Modern Believing

Music as Spiritual Experience

Modern Believing (2006), 47, (3), 20–31.


This paper examines a phenomenography of spirituality in the music experience examining the internal relationship between the experiencer and the experienced and its diverse awarenesses.1 It will examine these questions:

• Is all music a sacred experience?

• Is there a secular music?

• Is the aesthetic a contemporary version of spirituality?

• Can spirituality be freed from a particular religious tradition?

The model proposed is based on five domains that can be identified in accounts of the musicking experience, the way the phenomenon is reviewed in research traditions, how it appears in the literature, treatises and textbooks and how it has been handled in different cultures. It approaches music through the experiencer rather than the music itself. It seeks to re-establish a notion of spirituality as relationality within the musical experience based on Buber's notion of the I/Thou experience,2 drawing on theorists such as Dewey,3 Maslow,4 Turner,5 Csikszentmihalyi,6 Jackson,7 Hay and Nye8 and practitioners such as Custodero.9

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Author details

Boyce-Tillman, June