Spring 2022

Sacred Sound

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-123  |  Religion, as RELI-120

Formerly listed as: MUSI-03


Jeffers L. Engelhardt (Section 01)


This course examines the relationship between music, sound, and religion in a broad, comparative perspective. We will devote particular attention to the intersections of religious sounds and racialized and minoritized communities. In the context of major world religions, new religious movements, and traditional spiritual practices, we will address fundamental issues concerning sacred sound: How does music enable and enhance the ritual process? How is sound sacred and what are its effects and affects? What happens as sacred sound circulates globally among diverse communities and in secular spaces? Listening, reading, and discussion will include Sufi music from Pakistan, Haitian Vodou, the songs of Ugandan Jews, Orthodox Christian hymns from Estonia, Islamic popular music from Malaysia, Chinese Buddhist chant, spirit possession music from Bali, and the music of Korean shamans. We will also engage with practitioners, scholars, performers, and the sacred sounds of religious communities in Amherst and beyond. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 25 students. Professor Engelhardt. Spring semester. Regular class meetings will be fully remote; when possible, frequent face-to-face individual and small group meetings will be held.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: emphasis on written work, discussion, readings, qualitative work, and aural analysis. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022