Commodification and mediaization of religious music

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What happens when the sound (music) of religious ritual is turned into a media product, circulating within a media system, and (often) transformed into a commodity?

Conversely: how is mediated music incorporated into religious practices?

Are meanings, effects, functions of religious music thereby transformed? Does the religious system itself change? What is the impact on the music system?

Research questions. What questions must be answered in order to describe such transformations completely? For instance: what is mediated and what is not mediated? How are media products circulated? What is the difference between various kinds of media (media products, broadcasts, podcasts, etc.)? What is the radius of circulation? Who buys them and how are they used? How are intellectual property rights resolved? Who profits?) Is it possible to participate in a religious ritual mediated via the web? How does such a phenomenon change the concept of ritual, and the role of sound within it? How would you design a research project investigating the commodification and mediaization of religious music?

Please think about these questions for discussion in class, and add other questions that may occur to you as well, below.

Also try to find:

  • scholarly articles or web sites discussing this topic
  • web sites distributing mediated religious sound

We'll examine and analyze instances of the latter in class, so please try to locate examples, including their links below.

Reading assignment

To ease your burden as we move into the final two weeks of the course, I'm requiring only one article. Please read at least one of the following (your preference); treat the other as optional:

Muslim Devotional, by Regula Qureshi

Sound Engineering in a Tamil Village, by Paul Greene

Notes on commodification and mediaization of religious music

Religious sound, the cassette revolution in Egypt, and the global world music circuit

Egyptian Qur'an reciters on tape

'Traditional' style: recall video of Shaykh Yasin performing at a moulid or religious night (layla diniyya)

'Traditional' style on cassette:

Tape 15 - Ibn al-Farid Notes

from Shaykh Yasin's cassette tape #1

The cover of Shaykh Yasin tape #1

"World music" style:

The cover of Shaykh Yasin's first CD (produced by Long Distance, in France]


Question: how did technology and media create transformations in the performance practice of Shaykh Yasin al-Tuhami? Do the differences appear in the transition to cassette (representing "traditional" performance)? To CD (representing "world music" performance)? Or in live performance as well?

Scholarly articles or web sites discussing this topic

Find discussions of this topic in jstor, or on the web...

Max Weber and the Sociology of Music, By Alex C. Turley I found an article discussing Max Weber (famous sociological religious theorist) and his theory of the 'Rationalization Process'. Weber discusses the Capitalization of Western Cultures through 'Westernized Music'. Turley discusses Webers' influence on the study of western music (specifically demarcated as 'Religious Music'), as well their effect on cultural nationalism. --Kristen 16:02, 25 March 2006 (MST)

The Audiences' Uses and Gratifications of TV Worship Series Pettersson reviews a survey of people who watch TV worship services and finds that they believe it is less burdensome than going to church, but only in a few cases was it actually functionally replacing the church visit. --Lpauls 09:52, 27 March 2006 (MST)

Accessing Religion Online (I know, not academic...) There are a bunch of statistics here, and brief description of some manifestations and mention of some of the 'issues' of online religion. For example, what is the real meaning of community and can it be achieved online? Does a wealth of online info weaken peoples' loyalties to one particular denomination? How dangerous is misinformation accessed online?--Gloria 17:51, 27 March 2006 (MST)

Electronic Church Terms This is not so much an article, but a list of terms by which broadcasted (be it by TV, radio, or online) religious services are refered too. I thought it was interesting enough to post because it shows just how much effect changing the context of religious rituals has not only on those participating in them, but on the language and culture of the society they exist in as well.--KellyM 22:06, 27 March 2006 (MST)

Charismatic/Pentecostal Appropriation of Media Technologies in Nigeria and Ghana This article explores the use of the media by various Charismatic and Pentecostal groups. It makes some good points about how they make use of the technology, but the is a very destinct bias against these groups on the part of the author. This is particularily noticable in some of the terms and expressions. The word "appropriation" often has negative connotations, and further into the article the Rosalind Hackett writes of how they "exploit" the technology for their own purposes. I don't always agree with their methodology myself, but Hackett's writing style struck me as particularily biased. ~--Cari 09:16, 28 March 2006 (MST)

Technology and the Production of Islamic Space: The Call to Prayer in Singapore An article that investigates the role of media technology in creating Islamic space within pluralistic urban centers. The author traces the rapid process of urbanization instituted by the government shortly after independence and demonstrates that social organization changed from small homogenous rural communities to complex multi-ethnic urban communities. The rural population was moved to newly created urban centers and organized in specific ethnic/religious ratios. Larger centers and a wider dispersal of the Muslim community required amplification of the adhan in order to be heard. Other groups, particularily the Chinese majority, took offense to the call and the government ruled that the adhan should be quieter and speakers be pointed toward the interior of mosques rather than the exterior. It also ruled that the call to prayer should be broadcast over the radio in order to lessen potential conflict. The author suggests that in this case media technology is used to strengthen community ties and solidify cultural identity in a pluralistic context. ~--CBiel 14:05, 28 March 2006 (MST)

