Special Issue "Music, Sound, and the Sacred"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Anna Stirr
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Hawaii, Asian Studies Program, Moore Hall 416, 1890 East-West Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
Interests: music; sound; politics; religion; intersectionality; sensory ethnography

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Issue of Religions addresses music and sound as integral parts of religious and spiritual expression. Inviting approaches inspired by the robust work on music, sound, and religious practice in ethnomusicology, anthropology, sound studies, and related disciplines, and echoing Prof. Rosalind Hackett’s call for more “sonically aware” ways of studying religion, it focuses on how music and sound are essential parts of religious practices, rather than simply ornaments or illustrations of religious concepts. Acknowledging that this centrality to the lived life of religion is also true of other arts and other sensory modalities, this Issue emphasizes religion as heard and sounded in practice.

This Issue is open to studies of music and sound in all areas of the world, and will give priority to vernacular religion—that is, religion as people understand, experience, and practice it. Some questions to address include the following: how are sounds and music made sacred? What work do sacred sounds do in religious practice? How do music and sound create sacred spaces, from the intimate scale of one voice, to the larger scale of urban religious soundscapes, or sounded sacred geography? How do social categories such as race, class, gender, caste, or ethnolinguistic groups, inflect sacred sounds as used by practitioners, and as heard by others? How do the meanings, or felt understandings, of such sacred sounds evolve when heard outside of their primary religious contexts? How might attention to soundings and hearing challenge the binarized categories of the sacred and profane, practitioner and scholar?

Prof. Anna Stirr
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • sound
  • music
  • performance
  • senses
  • practice

