Traces of the Spirit: The Religious Dimensions of Popular Musicby Robin Sylvan
Pub. Date: 07/01/2002
Publisher: New York University Press
Most studies of the religious significance of popular music focus on music lyrics, offering little insight into the religious aspects of the music itself. Traces of the Spirit examines the religious dimensions of popular music subcultures, charting the influence and religious aspects of popular music in mainstream culture today and analyzing the religious significance of the audience's experiences, rituals, and worldviews. Sylvan contends that popular music subcultures serve the function of religious communities and represent a new and significant religious phenomenon.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork using interviews and participant observation, Sylvan examines such subcultures as the Deadheads, raves and their participants, metalheads, and Hip Hop culture. Based on these case studies, he offers a comprehensive theoretical framework in which to study music and popular culture. In addition, he traces the history of West African possession religion from Africa to the diaspora to its integration into American popular music in such genres as the blues, rock and roll, and contemporary musical youth subcultures.
Author Biography: Robin Sylvan is Assistant Professor of Religion and the Arts at the College of Wooster in Ohio.
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Table of Contents
I Theoretical, Structural, and Historical Background
1 The Connection between Music and Religion
2 West African Possession Religion and American Popular Music
II Popular Music Subcultures as Religion: A Comparative Analysis Based on Ethnographic Research
3 Eyes of the World: The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads
4 The Dance Music Continuum: House, Rave, and Electronic Dance Music
5 Stairway to Heaven, Highway to Hell: Heavy Metal and Metalheads
6 The Message: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture
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Sylvan writes an outstanding book that is extremely easy to read and informative for everone from doctorates to laymen. Actually states what many other authors on the subject only imply.