The following is the first of a three-part series. The full article is also available in the Spring 2022 issue of the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory.
“Music is never tragic, music is joy. But there are times it necessarily gives us a taste for death; not so much happiness as dying happily, being extinguished.”
Walete, 1975. “The pentatonic melody is undoubtedly derived from a non-Huli source, although the Huli claim that they invented it as they created the thousands of verses sung during the revival” (Pugh-Kitingan 1981, 291, emphasis added).”
Binandere, 1976. “It starts in one place and spreads throughout the nation…When everybody catches on, that’s where all the new songs come in, because everybody gets different impartations and different revelations, and they write about them.”
Koroba, 1975. “The happiness the people feel about their close relationship to God has bubbled over into very vital hymn singing. Many new hymns have been written and are sung with fervour. At times though, hysteria has come into hymn singing which has needed correction.”
Orokana, 1974. “All night they sang, till 5 a.m….The movement spread rapidly through the nightly testimony, praise and singing till dawn.”
Kapuna, 1977. “Many have cassette players and practically only Christian cassettes are played on them. Singing is very much a part of the life here and Christian songs can be heard all day long.”
Duke of York Islands, 1978. “In addition, many young indigenous Christians are writing gospel songs which are indigenous in sound…it is a spontaneous expression of their faith…This spontaneous indigenisation is the result of the spiritual renewal that is sweeping across this nation.”
Baiyer River, 1973 “At the time when the Holy Spirit of God moved in our churches, our Heavenly God saw and understood our need and gave us new revival songs to sing in our churches…Now we have many songs to sing. Before we had four or five songs. But now we have 1-200 new songs to sing with which we praise the name of God.”
Kandep, 1979. “Their main activity is to sing praising the Lord in strange languages from one sunset to another. All their songs and prayers are in strange languages…they spend days feasting, singing songs to God, and seeing visions and dreams.”
Pisi, 1977. “Singing was an important part of these meetings and the younger people composed many new Christian songs with Gogodala words and set either to western or to traditional tunes.”
Intense social movements call forth effusions of musical composition. The two move in unison. It is not only that music works to “establish and maintain collective identity, leads to vitalizing emotions, takes advantage of free space afforded by political opportunities, and helps establish and maintain social movement culture.” In such a straightforwardly Durkheimian view, music is a capsule loaded with the emotions and interests of the aggrieved – musical morale boosting, “serving the movement.”
Beyond these sociological implications are those of an ontological character. New being is new music. An intensification of life brings with it a corresponding intensification of musical creativity. Music does not so much capture, embody, or crystallize the ethos of a burgeoning social movement but is an intrinsic dimension of this emergent, proliferating life. The focus must rest on creativity and composition, on the coming to fruition of new multiplicities: intense practices, beliefs, politics, cosmologies, and musics.
The same holds true for religious intensification. When ritual and spiritual worlds rapidly accelerate, musical composition and creativity quickens apace. Religions, like societies, move through periods where they are moving faster or slower, with heightened intensity or broad dilation. Such speed and slowness are invariably musicalised. Probably the most far-reaching development in modern Christian history was the ‘First Great Awakening’ of the 1730s. Such a seismic shift in spirituality etched into history the names of John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitfield, sermons like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” as well as the theological doctrine of the ‘new birth.’ But this trans-Atlantic groundswell brought with it a tremendous upsurge in musical creativity. Charles Wesley, for instance, “wrote between six thousand and nine thousand hymns and sacred poems,” while countless other songwriters compulsively created under the force of religious intensities. New songs for new being: ontomusicogenesis.
Similarly, the Jesus Movement within which hordes of young people across America surged toward conservative, eschatologically focused Christianity in the 1960s and 1970s gave rise to “a formidable niche genre known as contemporary Christian music (CCM).” Even on the scale of surging individual churches, such as the black Pentecostal Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Mississippi described by Booker, under possession by the Holy Spirit “each person sang his own song, telling about his condition.” Heightened intensity was realised as a prolific musical creation.
