26. August
at 16.45


We kindly invite you to sign up for the Music – Religion – Spirituality symposium. Please You can register by sending an e-mail in which you write your name and email address to After successful registration, we will send you a zoom link for the symposium platform. Please do not share this link further, but feel free to invite all those interested to register.

Symposium is admission free and open to public.

Introductory Thoughts at the Symposium Music – Religion – Spirituality

Religious and spiritual doctrines and their interpretations have a significant impact on understandings of boundaries between musical and non-musical phenomena, and between acceptable and unacceptable music (sound) and dance (movement) practices in various spatial and temporal contexts. Religion and spirituality affect and reflect traditional, art, and popular music and dance domains. They are expressed under precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial circumstances, and in environments hostile to any or to at least different (minority) religious worldviews. Their role on a war-peace continuum sometimes results in migrations, refugee, and immigrant experiences. They are key components of ritualistic practices essential for identity maintenance, but also for new ecumenic syncretisms.

In March 2020, the Executive Board of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) endorsed the proposal of an international group of scholars for the establishment of a new Study Group with a focus on music, religion, and spirituality. The symposium in Ljubljana is the major required step in this direction. Recognized as an important focus, not explicitly present in the activities of any of the existing ICTM Study Groups, it is expected to be approached in an open, inclusive, and non-biased manner. Selected articles, based on the symposium presentations, will be published in the thematic issue of the peer-reviewed journal Musicological Annual.

Svanibor Pettan 


Svanibor Pettan: Music – Religion – Spirituality: An Introduction

SESSION 1: Diverse Aspects
Chair: Jean Kidula

Brita Heimarck: Music as a Spiritual Tool and Religious Ritual Accompaniment
Jeffrey A. Summit: Reimagining Spiritual Experience and Music: Perspectives from Jewish Worship in the United States
Antti-Ville Kärjä: Music, Heritagisation, and Belief Systems


SESSION2: Music, religion, and spirituality Today
Chair: Daniel Avorgbedor

Mojca Kovačič: Urban Religious Soundscapes and Identity Politics: The Case of Ljubljana
Fulvia Caruso: Media Replacements for Rites Suspended by the Pandemic: Notes from a Virtual Ethnography


SESSION 3: Glagolitic Singing
Chair: Marcia Ostashewski

Jakša Primorac: A Controversy of Glagolitic Singing
Joško Ćaleta: Public Performance Models as Identity Maintenance Markers of Glagolitic (Traditional Church) Singing of Croatia


SESSION 1: Diverse Aspects
Chair: Jean Kidula

Brita Heimarck
Boston University (USA):

Music as a Spiritual Tool and Religious Ritual Accompaniment

In this presentation I discuss the concept of music as a “tool” in religious or spiritual contexts. For those on a spiritual path, music can function as a “spiritual tool,” a religious tool, a ceremonial tool, a ritual tool, or a tool of emancipation, transformation, or consciousness-raising. I investigate several examples of music’s powerful role within specific religious or spiritual contexts drawn from diverse Hindu traditions and yogic practices. I refer to the musical ceremony that embodies devotion known as arati, and music that accompanies rites of passage in Bali, Indonesia, including the gender wayang accompaniment to tooth-filing ceremonies, weddings, and cremation ceremonies. Music in the context of meditation, or group chanting in the context of satsang complete this exploration of music as a religious, ceremonial, and spiritual tool embodying inner and outer devotion, transition, and transformation.


Jeffrey A. Summit
Tufts University (USA):

Reimagining Spiritual Experience and Music: Perspectives from Jewish Worship in the United States

Leaning on Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s poem of the “fourfold song” as a typology of categories, this paper examines music and spiritual experience in (liberal) Jewish worship in the United States in the twenty-first century. Kook’s four categories—the song of the self, the song of one’s people, the song of humanity, and the song of all existence—provide a structure to consider a developing focus on spirituality in Jewish congregational prayer and song. Ethnographic interviews with prayer leaders who have built reputations for constructing worship services where music is a core component of spiritual expression provide insight into the evolving conceptions of music and worship. These suggest a reconceptualization, moving from “religious experience” to what Anne Taves has termed “experiences deemed religious.” This, in turn, provides an organizational framework for emerging trends in spiritual expression and as such, has relevance to the broader study of the meaning and power of congregational music in religious life.


Antti-Ville Kärjä
University of the Arts Helsinki (Finland):

Music, Heritagisation, and Belief Systems

Music heritagisation proliferates, as indicated by the UNESCO lists of intangible cultural heritage in particular. At issue are often indigenous cultural practices with their associated cosmologies, or other musical phenomena that are inextricable from distinct belief systems. By investigating the UNESCO lists both quantitatively and qualitatively, it is my aim to chart out how different religious denominations and other forms of spirituality are implicated in heritagising music, and vice versa. In the current times of re-enchantment, post-secularisation and alternative spiritualities, how does music heritagisation interrelate with the religious sphere, and to what extent does music heritage constitute a belief system of its own? Moreover, given the importance of ICH for the tourism industry, how do the religious and other beliefs become entangled with global capitalism (in its local forms)?

