Ritualised Belonging

Musicing and Spirituality in the South African Context

by June Boyce-Tillman (Volume editor) Liesl Van der Merwe (Volume editor) Janelize Morelli (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection XXVI, 406 Pages
Series: Music and Spirituality, Volume 15


This book interrogates the notion of belonging through musicing rituals in the South African context. The authors raise questions such as «What can we learn from musicing rituals?», «What does it mean to belong through musicing?» and «In what ways could musicing address marginalization and transform a broken society?»
To answer these questions, the editors employ a range of perspectives from micro-sociological theory to personal accounts of marginalization and belonging through musicing. The contributors employ both established and novel qualitative strategies of inquiry including case studies, narrative inquiry, performative autoethnography, practice as research, and interpretive phenomenological analysis, amongst others.
Although this book focuses on musicing in the South African context, international readers will also benefit from the rich theoretical and methodological contributions in this volume. It investigates the potentiality of cultivating a sense of belonging through musicing rituals to heal a mutilated world. The contributions will inform and enhance readers’ repertoire of musicing strategies in both community and educational contexts.
This work is based on the research supported in part by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (Grant Numbers: 118579). The Grantholder, Prof Liesl van der Merwe, acknowledges that opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in Ritualised Belonging, generated by the NRF supported research (Grant Numbers: 118579), is that of the authors, and that the NRF accepts no liability whatsoever in this regard.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • Prelude (June Boyce-Tillman)
  • Part I Interaction Ritual Theory: Understanding the Conditions for Spiritual Musicing
  • 1 Understanding Ritualised Belonging in Music Education Literature through the Lens of Interaction Ritual Theory (Debra Joubert and Liesl van der Merwe)
  • 2 Experiences of Ritualised Belonging of Young Adults Living with Williams Syndrome1 during Variety Hour (Ewie Erasmus)
  • 3 Exploring Interaction Rituals during Dalcroze-Inspired Musicing at Oak Tree Care Home for the Elderly: An Ethnography (Liesl van der Merwe, Catrien Wentink and Janelize Morelli)
  • 4 “Be still, and know that I am God”: Participants’ Lived Experiences of Meditative Services (Hetta Potgieter)
  • Part II Displacement: Towards Belonging and Hope
  • 5 A Musical Home with Many Rooms: Boundaries and Belonging (Albi Odendaal)
  • 6 Negotiating Queer Performativity in Music Education: Performing/Resisting for Belonging (Carl Pilkington)
  • 7 When Music and Teacher Equal Home: An Autoethnography (Waldo Weyer)
  • 8 Exploring Student-Teachers’ Stories about Musicing and Belonging at Vukona Development Community Centre (Nozipho Hlungwani and Julia Mantsali Modise)
  • Part III Spiritual Musicing for the Transformation of Music Education
  • 9 Social Cohesion through Sonic Intervention (Boudina Mcconnachie)
  • 10 Towards a Framework of Critical Hope for Higher Music Education (Sihle Sibusiso Shongwe)
  • 11 Authentic Connection through Emotional Experiences in Piano Lessons: A Piano Teacher’s Autoethnographic Account of Care (Urvi Drummond)
  • 12 Exploring the “Experience of the Experiencer” in an Undergraduate Jazz Ensemble Learning Community (Sonja Cruywagen and Debra Joubert)
  • 13 Musicing as an Act of Engaging with Diversity: An Autoethnography (Joy Meyer)
  • Part IV Storied Lives: Relationality and Spirituality in Musical Experiences
  • 14 Dance Education as an Agent of Social Cohesion (Marelize van Heerden)
  • 15 Relationality as Ethical Foundation for Community Music Practice (Janelize Morelli)
  • 16 Exploring Spirituality and Relationality in the Lived Piano-Playing Experiences of Older Adults (Corlia Fourie)
  • 17 Connectedness and Sacred Experiences: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Five Pianists’ Spiritual Music-Making Experiences (Laetitia Orlandi)
  • 18 Because I could not stop for death: Composing an Electronic Work as a Mourning and Healing Ritual (Chris van Rhyn)
  • 19 Concerning the Utopian Control of Music: Whereto in a Democratic South Africa? (Etienne Viviers)
  • Postlude: Musical Rituals for Reconciliation (June Boyce-Tillman)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

←x | xi→


Figure 2.1.Experiences of ritualised belonging of young adults living with WS during Variety Hour.

Figure 2.2.The QR code link to a performance of Happy to be Me as performed by Tori with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra in 2016 (<https://youtube.com/watch?v=GqG8EZXn-fs>).