The Melanesian Great Awakening of the 1970s exemplifies this model of ontomusicogenesis. During this time, a polynucleated eruption of charismatic intensity catalysed the region, particularly the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. A massive wave of new music expressed this surge in life. A German missionary stationed in the Sepik region during the 1970s stated that “Sapos bel i nupela, song tu i nupela,” which we can accurately translate as “where there is new life, there are new songs.” The small list of ethnographic snippets provided above, excised from an extensive historical record of religious intensification in Melanesia during the 1970s, which itself is merely the visible part of a momentous, largely undocumented, regional becoming, attests to this ontological axiom.
A few important dimensions of this creative eruption can be tentatively established as principles common to explosions of charismatic-pneumacentric Christianity across the world and throughout history. Most obviously, we should note the sheer mass of new compositions. Over the space of just a few years, religious intensification produced “thousands” of new songs among the Huli of the Papua New Guinea highlands, at least hundreds among their Engan and Telefomin neighbours, and while not accompanied by numerical estimates, reports from communities across Melanesia during this era indicate similarly prolific composition. Religious intensification does not just create, it creates profoundly. Whether in 1730s England, or 1970s Melanesia, communities and individuals under the force of surging religious forces do not simply compose new songs, they compose prolifically – not a stream but a tidal wave.
A second point is the concomitant ease and rapidity with which creative profundity is realised. Composition not only occurs extensively but compulsively. Songs do not gradually emerge from a lengthy creative process but are knocked into shape quickly, spontaneously, and instantaneously. Intensity is movement, excitement, and speed. This kind of being brooks no compromise with time and demands immediate expression. Around Ialibu, in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, “Songs are composed at the drop of a hat,” many among the neighbouring Duna possessed “the gift of singing extempore hymns in the services,” and revival music among the Duke of York islanders was a “spontaneous expression of their faith.” A few examples from American religious accelerations exemplify this pattern. Booker tells of how Pentecostal songs were “usually something made up during the week about his or her condition,” Johnson describes how spiritual movements among black Christians in the 19th century slave period were marked by “extemporaneously composed songs to emphasize and affirm aspects of sermons,” and Marina and Wilkinson portray the musicality of a Brooklyn Pentecostal as “a spiritual kind of singing – unprepared and unrehearsed…It’s spontaneous, unpredictable, and fluid moving as the Holy Spirit moves.” Religious intensity does not patiently and cautiously manifest in laboriously constructed masterpieces but relentlessly punctures the surface of extended life with on the fly – earworm choruses and melodies.
Finally, and as a way of gathering the threads of the preceding, we can say that a new era of religious and spiritual intensity is heralded, inter alia, through the prolific and rapid appearance of a new corpus of musical compositions. As communities heave under surging forces, new songs appear in vast quantity and with astonishing speed. To capture the heightened intensity so central to this process, we might even call this hyperontomusicogenesis. In any case, the emphasis must be placed on creativity, on the coming into being of unprecedented musical compositions, styles, and genres, as part of a broader upsurge in religious intensity. For the Huli there emerged during this time Ngodenaga Iba Gana or “God’s Songs,” a term which “refers specifically to songs created spontaneously by the indigenous church during the 1973 to 1976 Christian revival.” A new kind of music for a new ontological epoch, this process was repeated across Melanesia during the 1970s and is a feature common to eruptions of charismatic Christian intensity around the world.
Joy and Heat
‘…intensity is the means by which musical art secures the renewed creation of affects’
Eruptions of musicalised religious intensification are powerfully affective. Following Deleuze, Spinoza, and Bergson, we can say that affect is an intrinsically relational, nascent force or intensity that incessantly propels a body, with relative speed or slowness, from one state of capacity to another, located across a spectrum of joy (heightened capacity) to sadness (diminished capacity). As a force or intensity ceaselessly foreshadowing the actualisation of concrete thoughts and actions, affect never possesses a fixed, stable identity but exists in action as a continuous state of active becoming. It is the wellspring of emergent life: the ongoing, dynamic calibration of our body and mind to its surrounding environment. Our passage to greater or lesser power, contraction or dilation of capacity, is totally determined by its affection from other bodies.
