In this interview, Owen Coggins joins us to talk about the use of religious (and sacreligious) language and imagary in Drone Metal, a genre which stretches metal to low, slow, repetative extremes. Drawing on the work of Michel de Certeau, he tells David Robertson that the prevalence of language relating to mysticism and “spiritual experience” may be due to the genre’s focus on the physicality of the musical experience. Expanding out to discuss other forms of popular music which exhibit these modes of engagement, the conversation moves to consider how this case-study might open up new ways to engage with religious ideas in popular culture, and in other practices involving extreme states of bodily consciousness.
This podcast explores how Hindu belief and traditions have been incorporated into modern western practices. An overview of the British kirtan community and the Art of Living movement is followed by a discussion of authenticity, reconciliation of tradition and modernity, and the influence of popular culture. As appropriation of culture and questions of authenticity pervade conversations across fields, the study of contemporary British Hindu movements is important in understanding how millennia old religious traditions are being used in new, modern contexts.
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Drone music is often described with terms such as violence, aggression, pain and suffering, but it is these markers of extremity which allow a sense of catharsis, dark spirituality and even healing according to listeners. Drone metal, then, addresses deep issues of importance in rather different musical and conceptual registers to Hoondert’s requiem composers and audiences. But in exploring the sacred in music, each are equally concerned with profound themes whose impact for many will elude language.
Hoondert discusses the step away from the liturgy associated with requiems as way for today’s individual to deal with death or violence in their own way. Still, It is clear that the ritual elements of the requiem remains, hence where this contemporary music fits into the sacral landscape is up for debate.
Music is a big part of a new “mediapolois”, part of a marketing matrix of people, places and industries. Today, music’s meaning is more often part of a branded ecosystem, not limited to entertainment, but part of the experience of everyday life, including religion.
“There’s always the risk in popular culture studies – first of all, it’s so fluid, you know, things change so fast – that the minute you’ve said something, it’s obsolete. And there’s always the risk that the material can’t bear the weight of analysis,” said Kate McCarthy in 2013, shortly after the re-release of her co-edited volume God in the Details. However, listening back to this unreleased interview, her commentary both on the metamorphic nature of popular culture studies and on the music of Bruce Springsteen remain salient and fresh even today
The RSP collaborated with Society for the Scientific Study of Religion at their 2014 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis to offer and video record an interdisciplinary panel on the study of religion. Each of the papers presented are not only from different fields in the study of religion but also methodologically or theoretically apply an interdisciplinary approach. The authors represent the best in their fields. Some are established scholars with a body of work while others are up-and-coming talent.
“…Segal touches on something rather interesting when he comments that Freud’s inner circle of brilliant acolytes all outgrew and turned against him, one after another, while Jung’s mediocre followers remained devoted to his methods even after his death. Is there an implied criticism of Jung there, that he didn’t dare surround himself with people who could challenge him intellectually, as he had challenged Freud?”
“Social science, more than any other branch of science, is prone to the undesired influence of philosophical and ideological perspectives. The question is, then, how should social scientists deal with ideologically-infused theories without glossing over the ideologies behind them? I don’t have a straightforward answer to this question, but I can refer to Gauthier’s nuanced approach to studying neo-liberalism, which he outlines in his interview.”
“It is a truth generally acknowledged that religions have been the earliest and perhaps the chief progenitors of cultural products in human societies…” Clearly there is no shortage of data for scholars wishing to delve into this broad topic. But what do we actually mean by ‘cultural product’? How can we claim that ‘religion’ is producing these things in any meaningful way? What can we ascertain about a ‘religion’ from its cultural products? And what makes this approach different from that of Material Religion?