by N Fennes · Cited by 3 — months of my research on the adhan,. 1 the Muslim call to prayer, based in Vienna, Austria‟s capital. The adhan is not solely an acoustic event in the urban or
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Nikolaus Fennes Sounds in changing Contexts The Muslim Call to Prayer in Vienna Introduction micro phone. The speakers in each of the corners of the room amplify his voice, adding an artificial echo which gives the impression of an immense dome opening up over our heads. He repeats the phrase four times in a slow, thoughtful pace, stretching the syllables and decorating them with melodic lines. The other men sitting a gainst the walls of the room listen the man has finished, the others get up, and facing towards the ornamented image of a door in one corner of the room they lif t their hands to their ears and start to pray, first by themselves, then, after another call to prayer, together. Leaving the room half an hour later through a back door, I find myself standing in front of a red – brick church, its bell tower rising high tow ards the sky blanking out everything else. And as an avalanche of cars is released by the green of a traffic light and roars by, I realize that I am in the centre of Vienna, the city where I been living since seven years and with which I thought I was fami liar. The imagined journey described above formed part of the everyday – routine during the six months of my research on the adhan , 1 capital. The adhan is not solely an acoustic event in the urban or rura l landscape but also a communicative act between the producers of this cultural sound and their consumers. Both sides of this process influence the quality of the call to prayer on the one hand through artistic elaboration, on the other hand through aest hetic expectations. from Egypt, Nigeria, and other countries, and there ev en exist Muslim communities where most members originate from the Austrian majority population and have no migratory background. 2 Since the Islam – law ( Islamgesetz ) was enacted in 1912 Muslims are theoretically equal to Christians according to their religio us practice. 3 The only mosque of Vienna is situated at the banks of the river Danube and was constructed in 1979 ( cf. Loidl 1979). It differs from the more than hundred Viennese prayer rooms, which are always integrated into already existing buildings, not only by its outside architecture but also by its orientation towards Mecca, the geographical centre of Islam. 4 But its minaret , the tower from 1 I found different variations of spelling in my interviews and in the consulted literature from ezan to athan , depending on mother tongue and accents of my informa nts. The version Enzyklopädie des Islam (URL 1). 2 Information taken from the homepage of Statistik Austria ( URL 2 ). 3 crown – lands represented in the Imperial Council in the meaning of th e Constitutional Law of 21st December, ; my translation ). For the full text in Germa n see the homepage of the Islamische Glaubens ge – meinschaft in Österreich (ibid.). 4 [A] building erected over an
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 2 which traditionally the muadhin calls to prayer, is silent most of the time. The adhan can only be heard inside of the mosque and the hundred to two hundred Muslim prayer rooms situated all over Vienna. Moving from the original position as acoustic marker in the everyday life in places, where it can be perceived by a public audience, to the more private sphere of th e prayer room, the adhan also changes in quality and acquires new meanings. With this paper I want to look at this cultural sound , its social relevance and its relation to individual persons. The central question of the text is: What is the practical meani ng of the adhan for Muslim migrants in Vienna? adhan as a cultural practice which is connected to other communal or individual practice and routines. But other questions will have to be dealt with in order to fi nd the answer to this primary question. What is the adhan ? What are its qualities and how and where is it produced? What is a cultural sound? How can sounds have social relevance? How do they connect to the individual person? How are they connected to the places at which they can be heard? And as the introduction above implies what is the importance of sound in creating feelings of familiarity or unfamiliarity? The empirical approach I chose for my research was a combination of different qualitative met hods. Although some of them will be looked at in more detail in the according sections, I shall roughly outline the content of my methodological toolbox. My main source were qualitative interviews conducted with Muslim men and women, both narrative and top ic – centred. I also consulted two religious (Islamic) experts, an ethno – musicologist, and two professional muadhin for detailed information on the ahdan . A second important empirical source were observations of Muslim prayers in different prayer rooms in Vi enna to perceive the adhan in its practical context. Another tool was to record adhans performed during prayers and by my informants during the interviews to compare them to gain insight into the temporal structure and melodic quality of the Muslim call to prayer. To research the perception of specific sounds in an urban landscape I also used the more quantitative method of mapping the range and audibility of a church bell sound, which I combined with quantitative questioning of people in the street after t he tolling of the bell. The last element of my methodological approach was my body as access to the acoustic field. Using my ears to participate in the acoustic dimension of the prayer and especially the adhan , observing its effects on my own situational p erception and realizing the increasing importance of the sound of the church bell and the adhan the possibility to participate in the acoustic life – world of Muslims in Vienna. 5 The following text i s structured in three parts which will gradually lead to the consideration of the central question of the meaning of adhan for Muslims in Vienna. Part 1 will deal with the the adhan , its history, its production, and its social dimension. Part 3 will deal with the adhan in Vienna, describing the placing of this sound in the urban landscape and the meanings it acquires in this new spatial context. 5 More details concerning my methodological approach can be found in my master thesis which was basis for this article (URL 4).
