Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music



Major Professor

Rachel Golden

Committee Members

Jacqueline Avila, Leslie Gay


Music within Protestant church communities frequently reduces the distinction between performers and audience, emphasizing the collective, participatory role of all congregation members, in manners of music making similar to those discussed by Thomas Turino. This dynamic helps establish individual and communal identities. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, church communities saw changes in their services, music, and ways of life. Meeting in a physical building proved impossible due to the dangers of COVID-19 and many churches mitigated these dangers by streaming, recording, and posting services online. Between 2020 and 2022, I observed and participated in changes to technological production and mediation for church services at St. Paul, a Methodist church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Employing participant-observation and autoethnography, this study aims to understand, from musical, physical and social perspectives, how church members cope and are coping with these changes. At St. Paul, like at other churches, participatory music making and socialization with fellow congregation members are meaningful parts of the worship service. Christians create closeness to one another through collective hymn singing and other forms of communal music making. I argue that technology has affected Christian worship, communal singing, and the congregation’s sense of community in both positive and negative ways. This project reveals how St. Paul’s relocation of its community to the virtual realm during the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the importance of sound knowledge and affective listening—which I define as the process of people listening to one another and acknowledging one another’s emotions, thereby experiencing and creating sound meaningfully together. I further demonstrate the limits of online services, due to varying access to and anxieties surrounding use of technology for some church members, and the importance of physical space in defining a sense of communal togetherness.

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