Reciting the sacred

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Discussion about this topic

In response to Bkey's Anglican Chant reading: What it seems to me the author fails to recognise is that it is only via simplification, repitition, and a sort of metrical system that a congregation is able to participate in the chant, or singing of any sort. This takes recitation, or singing, out of the hands of the few and places it within the realm of possibility for everyone who knows the tune. Of course this has occurred in most Christian denominations in the form of popular pslams, hymns and other songs; the difference being that the words and melodies are intended for each other. While allowing for congregational participation without (as frequently) murdering text stress and rhythm, the disadvantage is that a congregation can only know a certain number of songs or hymns without having to reuse the same ones often. Anglican chant supplies a recognizeable and fewer number of tunes, to which the congregation can sing an inexhaustible number of texts. This allows for maximum participation of the congregation without limiting the number of text-tune combinations they can remember. So, yes, there is some compromise required, the advantage being a maximization of the possibility for ongoing and varied congregational participation. --Jordanv 13:14, 28 January 2006 (MST)

Assigned viewings, listenings

Please listen to Surat al-Qadr (Qur'an 97). Click on the Arabic to start the recitation (prefixed by "Bismillahirrahmanirrahim", "in the Name of the Merciful and Compassionate God"). The Sura (chapter) of al-Qadr (Night of Decree) comprises 5 verses (ayas). You will hear the verse recited, while seeing synchronized Arabic script, transliteration, and translation. On Tuesday we will attempt to perform Surat al-Qadr together, so listen to the recitation as often as you can.

Surat al-Qadr, transliteration, translation, interpretation. Surat al-Qadr is the key Qur'anic chapter mentioning the descent of the Qur'an itself; thus it is self-referential.

Surty audio material, to accompany your handout on tajwid (rules of Qur'anic recitation). You need to review the letters carefully in order to follow the examples. Not easy, but a worthwhile exercise!

Listen to more Qur'an audio

Listen to recitations from the Torah

Listen to Vedic chanting and mantras[1]

Assigned readings


Please read Jewish synagogue music from Grove Music Online. Focus primarily on the section entitled "Biblical cantillation; read other sections of the broader article, on liturgical and paraliturgical music as you wish. Example of biblical Hebrew trope Gen. 1:9 And God said, "Let the waters be collected". Letters in black, vowel points in red, trope in green


Please read The Qur'an in Indonesian Daily Life. Listen to Hajja Maria recite murattal and mujawwad. Optional readings: try at least to browse The Cantillation of the Qur'an (by Lois Ibsen al-Faruqi), for a more systematic treatment of Qur'anic recitation. If you have time, examine also Sound, Spirit, and Gender in Surat al-Qadr (by Michael Sells), for a deeper understanding of the musicality inherent in the Qur'anic text itself.

Hinduism and Vedas

Please read Mantras and Bird Song, by Frits Staal, director of the film, Altar of Fire that we watched in class. Optionally, read (or at least browse) An Analysis of Rg Vedic Recitation, for a more systematic treatment.

Discussion about assigned readings

Your selected readings

Spencer, Jon Michael. Protest & Praise: Ch. 10 "Sermon and Surplus" If black preaching is a krataphony (a manifestation of power), there are four identifiable ingredients that are the surplus of the channelling of the word of God: melody, rhythm, call and response, and polyphony. These come to exist within a structural form and alongside the anti-structural element, improvisation. While thematic inspiration is drawn from the bible, there exists an interaction with the worshippers that collectively creates new song and climax in the form of the "negro spiritual". Composition occurs at the pulpit with rhythm as the fundamental musical motion and momentum.

-Kelly Thomas

Reciter and Listener: Some Factors Shaping the Mujawwad Style of Qur'anic Reciting, Kristina Nelson This article's interest lies in its focus on the interaction between the reciter and the audience. It investiages both the artist's and the audience's response to each other and well as the audience's perception of the reciter as an artist.--Lpauls 21:28, 24 January 2006 (MST)

The Exclusion of Musical Instruments from the Ancient Synagogue, James W. McKinnon This article discusses the recitation of liturgy in Jewish Synagogue. It also discusses the westernization of services, and how instruments are kept out of the synagogue in order to keep services from deviating from the religion's accepted norms. --Khaver 22:04, 24 January 2006 (MST)

Reciter and Listener: Some Factors Shaping the Mujawwad Style of Qur'anic Reciting I realized as I came here to write this, that Laura found this article first. I hope that's okay. In addition to her summary, Nelson also comments a bit about the line between the art of music and the art of reciting the Qur'an in the Egyptian community. I also found it interesting to look back at te Rasussen and see that she quotes from Nelson, although not from this article. ~Cari (the computers in the lab weren't letting my use my signature)

Religious Chant: A Pan-Asiatic Conception of Music This article was published in the International Folk Music Journal in 1961. The author states that music of Asiatic rituals are associated with exorcism. She continues with a descrption of Gregorian chant where "the singer becomes the messenger of Divinity." The author believes that Shintoist, Buddhist, Brahmin, Islamic, and Hebrew chant have "striking similiarities" to each other. The author attempts to prove her point by finding excerpts of chants from each religion that are very similar to each other to prove her point. In my opinion, this article is biased in its premise, approach, and conclusion. It essentially exoticizes anything that is not Western Christian. --Niyati 12:21, 25 January 2006 (MST)

