Faculty Publications

Musical Pastiche: The Case of Matisyahu

Document Type

Book Chapter


Matisyahu, Pastiche, Pedagogy

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Symbolic Interactionist Takes on Music



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In this brief essay, I will describe the compatibility of a postmodern turn in sociology and the symbolic interactionist approach to the study of music in everyday life. This compatibility is reflected in the work and career of musical artist Matisyahu, as illustrated by the concept of pastiche. The interaction among the three dimensions of image, music, and religious ideology in Matisyahu’s work operationalizes this concept. The primary resources for this analysis include Matisyahu’s recorded music; an interview conducted with him by The Times of Israel in which he explains his personal transition from the Labuvitch movement to the Modern Orthodox Movement and how this transition affected his music; and my attendance at four of his concerts in Central Texas. Pastiche refers to “a free-floating, crazy quilt, collage, hodgepodge patchwork of ideas or views. It includes elements of opposites such as the old and new. It denies regularity, logic or symmetry; it glories in contradiction and confusion” (Rosenau, 1991, xiii). I conclude with a brief pedagogical argument on how to expand the use of music to explain complex sociological theory and social phenomena. By highlighting theoretical concepts through music, we can ground new and complex ideas in lived experiences and engage students with a topic that is grounded in their daily life experience.


Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy

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