Hymnody in a Globalized Culture and Beyond the Sacred-Secular Dichotomy

By Martin Hoondert

This piece by Professor Martin Hoondert is a powerful contribution on globalization, hymnody and hymnology. What is globalization? A clash of civilizations? Or westernization/McDonaldization? Or hybridization in a global mélange?

Hoondert argues that in a globalized context, hymnology has to be contextualized, and there needs to be greater realization that the object of study is not the hymn as such, but the performance of hymns in global/local context.

Calling for a redefinition of hymnody, Hoondert writes: “Comparable to ‘ritual studies’, hymnology is not a school, characterized by specific methods or theories, but a multidisciplinary platform for the academic, critical, and systematic study of singing in religious-ritual practices.” He identifies three characteristics of his proposal:

  1. To redirect the object of our studies from ‘hymn’ to ‘ritual music,’ or even better: ‘singing in religious-ritual contexts.’
  2. Plurality of methods: Hymnology itself is not a method, it does not have one method, but is characterized by a plurality of methods that is part of the multidisciplinary nature of this platform.
  3. Hymnology is a platform which is a certain disciplinary tradition.

Hoondert poses ten theoretical questions:

  1. How to define ‘hymn’: what is a hymn, both as a product and as a performative category?
  2. How to classify hymns: is the hymn a religious or a cultural phenomenon, or both?
  3. What is a hymnal?
  4. What are the functions of hymns?
  5. How do hymns relate to the sacred and religion?
  6. How do hymns evoke meaning-making processes?
  7. What is the influence of hymns on the body?
  8. What happens when hymns are transferred from one context to another?
  9. What questions need to be asked about gender issues and hymns?
  10. How might we develop a musical-ritual criticism?

Here is the article: Hoondert “Hymnody in Globalized Culture”

Martin J.M. Hoondert is assistant professor of Music, Religion & Ritual at the Department of Culture Studies of Tilburg University in the Netherlands. He is a Gregorian chant specialist. He is chief editor of the liturgical music magazine Gregoriusblad  and editor of the Yearbook for Liturgical and Ritual Studies.

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