Accepted paper:

'We help them to become humans': the meaning of sound and music among Krishna devotees


Marje Ermel (Estonian Institute of Humanities, Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore the complex meaning of music in the discourse and practice of Krishna devotees in Estonia. The paper will argue that Krishna devotees create forms of agency through music, which constitute specific forms of interactions between different realities and beings.

Paper long abstract:

"Do you have any relationship with trees?" "No, we don't....or actually we do...but only through music." What happens if human sound touches those who are not yet or not anymore humans? What happens if human sound itself is no longer human? This paper will address the layered meaning of sound and music in the discourse and practise of Krishna devotees in Estonia. In Hare Krishna discourse, the philosophy of reincarnation and the concept of the universe as layered into different realms of consciousness, questions the clear division between human/nonhuman worlds. I will explore how music hosts certain forms of agency to influence the interaction between these various realms and different kind of beings. I also explore how Krishna devotees can be seen as 'acoustic designers' that articulate a particular form of agency, which connects to a higher than mortal plane yet touches those who are still to become humans. Through this discussion I will show that music can be seen as a medium or environment in which certain forms of agencies cause particular forms of interactions. As a result, I will highlight the dynamic nature of music, overturning the static, spatialised world which creates the subject-object divide and separates humans from the non-human world.

panel W049
Sonic beings? The ontologies of musical agency