This essay collection, co-edited by M. Jennifer Bloxam (Williams College) and Andrew Shenton, is devoted to exploring the richness of Christian musical traditions from ancient chant to contemporary African-American gospel music. It reflects the distinctive critical perspectives of the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music, an association of scholars dedicated to exploring the intersections of Christian faith and musical scholarship. As part of our 15th anniversary celebrations, SCSM sought to celebrate its work in the world and to bring it to a larger audience by offering a cross-section of the most outstanding scholarship presented at our annual conferences. This collection draws on selected keynotes from the last fifteen years, along with a core of essays by notable senior scholars associated with the Society. They are  joined by three outstanding essays by junior scholars who have won the prize for best graduate student paper at our annual conference in recent years.

These essays celebrate the richness of Christian musical traditions across its two thousand year history and across the globe. Opening with a consideration of the fourth-century lamp-lighting hymn Phos hilaron and closing with reflections on contemporary efforts of Ghanaian composers to create Christian worship music in African idioms, the ten contributors engage with a broad ecumenical array of sacred music. Topics encompass Roman Catholic sacred music in medieval and Renaissance Europe, German Lutheran song in the eighteenth century, English hymnody in colonial America, Methodist hymnody adopted by Southern Baptists in the nineteenth century, and Genevan psalmody adapted to respond to the post-war tribulations of the Hungarian Reformed Church. The scope of the volume is further diversified by the inclusion of contemporary Christian topics that address the evangelical methods of a unique Orthodox Christian composer’s language, the shared aims and methods of African-American preaching and gospel music, and the affective didactic power of American evangelical “praise and worship” music. New material on several key composers, including Jacob Obrecht, J.S. Bach, George Philipp Telemann, C.P.E. Bach, Zoltan Kodály, and Arvo Pärt, appears within the book. Taken together, these essays embrace a stimulating variety of interdisciplinary analytical and methodological approaches, drawing on cultural, literary critical, theological, ritual, ethnographical, and media studies. The collection contributes to discussions of spirituality in music and, in particular, to the unifying aspects of Christian sacred music across time, space, and faith traditions.

Exploring Christian Song was published by Lexington Books in 2017, and is available online via their own website, and online stores such as Amazon.



  1. M. Jennifer Bloxam and Andrew Shenton

“Considering Christian Song in Context”

Building Bridges with Christian Song I

  1. Karen Westerfield Tucker (Boston University)

“Song as a Sign and Means of Christian Unity”

Reading Books of Catholic Song c. 1500

  1. M. Jennifer Bloxam (Williams College)

“The Late Medieval Composer as Cleric: Browsing Chant Manuscripts with Obrecht”

  1. Melody Marchman Schade (Independent Scholar)

“Reading Ottaviano Petrucci’s Motetti A and Motetti Libro Quarto as Devotional Books”

Theology and Lutheran Song in the 18th Century

  1. Stephen A. Crist (Emory University)

“Theology and Musical Conventions in the Arias of J. S. Bach”

  1. Markus Rathey (Yale University)

“Apocalyptic Visions and Moral Education in 18th Century Enlightenment: Earthquakes and the Sublime in Oratorios by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann”

Christian Song in 20th-Century Eastern Europe

  1. Timothy H. Steele (Calvin College)

“Kodály’s Genevan Psalm 50: The Composer as Prophet in the Midst of National Crisis”

  1. Andrew Shenton (Boston University)

“Magnificat: Arvo Pärt the Quiet Evangelist”

Preaching through Christian Song in Contemporary America

  1. Braxton D. Shelley (Harvard University)

“ʻTuning Up’: Towards a Gospel Aesthetic”

  1. Joshua Busman (University of North Carolina at Pembroke)

“ʻSongs are Sermons that People Actually Remember’: Homo Liturgicus and Hymnody in the 268 Generation”

Building Bridges with Christian Song II

  1. Johann Buis (Wheaton College)

“Musical Code-Switching: A Case for Triangulation in Religious Song Evidence from South Africa”

  1. J. H. Kwabena Nketia (UCLA, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Ghana emeritus and Director of the International Centre for African Music and Dance)

“Bridging the Old and the New in Contemporary Contexts: The Creative Task of the Christian Scholar”


Since ancient times, Christianity has embraced a paradoxical identity: eternal and temporal, celestial and terrestrial, universal and particular, global and local. This sampling spanning ages and continents represents song as sacrament, both a sign and means of Christian unity without uniformity. Ghanian song reflects glocalization (the opposite of globalization)—and so do Renaissance motet prints in the East-West crossroads of Venice, Enlightenment fascination with earthquakes exemplifying the terrible Sublime, and Zoltán Kodály’s Genevan Psalm 50 (1948), contextualized within Hungarian folk music, Reformed psalmody, Jewish genocide, and Stalinist terror. This collection admirably demonstrates the mission of the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music as it celebrates fifteen years.
Stephen Schloesser, Loyola University Chicago

This engaging collection is testimony to the vitality and breadth of the emerging conversation between theology and music. Wise and insightful essays address music from various genres, historical eras and cultural settings. Taken together they illuminate the ways that musicians and communities have embodied their faith and devotion—in text and tone and rhythm; likewise, they point to the ways in which music has supported and enabled different dimensions of the life of the church.
Steven R. Guthrie, Belmont University

This wide-ranging anniversary collection of essays is a harvest home of the excellent scholarship that has animated the Society for Christian Music and Scholarship for the past fifteen years. It not only demonstrates the depth and richness of this vein of interdisciplinary thought, but it shows that the hermeneutic impulse is grounded in a spiritual instinct and a search for truth that acts as a refreshment of the Word. These texts once again bring us to contemplate divine action through music, the variety of revelation it brings, and its profound message of hope that is much needed by our culture today.
Robert Sholl, Royal Academy of Music