chapter  3
23 Pages

Bridging worlds through common modes of being in music

The first category which I trace through my interview data focuses on the bridges that can be built between different musical environments. The variety of backgrounds which worshippers bring with them through the doors of a church open up a broad range of different experiences. It is sometimes possible for worshippers to form connections between music within the church and musical experiences elsewhere in their lives, enabling them to experience a certain degree of commonality between different musical worlds and thereby experience a level of coherence between different aspects of their musical lives and modes of musical attachment. For some worshippers these bridges enable a positive experience of collective worship with the goods (i.e., those things which they value positively) from one area of their life coinciding closely with those of another, thereby allowing multiple forms of music to be experienced and assessed in similarly positive and valuable terms. The ability for this to happen is often rooted in specific ways in which worshippers conceive of and find significance within the different musics that they encounter and the particular characteristics which come to the foreground within each experience. These characteristics are not simply pre-given, and it is partly the malleability of musical experience which can enable strong bridges between diverse musics to be formed. As will be illustrated in this chapter, modes of experience formed in one setting can be brought across to another, or broader ways of being in the world can be brought to the different musical settings which worshippers enter. There can also be a more complex relationship between different settings whereby they (mutually) reinterpret each-other, developing commonalities that might never be found in either in isolation. The possibility of differing readings of a particular text is one that has been

long-recognized within the realms of reception history. The author is no longer usually considered to be the sole arbitrator of meaning, but instead has become one voice among many others who are all empowered to interpret and give meaning to a text. Within the context of sung worship it is not simply the text (musical or otherwise) of an individual author which can be subject

to multiple experiences and readings, but socially produced practices within the church body itself. The church congregation is not simply a passive audience which receives and reinterprets a text but instead actively engages in the performance of worship through sung participation. The church body is therefore able to actively engage in the meaning-making activity of performance alongside the receptive aspects of their engagement with the performance of the musicians on the stage; members not only receive performative meaning but play a role in producing it. This active participation implicates members of the congregation strongly in the activity of worship such that their experience of different modes of being in the world is at least as significant as patterns of uttered and received meaning. Differences in understandings of worship will lead to differences on a significant experiential level due to the high level of self-involvement inherent in the activity of sung worship. Such patterns can be inscribed on a deep level within the lives of worshippers due to the way in which musical worship is expected to connect with significant spiritual aspects of a worshipper’s life as well as with their deepest feelings.1