The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive


This is from the short-wave, the signal fading in and then out,
and I stopped listening as dusk began its lumbering into the
night of spirit. It was 11930 or 11935 and WRTH gave the
location as Saudi Arabia. I recorded twenty minutes or so of the
chant, noticing the rhymes and rhythms and amazing clarity and
call of the voice which was always entangled with noise and the
potential of other stations interfering. I was mesmerized,
hooked on the voice and the rising and falling of the tones
which seemed so unlike the chanting of the Koran I've heard
before and I wondered and still wonder whether this was the
Koran or what form of devotion is being sung, and you can answer
that; my ignorance is enormous. My ignorance is not within the
music and not even within the noise, which is never noise itself
but an other, so the voice murmured within and through the other
and the other was never Other, never identifying itself, but
always present, always a presence. It was as if the universe
were opening and I was thinking of the CMB, cosmic microwave
background, and how that was shimmering everywhere with the
slightest variations and memories of inflation and so much
roiling in the birthing of the cosmos. But I was always drawn
back to the voice and my ignorance of everything, even the
neighbors next door in our building, or the screams of fighting
in the streets below this very night. What could cut through the
backgrounding of the formation of worlds? What could mean in

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