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Doctrine as Music: A Socio-Historical and Biopsychosocial Analysis of Music’s Effects on the Membership of the Children of God Open Access


Other title
New Religious Groups
Biopsychosocial Music Model
Children of God
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Trodden, Matthew
Supervisor and department
Kent, Stephen A. (Department of Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Frishkopf, Michael (Department of Ethnomusicology)
Northcott, Herbert (Department of Sociology)
Department of Sociology

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Arts
Degree level
This project endeavoured to partially close the gap in knowledge surrounding music’s roles in high-demand new religious groups by adding to existing scholarship’s understanding of music’s potential role in the membership maintenance process. The author sets forth to do so by answering the question: can doctrine based music ritualized within the daily devotional processes of a high-demand group affect the listener or performer in ways that would aid in group membership maintenance? To accomplish answering this question, the author utilized a mixed-methods study with a biopsychosocial base. The more wholistic biopsychosocial base allowed for the creation of the biopsychosocial model for religious music in high-demand new religious groups (biopsychosocial music model) through a systematic literature review regarding the prominent effects of music and their related aural elements. The created biopsychosocial music model is an instrument of analysis can be used to examine individual high-demand case study groups and their use of music. To demonstrate its use, the author chose to examine the now defunct high-demand new religious group the Children of God during the years under the leadership of founder, David Berg. The author conducted a comprehensive historical review of the group’s use of music, establishing both the daily use of it and its prominent level of group-specific doctrinal content. The application of the biopsychosocial music model to these results provided unambiguous evidence that the Children of God’s use of music would have likely aided in the group’s efforts to maintain its membership by potentially eliciting a number of biopsychosocial responses. Consequentially, these potential responses would have likely individually manifested as positive mental and physical states among the Children of God members resulting in a more optimistic outlook among them toward the group. These results suggest a clear benefit to the membership maintenance process for the Children of God’s leadership whether intentional or not.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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