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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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Why are there so many references all over the world to praising the divine with sound? Why is the tradition of chant a sacred one? Could it be that praise songs and ritual are at the heart of life and have been, since the beginning of human existence?

The text of this book, preceded by an introduction, is divided into seven chapters. It covers a time span of approximately 5,000 years. The chapters represent a progression from aspects of the development of Eastern music, to the origins of Western music derived from chant. The chapters are subdivided into different topics.

The book opens, in Chapter 1, with a very brief description of ancient river valley civilizations before selecting the Indus river valley civilization as a particular focus.

Chapter 2 discusses some of the linguistic origins of words associated with chant which occur in Vedic Sanskrit, variations of which can be found in other regions of the ancient and modern world. There are words which are still relevant in classical Sanskrit and can be identified in some Western vocabularies.

Chapter 3 presents the complex subject of Scale and Mode, both from an Indian perspective and a Western orientation. Particular attention is drawn to overlapping concepts and features which may be common to both heritages.

Chapter 4 discusses the core of chant traditions, psalmody. Ideas underlying the concept of ‘psalm’ have already been introduced in Chapter 2 but the...

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