Figure 4.1.Themes that emerged.

Figure 4.2.Holy Spirit, you are welcome in this place (Vieira Forté, n.d.).

Figure 12.1.Musical interaction between jazz ensemble members.

Figure 12.2.Interconnected experiences through ritual of participation, collaborative creativity and spirituality.

Figure 13.1.My transcription of Tlhogo magetlha sehuba le letheka.

Figure 13.2.A collage depicting what my community music activity means to me.

Figure 16.1.Categories in the theme “Spiritual experience” (Fourie et al., 2016, p. 119).

Figure 17.1.How music-making generates spiritual experiences.

Figure 18.1.“Because I could not stop for Death” (Johnson, 1960, p. 350).

Figure 18.2.MIDI xylophone extract i from Movement I (00:19–00:37), Because I could not stop for death (Van Rhyn, 2019).

←xi | xii→

Figure 18.3.MIDI xylophone extract ii from Movement I (01:50–01:58), Because I could not stop for death (Van Rhyn, 2019).

Figure 18.4.“A Death blow is a Life blow to Some” (Johnson, 1960, p. 397).

Figure 18.5.Piano extract, Movement II (07:47–8:05), Because I could not stop for death (Van Rhyn, 2019).

Figure 18.6.“A Bird came down the Walk” (Johnson, 1960, p. 156).

Figure 18.7.The “A” thematic section for MIDI flute and piano, Movement III (first instance from 14:01–14:35), Because I could not stop for death (Van Rhyn, 2019).

Figure 18.8.First instance of the “B” thematic section for MIDI flute and piano (first instance from 14:44–15:14), Movement III, Because I could not stop for death (Van Rhyn, 2019).

Figure 18.9.First variation of the “B” thematic section for MIDI flute and piano (first instance from 16:10–16:16), Movement III, Because I could not stop for death (Van Rhyn, 2019).

←xii | xiii→


This book is a collaborative venture designed to shine some light on the interaction rituals during musicing and on the way that these interactions generate collective effervescence, emotional energy, belonging and ultimately transformation in a highly unequal society. We wish to thank the chapter authors, most of whom are members of the research entity at North-West University, MASARA, Musical Arts in South Africa: Resources and Applications, for their heartfelt dedication and thoughtful contributions to this volume. This work is based on the research project supported in part by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (Grant Number: 118579), Social Cohesion Through Community Engagement in South African Higher Music Education.

One of my doctoral students, Laetitia Orlandi, once compared MASARA to a greenhouse. She explained that we are fortunate to be in a team and environment that allows us to flourish. Our inspiration and mentor for this book was Rev. Prof. June Boyce-Tillman. We are incredibly grateful for the valuable opportunities she gave us and continues to do so. Her energy is a life force, the sun in our greenhouse metaphor! To my colleague and co-editor, Janelize Morelli, thank you for the fertile soil, encouraging constructive debates and ideas for a better society through your philosophy and ethics of care. Continuing the greenhouse metaphor, I would like to thank my dear friend Debra Joubert, the water for the greenhouse in this project, who helped us with continued support, the page layout and meticulously checking sources. The gardener who pulled out all the weeds was Edwin Hees; thank you for your thorough, supportive and thoughtful language editing. Providing the seeds was Hetta Potgieter, to whom we dedicated this book. She founded MASARA in 2008 and nurtured a research culture. She taught us to put relationships first and paved the way for a research focus on music and wellbeing. Chris van Rhyn, MASARA’s research director, manages this fertile environment with great care and empathy. Our reviewers, many of them from the International Network for Music ←xiii | xiv→Spirituality and Wellbeing’s scientific committee (www.mswinternational.org), are part of this wonderful ecosystem. They took excellent care and provided constructive criticism, which helped us to improve the chapters significantly. I would like to thank them by name: Bridget Rennie-Salonen, Tawnya Smith, Hetta Potgieter, Giorgos Tsiris, Bethan Habron-James, Katherine Zeserson, Santisa Viljoen, Stephen Roberts, Alta van As, Logan Athiemoolam, Karin Hendricks, Philip van der Merwe, Diane Daly, Priscilla Nyawira Gitonga, Ewie Erasmus, Albi Odendaal, Boudina McConnachie, Jaco Kruger, Anne-Marie Frobes, Alethea de Villers, Carina Venter, Ruth Illman, Anné Verhoef, Amira Ehrlich, Anneke Lamont, John Habron, Catrien Wentink, Koji Matsunobu, Hannes Taljaard and Etienne Viviers. We are grateful to Peter Lang and Lucy Melville for enabling us to publish this book. At the North-West University, we are extremely thankful to our colleagues in the School of Music and Faculty of Humanities, especially the school director Yvonne-Marié Brand for supporting the research. Many of the ideas that took shape in this book are the result of cross-pollination during enthusiastic and stimulating discussions in the corridors. Thank you to Jaco Kruger for introducing Collins’s interaction ritual theory to us. Albi Odendaal, thank you for providing a platform at Cultural Diversity in Music Education (CDIME) for us to launch this book. The airflow for this project came in the form of financial support from our Deputy Dean: Research and Innovation, Prof. Mirna Nel and the continued encouragement for engaged research from Dr Ndivhoniswani Aaron Tsidzumba, our Deputy Dean: Community Engagement and Stakeholder Relations. Lastly, thank you to our friends and families who supported us during the whole process. You give us strong roots.

