Music and the sin of sloth: The gendered articulation of worthy musical time in early American music

Kevin Shorner-Johnson, Elizabethtown College


Sociologist Max Weber identified Puritan constructions of virtuous time and the sin of sloth as having explanatory power for the origins of Puritan action and capitalist economies. This article expands upon Weber's thesis to examine how the sin of sloth was reinterpreted to encourage or prohibit psalm singing, singing schools, and later forms of musicking. In particular, the article examines how the sin of sloth has always been a complex construction of virtue, emotion, time, and gender. An examination of musicking through the sin of sloth illuminates the impact of virtue ethics, gender, and time. Arguments for and against musicking are often grounded in notions of virtuous time, gender, emotion, and imagined depravity.