The predominant sense experience of the Pasadena International House of Prayer is sound. The sounds of this 24/6 space of prayer and worship can often be a sensory overload for the ears. Depending on the time of day there could be intense prayers of shouting, the mumbling of those quietly speaking in tongues, and the continual sound of music. Sometimes the music is quiet and meditative and other times a full band. Sometimes, one can hear beautiful and angelic voices coming from different directions as people are scattered throughout the prayer space singing with their own melodies. The charismatic expressions at the House of Prayer also involves many other sense stimuli, as there are often worshipful movements around the prayer room and the waving of colored flags that match the rhythm of the music.

Pasadena, CA. Today the Mott Auditorium is the base for the Pasadena International House of Prayer.
Pasadena, CA.
Today the Mott Auditorium is the base for the Pasadena International House of Prayer.

Since melodies do not have to be attached to words, music can often stir emotions before thought. In fact any sound, especially loud sounds, can trigger strong emotions such as fear more instinctively than if we simply saw the danger.[1] Sounds are received by the miniscule organs in our ears and sent to various parts of our brain to interpret. Music is the highest form of our sense of hearing as it takes several parts of our body and brain to follow the rhythmic nature and complexities of music. Confucius believed that music played a supernatural role in bringing heaven and earth into harmony.[2] Similarly the medieval church also believed that music came from an eternal nature beyond our limited and created experience. They believed that heaven is a space filled with continual worship. At the same time, silence or the perceived absence of sounds can be just as powerful for creating sacred space. Geographer Yi Fu Tuan writes, “…whereas certain kinds of music produce almost tactile sensations (for example, the loud and deep boom of rock), other open up spaces “out there” and invite a more contemplative frame of mind.”[3] Therefore, sounds can create an atmosphere of prayer, ritual, and sacredness. Sometimes bells, chanting, and other sound markers are also used to designate sacred space and sacred time. Sacred spaces especially serve as acoustic spaces that allow music to fill the space and overwhelm our spiritual senses just as much as our physical senses.

 Introduction  Smell  Sight  Touch  Taste

For more on sounds visit Sacred Soundscapes of LA

[1] Yi-fu Tuan, Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature, and Culture (Washington, D.C.: Shearwater Books, 1993), 72.

[2] Ibid., 88.

[3] Ibid., 95.

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