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The composition interweaves recordings of supposedly paranormal sounds made in different parts of the world over a fifty-year period (1905-67). They include examples of magic ritual chants, glossolalia (speaking in an unknown language, supernaturally), xenoglossolalia (speaking a known but unlearned language, supernaturally), spirit rapping, mediumistic trance utterance, and spirit-inspired prophecy.

The sound sources include: a Magic Doctor singing while healing (1905); the ethnographer Bernard Hagen’s recordings of magic formulas, sung in Malay (1912); the ethnographer Theodor Koch-Grunberg’s (1872-1924) recordings of spirit knocking [n.d]; trance speech in Banta (a dialect popular in Delhi, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh) (1933); the medium Rudi Schneider’s (1908-57) trance breathing (1933); and the medium Aloisia Schinkenmaier prophesying, in what may be a Polynesian dialect (1966/7).

The recordings were made for the purpose of documentation and exemplification. Whatever claims are made regarding their veracity, they embody a musicality, an emotional potency, and darkly-strange texture that gestures towards something and somewhere that lies beyond the reach of normal perception. Moreover, they represent a trans-geographical, -historical, -religious, and -cultural phenomena and, thus, an acknowledgement that spirit communication is not the preserve of any one time, place, ethnicity, or culture. The composition seeks to create a unity out of this diversity.

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from Spirit Communication [album], released December 5, 2023

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John Harvey Ceredigion, UK

I’m a practitioner and historian of sound art and visual art, and Emeritus Professor of Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, UK. My research field is the sonic and visual culture of religion. I explore the sonic articulations of the Christian religion by engaging visual, textual, and audible sources, theological and cultural ideas, and systemic and audiovisualogical processes. ... more

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