Paper Session
Nov 21, 2021 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211121T1200 20211121T1250 America/Chicago Spiritual Voices AMS 2021
Song, Ritual, and Embodiment in Marcel Mauss's Sociology of Prayer
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/21 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/21 18:50:00 UTC

In his 1934 essay "Techniques of the Body," Marcel Mauss-nephew and close associate of sociologist Émile Durkheim-postulated that "at the bottom of all our mystical states there are bodily techniques which we have not studied, but which were perfectly studied by China and India, even in very remote periods…I think there are necessarily biological means of entering into 'communication with God.'" This assertion dramatically contradicted psychological accounts of prayer in the early twentieth century that, largely extending ideas about religious experience contained in the late-nineteenth-century tradition of "liberal Protestantism" exemplified by William James, considered prayer a fundamentally interior, mental phenomenon-what the theologian Auguste Sabatier, in 1897, had defined as "not a vain exercise of words, not the repetition of certain sacred formulas, but the movement of the soul put in personal relationship and contact with" a mysterious divine power.

            I propose in this paper that Mauss's lifelong attempt to formulate a sociology of prayer, in its radical departure from conceptions of psychological interiority, opens up novel ways of thinking about not only the nature of religious experience but also that of music and song as similarly recalcitrant epistemic objects in secular modernity. From his unfinished doctoral dissertation on prayer among Indigenous peoples of Central Australia, begun in the late 1890s, to essays written in the early 1920s, Mauss, like Durkheim, foregrounded the collective and ritualistic aspects of religious experience; unlike Durkheim, however, Mauss increasingly turned towards its specifically material and bodily aspects-a line of thought that reached its apogee in "Techniques of the Body." Sung prayer, for Mauss, thus became part of a project to unsettle both psychological and sociological accounts that cleaved the human subject from an embodied materiality, at once inscribed by and resistant to culture, that is constitutive of the experience of the sacred. A robust challenge to the category of "music" as imagined by a secular modern Europe (and to its imagining of itself in contradistinction to a superstitious or magical "primitive"), Mauss's sociology of prayer illuminates longstanding tensions contained within social-scientific thought on religious ritual and song.

Alexandra Kieffer
Rice University
Soviet Pilgrims to the Orient: Zen Buddhism and Unofficial Music in the USSR
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/21 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/21 18:50:00 UTC

In a recent lecture, Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov (b. 1937) stated that music in his polystylistic work _Drama_ (1970-1971) "moves through the noise into real gestures which have a symbolic, Zen-like character." He also mentioned that before composing _Drama_ he read D. T. Suzuki's writings, which were "astonishing, fresh and, at that time, very appropriate," and that the idea of "freeing oneself from all kinds of ideological schemes" was especially appealing because he was fed up with the Communist ideology. 

Silvestrov was not the only unofficial composer in the USSR fascinated with Eastern philosophy in the 1960s and 1970s. His interest reflects a general trend among the intelligentsia in the Soviet Union who explored diverse spiritual texts, a significant portion of which came from abroad once unofficial foreign exchanges became possible during the Khrushchev Thaw. Pianist Alexei Lyubimov (b. 1944) received the teachings of Indian spiritual leader Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950) from Karlheinz Stockhausen after their meeting in 1968. Russian composer Vladimir Martynov (b. 1946) practiced yoga and studied Buddhist texts, acquired from foreign travelers, with a group of artists whom he called "pilgrims to the Orient." Many other composers in Moscow, Leningrad, Kyiv and Tallinn were also involved in this trend. As Eleonory Gilburd discusses in _To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture_ (2018), texts that arrived from the West were translated from foreign languages and also "translated" into the Soviet context (i.e. interpreted in a particular way).

In this paper, I will explore how diverse readings of spiritual texts were reflected in music of unofficial Soviet composers and how the resulting compositions diverged from the works of their American colleagues who explored Eastern spirituality a decade earlier. While examining some previously undiscussed compositions, this paper will raise new questions about the influence of Zen Buddhism on new music in the Western world during the 1950s -1970s. Composers living on both sides of the Iron Curtain stressed the importance of silence and quietness central to Buddhist teachings. The sounds of silence in their works, however, were not the same.

The Efficacious Voice and Not-Self in Theravada Buddhist Practice: A Philosophical Inquiry in Voice Studies
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/21 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/21 18:50:00 UTC

Building from Amanda Weidman's call (following Dipesh Chakrabarty) to "'provincialize' Euro-American discourses on voice" this paper argues for a complication of conceptions of 'voice' as the expression of an interior self (2014, p. 38). Based upon philosophical and ethnographic engagement with conceptions of voicing in Thai Theravada Buddhist chanting traditions, I propose an analytic of vocal recitation that must be thought otherwise than a paradigm of individual self-expression. If conceptions of 'the voice' are often intertwined with particular models of personhood, then considering differing philosophies of the self is central to theorizing not only what voice is, but also what voicings might do. I therefore explore conceptions of no-self (anattā) in Theravada Buddhist philosophy, and relate this philosophical system to the efficacious use of the voice in Thai Buddhist monastic chant. Expanding the notion of 'voice' through this philosophy illuminates the ways in which Thai Theravada monastic practices employ the voice in recitation not so much as a means of individual self-expression, but in order to transmit protection and blessings to lay devotees. 

And yet, the notion of voice as linked to identity becomes salient in the case of female Buddhist monks (bhikkhuni) who are excluded from state recognition in Thailand (Chamsanit 2011). In international media, the movement for female monastic ordination is positioned within liberal feminist discourses of giving women a "voice" (Sullivan 2018). Venerable Dhammananda, Abbess of Songdhammakalyani Monastery in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand does not reject this positioning, but rather frames feminist ideologies within the ultimate goal of strengthening Buddhism through women's participation (Dhammananda 2007). To explore the multiple valences of the monastic voice, I draw upon interviews that I conducted with Venerable Dhammananda, participant observation at Songdhammakalyani, and analysis of one of the Monastery's central chants, which pays homage to thirteen of the Buddha's enlightened female disciples. In so doing, I attune to how female monks navigate liberal feminist discourses in which voice is equated with self-representation and Buddhist frameworks in which the voice is not primarily a means of self-expression, but a vehicle for transmitting protection, blessings, and teachings.

Katherine Scahill
University Of Pennsylvania
Rice University
University of Pennsylvania
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