Accepted paper:

Making home in sound and silence: the sonic discovery of the place of Krishna


Marje Ermel (Estonian Institute of Humanities, Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

Accompanied by sound recordings, my presentation will explore how the meaning of home is constituted in this temporary time and space through the process of active listening and music-making among international Krishna devotees in Mayapur, India.

Paper long abstract:

"'[H]ome is where the heart is' needs to be taken quite literally. Yet the home is also where the ear is... " (Labelle 2010: 52). LaBelle's words resemble the view of Krishna devotees that we first get to know places through our ears, and that one should seek a sonic shelter in the music of the Lord's names.

Devotees refer to Mayapur as a Dham, a dwelling place of the Lord, where Krishna himself appeared in 1486 AD as a saint Caitanya Mahaprabhu and initiated sankirtan, the liberating practice of chanting and singing the God's holy names. Today, Mayapur is a growing 'Vedic city' which appears as a messy and noisy construction site. The sign "No mundane sound allowed" on the gate of the new temple and the main residential area refers to the complex spectrum of sound and silence in which one dwells and learns to sonically design one's place of safety and well-being. Devotees believe that singing and listening to the music of Kirtan protects from the materially contaminating sounds and purifies one's heart, enabling to feel at home in the ongoing pastimes of the Lord.

I will explore, accompanied with sound recordings, how this process of making home takes place in this sonically complex environment through music-making and active listening. I would suggest that through the music of Kirtan, devotees evoke and recreate certain realms, constituting the sense of home and the sacred mode of being in a place.


LaBelle, B., 2010. Acoustic territories: Sound culture and everyday life. A&C Black.

panel Body04
Dwelling in musical movement: making a home both in and through music