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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 4. Recitation, Psalmody and Silence


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Recitation, Psalmody and Silence

The practice of reciting sacred texts, especially in public situations, is at the core of chant traditions. The chanting of canticles by assemblies of people gathered together for spiritual worship is an ancient practice. The importance of this kind of music was not whether it sounded pleasant or unpleasant. Its significance lay within the sounds generated and heard by the ear for which they were signs and symbols.1 It may be said that one of the most ancient forms of musical rendition were the wordless chants of the Lemurian era and it is likely that it was not a ‘sensual ear’ that was needed for these chants but a special intuition or faculty of the mind. A given combination of sounds, perceived by a twenty-first-century mind subjected to a contemporary westernized aural training, may seem unattractive and inharmonious. They may be perceived as not conducive to one’s usual understanding of what is enjoyable and yet, if they convey to the mind something greater, for which they are symbolic stimuli, they may be considered as ‘divine’ music.2 In this context, it may be relevant to reconsider the use of vowel sounds in stobhas.

The development of organized speech was a development of human potential during the Atlantean era. This was the materialization of sound emerging in the form of sounds, syllables and words expressed through chant. Reciting together or chanting together creates an energy. Such...

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