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Article
Qawwali Routes: Notes on a Sufi Music’s Transformation in Diaspora
Religions 2020, 11(12), 685; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120685 - 21 Dec 2020
Viewed by 816
Abstract
In recent years, alongside the concurrent rise of political Islam and reactionary state policies in India, Sufism has been championed as an “acceptable” form of Islam from neoliberal perspectives within India and the Western world. Sufism is noted as an arena of spiritual/religious [...] Read more.
In recent years, alongside the concurrent rise of political Islam and reactionary state policies in India, Sufism has been championed as an “acceptable” form of Islam from neoliberal perspectives within India and the Western world. Sufism is noted as an arena of spiritual/religious practice that highlights musical routes to the Divine. Among Chishti Sufis of South Asia, that musical pathway is qawwali, a song form that been in circulation for over seven centuries, and which continues to maintain a vibrant sonic presence on the subcontinent, both in its ritual usage among Sufis and more broadly in related folk and popular iterations. This paper asks, what happens to qawwali as a song form when it circulates in diaspora? While prominent musicians such as the Sabri Brothers and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan exposed audiences in the West to the sounds of qawwali, in recent years, non-hereditary groups of musicians based in the US and UK have begun to perform songs from the qawwali repertoire. In the traditional setting, textual meaning is paramount; this paper asks, how can performers transmute the affective capacity of qawwali in settings where semantic forms of communication may be lost? How do sonic and metaphorical voices lend themselves to the circulation of sound-centered meaning? Through a discussion of the Sufi sublime, this paper considers ways sonic materials stitch together the diverse cloth of the South Asian community in diaspora. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music, Sound, and the Sacred)
Article
Yoga and White Public Space
Religions 2020, 11(12), 669; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120669 - 14 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 687
Abstract
This article connects recent work in critical race studies, museum studies, and performance studies to larger conversations happening across the humanities and social sciences on the role of performance in white public spaces. Specifically, I examine the recent trend of museums such as [...] Read more.
This article connects recent work in critical race studies, museum studies, and performance studies to larger conversations happening across the humanities and social sciences on the role of performance in white public spaces. Specifically, I examine the recent trend of museums such as the Natural History Museum of London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, to name but a few, offering meditation and wellness classes that purport to “mirror the aesthetics or philosophy of their collections.” Through critical ethnography and discursive analysis I examine and unpack this logic, exposing the role of cultural materialism and the residue of European imperialism in the affective economy of the museum. I not only analyze the use of sound and bodily practices packaged as “yoga” but also interrogate how “yoga” cultivates a sense of space and place for museum-goers. I argue that museum yoga programs exhibit a form of somatic orientalism, a sensory mechanism which traces its roots to U.S. American cultural-capitalist formations and other institutionalized forms of racism. By locating yoga in museums within broader and longer processes of racialization I offer a critical race and feminist lens to view these sorts of performances. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music, Sound, and the Sacred)
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Article
Popular Songs, Melodies from the Dead: Moving beyond Historicism with the Buddhist Ethics and Aesthetics of Pin Peat and Cambodian Hip Hop
Religions 2020, 11(11), 625; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110625 - 22 Nov 2020
Viewed by 832
Abstract
This article illustrates how the aesthetics of two types of Cambodian music—pin peat and Cambodian hip hop—enact Cambodian–Buddhist ethics and function as ritual practices through musicians’ recollections of deceased teachers’ musical legacies. Noting how prevalent historicist and secular epistemologies isolate Cambodian and, [...] Read more.
This article illustrates how the aesthetics of two types of Cambodian music—pin peat and Cambodian hip hop—enact Cambodian–Buddhist ethics and function as ritual practices through musicians’ recollections of deceased teachers’ musical legacies. Noting how prevalent historicist and secular epistemologies isolate Cambodian and, more broadly, Southeast Asian musical aesthetics from their ethical and ritual functions, I propose that analyses focusing on Buddhist ethics more closely translate the moral, religious, and ontological aspects inherent in playing and listening to Cambodian music. I detail how Cambodian musicians’ widespread practices of quoting deceased teachers’ variations, repurposing old musical styles, and reiterating the melodies and rhythms played by artistic ancestors have the potential to function as Buddhist rituals, whether those aesthetic and stylistic features surface in pin peat songs or in hip hop. Those aesthetic practices entail a modality of being historical that partially connects with but exceeds historicism’s approach to Buddhism, temporality, and history by enacting relations of mutual care that bring the living and dead to be ontologically coeval. Such relational practices bring me to conclude with a brief discussion rethinking what post-genocide remembrance sounds like and feels like. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music, Sound, and the Sacred)
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Article
Home beyond Borders and the Sound of Al-Andalus. Jewishness in Arabic; the Odyssey of Samy Elmaghribi
Religions 2020, 11(11), 609; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110609 - 16 Nov 2020
Viewed by 729
Abstract
In their conversation about music, Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim discuss a process of seeking home in music and literature. For Moroccan-Jewish superstar Samy Elmaghribi (Solomon Amzallag), who migrated to France and Israel and then settled for most of his life in Montreal, [...] Read more.
In their conversation about music, Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim discuss a process of seeking home in music and literature. For Moroccan-Jewish superstar Samy Elmaghribi (Solomon Amzallag), who migrated to France and Israel and then settled for most of his life in Montreal, Canada, the reference to Al-Andalus through the sound of the nouba became his home. Beginning his career in his native country of Morocco as a singer and composer of modern Moroccan music, in Montreal, Samy Elmaghribi became the cantor in the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, the oldest Jewish congregation in Canada. Based on ethnographic research and investigation within the archives of the artist, the authors suggest that Samy Elmaghribi created a sense of home in music, a homeness, one that transcends our present understanding of Arabness and Jewishness, religiosity and secularism, tradition and creativity. Focus on Samy Elmaghribi, an artistic persona emblematic of his generation, demonstrates how the contemporary reassessment of renowned Jewish artists’ North African heritage is often misread in light of the political present. This example encourages us to rethink the musical legacy to which these North African Jews contributed beyond what is labelled Judeo-Arabic, traditional, religious, or secular. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music, Sound, and the Sacred)
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Article
We Drew a Swastika of Grain: Vernacular Religion in the Tibetan Songs of Nubri, Nepal
Religions 2020, 11(11), 593; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110593 - 09 Nov 2020
Viewed by 602
Abstract
The academic study of Tibetan Buddhism has long emphasized the textual, philological, and monastic, and sometimes tended to ignore, dismiss, or undervalue the everyday practices and beliefs of ordinary people. In this article, I show that traditional folk songs, especially changlü, are [...] Read more.
The academic study of Tibetan Buddhism has long emphasized the textual, philological, and monastic, and sometimes tended to ignore, dismiss, or undervalue the everyday practices and beliefs of ordinary people. In this article, I show that traditional folk songs, especially changlü, are windows into the vernacular religion of ethnically Tibetan Himalayans from the Nubri valley of Gorkha District, Nepal. While changlü literally means “beer song”, and they are often sung while celebrating, they usually have deeply religious subject matter, and function to transmit Buddhist values, reinforce social or religious hierarchies, and to emplace the community in relation to the landscape and to greater Tibet and Nepal. They do this mainly through three different tropes: (1) exhortations to practice and to remember such things as impermanence and death; (2) explications of hierarchy; and (3) employment of spatialized language that evokes the maṇḍala. They also sometimes carry opaque references to vernacular rituals, such as “drawing a swastika of grain” after storing the harvest. In the song texts translated here, I will point out elements that reproduce a Buddhist worldview, such as references to deities, sacred landscape, and Buddhist values, and argue that they impart vernacular religious knowledge intergenerationally in an implicit, natural, and sonic way, ensuring that younger generations internalize community values organically. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music, Sound, and the Sacred)
Article
For Whom the Bell Tolls: Practitioners’ Views on Bell-Ringing Practice in Contemporary Society in New South Wales (Australia)
Religions 2020, 11(8), 425; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11080425 - 17 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1202
Abstract
For centuries, religious buildings have been using bells to call the faithful to prayer. Bell-ringing activity on church premises does not serve a purely religious function, however, as people in the community may perceive this activity secularly, attributing their own meanings and significances [...] Read more.
For centuries, religious buildings have been using bells to call the faithful to prayer. Bell-ringing activity on church premises does not serve a purely religious function, however, as people in the community may perceive this activity secularly, attributing their own meanings and significances towards these sounds. If bell ringing (or the actual sound) were found to have great significance to a specific community, denomination, or a regionality bracket, this may have future implications in any management of these resources. There is a need to hear the voices of the actual practitioners and their perceptions regarding what they, their congregations, and their host communities feel. This paper represents the first large-scale assessment of the views of practitioners of five major Christian denominations with regards to bell-ringing practice and its role in contemporary society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music, Sound, and the Sacred)
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Addendum
Addendum: Parker, Murray, and Dirk H.R. Spennemann. 2020. For Whom the Bell Tolls: Practitioners’ Views on Bell-Ringing Practice in Contemporary Society in New South Wales (Australia). Religions 11: 425
Religions 2020, 11(12), 668; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120668 - 14 Dec 2020
Viewed by 460
Abstract
The authors would like to make the following corrections in relation to the published paper (Parker and Spennemann 2020) [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Music, Sound, and the Sacred)
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