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City Soundscapes

What do you want to do?

I wish to spend a fortnight each in the holy cities of Ajmer and Benares, recording their sounds and constructing a portrait of each city using only audio. I would like to compare the unique character of these two citadels of faith that draw millions to their fold with their spiritual energy.

What are the similarities of these centres of pilgrimage?  What are the unique characteristics that define a mystical experience? I am curious to explore the complex nature of the intricate fabric of the soundscape of these sacred cities and see what will emerge in my portrait.  Even though the two cities attract pilgrims of different faiths, there are similarities in life and activities of a pilgrim at any holy site. I want to discover if each city has a distinct character, and I want to communicate this through sound.

It would be interesting to see if the essence and flavour that is communicated by my acoustic “imagery” matches that done in more conventional media such as still photographs or video.

Why do you want to do it?

“Seeing is believing” This axiom sums up the secondary position of sound with respect to visuals in communicating information. I come from a family of film makers and artists where the visual has always been the predominant form, but my true passion is constructing “imagery” with sound.

We rely extensively on visuals to convey our experience of a place. I want to remove the visual in communicating of the flavour of Ajmer and Benares and use only sounds. Sound is absolutely essential in our perception of a place, and if we stop to listen, any place, at any time will have an exciting and unique mix of sounds. What usually happens is that these sounds are ignored and filtered out in our brain or at best used as an accompaniment to the visuals telling the story. I want to remove this visual element and let the sounds and the silence communicate the essence of the experience.


How will you do it?

I have planned a stay of two weeks in each of the two cities that I wish to explore. Ideally I would like to spend a few days discovering different parts of the city, familiarizing myself with its sounds… apart from the religious centre I would also like to get a feel of the commercial part of town, and see how apparent the connection between the two is. I want to study the cities and devise a structure for my recording so that the work I produce is truly a portrait and not a collection of random or ‘interesting’ sounds I happen to come across while I am there. 

I feel that two weeks would give me enough time to explore not only the different parts of the city, but also to experience the city at different times through the day. I would also like to investigate how the sounds of these spiritual hubs vary from early dawn to late into the night.

I will keep the equipment for the project as simple as possible, to keep myself unobtrusive while working. I plan to use a digital recorder and a mic to record my sounds. I have spoken to a few people about hiring the required equipment at a nominal rate, and will ideally try and get it free of cost. To listen to the recordings I will use a pair of in-ear-monitor headphones, choosing these over conventional monitor headphones since they are very small and virtually invisible, and also because they block out all ambient noise. This will allow me to hear the surroundings exclusively through the mic. I will also carry a laptop with me, to review and catalogue my recordings; my laptop has Adobe Audition, which is a program for sound editing & mixing.



  • Accommodation : 30 Days x 500 : 15,000
  • Food on location : 30 Days x 300 : 9,000
  • Travel on location : 30 Days x 200 : 6,000
  • Travel to and from location (Sleeper Class Train/Bus) : 4 Sectors x 500 : 2,000
  • Equipment Hire.(Recorder, Mic and accessories, I am trying to arrange this free of cost.) 1 Flat x 10,000 : 10,000
  • Compact Flash Cards (2GB) : 2 Cards x 3,000 : 6,000
  • Final Sound Cleanup, Mastering and Output at a Studio. : 1 Shift x 5,000 : 5,000

Total : 53,000