The Sounds of Amman – A Summary

Within the Jordan’s Cultural Mosaic class, we were given the choice to analyze certain artifacts of Jordanian lifestyle which would help us understand more about the social aspect of being Jordanian.

For my analysis of the Sounds of Amman artifact, the chosen approach was to assess it both historically and culturally to find a meaning about why these daily occurrences were so commonplace in the city. To understand these sounds, I would have to learn more about Islamic faith, as well as the expected culture of an almost wholly Muslim society.

The expectations for Muslims in regards to prayer are demanding. As the most important (and easiest) activity, there’s an expectation for prayer happening five times a day, taking place in the early morning (before sunrise), midday, the afternoon, at sunset, and at night. So, at five different intervals during the day, we can expect the recital of the adhan (call to prayer) by the muezzin (the mosque’s hired reciter). I also explained how new audio technologies has allowed for the efficient broadcast of the call to prayer, revolutionizing tradition and using it in a way to reach out to a more modern Muslim society.

What struck me while listening to the track again and again was how the city sounds meshed with the adhan – sounds of traffic, indistinct chatter, and general commotion all blended in and breathed life into Amman. We do not know exactly if there are people who are trying to find their way to a mosque, or if the traffic is a result of drivers trying to get near to a place of worship. From there, I wondered what the sounds of Amman could be like without the adhan’s recital over the loudspeaker – would it be a different Amman without it being a daily presence, or was its significance greatly overstated? These questions were buzzing in my brain the more I listened to the audio.

The sound quality of the audio didn’t strike me as an interesting topic of focus, though I imagine that the recording has a deliberate feel that it’s trying to capture. With the mixture of sounds from citizens and traffic, as well as the adhan’s recital, you can sense that there’s an intent to not have one overpower the other. In my mind, the recording feels like either a sound recording done with a phone, or audio ripped from a video since I could pick up on light wind brushing about. Not much added to the artifact, but it is good to pick apart the audio capture style.

In light of that, I feel that the synthesis of sound is a definition, or at least an audible fragment, of Jordan’s cultural mosaic. Islam is clearly something which is integral, (especially with the daily call to prayer), and that if it wasn’t clearly alluded to in that recording, listeners would probably not understand its major significance to Jordanian society.

4 thoughts on “The Sounds of Amman – A Summary

  1. Rei Armenia

    As an auditory driven person, I found this topic to be incredibly interesting.

    The soundscape of areas is often overlooked when examining the cultural structure of areas. Places like New York City may have similar attributes like the familiar busy sounds of traffic and people going about their days. However Amman’s deep Islamic influence makes Amman an distinctly different sounding place.

    I am also interested in how Amman would sound without the call to prayer, but I also think that the Call to Prayer is a significant part of the cultural identity of Jordan, so it’s presence is incredibly important and speaks to Islamic culture as a whole. I am interested to hear how the country I studied, Yemen, sounded when it was not being attacked as it is now.

  2. Quentin

    It is very interesting to read about the adaptation of technology into religious practices, however they may come. They seem to have a consistent benefit towards those who are predominantly disadvantaged. I recently visited a mosque for my 330 Yemen course, and was happy to see those unable to posture themselves in classic prayer form comfortably residing in chairs and perched on the floors and columns. In relation to Jordan’s cultural mosaic, it makes me ponder; has there been any form of opposition towards the progression of technology? I feel it cliche to recall when religious institutes shun progressive ideology in favor of conservatism, but I am eager to see the spectrum of opinion within Jordan pertaining to this topic.

  3. Derek Dexter

    The sound of a city or a region can be an extremely important part of their culture. The way that the prayer goes out across the city with all of the normal city noise in the background is a very unique sound that is native to that part of the world alone. Each city has its own noise and its own way of communicating what living in that city is like. Growing up near the water for example you would hear the sound of the ocean and the seagulls calling. In Istanbul there are a lot of different peoples and religions that are all under the same roof that have to live together as it was a Christian city before so there are the Muslim Prayers and then maybe church bells as well.

  4. Hunter Triplett

    This topic sounded very interesting to me as someone who enjoys the sounds of life going on. I keep my windows open all the time so the sounds of the area can be the background noise while I work. As someone who isn’t religious, growing up in an area with people who aren’t very religious, it’s interesting to think about how the sounds of a call to prayer could be so integrated into the sounds of the city. The fact that they are played at a volume that has them sort of blend into the noise of city just goes to show how integrated the call to pray is in everyday life.


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