SESSION2: Music, religion, and spirituality Today
Chair:Daniel Avorgbedor

Mojca Kovačič
ZRC SAZU, Institute of Ethnomusicology (Slovenia):

Urban Religious Soundscapes and Identity Politics: The Case of Ljubljana

The simultaneous presence of different cultures and religions in a shared environment often involves specific religious sounds which affirm the presence of diversity and also claims for domination of the most prominent one. The city of Ljubljana and Slovenia as a whole, where Roman Catholicism for centuries dominated the religious scene, experienced the first religious sonic challenges from the recently opened Ljubljana mosque and from a spiritual community known as the Trans-Universal Zombie Church of Blissful Ringing. In the case of the first-ever mosque built in Ljubljana, the question of the call for prayer (adhan) was raised, while in the case of the officially registered Zombie Church, the sonic symbolism of the dominant religion was questioned. Religious sounds have become an instrument of identity politics, which can be observed in the political media discourse as well as in the general everyday communications of urban residents. In this paper, I observe how religious soundscapes in Ljubljana, such as the bell ringing, bell chiming, and adhan relate to elements of tradition, monoculturalism, multiculturalism, monoreligiosity, atheism, nationality, citizenship, and (post-)secularism in the discourse of identity politics.


Fulvia Caruso
University of Pavia (Italy):

Media Replacements for Rites Suspended by the Pandemic: Notes from a Virtual Ethnography

During the Covid lockdown in 2020 and in 2021, important Catholic calendric rites were inevitably suspended. In some cases, however, cultural associations, brotherhoods, companies of pilgrims, and individuals began using the Internet to fill the void created by the absence of live rituals. In March 2020, I began to observe, collect, and analyze social media posts, especially those on Facebook, that reflected the changing realities. Analysis of the posts reveals virtualization of the rites using previous recordings, the creation of ad hoc recordings, and in some cases live coverage of small events. The web, already used as a tool to raise awareness of specific local traditions, has become during the Covid lockdown a place of reference for people familiar with the traditions, searching for other ways to experience them. The study of the virtualization of the rites illustrates which aspects of the rite could not be eliminated and had to be enacted even if in a new form. The focus of my presentation is on the rites and particularly on the musical elements associated with the pilgrimage to the shrine of the Holy Trinity in Vallepietra, aiming to reveal the impact of a virtual experience on personal devotional expression.


SESSION 3: Glagolitic Singing
Chair: Marcia Ostashewski

Jakša Primorac
Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Croatia):

A Controversy of Glagolitic Singing

Traditional church singing in southern parts of Croatia is the only Roman Catholic liturgical singing which was allowed to be performed in a non-Latin language for centuries; that is, it was performed in Old Church Slavonic or in the Croatian language. Its musical features are also exceptional, for it was permitted that folk choirs perform liturgical singing in various local styles. Today this singing is disappearing in live performance practice. Yet, one important problem relates to the lack of an adequate term for this phenomenon. The term “Glagolitic singing” was coined by ethnomusicologists in the 1950s and has been used in research ever since. However, folk performers call their chant simply “folk church singing.” Unfortunately, neither of these terms is acceptable for both, researchers and singers. The paper provides an analysis of this discordance.


Joško Ćaleta
Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb (Croatia):

Public Performance Models as Identity Maintenance Markers of Glagolitic (Traditional Church) Singing of Croatia

The term Glagolitic singing in this paper encompasses traditional Roman Catholic liturgical, paraliturgical, and other sacred vocal genres of the Croatian Adriatic region. Glagolitic singing emerged from benefits bestowed to Croatian dioceses by the Holy See in the early Middle Ages which granted priests, the so-called “glagoljaši“, the ability to use their own (Glagolitic) script and a vernacular language that could be easily understood by the common people for use in the Roman Catholic liturgy. In the last thirty years, there have been attempts to reacquaint the general public with this traditional archaic musical “ecosystem” through the processes of revitalization, reconstruction, and the availability of more public performances. Despite the marginality of this musical phenomenon, I argue that the popularity of traditional sacred musical repertoire today is largely dependent on the nature of its modes of public performance. This will ensure the further survival of such forms of traditional musical expression in the context of a new musical order dominated by new global musical idioms.


© IMAGO SLOVENIAE 2024. Vse pravice pridržane
Izdelava spletne strani: Pozitiven Design, Oblikovanje: LUKS Studio