Cultured Despisers

  • David BrownEmail author
  • Gavin Hopps


In order to create room for a positive reading of popular music and its ability to elicit religious experience, this chapter considers two influential accounts of music that disparage the art-form and occlude its significance. The first of these is by Sir Roger Scruton, who assigns a transcendent and epiphanic dimension to music, but consistently denies these possibilities to popular forms. As the discussion of his work reveals, this exclusion is largely a matter of prejudice and sheer assertion, which is based on a handful of unrepresentative examples and ignores a wealth of empirical data that testifies to the contrary. The second part of the chapter turns to a parallel neglect in the work of Jeremy Begbie, and highlights several problems with his prescriptive methodology—namely, the attempt to establish a checklist of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aesthetic features in advance of interpretayion, without taking account of context or the role of reception; the essentializing deprecation of certain musical forms, such as light or ‘sentimental’ music, which ignores the positive religious purposes they may serve; and the narrow concentration on music’s illustrative function, which leaves aside its revelatory and affective potential.


Popular Music senseSense Burch Brown beautyBeauty worshipWorship 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of St. AndrewsSt. AndrewsUK

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