The Sounds of Islamic Berlin

Episode 321

hosted by Nir Shafir and Huma Gupta

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

What is the aural possibility of Islamic life in European cities today? This special episode begins with a ten-minute segment from an audio composition crafted by our guest, musicologist Peter McMurray, from recent field recordings and ethnographies he conducted among various Turkish communities in Berlin. As the discussion progresses we weave in and out of two discussions. First, we look at the means by which Turkish migrants from the Alevi, Shi’i, and Sufi communities use the different private and public spaces of the city as a stage for their religiosity. We add to this a second discussion of how ethnography, aesthetics, and the aural intersect in scholarship today.

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios

Peter McMurray is an ethnomusicologist and media artist. He is currently a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, where he is completing a book and film project, Pathways to God: The Islamic Acoustics of Turkish Berlin. He holds a PhD from Harvard in Ethnomusicology and an MFA from Brandeis in Music Composition. Other research interests include South Slavic oral poetry and music/sound among Syrian refugees.
Nir Shafir is a historian of the Middle East whose research examines the intersections of knowledge production, religious practice, and material culture in the early modern world (1400-1800). He curates Ottoman History Podcast’s series on history of science in addition to being one of the co-founders of, a website that explores the archives and libraries of the Islamic world. He is currently assistant professor of history at UCSD.
Huma Gupta is a Ph.D. student at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her dissertation research focuses on the structural relationships between urban planning, architecture, state formation and migration in modern Iraq. She is also interested in the sonic and visual past and continues to think of ways to integrate sensory histories into her research. 

Recommended Episodes
Bruce Burnside & Sam Dolbee #320
Ottoman New York
Ozan Aksoy #187
Kurdish Alevi Music and Migration
Chris Gratien & Emily Neumeier #151
Echoes of the Ottoman Past
Kishwar Rizvi #244
Neo-Ottoman Architecture and the Transnational Mosque
Angela Andersen #299
2/14/ 17
Alevi Religious Ceremony, Architecture, and Practice


Episode No. 321
Release Date: 26 June 2017
Recording Location: Cambridge, MA
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Audio segments: "God Listens To Those Who Praise Him (introduction/excerpt from 48', 16-channel audio piece)" by Peter McMurray
Untitled video, Commemoration of 1993 Sivas Massacre by the Berlin Alevi Association (July 2015) recorded by Peter McMurray
Holy Weeping (Amplified) (excerpts from 30', 4-channel audio piece) by Peter McMurray
Images and bibliography courtesy of Peter McMurray


Süleyman Akkılıç strings a bağlama at his shop in Berlin. (Photo credit: Peter McMurray)
Dervishes of the Halveti-Cerrahi order sing ilahis at a barbecue near Balıkesir. (Photo credit: Peter McMurray)
Caferi Shi'a perform sinezen on Ashura (10 Muharram) in Halkalı, Istanbul. (Photo credit: Peter McMurray)
Berlin Alevis perform semah in the street to commemorate the Sivas Massacre. (Photo credit: Peter McMurray)

Select Bibliography and Discography

Aubry, Gilles. 2014. The Amplification of Souls. Adocs, CD.

Drott, Eric. 2009. "The Politics of Presque rien." In Adlington, Robert, ed. Sound Commitments: Avant-Garde Music and the Sixties, 145-166. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ergin, Nina. 2008. "The Soundscape of Sixteenth-Century Istanbul Mosques: Architecture and Qur'an Recital." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 67(2): 204-221.

Feld, Steve. 2004. "Doing Anthropology in Sound." With Donald Brenneis. American Ethnologist, 31(4): 461-474.

Feld, Steven. 1996. "Waterfalls of Sound: An Acoustemology of Place Resounding in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea." In Feld, Steven and Keith Basso, eds. Senses of Place, 91-135. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research.

Feld, Steven. 2001. Rainforest Soundwalks, Ambiences of Bosavi, Papua New Guinea. Earth Ear Records, CD.

Hirschkind, Charles. 2006. The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics. New York: New York University Press.

Ingold, Tim. 2007. "Against Soundscape." In Carlyle, Angus, ed. Autumn Leaves: Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice, 10-13. Paris: Double Entendre.

Ochoa Gautier, Ana María. 2014. Aurality: Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Colombia. Durham: Duke University Press.

Oliveros, Pauline. 2005. Deep Listening: A Composers Sound Practice. New York: iUniverse.

Schafer, R. Murray. 1977. The Tuning of the World. New York: Random House.

Stokes, Martin. 1992. The Arabesk Debate: Music and Musicians in Modern Turkey. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.