The American Religious Sounds Project—led by collaborators at Ohio State University and Michigan State University—have been collecting sounds of spirituality since 2014. Since the pandemic began in March, they have shifted their goals to explore how the pandemic is changing religion in the United States. The researchers are interested, not only in submissions captured in traditionally religious settings, but also those that reflect daily lived religion in places like homes and public spaces.
Religion sounds different during a pandemic.
Instead of a choir singing in a Baptist church, congregants might listen to their pastor over Zoom. Instead of the soft sounds of mats unfurling in a mosque before voices rise together in prayer, a Muslim family might be practicing alone in a noisy apartment. Instead of a group of Wiccans chanting together, one woman may be chanting by herself.
Researchers at the American Religious Sounds Project, led by The Ohio State University and Michigan State University, are collecting and cataloging those sounds in an attempt to understand how the pandemic is changing religion around the United States.
“Religion tends to be very personal, very individualistic,” said Isaac Weiner, co-director of the ARSP and associate professor in Ohio State’s Department of Comparative Studies.
“We’re trying to document what religion and spirituality means to individuals and how we might get a different answer to that question by documenting it through sound.”
The project, which has been gathering and cataloging religious sounds since 2014, started collecting sounds from the pandemic in March. So far, about 50 sounds have been submitted.