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 3 1. What is sound? To understand the adhan nt dimensions in this first part. The following three chapters shall thus examine the materiality, the perception and the place of sound in our material environment. 1.1 Sound as material culture This first chapter will look at sound as the material object of inquiry and develop an analytical perspective on acoustic events from the side of the producer. Although invisible, sound is a material phenomenon for two main reasons. First, without a material medium to transport sonic wav es be it air, fluids or solid matter there is no sound to be perceived. And second, sound is always the product of material activity. So when I am talking about the adhan as cultural sound, it has to be understood as part of material culture like a tab le, a door, or a lamp. Cultural sounds are thus acoustic results of cultural activity which are always connected to the materiality of another thing. When talking about sounds as material phenomena one has to be aware that their concrete materiality is nev er concentrated in one spot, but spreads from 6 to address this The audibility is the anthr opological dimension of this term, as sonic waves theoretical spread forever if they are not blocked by an obstacle. To develop a basis for the analysis of cultural sounds one should differentiate between sounds that are part of the, as David Howes (2006: , 7 which I developed as analytical tool for my research. I define it is a sound which is made or better, performed intentionally. It is not produced accidentally as the of a door opening after midnight, but is made to be hea rd like a be temporally limited. An endless sound cannot be performed by human force, neither can it be perceived nor researched completely which makes it p ointless to include this kind of And third, it has to be repeatable. To design a sound and the acoustic design is an inherent part of the intentionality of the artisan also has to be able to reproduce appearance. as outlined by Julian Thomas. 6 The term developed during the work on the English version of my final thesis in an effort to distinguish this origin of this notion I do n ot know if I had read it somewhere before or if it just emerged as an obvious name for the phenomenon I wanted to describe. 7 – sound of the saxoph of sound as immaterial wave as it does not transport any matter, Warnier pointed out their material quality from
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 4 co n which is clearly responsible for the way it shows up to us. The end which is to be achieved is also r e responsible for bringing a thing about: in the case of the artifact [sic ! ], the artisan who This characterization all encompassing quality of air and the penetrating quality of vibration. And they have an acoustic shape which can be perceived both as noise or as music in the widest sense of t he word. And they are formed by the agency of an artisan, who is moulding them according to the end to be achieved. Thus, bearing in mind their extreme temporality and their highly analysed in similar ways as their permanent counterparts. 1.2 Experiencing sound After dealing briefly with the materiality of sounds I want to take a closer look at the experience of acoustic events or, i experience I am referring to a process including perception and interpretation, which is on the one hand very individual, on the other hand always embedded in and influenced by a social context. I will thus discuss the different dimensions and the individual and communal levels , 8 another analytical instrument to the anthropological research of sound. The physical, practical, a nd evaluative dimensions of experiencing sound The actual experience of a specific sound is always defined by different aspects. I identify three dimensions namely physical, practical, and evaluative which are of importance for this text, and shall be dealt with in this section. To understand the physical dimension of the perception of sound I want to begin by taking a brief look at the human ear. First, acoustic waves have a tactile component, which can be especially sensed in the case of loud and deep sounds, a fact mentioned by Raymond M. Schafer in his book The Soundscape : touch meet where the lower frequencies of audible sound pass over to tactile vibrations (at (Schafer 1 994a: 11) . perceived sounds trigger a similar neural activity as the visual and acoustic perception of the actions producing these sounds ( cf. Rizzolatti/Fogasse/Gal lese 2006: 32). Therefore I argue that in human perception, a sound always implies the operation by which it is generated. Third, unlike a microphone the human ear does not register all sounds of its environment equally but is able to filter elements on wh ich it concentrates. Accordingly, one can 9 These three aspects of the physical dimension show how 8 ocial and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna in May 2009. In the succeeding discussion one commentator stated how he liked the idea of a community defined by common acoustic sensation which I had intuitively implied with this term. Inspired by this incident I started to consciously work with this idea and developed the concept presented in this article. 9 automatic, as for exam ple with telegraph and telephone operators, and hearing might well be specific and
