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New study to create a digital sound map of religion

Monks playing dungchen
Dechen Phodrang monastic school, Thimphu

A new study will create a digital sound map of religion in Midwestern cities by collecting sounds of worship – sounds like Gregorian chant, Muslim calls to prayer, and Native American chants.

The Religious Soundmap Project of the Global Midwest is led by Amy DeRogatis, an associate professor of religious studies at Michigan State University, and Isaac Weiner, an assistant professor of comparative studies at Ohio State University.

DeRogatis said the project’s goal is to place sounds on a digital, geographic map. She called it “a digital humanities project.”

Weiner added that the project has a few other aims. It hopes to become both a pedagogical tool for professors and a research tool for scholars.

“In addition, it’s a valuable public resource meant to teach members of the broader community about the, I think, remarkable diversity that we find in Midwestern cities that still very much goes under the radar,” he said.

It further hopes to raise new insights into what religion means as a “lived practice.” For that reason, the project will not only study the sounds from religious institutions; it also plans on recording sounds in public, in homes, and in workplaces.

“I think that part of what sound does is it allows us to think differently about religion in terms of not simply being something that is believed, that is internal – something that is lived and expressed and lived out loud,” he said. 

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