These affecting bodies are necessarily determined, in turn, by other bodies, so that the Deleuzian ontology of affect amounts to an “infinite concatenation of bodies” contagiously and constantly determining each other, for better or worse. “For the affect is not a personal feeling, nor is it a characteristic; it is the effectuation of a power of the pack that throws the self into upheaval and makes it reel.” The world of bodies within which we exist and that ceaselessly affect and determine us are not solely human but can be any other existent thing, including musical and spiritual.
Understanding music affectively is “to understand how the music or sound event creates intensities in the lived experience…to truly understand the properties of the sound event, as a vibrational body, which empowers it to interact and affect other bodies…this is precisely because it orients towards the surface of the event, the layer which most poignantly affects/wounds the body of the listener.” In other words, “contact, which is to say sensation, is primary to everything else. Sensation lies beneath and distinction between thought and feeling, or between science, philosophy, and art.” But we do need to go further than simply saying that music is affective because it mobilises intensities within interactive reverberations. Indeed, the whole idea of affect is about becoming, a movement towards greater or reduced powers to act and feel.
Through the generation of immediate prepersonal resonances between interacting bodies, music catalyses profound passages between different intensive states. Music can augment us immeasurably before we are able to say how or in what way. Unspeakable joy. Because of its ability to move us contagiously, directly, and powerfully, music is an affective machine par excellence. To access and organise the world of becoming intensities is to be musical.
It should come as no surprise to note the centrality of music to the “affective-experiential” modes of Christianity. Religious intensities are articulated most powerfully through music due to its privileged access to the affective ontological substrate. As the poster child of the anthropology of Christianity, Pentecostalism trades in heightened affective intensities, albeit those that are predictable and institutionalised. Adherents are struck by the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, convulse, have visions, and so on; but these intensities are part of a ritual code that Pentecostals learn to perform through mimetic repetition. Planned spontaneity. In any case, as a deeply affective-intensive religiosity, Pentecostalism is crucially articulated through its musical repertoire. In the Aotearoa/New Zealand context, Miller and Strongman note that “the music used in P-C church services is a major facilitator of emotional effects on the congregants’ religious experiences.” Marina and Wilkinson describe how for Afro-Caribbean Pentecostals in New York City, “Music fuels the excitement and intensity of the church service. It is bodily and emotional and embodies the culture of the congregation.” On a general level, Yong underscores the “expressive, intense, and participatory nature of Pentecostal singing, dancing, and worshipping.”
Movements of religious intensification, or “revivals,” can be distinguished from institutionalised Pentecostalism on the basis of their affective economy. These dramatic explosions of intensity are largely, but never totally, spontaneous affective embodiments of metaphysical transformation. Intensive capture of cosmological slippage. While they may be prayed and prepared for, they are not rehearsed, repetitive iterations – not going through the motions but setting things in motion. Elsewhere I have phrased the distinction as wild/domesticated affect. Pentecostalism is religious intensity that has come indoors, having been trained and contained. Wild religious intensification has an internal structure but roams free, ceaselessly forging lateralized circuits and webs of intensity.
While Pentecostalism and religious intensification operate under fundamentally different affective aspects, their musicality exhibits an obvious intensive resemblance. Using the example of the Toronto Blessing, Althouse and Wilkinson discuss how intensified music works to facilitate an affective “‘mutual tuning-in,’ a form of social interaction that is nonconceptual and precognitive;” though following Zerilli we should be careful not to overstate the absence of conceptuality to our corporeal being-in-the-world. Such calibrations of embodied intensity are evident within the Melanesian movements of the 1970s. Webb describes the singing of Oro Christians, derived directly from the 1970s movement, as “a harmonious cloud of contained exuberance.” Throughout surging United Church congregations on the Gazelle Peninsula, East New Britain, Namunu described “everyone unanimously joining in the singing of the favourite verses.