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 5 experiencing sound is on the one hand an in dividual and active perception of movement and Besides this physical dimension, I want to discuss two mainly cultural dimensions, namely practice and evaluation, which point to the cultur al and social processes influencing the experience of sound. Both of these dimensions are linked to a 2003: 118), of which I want to highlight three qualities. The first is shown in of the architecture of the European bourgeois balcony and the windowless houses of the West – addition to materializing social relations and symbolizing the cosmos, gives expression to a particular se – culture emphasizes sight as social sense , while the Wolof privile want to mention is that there always exists a scaling of the senses. Howes sees this scaling often ibid. : 164f . ). The third feature of Classen according to the rise of the importance of sight and the decline of non – visual senses within European cultures ( cf. Class en 1997: 409). Therefore, neither sensual practices nor rankings are permanent but constantly changing. evaluative dimension. Treating sounds as material things, the p ractical dimension can best be understood by using a phenomenological approach like the one proposed by Julian Thomas (1996, 2006). Human perception of things always takes place in a practical context, which in turn affects how a thing is perceived. Thomas – at – – to – contexts, projects, and relations rather than isolated objects ( cf. Thomas 2006: 46f.). The body plays a role in the Jean – Pierre Warnier describes a similar but even more corporal integration of things with his conce subjects mediated by moving in a material world. In such a confrontation the subject finds a number of givens that are r e r 2001: 12) . They become integrated into a practical process and as part of daily routines also into the body itself, as I will discuss later. The evaluative dimension of experiencing sound is on the one hand rooted in the cultural ranking of sensations. The phenomenon of the scaling of the senses as described by Howes is thus alr eady taking place on the level of single sensations, some of which are qualified as ästhetische Normierung hich she understands as a result of communication about aesthetic sentiments ( cf. Benzing 1978: 82). Another element of the evaluative dimension is emotion. ding to her emotions are . Still, in the light of my personal experience, it is important to note the difference of these two modes of acoustic perception.
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 6 neither part of culture nor biology but question the separation of these two spheres ( cf. Milton 2007: 67). She sees them as the outcome of a three – stage learning process. First, the body can learn to react differently to stimuli. Second, these bodily reactions are interpreted according to the individual and cultural context. And third, the reaction to this individual feeling is also subject to habits and social norms ( ibid. : 68). The three dimensions proposed here the physical, t he practical and the evaluative dimension are working together in the experience of sound, that is how we hear and what we listen to. nature/culture but stresses the intertwining influences of physical and cultural elements on perception. Culture for example has an effect on what is listened to and what is ignored, and especially the three – stage learning process described by Milton shows the interconnectedness of physical and cultural traits and questions their separation. The individual and the communal level of experiencing sound The three dimensions described above work on the already mentioned levels of acoustic experience, the individual and the communal. Dep ending on the personal, social, and especially on the situational context, they work simultaneously, influencing each other although one of them might momentarily be of greater importance and play a bigger part in perceiving a specific acoustic event than the other. I want to discuss these two levels and then On the individual level the physical and the practical dimension as well as the emotional aspect of the evaluative dimension are o f importance. First, the individual body is a precondition for any acoustic perception and highlights thus its subjectivity. On the other hand, biographical factors, how and under which circumstances somebody practically and emotionally encounters a specif ic sound and how they have done in the past, play a role in the individual experience ( cf. Warnier 2001; Milton 2007). Looking at the communal level of experiencing sound one first has to acknowledge that hearing can have a social quality in the case of pu blic sounds a notion I will describe below . Everybody within the sonic sphere of an acoustic event has a similar acoustic experience. For example everyone in the audience of a concert might hear the same music although each will have a different perspe ctive onto the musicians as Michael Bull and Les Back put it : 10 Second, the practical by social activity ( cf. Thomas 1996, 2006; Warnier 2001; Howes 2006; Corbin 2003). And third, evaluation of sounds is always influenced by social and cultural norms ( cf. Benzing 1978; Howes 2006). To integrate these two levels which in a practical context cannot be looked at separately, I want to propose the idea of the temporal unity . As indicated by Bull and Back (2003: 4f.) people within the range of a sound are connected in the moment of communal ac oustic experience. This unity can be territorial as with the weekly emergency alarm in a town, but can also be only loosely defined by geography, as with the annual broadcasting of the European Song Contest. The members of course connect differently to a s background and their physical and emotional situation. In the second place the territoriality of 10 heard by all those p 2000: 119).
