Traces of the Spirit: The Religious Dimensions of Popular Music

Hardcover (Print)

Overview

"Sylvan's thesis furnishes far more of the same valued experiences than is usually realized: ritual activity, communal ceremony, a philosophy and worldview, a code for living one's life, a cultural identity, a social structure, a sense of belonging, and crucially, Sylvan argues encounters with the numinous."
Journal of Religion

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Taking us on a journey from West Africa to San Francisco, Robin Sylvan reminds us that being moved by the music means much more than simply understanding the lyrics. From rock to rap, disco to heavy metal, Sylvan takes the whole music experience seriously, exploring how its very performance--and its subsequent affect on the audience--touches the entirety of what makes us human, in what can only be considered a religious experience of sound, beat, dance, ritual, and world view. . . . Will challenge your presumptions about the significance of music in general, these genres in particular, and the way we understand religion to work in the lives of ordinary people." --, -Eric Michael Mazur,coeditor of God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814798089
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Pages: 291
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Sylvan is Assistant Professor of Religion and the Arts at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Traces of the Spirit: The Hidden Religious Dimensions of Popular Music 1
I Theoretical, Structural, and Historical Background 15
1 The Connection between Music and Religion 19
2 West African Possession Religion and American Popular Music 45
II Popular Music Subcultures as Religion: A Comparative Analysis Based on Ethnographic Research 77
3 Eyes of the World: The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads 83
4 The Dance Music Continuum: House, Rave, and Electronic Dance Music 117
5 Stairway to Heaven, Highway to Hell: Heavy Metal and Metalheads 152
6 The Message: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture 182
Conclusion: There's More to the Picture than Meets the Eye 214
Appendix 223
Notes 231
Bibliography 271
Index 281
About the Author 291
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2002

    Outstanding Book! Great comparisons between music and religiouns

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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