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SOUNDSCAPING THE SOUL. -  The Design Issue
The Fuschia Tree
Editor's Note.
Odor and Disarray

Design. Deconstructed: de - sign. A symbol, uncreated, recreated. A re-representation.

Design is what separates the human kingdom from the animal kingdom: it is wildness made deliberate, nature articulated, instinct systematized.
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By Shaheen Ahmed
Spring is already here. Can one disassociate spring from the call of the cuckoo? Or can one disassociate Maria Sharapova’s volleys from her guttural grunts?

One of the five senses, hearing or rather the innate ability to listen to a mélange of sounds and to be able to differentiate and associate sounds to their sources is of course what makes us enjoy different types of music, recognize the voice at the other end of the phone. I wake up everyday to the varied kinds of sounds that seem almost existential to the middle-class Delhi locality where I stay. The resonance of the vegetable vendor’s lustful shouting of the names of the veggies in his cart, the pigeons cooing near my window, the sound of the streets being swept, the noisy aunties gossiping below my balcony…

To me these daily banal sounds have become my Morning Raga, more than a Nick Drake song playing on my laptop. And though I cannot claim that the daily sounds of a humdrum existence can soothe my soul like a Pink Floyd number, yet I simply cannot imagine a reality where there are no sounds like vehicles on the road, or birds chirping, or the noisy tell-tales in a college campus or the market.

So when the Toronto-based collective of musicians LAL, which represents Uganda, Bangladesh, Barbados and India conducted a soundscape workshop at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, I was one of 15 curiosity-bound enthusiasts that signed up for it. The idea behind the workshop was to use feminist and anti-oppressive frameworks to create a soundscape that was layered and eventually made into a track.

The usage of the term ‘feminist and anti-oppressive frameworks’ was particularly intriguing. Rosina Kazi, the lead singer of LAL explained this as an approach that embraced the essential aspects of a woman’s vocal qualities, her body movements, gestures and inherent reactions.

We were given free reign to create our own vocal sounds whether it was by employing the body in performance like jumping or thumping our feet, or howling or even laughing and crying. The next part of the process comprised of writing down lyrics in any language including gibberish. The third and final element before recording was working in small groups of 3 or 4 and creating a tune or rap or an acapella of our lyrics. The languages were as varied as French, Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi and just plain gibberish.

The warm-up before the final recording consisted of us standing in a circle and using the body and our vocals to create sounds while moving to the centre of the circle at the same time, moving on to another participant in the circle passing on our sound to her/him. The person then carried on the previous participant’s sound and altered it with their own variations. After we were a little ‘warmed up’ with the process, the participants queued up in a straight line and we individually went up to the sole microphone and uttered our own ‘personal’ sounds. Nicholas Murray (member of LAL), the wiz with editing and mixing sat behind his Apple McBook simultaneously recording and mixing our sounds. Thus, the workshop saw all the participants collaborating with each other and creating a cohesive soundscape.

To say that the process of creating primeval guttural sounds was exhilarating is an understatement. The experience of being part of the creative process of creating a soundscape was as exciting and new as perhaps one’s first bungee jump. The very fact that the political, social, ideological, abstract, conceptual all merged into one whole liberated us from the banality of our everyday routines.

The sounds of my everyday landscape, otherwise chaotic, now designed and systematic, all of a sudden was music to my ears.

LAL is a Toronto-based collective of musicians representing Uganda, Bangladesh, Barbados, and India.

Shaheen Ahmed is a student, writer and an experimental art-practitioner based in Delhi.

Also in this issue

  • This virtual space explores three works by artists - who transform the space to become a part of the art work being experienced by the viewers; who in turn become a part of the designed space.
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  • Chaos is inherent. Chaos is not chaotic, it is a need to let everything be self-absorbed and act according to their own urge.
    Read More
  • The market place is perhaps the perfect site to witness this constant tug of war between chaos and order, negotiations between saleable surface attraction, convenience and the beauty of efficiency.
    Read More

Illusion: Seeing Beyond Seeing
Meaning: In Search of Significance.
Melody: A Different Tune
Rhythm: Ordering Time

Dhrupadi Ghosh is an old friend of mine. We have often had long sessions of adda late at night, discussing her dream projects since her college days at Santiniketan, where she majored in Sculpture.