Guy L. Beck’s scholarly and innovative book explores religion through music. It elevates and emphasizes the critical role of musical activity in religious life. Rather than discussing music as an aesthetic supplement to religion, Beck’s book takes the approach that music is not incidental in religious practice but is a sacred treasure central to the growth and sustenance of world religions. Sacred Sound promises to be a milestone in the growing cross-disciplinary study of religion and music and includes a CD of musical examples.
The project is divided into six sections, each one treating a major world faith: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Each essay is written by a different expert in that religion. Beck states that he assembled the book partly to fill his need for a textbook and audio anthology for the classroom. His focus is primarily on vocal music, especially chants, hymns, and sacred songs that have been memorized and passed down through generations to the present and are still a vital part of the transformation of lives in religious communities.