Resonance : a music director’s theomusicological study of ‘praise’ and ‘glory’ in a selection of four liturgical music excerpts

Ong, John Chun-kuo (2011) Resonance : a music director’s theomusicological study of ‘praise’ and ‘glory’ in a selection of four liturgical music excerpts. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Some of my most powerful spiritual experiences have come from the splendorous and sublime sounding hymns performed by a choir and church organ at the traditional Anglican church I’ve attended since I was very young. In the later stage of my life, my pursuit of education in the field of engineering caused me to move to Australia where I regularly attended a contemporary evangelical church and subsequently became a music director in the faith community. This environmental and cultural shift altered my perception and musical experiences of Christian music and led me to enquire about the relationship between Christian liturgy and church music. Throughout history church musicians and composers have synthesised the theological, congregational, cultural and musical aspects of church liturgy. Many great composers have taken into account the conditions surrounding the process of sacred composition and arrangement of music to enhance the experience of religious ecstasy – they sought resonances with Christian values and beliefs to draw congregational participation into the light of praising and glorifying God. As a music director in an evangelical church this aspiration has become one I share. I hope to identify and define the qualities of these resonances that have been successful and apply them to my own practice. Introduction and Structure of the Thesis In this study I will examine four purposively selected excerpts of Christian church vocal music combining theomusicological and semiotic analysis to help identify guidelines that might be useful in my practice as a church music director. The four musical excerpts have been selected based upon their sustained musical and theological impact over time, and their ability to affect ecstatic responses from congregations. This thesis documents a personal journey through analysis of music and uses a context that draws upon ethno-musicological, theological and semiotic tools that lead to a preliminary framework and principles which can then be applied to the identified qualities of resonance in church music today. The thesis is comprised of four parts. Part 1 presents a literature study on the relationship between sacred music, the effects of religious ecstasy and the Christian church. Multiple lenses on this phenomenon are drawn from the viewpoints of prominent western church historians, Biblical theologians, and philosophers. The literature study continues in Part 2, where the role of embodiment is examined from the current perspective of cognitive learning environments. This study offers a platform for a critical reflection on two distinctive musical liturgical systems that have treated differently the notion of embodied understanding amidst a shifting church paradigm. This allows an in-depth theological and philosophical understanding of the liturgical conditions around sacred music-making that relates to the monistic and dualistic body/mind. Part 3 involves undertaking a theomusicological methodology that utilises creative case studies of four purposively selected spiritual pieces. A semiotic study focuses on specific sections of sacred vocal works that express the notions of ‘praise’ and ‘glorification’, particularly in relation to these effects,which combine an analysis of theological perspectives around religious ecstasy and particular spiritual themes. Part 4 presents the critiques and findings gathered from the study that incorporate theoretical and technological means to analyse the purposive selected musical artefact, particularly with the sonic narratives expressing notions of ‘Praise' and 'Glory’. The musical findings are further discussed in relation to the notion of resonance, and then a conceptual framework for the role of contemporary musicdirector is proposed. The musical and Christian terminologies used in the thesis are explained in the glossary, and the appendices includes tables illustrating the musical findings, conducted surveys, written musical analyses and audio examples of selected sacred pieces available on the enclosed compact disc.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

461 since deposited on 22 Jul 2011
140 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 43508
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Dillon, Steve
Keywords: theo-musicology, liturgical music, Christian spirituality, Christian faith
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Schools > Music & Sound
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 Jul 2011 06:03
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2011 06:03

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page