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Listen to the Sounds of Sacred Spaces Around the World

A new project documents, then remixes, religious and spiritual sounds

Prayer wheels are just one of the sounds preserved and remixed in a new project. (Guenter Guni/iStock)
smithsonian.com

What does religion sound like? That might seem like a weird question—until you remember the sounds of a chant, a church organist or a prayer wheel. Those sounds have a distinctive character and, though they may ring differently in different parts of the world, can be found in every culture with a spiritual or religious practice. Now, reports Maria Thomas for Quartz, you can listen to them online thanks to a new project that’s collecting sacred sounds around the world.

It’s called Sacred Spaces, and it's being done through Cities and Memory, a global field recording and art project that encourages people to record the sounds around them and submit them to be used in an artistic reinterpretation. Part document, part reinterpretation, the project has already gathered more than 1,400 sounds from 55 countries. Each sound is accompanied by a piece of sonic art that uses the sound, from abstract noise pieces to songs.

Sacred Spaces, specifically, has already collected some 200 recordings of the sounds of religion and spirituality, all displayed on a map for you to explore. The project has collected sacred sounds from 34 countries thus far, and they include everything from church bells to calls to prayer. Each sound is documented next to a “memory” version that reinterprets it in a new way.

The project is part of a larger effort to document the often ephemeral sounds of worship around the world. The American Religious Sounds Project, for example, records things like processions in an effort to capture American religious holidays, and the Religious Soundmap Project recently documented the ways in which Midwestern worship is becoming more globalized. Historians are also working to reconstruct sacred sounds of the past. As SmartNews reported last year, a program at Plimoth Plantation attempts to bring long-lost sounds of Puritan and Native American worship to life—just one of a growing movement to protect sounds that could be lost forever when they’re forgotten.

Ready to immerse yourself in a world of sacred sound? Click here to explore, or listen to this playlist to get started:

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