A photo and sound essay by Vicki Brennan, Amy DeRogatis, Alison Furlong, Lauren Pond, Ely Lyonblum, and Isaac Weiner
[Listen to the audio collage while reading through the text]
What does religion sound like? How might we understand religion in the United States differently if we begin by listening for it? Religious Soundscapes is an immersive audio installation presenting sounds from religious communities in the Midwest, which will run from May 24–July 16 at The Ohio State University’s Urban Arts Space in Columbus, Ohio. It reflects seven years of research and production by the American Religious Sounds Project (ARSP), a collaborative, inter-institutional initiative co-directed by us, Amy DeRogatis (Michigan State University) and Isaac Weiner (The Ohio State University). Through a series of thematic and atmospheric audio essays, this exhibit invites visitors to experience both religion and sound as audibly complex social, spatial, political, and embodied phenomena.
Religious Soundscapes features more than 20 audio collages that highlight important insights into how listening for religion changes our understanding of what religion is. All of the sounds heard in the exhibit were excerpted from field recordings made between 2015 and 2022 by students, archivists, and researchers affiliated with the ARSP.
Each collage in the exhibit highlights how sound factors into religion as experienced. The curators listened to hours of field recordings and made selections from across the archive that point to key themes that emerge when we listen for religious sounds in distinct social spaces. These keynote sounds were then put into conversation with each other in collages that use repetition, layering, and juxtaposition to highlight distinct (yet also overlapping) themes. The themes highlight topics relevant for the study of religion such as protest, ritual, encounter, commerce, and transformation. The sonic qualities of religious practice–including the presence of bodies, voices, instruments, and acoustic resonance–are also highlighted.
Religious Soundscapes is organized around the spaces in which religious sounds are heard. Religious sounds can be heard in a variety of spaces, and not just in churches, mosques, temples, or shrines. Each area of this exhibit highlights how space impacts the kinds of sonic engagement that all kinds of people have with religion, but also how religious sounds have the potential to transform spaces from the home to the street, from campus to the forest.
Religious Soundscapes is co-curated by Vicki Brennan (University of Vermont), Alison Furlong (Ohio State), Ely Lyonblum (University of Toronto), and Lauren Pond (Ohio State). The ARSP is supported by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.
Listen to more of the Religious Sounds
(Click on images):
All work at The Commons is published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
See more about the contributors:
Vicki Brennan: https://www.uvm.edu/cas/religion/profiles/vicki-l-brennan
Amy DeRogatis: https://religiousstudies.msu.edu/faculty/amy-derogatis/
Lauren Pond: laurenpondphoto.com
Ely Lyonblum: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elylyonblum/
Isaac Weiner: https://comparativestudies.osu.edu/people/weiner.141