, many scholars Clark included have wondered whether music being a popular cultural form when used in relation to religion may trivialise the experience.

An example of this the article points out, is purchasing Christian products within the US, Clark cites Hendershot who says that to purchase these products is like declaring one’s respectability in a country in which people are most often addressed by mass culture not as citizens but as consumers. However some scholars believe that many worshippers connect through music transcending through and connecting more deeply with their faith through song. This idea links quite easily with an original point the article made saying that music is evocative, affective and something deeply personal and emotionally connective, which is not always lost when music became what Clark and others believe to be a commodity.

The article concludes that music, media and religion are always going to be in a constant struggle over power and definition and will continue to do so as the lines between then keep blurring.

Clark LS, Ed., 2006. ‘Introduction. Special Issue on Religion, Globalization, and Popular Music,’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 45, 475-479

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