– Liesl van der Merwe

←xiv | xv→

june boyce-tillman


The context for this book is a world which is deeply divided both at a personal level and at cultural and planetary levels. By using Randall Collins’s (2004) interaction ritual chain theory as the basis for musicking,1 the contributors offer many ways in which musicking together can heal some of these deep and historical divisions. This restores the central place and purpose of music in society as a social ritual (Small, 1998), with its fundamental purpose being to create community (Storr, 1993). In traditional societies, there were and still are in some cultures gatherings at least four or eight times a year in which the community would come together and dance and make music for several days; this would restore and reinforce the sense of community (Makaula, 2017). In Judaeo-Christian culture, this was done by coming together once a week for communal worship in which singing and musicking of various kinds played a vital part. The loss of this musical gathering once a week may be seen as contributing to a loss of a sense of community. The chapters in this book show a variety of ways in which we may restore community musicking in a post-secular society (Boyce-Tillman, 2016; Taylor, 2007).

The first part of the book is dedicated to understanding interaction ritual theory and its application in spiritual musicing (Elliott & Silverman, 2015). It is possible to dip into the other chapters of the book, but ideally, all readers should start with this first chapter. Debra Joubert and Liesl van der Merwe begin by setting out how Collins’s theory can contribute to spiritual musicking (Small, 1999), setting out very usefully the conditions that promote group solidarity and emotional energy in music rituals in ←xv | xvi→music education contexts by reviewing the related literature. Four ritual ingredients are necessary to generate high levels of emotional energy in music education, namely the physical assembly of individuals, barriers excluding outsiders, a mutual focus of attention and a shared emotional mood (Collins, 2004, p. 48). These are carefully linked with music education contexts. This restores emotion as a valuable part of musical interaction and entails an innovative approach to pedagogy. Their suggestion that high emotion can be generated by distributing power and the way that musical instruments can become sacred objects contribute new ideas to music education. Collins’s theory is effectively explored by an analysis of an orchestral rehearsal and then used to frame personal reflections on the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. It provides helpful links between motivation, learning and positive emotional energy, and draws on Dissanayake (2006) for functions such as maintaining social identity, offering relief from anxiety and promoting cooperation. This first chapter is a careful and highly structured review using ATLAS.ti effectively as a tool. It establishes an interaction ritual as a “mechanism of change” (Collins, 2004, p. 43) not only in learning but also in students’ understanding of themselves and the world around them.

In Chapter 2, Experiences of Ritualised Belonging of Young Adults Living with Williams Syndrome during Variety Hour, Ewie Erasmus uses Collins’s theory to examine the relationship between therapy and education in the context of a college-like special education school. She finds that in the Variety Hour concerts, all participants are valued and that by feeling connected with others, themselves and the environment, the students experienced transformation. She explores the complementary nature of music therapy and music education, specifically in relation to spiritual interaction music rituals.

In Chapter 3, Exploring Interaction Rituals during Dalcroze-Inspired Musicing at Oak Tree Care Home for the Elderly: An Ethnography, Liesl van der Merwe, Catrien Wentink and Janelize Morelli use the Collins model to explore the activities of musicians musicing (Elliott & Silverman, 2015) in a care home; the chapter provides an extremely helpful critical tool for explaining successful and failed rituals. It describes a sound strategy for ensuring that all the elements are present to achieve successful sessions that ←xvi | xvii→made participants feel confident, create trust, generate emotional energy and enjoy an exhilarating experience (Collins, 2004).

