The Sartorial Muezzin

One fine Sunday morning in Frankfurt I was sitting in the shadow of Europe’s tallest buildings and listening to the loud and varied pealing of many Catholic churches. It occurred to me that the common comparison of cathedrals with skyscrapers (temples of Mammon and all that), while being quite accurate in some respects, fails altogether on the sonic front: for, while the Frankfurt churches were frantically bonging, the Commerzbank, the European Central Bank and its fellows were perfectly silent. All right, so it was a Sunday, but then again, these buildings are no noisier on a Wednesday.

I then realised that the sonic weekday equivalent of the cathedral and church is not after all the commercial skyscraper but the mall and the shopping street, wherever clothing is sold. And these are likely soon to comprise 95% of all retail outlets. Such shops continuously blare noise into the street. The chiming and pealing of the churches, nowadays maintained only for the specially-interested, in their heyday served to orchestrate a status-parade; they called all the people together so that they might reaffirm their social standing. And that is precisely what clothing shops do, except that they do it throughout their opening hours. Supermarkets, on the other hand, do not project loud music into the street; and neither do bookshops, estate agents or the sellers of widgets. The muezzin calls only from clothing chains and boutiques: “Fashion is Great, come to Cool, come to Validation!”

Posted on May 12, 2011 at 10:47 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink

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