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 8 he public space. The spatial quality of sound acoustic event always encompasses a territory. 11 In this section I will present two theoretical approaches which can help t o understand the spatial quality of sound. One of the first to scientifically consider sound as an element of everyday life was the y researched its quality and development to find patterns and principles of its working (Schafer 1994a: 13). I will present three of his ideas which are relevant to the analysis of the adhan. which add resses in depth the acoustic characteristics of places. He defines them as sounds ibid. : 9). high – – fidelity ibid. : 43f . ), depending on the density of the sound spectrum. The lower the acoustic fidelity the more distracting noises make it difficult to identify single sounds, which is the case in an urban environment. Third, Schafer assesses the spatial quality of sounds by citing the example of the territori al singing of birds ( ibid. : 33). Sounds are , where they are not. reveal a great deal on the lev el of empiricism, his term implies a certain separation of the acoustic and the visible, tangible sphere (as in landscape ) which calls for criticism. In this regard I will to signify what Schafer termed In his text The Temporality of the Landscape Tim Ingold (1993) proposes an approach which is based , the mode of perception of the environment embraced by the the landscape seems to be what we see around us, wherea s the taskscape is what we hear ibid. : 162). , but unlike Schafer, he breaks down the the landscape as a whole [ as the taskscape in its embodied form ibid. ). Therefore, sounds are to be understood as features of our environment like all other objects, only separated by the human senses. They are spa tial phenomena and further always embody the space in which they are audible. In this section I defined sound as an element of space and described some of its spatial qualities. This dimension of acoustic events also raises the question how sounds change a nd produce places which shall be dealt with in the next section. The acoustic production of places needs. Places are created through the movement of people (an d other life – forms) and are 11 This is of course not the case for cyber – cultures which cannot be physically located.
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 9 1996 and placed to achieve a certain goal are a means to influence the quality of public and private places. Citing Henri Lefebvre, Barbara Be c quality of places thus points to the question of power, which will not be dealt with in great detail within this text but nevertheless has to be considered. , reminds us that especially honking the horn in hospital areas or even the whole city, banning performing music in the metro, and rules banning noise between 10 pm and 7 am in apartment buildings while thousands of cars roll through the streets producing a roaring backdrop of urban life are acoustic evidence of the dist ribution of power. But Schafer also points towards the power that 77). very well the relationship of experiencing sound to the power to a coustically designed places. increases either through the volume of a sound, as for the sound of thunder, or through its dissemination, as for advertisement jingles. Of course to promote an r is already necessary, but once established the production of a specific sound alone can already be powerful as it transports well known messages and changes the quality of places and might even allow new ones to emerge. As discussed above, sound has a substantial effect on the quality of places and how they are perceived. In this process the placing and volume of a sound are as crucial as its specific acoustic form and profile. The next section will thus look at acoustic structures of everyday life and take the church bell as an example of such a structure. Sound as acoustic structure Acoustic structures can be understood as regularly recurrent sounds or groups of sounds which propose a temporal framework for everyday practice. The tolling of a church b ell, which will be dealt with in this section , is thus an acoustic structure just as the crowing of the rooster in the morning or the horn of the school bus. 12 The role of acoustic structures is indicated by Corbin and Schafer. As already discussed above, C orbin (2003: 117) sees the church bell at the roots of a territorial identity 13 and as a sound which recharges the surrounding space ( cf. ibid. : 117ff . ). Schafer observed the same effect as aspect of a religious ritual. apotrapaic instrument, intended to sanctify a holy place or holy time. It is centrifugal in the sense that it frightens off evil spirits and centripetal in the sense that it draws people together for collective religious 12 My father, who is working in Innsbruck, explained to me how h e could tell time by listening to the planes which have to cross the whole city to land on the runway which is situated within the rather small valley of the Inn river. By identifying the different motor sounds of different makes of planes on their daily f lights to and from the airport he would know when to leave for work or if there was still time for some reading and a coffee. 13
