John Lennon once said that he never really felt anything until he heard Elvis Presley. We understand. Popular music functions as a tutor in emotional life and as a sacred text for many in the world today. For some it is an adjunct to participating in organized religion and for others an alternative to such participation, providing touches of transcendence outside traditional "religious" channels.

In this e-course Byrd McDaniel and Jay McDaniel introduce different forms of contemporary popular music, showing how they are linked with forms of spirituality highlighted in the "Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy" of Spirituality & Practice. You will receive 16 emails at a pace that you choose. Each email will contain:

  • A thematic focus to help you take a deep dive into a particular subgenre or case study of contemporary popular music — from hip hop to glitch pop, from death metal to indie rock, from vaporwave to electronic dance music.
  • Links to music videos relevant to each session's theme.
  • Practice suggestions and an invitation to reflect in your journal.

Along the way, we will explore the works of many important contemporary artists, including Beyoncé, Jason Isbell, Sufjan Stevens, Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., Adele, and X Ambassadors, contextualizing their work within musical traditions of the past and present. Byrd, completing his PhD at Brown University in Ethnomusicology, introduces the topics and Jay, his father, shows how they couple with the wisdom of world’s many spiritual traditions.

The topics covered are:

1. Perspectives on Popular Music
2. Empathy
3. Spontaneity
4. Bodily pleasure
5. Grief
6. Traditions
7. Transcendence
8. The Global Context: How Music Moves

Jay McDaniel is the Willis Holmes Professor of Religious Studies at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, the author of several books, and editor of the website Open Horizons ( Byrd is a PhD candidate at Brown University. He researches popular music reception and has taught courses at Tufts University, Brown University, and the University of Alabama.

To register for this e-course, click on the "Subscribe to E-Course" button below.

(8 CEHs for Chaplains available.)

Available On-Demand
(choose your own start date and frequency)


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