The Précis (and a working Bibliography!)

I’ve been ill in some manner for the majority of March, which has largely hindered my work. However, there is great news amidst my apparent chronic sickness: the sources I found have been beyond amazing, that I can start writing immediately. I usually find myself still wrestling for more information after doing preliminary reading, but these sources specifically talk about exactly what I am interested in writing about for my research article!

The Précis

Hartje, Gesa F. “Keeping in Tune with the Times—Praise and Worship Music as Today’s Evangelical Hymnody in North America.” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 48, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 364-73.

              In her article, Keeping in Tune with the Times—Praise and Worship Music as Today’s Evangelical Hymnody in North America, Gesa Hartje claims that contemporary worship music has gradually supplanted traditional hymns, now functioning in their stead, which she argues this through her overarching thesis that the two styles parallel each other more than thought previously before. Hartje develops her argument through a three-pronged approach analysis: the technological (musicological), that congregations of 100 years ago and today learn music by ear (that gap in the middle, music was learnt by reading one of four melodic parts, forming the harmonic movement); the sociological, that songs of old and new speak to the human condition, and help in the formation of community; and the theological, that the ratio of hymns in use to “really fine hymns” is analogous to that of contemporary worship music. Hartje’s purpose is to clarify any confusion about the function of contemporary worship music in order to allow us to stop bickering about the role of contemporary worship once and for all. Her audience seems to be a broad audience for those interested specifically in the theology of worship, for her language is clear and concise, yet focused enough in topical discussions.

Ingalls, Monique Marie. “Awesome in This Place: Sound, Space, and Identity in Contemporary North American Evangelical Worship.” PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2008. 

              In her dissertation, Awesome in This Place: Sound, Space, and Identity in Contemporary North American Evangelical Worship, Monique Ingalls asserts that the widespread conception of North American evangelical identity as a homogenously static religious community, that way she can show how contemporary worship music creates an “evangelical imaginary”, whereby evangelicals gather in music-centered forums to translocally disseminate new discourses and practices for the navigation of broad sociocultural shifts, viz. she argues that contemporary worship music shapes the evangelical’s identity. Ingalls supports her claim in a two-part analysis, where the topic matter is the same, how music and performance space can shape evangelical identity, but the methodology differs: in the first part, Ingalls looks at her primary topic through a historical lens through four time periods, the 60-70s, 80s, 90s, and Post-00s; and in the second part, she approaches the topic with an ethnographical and theoretical methodology through examination of the three main settings where evangelicals engage in musical worship, professional live concerts, conferences, and in local churches. Ingalls ultimate purpose is to further open “avenues for exploring music’s role in the negotiation of religious faith and practice in the modern world”. Despite the length of her dissertation, she seems to truly write for the highly curious, for although at times the language can be complicated or sophisticated, she usually uses easy to understand language, where the argument is easy to follow and the words unobstructive to comprehension for the layman.

Ruth, Lester. “Some Similarities and Differences between Historic Evangelical Hymns and Contemporary Worship Songs.” Artistic Theologian 3 (2015): 68-86.

              In his article, Some Similarities and Differences between Historic Evangelical Hymns and Contemporary Worship Songs, Lester Ruth posits that there are some specific theological differences and similarities between the hymns of old and the contemporary worship songs of now, and that the two forms of music are theologically homogenous to such an extent that he argues they could be used completely interchangeably. Ruth argues towards his point by analysing for themes of the trinity, divine activity, and eschatology in 200 historically significant hymns and 112 of the most prolific contemporary worship songs in church services, where he then compares the findings against each other. His purpose is to bring a great deal of insight into the ongoing dilemma concerning what musical tradition is more theologically correct for church services, in order to allow us to see what needs to be improved and what is being done well already. Ruth’s audience appears to be a theologically literate audience that would have influence over the songs used in church services, viz. pastors and worship leaders that are theologically competent.

Thornton, Daniel. “Exploring the Contemporary Congregational Song Genre: Texts, Practice, and Industry.” PhD diss., Macquarie University, 2015.

              In his PhD dissertation, Exploring the Contemporary Congregational Song Genre: Texts, Practice (2015), and Industry, Daniel Thornton provides a true theomusicological overview of the contemporary worship music genre, where current research is scant and under-representative towards musical analysis, and concludes that the contemporary congregational song genre, also extending to contemporary worship as at large, is largely misunderstood and treated more superficially than it ought to be, considering the breadth of its history and impact of multitudes of people. Thornton supports his purpose by choosing 25 songs, most popular according to CCLI, and then using a “tri-level music semiology” to analyse them: the neutral level, where songs are given an harmonic analysis, with a consideration regarding YouTube popularity as well; the esthesic level, where songs are analysed qualitatively in conjunction to quantitatively, predominately through data collected in an online self-reported written response surveys (no Likert-scales); and the poetic level, focusing on the music production, including surveys issued to composers, performers, lyricists, and producers. His purpose is to significantly add a large amount of research into the field of theomusicology, a quite small research interest, so that more authors can write about the subject, and have the highly necessary sources to do so (instead of many articles though, Thornton consolidates a massive body of research into one document for ease of access). He appears to have an extremely narrow academic audience due to two factors: this work is ~325 pages in length, and requires competency in statistics, theology, and music theory in order to properly follow all of his arguments.

