‘Retaining the Tradition – but with an Open Mind’: Change and Choice in Jewish Musical Practices

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This article focuses on religionand change in relation to music. Its starting point is the argument that musicplays a central role as a driving force for religious change, as has recentlybeen suggested by several researchers of religion. Music is seen to compriseelements that are central to contemporary religiosity in general: participation,embodiment, experience, emotions, and creativity. This article approaches thediscussion from a Jewish point of view, connecting the theoretical perspectiveto an ethnographic case study conducted among progressive Jews in London withspecial focus on music, religious practice, and change.

The article outlines the ongoing discussion onreligion and change by focusing on features of individualism, personal choice,and processes of bricolage, critically assessing them from an inclusive pointof view, focusing on individuals as simultaneously both personal and socially aswell as culturally embedded agents. The analysis highlights a visible trendamong the interviewees of wanting to combine a radically liberal theology withan increasingly traditional practice. In these accounts musical practices playa pivotal yet ambiguous role as instigators and insignia of religious change.As a conclusion, insights into more ‘sonically aware religious studies’ aresuggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197–218
JournalTemenos - Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Jewish music
  • Progressive Judaism
  • religious change
  • Ethnography


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