In Chapter 4, “Be still, and know that I am God”: Participants’ Lived Experiences of Meditative Services, Hetta Potgieter explores music-making rituals in a church context, starting from Delacroix’s evocation of Jacob wrestling with God and likening this to the Dutch Reformed Church’s (indeed any church’s) struggle to bring spirituality alive for a congregation. Music and Bible readings are combined with audio-visual, literary and spiritual elements in an innovative way. She describes our post-secular world as one longing for the God they now miss and uses the image of struggle to find new ways to initiate lived spiritual experiences.

Part II concerns displacement and explores how setting up interactive musicking rituals can lead to belonging and hope. It starts with Albi Odendaal (in Chapter 5) addressing the issues arising for South African music educators who have to teach a variety of traditions, some of which they are less or even unfamiliar with. His notion of musical homes with open doors as a way of approaching belonging and displacement in South African music education offers an extremely helpful model which examines how musical homes are constructed, the ways that they are inhabited, and the processes of inclusion and exclusion that potentially prevail through such home-making. His model combines theories of homelessness and group solidarity for building musical homes with open doors rather than walled prisons.

One of the innovative features of this book is the use of different methodologies for investigating issues and presenting findings. Carl Pilkington’s Negotiating Queer Performativity in Music Education: Performing/Resisting for Belonging (Chapter 6) uses autoethnography, expressed in performance, to investigate the heteronormative practices and policies in schools and their curricula. He powerfully describes his own strategies as a queer music practitioner for negotiating and resisting their gender and sexual performance in order to find a sense of belonging. He uses queer theory as a critical lens to politicise his body in the form of an auto-ethnodrama exploring his subjectivity, positionality and belonging as a student and a teacher. He uses concepts of technologies of the self and governmentality, as a framework, to reflect on his process of navigating ritualised heteronormative education.←xvii | xviii→

In Chapter 7, Waldo Weyer describes how modern society has changed the ways in which music as a phenomenon is perceived, experienced, taught, studied and performed, and looks at ways to keep hope alive when students are displaced from home in a chapter entitled When Music and Teacher Equal Home: An Autoethnography. The relationship between home and hope is explored autoethnographically and leads to understanding the significance of the student-teacher dynamic in transitioning from student to professional musician.

Chapter 8 explores student-teachers’ stories about musicing and belonging at the Vukona development community centre through the eyes of Nozipho Hlungwani and Julia Mantsali Modise. This is a narrative study of music facilitation. It outlines the challenges presented by working with an organisation that provides aftercare for vulnerable children living with foster care families with problems such as lack of proper communication amongst the children, a weak sense of attachment and poor socialisation. Often the musicing sessions were chaotic and difficult to control, involved fighting, improper communication and difficulty in socialising. The chapter charts how mutual trust was established in the end. Initially, the children appeared reserved, interacted minimally and displayed low self-esteem, but a notable change in behaviour gradually occurred. They started engaging with others, and their self-esteem increased through musicing. Initially, the student-teachers also regarded themselves as outsiders, but gradually the student-teachers noticed the increasing shared musical interest among the children. Through strategies for promoting social inclusion, everyone was given sufficient attention to overcome their feeling of being left out. Creating a sense of belonging was a carefully crafted journey which also included dealing with the student-teachers’ feelings of despair and chaotic scenes with the children. Dealing with this situation required a change of attitude and strategies; student-teachers’ learning of life skills developed, including mediation techniques. This chapter is a valuable source of strategies for dealing with challenging situations.

Part III – Spiritual Musicing for the Transformation of Music Education – starts with Chapter 9, in which Boudina McConnachie explores Social Cohesion through Sonic Intervention. She examines how combinations of the performing arts – music, words, emotions and movement – can trigger a ←xviii | xix→sense of belonging, a cohesive link that can bind people, a society, together. She looks at how a group of first-year students at a tertiary institution in South Africa, in which she introduced African ensembles, interacted by listening, making music, learning words and dancing.

Sihle S. Shongwe in Chapter 10, Towards a Framework of Critical Hope for Higher Music Education, proposes a conceptual framework for developing critical hope. Heavily influenced by Freirean philosophy, the chapter describes initiating resistance to oppression through collaborative and participatory musicing, which enables a shared understanding of intuitive experience.

Urvi Drummond in Chapter 11, Authentic Connection through Emotional Experiences in Piano Lessons: A Piano Teacher’s Autoethnographic Account of Care, explores the nature of connection in an autoethnographic account of the empathetic relationship between teacher and student through a series of vignettes illustrating a humanising care-centred pedagogy, which she sees as potentially awakening spirituality. She uses a framework of four emotions – happiness, sadness, fear and anger – exploring these in the tones and sounds that she uses in the pedagogical space to encourage students’ imaginative development.