Woodruff, Neal W., and Mark A. Frisius. “The Message in Our Music: What Popular Congregational Songs Say about Our Beliefs.” Faculty Scholarship and Creative Work – Music, 2014.

              In their article, The Message in Our Music: What Popular Congregational Songs Say about Our Beliefs, Woodruff and Frisius asserts that our approach towards singing frequently repeated congregational songs, not only reflect our attitude towards God, but that it has an active role in shaping our theology. To argue to this end, they synthesis information from various sources, particularly Stowe and even Aquinas, to show that congregational singing is “pedagogic” in function, and then enter into a literary analysis of some of the most widely sung songs in church services, according to CCLI; overall they conclude that theological depth in contemporary worship is lacking in some aspects, these songs also focus on Christ too much (in that it disparages other defining theological points, such as the Trinity). Their purpose in this article is to mainly raise awareness about the potential danger allowing to take root within churches globally, for if congregational singing continues to use songs that are too vague and lacking in varied theology, then the theology of congregants will become “shallow and shoddy”, ultimately leading towards an uninformed, or to some even a weak or shallow, faith. Their distinct preference of using traditional hymns, instead of composing new songs, although more pragmatic, potentially alludes to an older, and more theologically conservative, demographic, more specifically those in positions of leadership at churches everywhere.

Bibliography

Bereza, Sarah. “The Right Kind of Music: Fundamentalist Christianity as Musical and Cultural Practice.” PhD diss., Duke University, 2017.

Bowler, Kate, and Wen Reagan. “Bigger, Better, Louder: The Prosperity Gospel’s Impact on Contemporary Christian Worship.” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 24, no. 2 (Summer 2014): 186-230.

Crocker, Matt, Joel Houston, and Salomon Ligthelm. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail). N.p.: Hillsong Music Publishing, 2013.

Frame, John M. Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publ., 1997.

Hartje, Gesa F. “Keeping in Tune with the Times—Praise and Worship Music as Today’s Evangelical Hymnody1 in North America.” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 48, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 364-73.

Ingalls, Monique. “Singing Heaven down to Earth: Spiritual Journeys, Eschatological Sounds, and Community Formation in Evangelical Conference Worship.” Ethnomusicology 55, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 2011): 255-79.

Ingalls, Monique Marie. “Awesome in This Place: Sound, Space, and Identity in Contemporary North American Evangelical Worship.” PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2008.

McMillan, John Mark. How He Loves. Mobile, AL: Integrity Music, 2005.

Myrick, Nathan. “Relational Power, Music, and Identity: The Emotional Efficacy of Congregational Song.” Yale Journal of Music and Religion 3, no. 1 (2017): 77-92. Digital file.

Packiam, Glenn Previn. “Worship and the World to Come: A Theological Ethnography of Hope in Contemporary Worship Songs and Services.” PhD diss., Durham University, 2017.

Reagan, Wen. “A Beautiful Noise: A History of Contemporary Worship Music in Modern America.” PhD diss., Duke University, 2015.

Riddle, Jeremy, Phil Wickham, and Joshua Neil Farro. This Is Amazing Grace. Libretto by Lloyd Larson. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Company, 2017.

Ruth, Lester. “Some Similarities and Differences between Historic Evangelical Hymns and Contemporary Worship Songs.” Artistic Theologian 3 (2015): 68-86. Digital file.

Steuernagel, Marcell Silva. “Church Music through the Lens of Performance: The Embodied Ritual of Sacred Play.” PhD diss., Baylor University, 2018.

Thornton, Daniel. “Exploring the Contemporary Congregational Song Genre: Texts, Practice, and Industry.” PhD diss., Macquarie University, 2015.

Wagner, Thomas J. “Hearing the Hillsong Sound: Music, Marketing, Meaning and Branded Spiritual Experience at a Transnational Megachurch.” PhD diss., Royal Holloway University of London, 2013.

Woodruff, Neal W., and Mark A. Frisius. “The Message in Our Music : What Popular Congregational Songs Say about Our Beliefs.” Faculty Scholarship and Creative Work – Music, 2014.

Yoon, Sunny. “Tuning in Sacred: Youth Culture and Contemporary Christian Music.” International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 47, no. 2 (December 2016): 315-42. Digital file.

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