Musical Behaviours, Dispositions, and Tendencies: Exploring Church Music-Making Through a Theory of Practice
Doctor of Philosophy
The purpose of this study was to examine two churches’ music-making practices and their reflection of, and response to, the musical and theological fields in which they are located. Using central concepts from Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice (1977) including habitus, capital, and field in connection with religion, the study considered how worship leaders and musicians strategized their musical behaviours and “disrupted” or affirmed traditional norms of music-making in each contemporary worship music-making setting. The study further explored whether such musical behaviours reflected and shaped habitus both institutionally and individually, and if so, the ways in which the process occurred.
This research utilized a qualitative, multiple case study design (Yin, 2014) to examine the music-making practices of two churches in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Data were collected from May to July 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, influencing each church’s musical positioning. Results from cross-case analysis indicated that worship leaders’ and churches’ values were enacted musically through sub-themes of repertoire selection, modes of performance, and participative choices, positioning each church differently within the religious field. Musicians spoke to tensions they encountered between the pursuit of musical excellence and a focus on participation and inclusivity, reflecting contrasts in theological approaches and worship leaders’ strategization of musical behaviours. Worship leaders, as facilitators, can be understood to direct musical behaviours, “thoughtfully disrupting” (Higgins, 2015) or critically accepting perceptions of excellence and “legitimate musical knowledge” (Green, 2006).
Based on data findings, the study expands upon the concept of “dialogical habitus” (Akrivou & Di San Giorgio, 2014; Catron, 2022) in relation to reflection and conscious conversation among agents within church music settings. Findings suggest that when there was a disjunct between habitus and an interrogation of the doxa, or rules of the field, dialogical processes of reflection contributed to a transformation of (religious musical) habitus – institutionally and individually. The study posits that while shifting field conditions influence changes in habitus, it is also the dialogical processes that can contribute to inter-subjective spaces of encounter, knowing, and being, thus re-shaping dispositions, tendencies, and pedagogical practices within church music, music education, and community music settings.
Summary for Lay Audience
The purpose of this study was to examine two churches’ music-making practices and how they reflected and responded to the musical and theological norms and traditions of the church. This study used three central concepts from Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice (1977) including habitus, capital, and field in relation to religion to consider how worship leaders and musicians in each church affirmed, or “disrupted” the traditional norms of music-making through their contemporary worship music-making practices. The study further explored whether musical behaviours reflected the dispositions, preferences, and tendencies both of the church and of individual musicians.
This research examined the music-making practices of two churches in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Data were collected from May to July 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, influencing each church’s musical practices. Results from data findings indicated that repertoire selection, performance practices, and choices surrounding musical participation varied between the two churches. Worship leaders were understood to direct some of these musical behaviours, “disrupting” or critically accepting the musical and theological norms in place. These musical and theological norms were understood to contribute to musicians’ difficulty in maintaining a balance between the pursuit of musical excellence and focusing on inclusivity and participation for all.
Based on data findings, the study encourages the implementation of dialogical practices, meaning processes of reflection and conscious conversation among musicians within music-making settings. Dialogical practices were understood to contribute to change, thoughtfully re-shaping “norms” and “tendencies” in place within church music, music education, and community music settings, leading to future transformation.
Benjamins, Laura E., "Musical Behaviours, Dispositions, and Tendencies: Exploring Church Music-Making Through a Theory of Practice" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9288.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.