Music & Spiritual Realities

An empirical approach to the relationship between music and spiritual realities.

Workshop Survey Results

Project Outline

Sir James MacMillan has called music ‘the most spiritual of the arts’, and there is a burgeoning academic discussion of how and why, for both religious and non-religious people alike, this often rings true.

However, are there ways in which this apparent connection between music and spiritual realities can be demonstrated empirically?

In addressing this question, our research project has two key goals:

  1. To create a methodological toolkit of different approaches to measuring the relationship between music and spiritual realities. In order to do so, we are bringing together scholars from diverse fields to assemble all the approaches used to investigate this question in the past, as well as to propose new methodologies for the future.
  2. To take advantage of the unique crisis and opportunity for music in worship presented by the Covid-19 pandemic to investigate (i) the cognitive effects of the removal or lack of music-making in a religious community or context on people’s spiritual understanding, insight, and growth and (ii) the extent to which online or digital musical content, and the advancement of technology in music production, helps or hinders people’s access to spiritual information.

This project is hosted by the School of Divinity of the University of St Andrews, and generously supported by the Templeton Religion Trust, as part of the Art Seeking Understanding scheme.

See more about our project from TRT.

Research Team

Advisory Board