Denise Stobart

University College, Cork

Presenter Profile

Originally from Germany, Denise started her musical education at the Anton-Bruckner Grammar School in Straubing, Bavaria. Upon moving to Ireland in 2016 she worked as a Lay Vicar Choral at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork. After having studied both the French Horn and Singing at Cork School of Music, Munster Technological University, Denise continued in academia at University College Cork (UCC) where she is currently undertaking a PhD under the supervision of Dr Alexander Khalil, the Rev’d Dr William Olhausen and Dr Melanie Marshall. Outside of her research, Denise continues in her role as Alto Lay Vicar Choral and is also Communications Officer and Personal Assistant to the Bishop, the Right Rev’d Dr Paul Colton, in the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross. In 2022, Denise received the Quercus Scholarship for Academic Excellence and was the 2022 Quercus College Scholar for Music at UCC. Her primary research interests are Anglican Church Music, as well as music and religious cognition, Anglican theology, and music analysis. Denise’s major theses were in Symmetry and Asymmetry as a compositional technique in Western Art Music, the history of Psalm singing in the Anglican tradition, and she conducted primary research into the history of the cathedral choral foundation of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork, Ireland. Her current research focuses on the intersection of music, cognition, and theology, especially in the Anglican Church Music Tradition, and she recently shared her research with the Church of Ireland Liturgical Advisory Committee. Denise is married to Peter, and they have two beagles, Rimbaud and Agnes.

The Divine as an integral part of Religious Cognition experienced through Music during Worship in the Anglican Tradition

The research paper explores how the presence of God can be experienced through church music in the Anglican tradition and how that shapes the cognitive processes that take place during musical worship. The PhD touches on several different subjects: church music history, music cognition, religious cognition, cognitive science, liturgy and theology/liturgical theology. The paper draws on secondary literature and analyses the findings on religious and music cognition from a philosophical/theological perspective. The hypothesis of the project is to define God in religious cognition as an independent spiritual entity that by its presence influences the cognitive processes/neural networks that take place during musical worship. To understand the effects and affect of church music on religious cognition, music cognition and personal spirituality the research paper draws on the ideas of major theologians and philosophers. By analysing cognitive processes and brain patterns from an epistemological and ontological perspective the PhD aims to start a transdisciplinary discussion from a new perspective, in which the Divine is crucial in creating and shaping those patterns. Ultimately, the hypothesis means that materialism and embodied cognitive processes on the one hand, and transcendentalism and God on the other hand are not mutually exclusive. Drawing these connections by analysing the role of music in Anglican worship will shine a new light on how religious thought and experience are shaped. This can ultimately facilitate new approaches and discussions in the areas of liturgical theology, music cognition and religious cognition.

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