Theses Doctoral

Trombone Shout: Instrumental Voices in the United House of Prayer for All People

Chevan, Jesse Abel

This dissertation is an ethnography of an African American sacred music tradition – the trombone worship bands of the United House of Prayer for All People (UHOP) – that examines the ways in which musical aesthetics mediate racial and economic marginality and religious authority. Musical worship featuring these “shout bands,” involves UHOP members in an embodied performance of religious discourse, including actualizing the boundaries of sanctified interiority, confirming the charismatic authority of the organization’s sacralized leader, and constituting the independence and sovereignty of the UHOP Kingdom. The project is animated by a central question: given continuities in repertoire, performance practice, and theology between UHOP shout bands and other Black gospel practices, why is musical worship at the UHOP organized around the trombone rather than the human voice? The dissertation answers this question dialectically by showing how shout band music-making offers solutions to the ethical and theological issues members face, while UHOP theological discourse capitalizes on the sensory affordances of musical practice.

The opening chapter introduces the role of the shout band in the context of UHOP worship services, framing musical practice as the enactment of sacred divisions of space and subjectivity. This chapter also depicts the feedback loop between worship practice and scriptural interpretation by introducing UHOP-specific idioms of Biblical literalism and re-enactment.

Chapter two dilates on the connections between musical microsocialities and forms of authority through an analysis of the “figure of call-and-response” as a medium for the bishop’s charismatic authority. In the final chapter, I survey a variety of UHOP state-mimetic forms – that is, forms appropriated from the symbolic repertoire of the United States government – as points of entry into the ways that members actualize a shared notion of “freedom.”

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Washburne, Christopher J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 3, 2024