The Articles of the Creed and the Apostles - Gordon, James D. 1965. This article is about the history of the apostles’ creed. (I chose an article on the apostles’ creed because the it has historically been recited in christian churches and this would make it roughly the equivalent to the recitations from the other religions in the readings for this week.) The thrust of the article is to review various historic ways of dividing the creed into articles. The most popular way to do this is to make it into twelve articles, one for each of the apostles. Gordon reviews the various apostles attributed to the various articles throughout the history of the christian church.--dstark

The Futility of the Anglican Chant This article talks about the evolution of Anglican chant from simply saying the words to monotonic recitation to Gregorian tone to the complex rhthmic and melodic structure it has today. The author has a problem with the structure of the chant because there is a disconnect between the unmetrical prose and the metrical structure of the chant. Originally the recitation served it's purpose but because of the changes its is 'perversive of good effects'. He says that this must be brought to light so that "church musicians will realize how much they have been blinded by tradition". He concludes the article calling for "the complete abolition of an abuse which has disfigured the choral service of the Anglican church for two centuries and more". --Bkey 12:48, 25 January 2006 (MST)

Lois Al Faruki: Qur'an Reciters Competition in Kuala Lumpur This article focuses on Qur’an recitation competitions held during Ramadan in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. There are other competitions held in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and North America. Aspects of the competition: Origin, Organization, Participants, etc. are discussed. -StellaM

The Question of the Old-Roman Chant Article by Paul F. Cutter. Discusses different traditions of chant in the medieval church (Roman, Gregorian, etc.), their origins, and oral traditions. Also examines mistakes in previous studies of the development of chant.--Meghanbowen 18:36, 25 January 2006 (MST)

Two Polyphonic Passions from California's Mission Period This article compares and contrasts two passions which were written in the 19th century during California's Mission Period (the author does not give background on the period itself). The article finds that the two passions were written with strong medievel as well as 19th century musical influences and differ in approach to treatment of text and in inspiration (either as a product of straight composition or of oral tradition).-- 20:57, 25 January 2006 (MST)--KellyM 13:48, 24 February 2006 (MST)

Ritual Music in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism: Shingon Shomyo This article focuses on the Japanese Buddhist ritual music practises of the Shingon sect (9th Century onwards). The author, Jackson Hill, compares the exoteric to the esoteric renditions of the Nyo-rai bai chant, and highlights the "inherent power of sound, the efficacy of music in ritual, and the role of music as a prayer vehicle in advanced religious cultures". Paralleling Shingon ritual practises with comparable Western/Catholic religious practises makes this article very easy to identify with for non-non-westerners. Emphasizing the complimentarity of 'kyoso' (theory) and 'jiso' (practice, ceremony, ritual) as fundamental aspects of Shingon teaching also provides a secure strategy for managing questions of cultural appropriation. The use of 'mudra', 'mantra', and 'mandala' interpreted as ceremonies of the body, voice, and eye/mind/thought strongly support the indigenous proclivity to w/holistic understanding of music and/or/cum religion.~~Kreisha/C.Oro

Taste, Talent, and the Problem of Internalization Gade's article explores several areas of interest. She highlights the connection between social situation and ritual performance, with respect to Qu'ranic recitation. She also illustrates differences in manners of recitation geographically. She briefly critiques functionalism as an "ends-means" assessment of religion, which she asserts is false since both the means and ends of religions are constantly in flux. Ritual is characterized by the fusion of worldviews, conventional reality and ultimate reality are blended during the ritual, reaffirming cosmology. Musical religious rituals are evaluated in terms of religious standards AND musical standards of the given culture. --Andre 22:04, 25 January 2006 (MST)

Postdenominational Christianity in the Twenty First Century Miller discusses rapidly changing liturgical conventions and identity in contemporary Christian churches. He predicts that postdenominational or what he calls new-paradigm churches rather than traditional mainline churches will dominate and inform 21st Century American Christianity. Drawing from his fieldwork in three "new-paradigm" church movements, he cites reasons why he feels church growth is so dynamic in postdenominational fellowships. Essentially, the groups are theologically conservative, model their practices on first century Christianity, value casual dress, contemporary music styles and informal leadership (often drawing frome the laity and not seminaries). The churches, he asserts, have packaged a "primitive" form of Christian theology (primitive referring to early, not undeveloped) in Post-modern packaging, leading Miller to use the term "Postmodern Primitivists" in describing adherents to postdenominational Christianity. Chris Biel

The Qur'an in Indonesian Daily Life: The Public Project of Musical Oratory This article is based on ethnomusicological work done at a women's college for Quranic study in south Jakarta. There is a main focus in this article on WOMEN reciting the Qur'an, beginning on page 38. In light of the traditionally controversial nature of women's recitation, the author wonders at the radical permissiveness in contemporary (2001) Southeast Asian Islam. She suggests how recitation, as encouraged by various social institutions, might be considered a project of national conformity.

The earliest meaning of Qur'an This article discusses the meaning of Qur'an, suggesting (and I'm not sure I completely understand this) that the meaning of Qur'an as recited is much different than its treatment as a book of writings, i.e. that its recitation is what is sacred, not the writing or the words themselves. Also, there is a suggestion that the word "Qur'an" had a meaning, or multiple meanings in Arabic, before The Qur'an came to be. Maybe someone knows more about this?? --Jordanv 12:50, 28 January 2006 (MST)

Review: Sacred Communication by Marilyn Waldman Marilyn critiques "Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion" by William A. Graham. She does not like his treatment of the oral phase's of many sacred religious texts. However she wishes that he would have taken his arguements further with respect to where one may draw the line between where sacred text and the reciting of the sacred text can be seperated. --Matt 22:58, 2 February 2006 (MST)