Musicology of Religion

Theories, Methods, and Directions

By Guy L. Beck

Subjects: Religion, Music, Sociology
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Hardcover : 9781438493114, 368 pages, May 2023
Paperback : 9781438493107, 368 pages, November 2023

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Table of contents


Part I: Theories and Methods

1. Religious Studies and Music

2. Social Sciences and Music

3. Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Part II: New Directions and Paradigms

4. Philosophy and Music

5. Theology and Music

6. Liturgical Studies and Music

7. Cognitive Studies and Music

Part III: Homo Religiosus and Homo Musicus

8. Musicology of Religion

Appendix A Resources and Current Outlook
Appendix B Glossary of Terms for Musicology of Religion
Works Cited

Spearheads a new field for the combined study of religion and music, drawing upon theories and methods of the social sciences, ethnomusicology, philosophy, theology, liturgical studies, and cognitive studies.


For generations, religion and music have been regarded as "universals," yet despite the fact that they have been frequently linked throughout history and topography, and despite the importance of music in the early stages of religious studies, their combined presence has not until now been considered a separate area of study and research. While there are well-developed fields of anthropology of religion, psychology of religion, and philosophy of religion, the widely recognized connections between religion and sound, chant, and music warrant comparable study. Drawing upon theories and methods in the study of both religion and music, referencing examples from world religious traditions, and addressing challenges posed by critics, this book envisions a unified field for religion and music: musicology of religion. Grounded in the scope and methods of phenomenology and comparative analysis, musicology of religion represents an innovative direction in interdisciplinary study, enriched by the social sciences, ethnomusicology, philosophy, theology, liturgical studies, and cognitive studies. As conceived, musicology of religion will spearhead new and creative paths in the study of religion.

Guy L. Beck is Lecturer in Religious Studies at Tulane University. His previous books include Sonic Liturgy: Ritual and Music in Hindu Traditions and Sacred Sound: Experiencing Music in World Religions.


"Guy Beck's Musicology of Religion is a full‐throated call for a new academic discipline constituted by comparative studies of music in religious cultures. Beck boldly and earnestly renews a century‐long debate over musical universals that is unquestionably important, and there is no question that he speaks for many in these fields who, as he says, know that religion and music are intimately related in human experience but have no dedicated theoretical and methodological discourse to examine that relationship. Musicology of Religion takes a decisive step forward in advancing that discourse and could well become a landmark in the study of sacred music." — Stephen A. Marini, author of Sacred Song in America: Religion, Music, and Public Culture