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Sacred Sound

Experiencing Music in World Religions

Guy L. Beck

Publication Year: 2006

Includes CD with 40 selections of music and chants. See Table of Contents for CD track playlist.

This innovative book explores religion through music, one of the most universally recognized forms of human experience. The only art form named after a divinity, music has been documented from prehistory to the present age in virtually all known cultures. For many, music is a vehicle for spiritual growth and community empowerment, whether it’s understood as a gift of the gods or simply a practice for achieving mental states conducive to enlightenment.

Traditionally, when religious scholars talk about music, it’s as a kind of aesthetic supplement to the important spiritual content of a religion, analogous to stained-glass windows or temple paintings. In contrast, Sacred Sound: Experiencing Music in World Religions acknowledges the critical role of musical activity in religious life. Music, including chant and vocal utterance, is not incidental in religious practice but a sacred treasure that is central to the growth and sustenance of religions throughout the world. Musical sound is sacred in most religions because it embodies the divine and can be shared by all participants, enduring among diverse communities of people despite theological differences.

Covering six of the major world religionsJudaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism—the book is accompanied by a CD of forty selections of music and chant. Contributors are respected scholars in religious studies and musicology and provide insight from both disciplines. The first book of its kind, Sacred Sound is a milestone in the growing cross-disciplinary study of religion and music.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

When Dr. Harold Coward and I discussed the idea for a book project on religion and music one evening during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in New Orleans in 1996, we were both aware that it would break new ground. Yet it is largely due to his initiative...

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pp. 1-27

Before embarking on this project, I spent many years observing a wide variety of religious traditions and noting the use of chant and music in each as part of public and private religious practice. Throughout America and Europe, I attended services at Christian churches and cathedrals, Jewish temples and synagogues, Islamic mosques, Sufi centres, meeting...

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pp. 29-59

The study of Judaism and music has often been relegated to the periphery of Western music history, which tends to favour theory and consequently has given credit to the Greeks as its primary predecessors. Ancient Greek music is no longer extant, however, and current studies have shown that the Hebrew Bible has been transmitted and received for...

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pp. 61-88

From the origins of the Christian religion, music has been integral to the common life of its believers. Any description of Christian musical practice, however, must take into account the wide range of the Christian experience, which ranges across twenty centuries and among dramatically diverse cultures throughout the world. It must seek to do justice to...

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pp. 89-111

Muslims, like Jews and Christians, are a “people of the book” (ahl-alkitah). Their scripture, the Qur’Ån (Koran), contains the word of God. His divine message was revealed to the Prophet Muæammad, who is also called the Messenger of God. The Muslim creed encapsulates this...

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pp. 113-139

Religious chant and music occupy a central position in the heritage of Hindu religion. Unlike some traditions that have considered music as a secular or profane art, the relationship between music and the sacred in Hinduism holds no ambiguity. Encompassing a broad spectrum from...

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pp. 141-167

The sacred music of the Sikhs is the heart of their devotional experience. It is commonly referred to as Gurmat Sangit or “music in the Guru’s view.” To understand the centrality of devotional singing (kirtan) in the Sikh tradition, it is necessary to place the inquiry in the historical context of the sixteenth century...

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pp. 169-189

The term “Buddhism” describes a set of religious traditions that have developed across Asia and parts of the rest of the world over the past 2,500 years, originating with Siddhartha Gautama (ca. 563 to 483 BCE), who was revered as the Buddha—the enlightened or awakened one—by...


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pp. 191-194


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pp. 195-199


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pp. 201-203


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pp. 205-210


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pp. 211-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780889205376
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204218
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204217

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 794702325
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sacred Sound

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