The expression of joy can be marked by the tone of the voice.” Griffiths similarly underscores how the singing of Māori evangelist John Pipi within one of the numerous religious intensifications that swept Malaita, Solomon Islands, in 1970, precipitated deep sorrow and repentance for abiding sin that dramatically metamorphosed into overwhelming, profuse joy. The Holy Spirit, a melody, a singer, thousands of spiritually hungry individuals. Bodies in an assemblage, reverberating with each other, catalysing profound passages in states of intensive capacity.
Beyond its obviously affective quality, the musicality of religious intensification in Melanesia contains particular elements of broader theoretical significance. The eruption of contagious charismatic intensity is NOISY. Excited bodies produce more movement and sound: amplified affect. A groundswell in affective intensity is captured in music that is not simply enthusiastic, energetic, or passionate, but which sonically overflows, manifesting the abundant and rapid ontological movement that underpins its emergence. A momentous shift in the basic parameters of life does not occur quietly. Violent musical earthquakes; sonic tectonics. Handman’s work among the Guhu-Samane of Morobe Province describes the music that arose during a rapid acceleration in worship that occurred in 1977 as “extremely noisy,” and also that “people were shouting prayers and ‘amen’ at an incredible volume.”
Among the Enga people living in the Baiyer River area of the Papua New Guinea highlands, Dawia reports that during the singing within a 1978 revival “at times the noise was deafening. During this time Pastor Yukuwa who was in charge of proceedings made no attempt to quieten the people down.” The aurality of religious intensification is not obedient, pliant, and guided carefully down well-worn affective tracks, but surges rambunctiously, compulsively searching out higher and louder sonic peaks and plateaus.
Radically intensified musical affect is intensely corporeal. Spiritually catalysed musical eruptions don’t just bring people together, they compel violent, stifling, exhausting collisions. Performance is brutal, incendiary, depleting. Emerging out of their 1977 ‘revival’, Urapmin spirit disko famously described by Robbins in Becoming Sinners (2004) entail nighttime possession dances of great energy and near-violence that go on for hours in darkened churches…Once several people become possessed, bodies fly about wildly, and people get bumped and banged. With the dancers pounding and the possessed stomping and flailing, large slats of the church’s bark floor break…The feeling of intense energy that pervades the dance…a sense of violence and danger pervades the ecstasy of the rite.
Near Ialibu, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, in 1981, while singing “Children between the ages of 7 and 15 and many older women and some men would smile and be very happy and weave [sic] their hands and arms over their heads. The tempo would increase until it was almost a frenzy!” During the spread of religious intensity around the Lake Kutubu area in 1974, “People began to shake in the all night singing, the constancy of which made people so tired that husbands or wives went home and left their spouses in the company of others, clean contrary to tribal custom.” Exhausting and wild, overflowing sonic intensity is also hot to the touch. During their performances, the Urapmin felt “extremely hot” for instance. But affective heat may not just be corporeal, but also ontological.
As molecular bodies relentlessly and contagiously careen into each other within musical performances, the temperature of being is raised. Thus, Handman speaks of traditional ritual heat interpolated into revivalist musical performance among the Guhu-Samane. Further afield in Haiti, Butler similarly describes how songs “become most powerful when they “heat up” (“chofe”) the space. Heating up occurs as worshippers use joyously energetic worship to invite the Holy Spirit into their midst.” Not an individual ‘strangely warmed heart’ but a region of communities whose outer and inner dimensions are burning to the sound of music. Ontological pyrotechnics.
Fraser Macdonald is an anthropologist of religion and a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. His research focuses upon global evangelical-Pentecostal Christian movements in Melanesia among the Oksapmin people with emphasis on how different aspects of their traditional religion and cosmology have been reshaped and revalued through coming into contact with globalized forms of Christianity.
 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1987), 299.