In Chapter 12, Exploring the “Experience of the Experiencer” in an Undergraduate Jazz Ensemble Learning Community, Sonja Cruywagen and Debra Joubert undertook a phenomenological study to explore how the individual student experiences the ritual of participating within a social constructivist music learning community. They examine the meaning that BMus students ascribe to their lived experience of arranging, practising and performing as part of a jazz ensemble, using the Boyce-Tillman (2016) frame. This is a fascinating exploration of students’ embodied sense of connection. The group showed a preference for group musicking over individualised performance, with half of the group feeling a connection to a higher power during the creative process. Playing jazz was seen as engaging in a space for spiritual interaction through the communal and ritual collaboration that involved connection with their instruments and performance spaces, the ability to use their acquired skills and the structures of jazz (although on different levels), and the simple joy of playing within the tradition.←xix | xx→

Chapter 13 is another autoethnographic study; Joy Meyer explores Musicing as an Act of Engaging with Diversity. She describes her experiences as a community musician at two primary schools and a community development centre in a peri-urban community in the North-West province; she explores how her community music programmes build bridging cohesion across diverse social groups and foster meaningful inter- and intrapersonal relationships within the domain of spirituality. Drawing on Paolo Freire, she negotiates a fine balancing act between cultural invasion and synthesis, reminding the reader of how Freire was banned during the apartheid years in South Africa. She identifies a social morality that focuses on being with others rather than self-justification. She sees music as a mirror that has helped her develop her own role as a community musician striving for cultural synthesis and social cohesion through dialogical action and humility.

In Chapter 14, Marelize van Heerden describes Dance Education as an Agent of Social Cohesion in a culturally and politically post-conflict society by addressing the process of dance education and differentiating it from dance-as-performance art. Her dance education course consisted of a combination of creative movement activities and the learning of ethno-cultural dances. This is based on engaging the body-mind holistically to make sense of the Self in relation to the world.

Part IV of the book examines Storied Lives: Relationality and Spirituality in Musical Experiences. In Chapter 15, Janelize Morelli explores Relationality as Ethical Foundation for Community Music Practice by engaging with the concept of the self as a complex being intimately bound up with itself, others, the environment and the transcendental Other. She brings together music education and community musicing practices to highlight important ontological implications. This produces important provocations for both educators and community musicians examining the philosophical underpinnings through Andrew Benjamin’s critique of singularity and definition of anoriginal relationality. This philosophical chapter encourages readers to move from the everyday practicalities of approach to consider the contrapuntal discourse in community music by proposing a radical relational ethical alternative.←xx | xxi→


XXVI, 406
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (November)
Belonging interaction ritual chains hope displacement spiritual musicing relationality June Boyce-Tillman Liesl Van der Merwe Janelize Morelli Ritualised belonging
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2021. XXVI, 406 pp., 19 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

June Boyce-Tillman (Volume editor) Liesl Van der Merwe (Volume editor) Janelize Morelli (Volume editor)

The Rev. Professor June Boyce-Tillman MBE is Professor Emerita of Applied Music at the University of Winchester. She has wide experience in education, spirituality and music and has published widely in these areas. She is the convenor of Music, Spirituality and Wellbeing International (http:www.mswinternational.org). She is an Extraordinary Professor at North-West University, South Africa. She is a selfsupporting ordained Anglican Priest and received an MBE for her contribution to music and education. Liesl van der Merwe is an associate professor in the School of Music at the North-West University, South Africa. She is a grant holder of the NRF research project: Social Cohesion Through Community Music Engagement. Her research interests lie in music and wellbeing, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, spirituality and lived musical experiences. She supervises postgraduate studies, teaches research methodology, music education and bassoon. She has published articles in high-impact journals such as Psychology of Music, Journal of Research in Music Education, International Journal of Research in Music Education, Music Education Research and Frontiers in Psychology. Liesl also performs in chamber music ensembles and is the conductor of the North-West Youth Orchestra. Janelize Morelli is a senior lecturer in community music at North-West University, School of Music, South Africa. She is a member of the MASARA research niche and the manager of the Musikhane Community Music Engagement Program. Janelize is co-principal investigator of the NRF research project: Social Cohesion Through Community Music Engagement. She holds a PhD from the Steinhardt School at New York University, under guidance of Professor David Elliott, in music education. Her research interests include an ethic of care and relationality in community music. Janelize supervises postgraduate students interested in critical topics in music education and community music. She is passionate about arts-based research.


Title: Ritualised Belonging