Divine Utterances: Santeria by Katherine J. Hagedorn. This is a book review of Hagedorn's apprenticeship into the Santeria drumming tradition in Cuba, in American Ethnologist. Reportedly, Hagedorn explores the changes to sacred music after it is repackage/commodified/politicized, the difference between folk and ritual music, and the challenges to being a female apprentice to a restrive male sacred musical tradition in a newly capitalist society. I find it an interesting perspective, especially since my exposure to a Santeria ceremony in Pedroso Betancourt involved both the 'godmother' and 'godfather' of my host shaman-friend, and during the celebration/ceremony, my friend's mother herself played one of the drums. The urban centre of Habana where Hagedorn conducted her ethnomusicological research may have more cultural roadblocks and protected cultural commodities than the impoverished plantation town of Pedroso Betancourt?--Kreisha 05:46, 30 March 2006 (MST)

Web sites exemplifying this topic

Locate instances of mediated religious music on the web. Can you find examples of web-mediated religious worship?

Some links for online worship and audio (downloads, streams, radio, podcasts...):


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


[6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]


Open iTunes, select "Music Store", "podcasts", "religion and spirituality"

Here's one example: But it's probably more of the case of religious/sacred music to make a buck that's now starting to be used in worship instead of music used in worship that now is starting to make a buck. And just MAYBE this music has been influenced by pop culture.--Lpauls 13:50, 26 March 2006 (MST)

I suppose finding nothing can still be revealing... the All Faith Church Within posts 'services' which consist essentially of online readings and quotes from various world religions and great minds. No music. How often is music simply eliminated in online religious worship? I'd say that's a significant effect of mediaization. Christian Music Radio This is an online radio station that you can listen to for free. A lot of the other things I found had to do with shopping. Does mediaization equal commodification? Or popularization?--Gloria 18:34, 27 March 2006 (MST)

The example I found is WOW worship CDs. This series has been in place since the 90s, and is usually a 2-CD set of the top Christian music hits from a given year. I mean, why purchase several CDs (in many cases you get a CD for a particular song), when you can buy all your favourite songs/artists on one recording? --Stella 20:57, 27 March 2006 (MST)

JCTV I stumbled across this website while looking for something entirely different to post. The website is a promotion tool for an all christian cable channel that plays christian rock videos, movies, games shows, and "issue-driven" talk shows. They also have a link that enables you to watch the station online. Interestingly, the creators make a point in their info link to tell the reader that while other stations care only about getting your money, JCTV wants to better your life... but it's a cable channel so they must want your money a little bit!- --KellyM 21:51, 27 March 2006 (MST)

Gregorian Chant cd Ha ha, this site cracks me up. Lots of c.d.'s of Gregorian chant, mixed in with sounds of nature, so you can have a deep religious experience in your very own home. I am rather dubious about the scholarship that went into the compilation of some of these recordings (ex. the spelling is often less than correct; "Praise Mary with Sounds of a Desert Dawn" claims to follow the form of a Mass, but doesn't; "Gregorian Chant for Christmas" boasts "rare English translations of the Latin verse" (translations are actually quite common and easy to do yourself); etc. ad nauseum). You can also watch the movies of the chant...listen to Greogrian chant and watch waves crash on to the shore. --Meghanbowen 08:51, 28 March 2006 (MST)

There is a big, annual, christian worship conference in Edmonton called Breakforth. The website for Breakforth does have music cds for sale @ [12] - click on "resources". These are mostly resources for worship (cds and books), some of them by the organizer of Breakforth, Arlen Salti. User: dstark

The Church of Fools. This struck me as being very funny. At first I thought it was a joke, but the web site is sponsored by the Methodist Church. It is a 3D cartoon church in which one may select a character, walk around, sit in a pew, say a few prayers. So here we go! This page does not represent the mediation or commodification of religious music or even religion; this is the mediation of a religious space. Funny. --CBiel

Taoist Music CDs. This is a Taoist on-line supply store with lots of cassettes/CDs, scrolls, musical instruments--some apparently artifacts, teas, etc.--even allegedly the current sacred scripts provided to young initiates of a Taoist temple. It seems fairly genuine as an example of technology/media used by 'religion' to disseminate its practice to an international/diasporic community.--Kreisha 05:33, 30 March 2006 (MST)

Research questions pertaining to this topic

What research questions become pertinent? How would you design a research study centered upon commodification and mediaization of religious music?

Mediaization might be considered akin to secularization. An interesting research project could study any controversy that arises along those lines.--Gloria 17:34, 27 March 2006 (MST)

What is driving the primary driving force behind commodification of religous music? Is this an instance of religion in the music system, or music in the religious system? What else is at play besides music and religion?--Andre 08:06, 28 March 2006 (MST)

The Muslim Devotional article comments on the influence of the British colonizers regarding what was recorded and thus what became popular. It might be interesting to look at the influence of outsiders in relation to this topic. These outsiders might be looking for political or financial gain, but they may also be influencing the commodification and mediaization due to religious purposes.~--Cari 08:53, 28 March 2006 (MST)