The article Listening as Religious Practice (Part Two): Exploring Qualitative Data from an Empirical Study of the Cultural Habits of Music Fans by Clive Marsh and Vaughan S. Roberts offered insight for qualitative data analysis on my research topic of engaging with music in a spiritual setting. I appreciated how the authors were able to distill the data from a variety of responses into a theoretical map. I found it helpful to see how they made sense out of complicated and immeasurable topics like emotional experiences.

headphone halo

Marsh and Roberts were able to create a framework for mapping the qualitative data from 231 listeners of music. The surveys’ findings identified eleven words that occurred consistently:

  • uplift (23 mentions)
  • relax (29)
  • inspiration (16)
  • memory (14)
  • energy (12)
  • calm (13)
  • joy (24)
  • happiness (27)
  • sad/sadness (13)
  • moods (27)
  • emotions (29)

From this data, the authors then determined four axes around a central hub of moods/emotions.

  • uplift—relax
  • inspiration—memory
  • energy—calm
  • joy/happiness—sad/sadness

Finally all the pieces are put together to form the Mood/Emotion map as seen below in  Figure 1, (Marsh & Robert, 2015, p.293).

emotional axis

The authors continue to frame their study around how participants make meaning in their lives through these emotions. However, not concrete data was provided to back up their framing around the term coined by Charles Taylor, social imaginary. Marsh and Roberts explained,

“Taylor understands this term as the way in which people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations which are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images which underlie those expectations,” (2015, p. 292).

Explaining how moods and emotions play into the social imaginary model would have been the perfect ending to the study, but again, there was no data collection or analysis around this concept. Therefore, I will not include the social imaginary map.

In my study I plan to ask about emotions felt when listening to music at the spiritual center. This will help in the concept of how participants draw meaning from music as suggested from a previous article critique on The Role of Popular Music in the Construction of Alternative Spiritual Identities and Ideologies. Mapping emotions provides a helpful example on how to quantify the idea of how music affects a person’s beliefs and perceptions of the world. 

For my larger team’s literature review, this study can relate to all the after effects of arts and engagement. My teammates continue to see identity and community as emerging themes of our research. Mapping may also help with our larger literature review.


Marsh, C., & Roberts, V. (2015). Listening as Religious Practice (Part Two): Exploring Qualitative Data from an Empirical Study of the Cultural Habits of Music Fans. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 30(2), 291-306.

Photo Credit: