Whilst Christian congregational music has long been an object of reflection and study it has often been pushed towards the margins of the various disciplines that it inhabits. In this article I survey some of the challenges such study has faced before suggesting that recent disciplinary developments have served to prepare the ground for increased study of Christian congregational music. I suggest that ethnomusicology, in particular, has played an important role in motivating recent enquiry across a range of disciplines although not without facing a number of further challenges itself. I suggest that a field of Christian congregational music studies is beginning to emerge and finish by outlining recent contributions to scholarship from a range of perspectives.
Dan Michael Randel‘The Canons in the Musicology Toolbox’ in Disciplining Music: Musicology and Its Canonsed. Katherine Bergeron and Philip Vilas Bohlman (Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press 1992) p. 16.
John Witvliet‘Training Church Musicians as Pastoral Liturgists’ in Musicians for the Churches: Reflections on Vocation and Formationed. Margot Esbeth Fassler (New Haven: Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University 2001) p. 21.
Nancy Tatom AmmermanStudying Congregations: a New Handbook (Nashville: Abingdon Press1998). Mathew Guest Karin Tusting and Linda Woodhead (eds) Congregational Studies in the uk: Christianity in a Post-Christian Context (Aldershot: Ashgate 2004).
Elizabeth Phillips‘Charting the “Ethnographic Turn”: Theologians and the Study of Christian Congregations’ in Perspectives on Ecclesiology and Ethnographyed. Pete Ward (Grand Rapids Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co 2012). ‘The Ethnographic Turn in Theology and Ethics’ in Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics ed. Christian Batalden Scharen and Aana Marie Vigen (London; New York: Continuum 2011).
Although see Joel Robbins‘What is a Christian? Notes Toward an Anthopology of Christianity’Religion33/3 (2003) pp. 191–199. and Joel Robbins ‘Continuity Thinking and the Problem of Christian Culture’ Current Anthropology 48/1 (2007) pp. 5–38. for a discussion of continuing obstacles in the related discipline of anthropology.
Michelle Bigenho‘Why I’m Not an Ethnomusicologist: a View from Anthropology’ in The New (Ethno)musicologiesed. Henry Stobart (Lanham Md.: Scarecrow Press 2008). p. 29. Kay Kaufman Shelemay made a similar point in a 2012 address to the American Academy of Religion: ‘I would like to combat a condition that I will ironically term “scholarly melophobia”—the scholarly fear of music. I use this phrase both to get your attention and to underscore my efforts to combat a situation of musical exclusion that extends well beyond the community of religion scholars to colleagues in most fields outside of music.’
Jeffers Engelhardt‘Right Singing in Estonian Orthodox Christianity: A Study of Music, Theology, and Religious Ideology’Ethnomusicology53/1 (2009) pp. 32–57 at p. 33. Engelhardt provides a helpful catalogue of recent pieces of scholarship in the ethnomusicology of Christianity situating it in close relation to late 20th century developments in anthropology.
John Vallier‘Ethnomusicology as Tool for the Christian Missionary’European Meetings in Ethnomusicology10 (2003) pp. 85–97. John Vallier ‘Reply to Schrag-Coulter’s Response’ European Meetings in Ethnomusicology 10 (2003) pp. 109–116.
Melvin L Butler‘Musical Style and Experience in a Brooklyn Pentecostal Church: an ‘Insider’s’ Perspective’Current Musicology70 (2000) pp. 33–50. Melvin L Butler ‘“Nou Kwe Nan Sentespri” (We Believe in the Holy Spirit): Music Ecstasy and Identity in Haitian Pentecostal Worship’ Black Music Research Journal 22 (2002) pp. 85–125. Melvin L Butler ‘Songs of Pentecost: Experiencing Music Transcendence and Identity in Jamaica and Haiti’ (PhD diss. New York University: May 2005).
Jeff Todd Titon‘Stance, Role, and Identity in Fieldwork among Folk Baptists and Pentecostals in the United States.’American Music3 (1985) pp. 16–24. Titon’s own ethnographic work is also worth noting: Jeff Todd Titon Powerhouse for God: Speech Chant and Song in an Appalachian Baptist Church (Austin: University of Texas Press 1988).
Gregory Frederick BarzPerforming Religion: Negotiating Past and Present in Kwaya Music of Tanzania (New York: Rodopi2003). Zoe C Sherinian ‘Musical Style and the Changing Social Identity of Tamil Christians’ Ethnomusicology 51/2 (2007) pp. 238–80. Michael Webb ‘Palang Conformity and Fulset Freedom: Encountering Pentecostalism’s “Sensational” Liturgical Forms in the Postmissionary Church in Lae Papua New Guinea’ Ethnomusicology 55/3 (Fall 2011) pp. 445–72. Muriel E Swijghuisen Reigersberg. “Research Ethics Positive and Negative Impact and Working in an Indigenous Australian Context.” Ethnomusicology Forum 20/2 (2011) pp. 255–262. Muriel E Swijghuisen Reigersberg “We Are Lutherans From Germany’: Music Language Social History and Change in Hopevale’ Aboriginal History 36 (2012) pp. 99–117. Stillman ‘Prelude to a Comparative Investigation’. Jan Hellberg ‘To Worship God in Our Way: Disaffection and Localisation in the Music Culture of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia’ Journal of Musical Arts in Africa 7/1 (2010) pp. 17–50.