Submission Date


Document Type



Interdisciplinary Studies

Faculty Mentor

Meredith Goldsmith

Second Faculty Mentor

Nathan Rein


Presented during the 24th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2022 at Ursinus College.

Included as supplemental files are a PowerPoint slide presentation and mind map diagram.

Project Description

The impetus for my project was how I view listening to music as a spiritual or religious experience. Listening to music, instead of practicing religion, satisfies my inclination toward spirituality. In the introduction to my paper, I outlined how music exists in my life. I thought it was valuable to provide my unique experience to give context to my research. I created a diagram that delineates how I interact with music and the benefits I derive from listening to music. During this self-reflection, I realized listening to music functions like a ritual for me. I noticed my individual ritualized listening derives from how my family listens to music together and shares music with each other. It is like a ritual that nourishes our relationships. I wanted to know if this group listening phenomenon is common and if it has been previously studied.

I familiarized myself with relevant research and theories from multiple disciplines, specifically neuroscience and religious and ritual studies. The key theories I encountered were the pleasure instinct, communicative musicality, and what I termed ‘prelinguistic ritual syntax.’ I noticed similarities and connections between these theories, which helped me refine the early conceptual core of my personal theory of music as a ritualistic form of emotional communication.

I wrote a literature review paper, which summarizes and comments on my sources, compiled an annotated bibliography, wrote a brief personal essay reflecting upon music in my life to introduce the paper, drew a diagram about music in my life, and made a PowerPoint presentation about my project.

MusicPleasureEmotionRitualCommunication-Presentation-JillianGerlach-2022.pptx (2762 kB)
Seeking Pleasure, Emotional Language, Ritualized Communication Presentation

MusicInMyLife-MindMap-JillianGerlach-2022.jpg (710 kB)
Diagram: Interactions + Benefits

Open Access

Available to all.