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 10 Th human origin. 14 They propose a temporal grid for social activities as religious reunions, or the start and end of the working day. To look at the effects of acoustic structures I want to present some results of a small piece of research I conducted in September 2009 within the acoustic range of a church tower in my neighbourhood in the 15 th district of Vienna (Research Diary, Sep 8 to 18 2009). I questioned about 100 persons mainly ethnical Austrian Catholics within 15 minutes after the Angelus , the daily tolling of the church bell at seven in the morning, at noon, and at seven in the evening. 15 Only 56 percent of the respondents confessed to have actually heard the tolling. This fact can be illustrated by the example of the pastry cook who has a café right next to the church and has been working there for 46 years (Research Diary, Sep 10 2009). Questioned whether she had just heard the tolling of the bell, she answe red that she did not perceive it anymore and normally blanks it out. But still she could tell me that she had noticed the same effect of blanking out the acoustic s tructure from active realisation was also described cf. Schafer 1994a: 9), but even more, as the example of the pastry cook implies, is integrated into the cf. Warnier 2001: 12). This effect can be observed especially with the example of the vegetable salesman at the small market close to the c hurch, who told me he would always hear the Angelus at noon on Saturdays, because this was the time when he would close down his stand (Research Diary, Sep 10 2009). Further, all the people working around the bell tower mentioned that they heard the tollin in the morning, which was the time when they would start their working day. In these cases the church bell as acoustic structure is by some used as a tool – to – and thus, is actively listened to as part of a daily routine a nd integrated into practice. 16 Acoustic structures are noteworthy elements of human life – worlds as they offer temporal structures for individual and communal life. Through practical routines they can become integrated into the body and, as already implied i even play a part in the emergence of a territorial identity. The next section will thus look at i duals, especially when they are not met. Acoustic structures as described in the previous section are not only external things but sounds form part of a feeling of ho me, as I will develop in this section by introducing three theoretical concepts. Referr ing to Tilley et al. , Barbara Bender proposes the concept of around plac moving along f a 14 In the follow ing text I will only talk about acoustic structures of human origin even if not explicitly stated. 15 As we will see in the next chapter, the Angelus can be seen as a Christian equivalent to the Muslim adhan which was also one reason to choose this specif ic sound of the church bell. 16 Of course, this does not imply that they cannot be blanked out. But through their integration into practice some acoustic structure is given more attention than others.
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Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology 1 /201 2 (ISSN 1815 – 3404) 11 2006: 306) f coincides with the territoriality of sounds examined by Corbin in his text. In the context of 16 th century France the tolling of the bell becomes more than just a landmark, but an element of a notion of belonging and plays a part in the preserv ation of the combines them with other sensual impressions to create a feeling of home. But as Bender points out, through processes of migration people increasingl Howes addresses the same topic as Bender, but looks at it from a different angle. He refers to Steve d, senses are placed; as place makes sense, senses of material culture experienced by marginal groups ( ibid. : is thus the result of the spatial quality of everyday experience where a change of the spatial or social context (or of both) has consequences on the individual and social level. The spatial dimension of experience is also addressed by Thomas with his concept of . experience rel a tionality. This results in a spatial order which is centred on the human body, as opposed to a homogenous space of endless extension. This s patial order, n 1996: 85) While the human body always remains in one specific geographic al position, individual persons are always stretched on a mental level, connecting different places of their own biography ( ibid. : 85f . enables the individual to move freely between these places. Traditional practices, designing of the own environment both of which allow a even in unfamiliar places and transnational cultural processes relating people via different media and personal contacts across long distances (Glick – Schiller 2004: 457) play an im portant part in this process. They can help to trace back the own historic paths and bridge spatial distance on the experiential level. The three concepts presented here share the focus on the spatial dimension of experience. This is of importance to this text insofar, as places or better: the experience of places become moving through space. In this last chapter of the first part I discussed sound as an elem ent of human life – worlds. First, I looked at the penetrating quality of sound which can transcend visual borders between private and public. Second, I developed a spatial perspective on sound by combining the theories of Schafer and Ingold. Third, I discus sed the implications of this spatial understanding of acoustic events and especially artefacts for the production of places. Fourth, I looked at sounds as acoustic structures proposing a temporal grid for everyday practices. And finally, I proposed three c oncepts dealing with the question how placed experience produces a sensation of home. After this theoretical approach to develop an anthropological adhan , its cultural characteristics and its social meaning.
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