“Between Ulm and Jerusalem – Sound and Hearing Cultures in Mutual Perception (500–1500)”


Online, Istanbul

Judith I. Haug (Orient-Institut Istanbul)
Margret Scharrer (University of Bern)
Julia Samp (RWTH Aachen University)
Richard Wittmann (Orient-Institut Istanbul

In cooperation with
the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople,
the Institute of Musicology at the University of Bern,
the Chair of Medieval History at RWTH Aachen University,
and the Boğaziçi University Byzantine Studies Research Center.

Supported by Fritz Thyssen Stiftung

The conference will take place online via Zoom.
In order to attend, register with your name, e-mail, and affiliation:

Whether music, speech, or everyday noise, sounds – and also their absence in the form of silence – represent an essential means of communication and identification in human cultures. In other words: by appreciating sounds or silencing them, we connect to real or imaginary places and spaces, people, rituals, social structures, and natural environments, and develop wishful thinking and desires. Sounds and noise evoke or express emotions. By evaluating these and by communicating our interpretations in various media, feelings of belonging are formed, and social or cultural communities are demarcated.
Just as we identify ourselves through our sonic expressions and natural conditions and send out certain codes, we also take in the culture of “others” with all its acoustic phenomena, adding interpretations, evaluations, and (pre-)judgments. In intercultural encounters, these sonic images of “self” and “other” are put to the test, renegotiated, fought over and against, overturned or consolidated. The conference will trace the multidimensional processes of perception and interpretation of sonic cultural encounters in the millennium between 500 and 1500 from a transregional perspective.For this purpose, we follow the travel routes of pilgrims, diplomats, merchants, explorers, scholars, missionaries, and epic hero*ines through diverse geographical and cultural, but also imaginary, spaces. Leading questions are: how do the travelers perceive, evaluate, and describe their own as well as the foreign acoustic environment? How do they move and stage themselves in “other” sound cultures? Which musical phenomena (repertoires, musical instruments, etc.) are adopted and with which motivations? Which prejudices and desires develop in the interplay of their own and “foreign” sound perception? And finally: what expression do these mental constructs find in concrete social (sound) action?
Sounds are not only in permanent interplay with other media, but also only one aspect of the sensual reception of other cultures. Therefore, an intermedial and multisensory understanding is a prerequisite for the research and discussion of sound-related cultural encounters. Hence, only an interdisciplinary and multi-perspective approach allows us to examine different cultures and the sound spheres, the music and acoustic expressions they produce, and to discuss the multidimensionality of their social and individual perception as well as their social, aesthetic, and emotional effects.


Friday 21 October (All times are Istanbul local time)

14:00–14:30   Welcome Addresses

Christoph K. Neumann
Richard Wittmann,
Deputy director of the Orient-Institut Istanbul
Julia Samp, Margret Scharrer, Judith I. Haug,
Conference organizers

14:30–15:30   Keynote Speech

Chair: Julia Samp (RWTH Aachen University)

Nikolas Jaspert (Heidelberg University)
Mobility ‒ Alterity ‒ Acoustics: The Challenges and Potentials of an Epistemological Area of Intersection

15:30–16:00   Coffee break

16:00–17:30   Sources from Latin Europe

Chair: Margret Scharrer (University of Bern)

Julia Samp (RWTH Aachen University)
I came, I saw, I touched, and I heard?! Felix Fabri’s Pilgrimage as an Auditory Experience

Christoph Schanze (University of Giessen)
dâ von ich niht mê besunder / kan gesagen als ein kint. Multisensory Perception and Imagination of the “Holy Land” in Walther von der Vogelweide’s “Palästinalied”

Daniel Jütte (New York University)
Jews and the Politics of Music in Late Medieval and Early Modern Italy

17:30–19:00   Apéro

19:00–20:00   Focus on Performance

Thilo Hirsch (University of Bern/University of the Arts Bern) and Mehtap Demir (Istanbul University State Conservatory)
The Skin of the Others: Skin-Covered Bowed String Instruments Between Central Asia and Europe

Saturday 22 October

10:00–12:00   Byzantine Soundspaces

Chair: Will Sumits (Orient-Institut Istanbul)

Flora Kritikou (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
The Latin Communions in Local Repertories of the Venetian Eastern Mediterannean: A first Evidence of the Musical Syncretism in Crete and Cyprus during the 15th Century

Michael Grünbart (University of Münster)
The Silence of the Emperor – a Ruling Principle at the Byzantine Court (9th–12th Centuries)

Koray Durak (Boğaziçi University, Istanbul)
Sights and Sounds from the Bilad al-Rum: Representation of the Byzantine World Through the Senses in Medieval Arabic Sources

12:00–13:00   Lunch break

13:00– 14:30 Arabic and Anatolian Perceptions

Chair: Salih Demirtaş (Orient-Institut Istanbul)

Yehoshua Frenkel (University of Haifa)
Sonic Expression and Community in Mamluk Cairo

Eyad Abuali (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Music and Meditation: Sound, Visions, and Belonging in Medieval Sufism

Ulaş Özdemir (Istanbul University State Conservatory)
Tracing the Sound of Singer-Poets: Reflections on Music, Poetry, and Performance in Medieval Anatolia

14:30–15:00 Coffee break

16:00–18:00 Participation in the Vespers service at the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Followed by a lecture and conversation with Archon Protopsaltis Panagiotis Neochoritis

19:00 Conference dinner

Sunday 23 October

9:00–10:30     Imaginations of the Other: “Alien” Soundspaces and their Reception in Poetry, Ritual, and Music

Chair: Martin Greve (Orient-Institut Istanbul)

Margret Scharrer (University of Bern)
“Singing Hebrews” and “Saracen Giants”: Imaginations of the “Other” in 15th Century Burgundian Court Festivals

Dinko Fabris (University of Basilicata)
The Renaissance Recovery of Ideas on Sound and Moral Importance of Music in the Pseudo-Plutarch De musica in the Commentary by Andrea Matteo Acquaviva (Naples, 1526)

Judith I. Haug (Orient-Institut Istanbul)
Travels Reimagined: Modern Reconstructions of Musical Encounters

10:30–11:30   Conference resumé
Jan-Friedrich Missfelder (Universität Basel)

11:30–12:30   Closing discussion

Chair: Judith I. Haug (Orient-Institut Istanbul)