Sonic Metaphors: Music, Sound and Ecofeminist Theology

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SONIC METAPHORS:

MUSIC, SOUND, AND ECOFEMINIST THEOLOGY

SAGE Journals, Feminist Theology

Volume 30, Issue 1. Forthcoming September 2021

This article explores the relationship between music and ecofeminist theology and investigates how music and sound can advance the development of ecofeminist thought. On a physical level, the act of breathing connects humankind with the earth’s atmosphere and the element of air produces music and sound. On a theological level, church teachings about the power and danger of music reflect similar warnings about women and nature. Ecofeminist theologian Sally McFague made a persuasive case for metaphorical theology and opened the door for the arts to be used in ecofeminist theological reflection. Religious Studies scholar Heidi Epstein engaged McFague’s metaphorical theology to develop a feminist theology of music by drawing upon non-theological feminist sources and featuring female composers including Hildegard of Bingen.

 

I argue that metaphorical theology and music can also connect through the development of sonic metaphors. Sonic metaphors are created with pitch, rhythm and sound. While most metaphors rely on the eyes to visually process written text and sacred art, sonic metaphors are processed through the ears and offer different pathways for cognition. I contend that sonic metaphors have been underutilized in theology and they offer potential for exploring theological concepts that can be challenging to comprehend through textual or visual means. Sonic metaphors are particularly applicable for ecofeminist theology because our bodies and nature can interact as co-creative musical partners. I propose we can all create sonic metaphors for the purpose of theological exploration. I include examples from my own musical background, and I offer suggestions for non-musicians and ecofeminist theologians who want to incorporate sonic metaphors into their own creative theological reflection.

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