 Jacqueline Pugh-Kitingan, “An ethnomusicological study of the Huli of the Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea.” Ph.D dissertation, University of Queensland, St Lucia: 1981.
 Digby Ho Long, qtd. in: Michael Webb, “Every Creative Aspect Breaking Out! Pentecostal-Charismatic Worship, Oro Gospel Music, and a Millennialist Aesthetic in Papua New Guinea” The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in Global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity ed. Monique Ingalls and Amos Yong (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015), 86.
 Glenda Giles, “Spiritual Revival.” Unpublished Newsletter (1975).
 John and Moyra Prince, No Fading Vision: The First 50 Years of A.P.C.M (Asia Pacific Christian Mission, 1981), 194-195.
 Lin Calvert, “A Renewal Movement in the United Church, Kapuna, Gulf Province” Religious Movements in Melanesia: A Selection of Case Studies and Reports ed. Wendy Flannery (Goroka: The Melanesian Institute, 2983), 192.
 Andrew Midian, The Value of Indigenous Music in the Life and Ministry of the Church: The United Church in the Duke of York Islands (Port Moresby: Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies, 1999), xxxi.
 Wiya Tramulia, The Story of the Revival among the Enga People 1973-2004 (Unpublished manuscript: 2004), 29.
 Gary Teske, “The Holi Spirit Movement Among Enga” Religious Movements in Melanesia Today (2), ed. Wendy Flannery (Goroka: The Melanesian Institute, 1983), 131.
 Ross. M. Weymouth, “The Gogodala Society: Adjustment Movements 1966-1981” Religious Movements in Melanesia: A Selection of Case Studies and Reports ed. Wendy Flannery (Goroka: The Melanesian Institute, 1983), 48.
 William F. Danaher, “Music and Social Movements” Sociology Compass 4, no. 9 (2010): 818.
 Rob Rosenthal, “Serving the movement: The role(s) of music” Popular Music and Society 25, no. 3-4 (2001): 11-24.
 John R. Tyson, Assist me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), viii.
 Shawn David Young, “Apocalyptic Music: Reflections on Countercultural Christian Influence” Volume! 9, no. 2, (2012): 64.
 Queen Booker, “Congregational Music in a Pentecostal Church” The Black Perspective in Music 16, no. 1 (1988): 37.
 Peter Jost, Rivaival Long Is Sepik 1976 (Unpublished Manuscript, 2001): 30.
 Pugh-Kitingan, “An ethnomusicological study of the Huli of the Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea,” 291.
 Tramulia, The Story of the Revival among the Enga People 1973-2004, 29.
 Keith Bennett and Lindsay Smith, “A revival movement among the Telefomin Baptist churches” Religious Movements in Melanesia: A Selection of Case Studies and Reports ed. Wendy Flannery (Goroka: The Melanesian Institute, 1983), 144.
 Roger White, “Family Prayer Movement at Imbongu, Ialibu, Southern Highlands” Religious Movements in Melanesia: A Selection of Case Studies and Reports ed. Wendy Flannery (Goroka: The Melanesian Institute, 1983), 163.
 Giles, “Spiritual Revival,” 1.
 Midian, The Value of Indigenous Music in the Life and Ministry of the Church: The United Church in the Duke of York Islands, xxxi.
 Booker, “Congregational Music in a Pentecostal Church,” 37.
 Birgitta J. Johnson, “Back to the Heart of Worship: Praise and Worship in a Los Angeles African-American Megachurch” Black Music Research Journal 31, no. 1 (2011): 108.
 Peter Marina and Michael Wilkinson, “Pentecostalism as Cultural Resistance: Music and Tongue-Speaking as Collective Response in a Brooklyn Church” PentecoStudies 16, no. 2 (2017): 228.
 Pugh-Kitingan, “An ethnomusicological study of the Huli of the Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea,” 290.
