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Rivers of Sacred Sound



Solveig McIntosh

Rivers of Sacred Sound traces the flow of influences from East to West, from

BC to AD and from wordless jubilations to the setting of texts. It takes the

discussion about western chant beyond a European perspective.

The text of this book, preceded by an introduction, is presented in seven

chapters and covers a period of approximately five thousand years. There are

many references all over the world to praising the divine with sound. Thus

the starting point is the praise song, a fundamental impulse in mankind. The

Rg-Veda requests that our loudest-sounding hymn be accepted, as food most

delightful to the Gods. The Psalms request us to make a joyful noise unto God

and to sing forth the honour of His name. Spontaneous songs became ritual

events. In an aural culture what was the role of gesture and what is its role

now? There are many doors to open in pursuing these and other questions.

This book opens some of them.

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Chapter 1. Historical Background


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Historical Background


The history of this planet, Earth, shows that there has been a continually changing pattern of distribution of land and water. Despite this, the planet continues to be referred to as ‘planet Earth’, although it consists of one third land and two thirds water. In times to come, according to ancient wisdom encapsulated in the Vedas, it will change again. The proportion of water to land will become even greater and humankind will resort to great feats of ingenuity to create, once again, new forms of civilized life.

River valleys were the setting for the first great civilizations. There were four river valley civilizations, the oldest dating from around 3,300 to 2,500 BC. The oldest developed in the Tigris-Euphrates area in the Middle East around 4,000 BC. It was given the name Mesopotamia, a Greek word meaning ‘the land between the rivers’, ‘mesos’ meaning middle or between and ‘potamos’ meaning river. The Nile Valley in Egypt shows evidence of settlements around 5,500 BC but civilization did not develop there until around 3,100 BC. A third significant civilization grew up in the Indus Valley around 2,600 BC in an area which now spans both Pakistan and India. The fourth great civilization, around 1,700 BC, emerged in the area of the Yellow river in China, and came to be known as the Huang-He River Civilization. From a practical...

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