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Joe Namy (b. 1978, Lansing, Michigan, USA) is an artist whose work with sound often explores questions of memory and identity. For this immersive installation he has collected recordings of the adhan from many different countries and times, to create a celebration of the universal power of the Muslim call to prayer.
Within this constant there are a multitude of variations. These include what is considered to be the first recording of the adhan, from the Haram Mosque in Makkah al-Mukarramah in the late 1800s, and the earliest recording from the Maguindanao in the Philippines. Among contemporary contributions we hear the call from the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the Sultan Mosque in Singapore, thought to be the first mosque to use loudspeakers, alongside voices from as far afield as Kaga in Japan, Tbilisi in Georgia, Durban in South Africa, the Sahara region in Morocco, Cologne in Germany, and Hamtramck, Michigan, USA. These different locations add unique sound textures that evoke their environment and community.
The work is designed for each voice to be heard both individually and simultaneously with the others, a reminder of the global congregation of the faithful united through a practice that echoes from the first days of Islam.
Joe has worked on choreographing an 18-channel soundwalk. The calls to prayer that he's worked with are calls that come from unlikely places where you wouldn't necessarily expect a call to prayer to be called. For example, a parking lot or a gas station; places not ordinarily associated with the sacred.
It's about Islam being found in every single place. He's choreographed these calls from around the world, and the work is called Cosmic breath, because we're reminded that every second of the day, the alarm is called somewhere on earth, and moves with the sun and the time of the day.
And because there are five of them, it's an undulating call that moves around the globe. So every time we stand up in prayer, and every time the Adhan is called, we're joining in and perpetuating a practice that preceded the time of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Whenever we stand up in prayer, we're in a gathering that continues on from that learning engine, and will continue on into the future.