It has been reported that the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast
loudly over the Royal Ontario Museum’s PA system, followed by an
announcement inviting visitors to join in prayer. What was heard was
three minutes of an audio art installation called A Time to Hear
for Here by acoustic architect and composer John Oswald.
Neither the Museum nor the artist is making any religious
statement with this installation.
This work of art features approximately 7000 sound events,
including a version of the adhan (the call to prayer)
performed by Sashar Zarif, which plays once in the 24-hour long work
of art and is timed to take place with sunset in Mecca.
There is no announcement for visitors to gather and pray in the
Museum at any time.
The work of art plays in the Thorsell Spirit House every day and
is distributed through the 35 speakers in this space only. It was
installed in June 2007 with the opening of the Michael Lee-Chin
Crystal. In addition to the adhan, the work also features
other sound elements with religious and ceremonial connotations
including Beniamino Gigli’s Ave Maria by Strauss and
Tanya Tagac’s solo throatsinging.
“The ROM clearly understands its role as an agency of the Province
of Ontario and does not promote any particular religion, but is
respectful of the diversity of faith,” says Janet Carding,
Director and CEO. “As a Museum of World Cultures, however, we often
discuss religions, faith-related customs, sacred objects and
The Museum regularly examines religion in our exhibitions and
programs. For instance, the ROM's successful exhibition Dead Sea
Scrolls included chanting prayers in Hebrew, which was broadcast
in the introduction to the exhibition and in the area where the
scrolls were on view. These recordings included the Song of
Ascents(shir ha-ma'alot). In the recent exhibition, Maya:
Secrets of their Ancient World, a group of contemporary Maya men
are shown on film chanting prayers at a shrine.