 Jean-Godefroy Bidima, “Intensity, Music, and Heterogenesis in Deleuze” Sounding the Virtual: Gilles Deleuze and the Theory and Philosophy of Music ed. Brian Hulse and Nick Nesbitt (London: Routledge, 2010), 148.
 Brian Massumi, “The Autonomy of Affect” Cultural Critique 31 (1995): 88.
 Amy Cimini, “Gilles Deleuze and the Musical Spinoza” Sounding the Virtual: Gilles Deleuze and the Theory and Philosophy of Music ed. Brian Hulse and Nick Nesbitt (London: Routledge, 2010), 137.
 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 240.
 Srđan Atanasovski, “Consequences of the Affective Turn: Exploring Music Practices from without and within” Muzikologija 18 (2015): 71-72.
 Brian Hulse, “Thinking Musical Difference: Music Theory as Minor Science” Sounding the Virtual: Gilles Deleuze and the Theory and Philosophy of Music ed. Brian Hulse and Nick Nesbitt (London: Routledge, 2010), 31.
 Kenneth J. Archer, “Pentecostal Hermeneutics and the Society for Pentecostal Studies: Reading and Hearing in One Spirit and One Accord” Pneuma 37 (2013): 322.
 B. Meyer, “Mediation and immediacy: sensational forms, semiotic ideologies and the question of the medium” Social Anthropology 19, no. 1 (2011): 29.
 Meyer, “Mediation and immediacy: sensational forms, semiotic ideologies and the question of the medium,” pp. 23-39.
 Josh Brahinsky, “Pentecostal Body Logics: Cultivating a Modern Sensorium” Cultural Anthropology 27, no. 2 (2012): 215-238.
 Mandi M. Miller and Kenneth T. Strongman, “The Emotional Effects of Music on Religious Experience: A Study of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Style of Music and Worship” Psychology of Music 30 (2002): 10.
 Marina and Wilkinson, “Pentecostalism as Cultural Resistance: Music and Tongue-Speaking as Collective Response in a Brooklyn Church,” 226.
 Amos Yong, “Conclusion: Improvisation, Indigenization, and Inspiration: Theological Reflections on the Sound and Spirit of Global Renewal”The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in Global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity ed. Monique Ingalls and Amos Yong (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015), 281.
 Peter Althouse and Michael Wilkinson, “Musical Bodies in the Charismatic Renewal: The Case of Catch the Fire and Soaking Prayer” The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in Global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity ed. Monique Ingalls and Amos Yong (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015), 34.
 Linda M. G. Zerilli, “The Turn to Affect and the Problem of Judgment” New Literary History 46 (2015): 261-286.
 Webb, “Every Creative Aspect Breaking Out! Pentecostal-Charismatic Worship, Oro Gospel Music, and a Millennialist Aesthetic in Papua New Guinea,” 79.
 Simon Namunu, “Charismatic Renewal on the Gazelle Peninsula” Religious Movements in Melanesia Today (2) ed. Wendy Flannery (Goroka: The Melanesian Institute, 1983), 62-63.
 Alison Griffiths, Fire in the Islands! The Acts of the Holy Spirit in the Solomons (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1977), 173.
 Courtney Handman, Critical Christianity: Translation and Denominational Conflict in Papua New Guinea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015), 230.
 Alexander Dawia, “A Revival Convention, Lumusa Baptist Church, Baiyer River” Religious Movements in Melanesia: A Selection of Case Studies and Reports ed. Wendy Flannery (Goroka: The Melanesian Institute, 1983), 123.
Robbins, Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society, 281-285.
 White, “Family Prayer Movement at Imbongu, Ialibu, Southern Highlands,” 159.
 Prince and Prince, No Fading Vision: The First 50 Years of A.P.C.M., 196.
 Robbins, Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society, 284.
 Handman, Critical Christianity: Translation and Denominational Conflict in Papua New Guinea, 234.
 Melvin L. Butler, “The Weapons of Our Warfare: Music, Positionality, and Transcendence Among Haitian Pentecostals” Caribbean Studies 36, no. 2 (2008): 39.