Saturday, 19 September 2009

Architecture of sound

It is the kind of speech 
no eye can see.
Kabir says, listen 
to the word spoken 
in every body. 
— Kabir
 (Translation by Linda Hess and Sukhdeo Singh)

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." 
 — New Testament [John 1.1]  

IT WAS the middle of monsoon in the world famous monsoon forest of Konkan, West Coast region of India. The hills of Karnala Bird Sanctuary, about 70 km from Bombay (now Mumbai), were lush green with grasses and bushes. Otherwise they radiate heat waves rest of the year.

Four students of architecture and one of their professors from Bombay City were wandering near their project site. They were in the hills about quarter of a kilometer from the Bombay-Goa Highway.

"Do you hear anything?" asked the teacher.
"We hear the sounds of trucks and cars passing on the highway."
"Do you hear anything more than that?"
"No, Sir, nothing else."
"There is too much noise in our heads. Let us stop that noise and then listen."
"Oh! The murmur of a stream! Sir, where is it?" They exclaimed in unison.

With the progress and development of the civilized world, a few, very few, dance and sing and play; and the millions watch them dancing, singing and playing, on the cinema and television screens, and listen them on gramophone, radio, audio-video-players, and on the public address system during public festivals. [Incidentally there are "Adivasi" ― aborigine ― tribes named Katakari and Thakar in and around the hills of Karnala.]

In the increasing noise of market economy and information technology, transport and communications, media and propaganda… the Self is lost.

Four years after the incidence in the hills of Karnala, which was of course forgotten, the students of architecture had the 1994 Western Zonal Convention of NASA [National Association of Students of Architecture] held at Mumbai (then Bombay). Its theme was "AWAKENING OF SENSES". It is the beginning of a very hard journey in the present urban environment to experience "ANHAD NAAD"? Silence, which is the heart of music, and the primordial sound, intelligible sound ? "Nada", “Nada Brahma".

In the architecture of sound, the archetypal "Lomas Rishi Cave" [mid third century BC] at Barabar Hill, one could hear the sound within oneself and move towards the quietude.

Note: Illustrations: Top- Facade of Lomas Rishi Cave, Barabar Hills, Bihar. India. Bottom: View of inner chamber, plan and section of the cave. See, also, "Masters of Timeless Architecture".

(19-11-1994 | published in "Soundsnipe" - magazine of acoustics, issue 2, New Delhi, January 1995)

Remigius de Souza
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.


  1. Also this one about Lomas Rishi caves, made me wonder about anhad.

    Interesting plan and section..

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog.
    Anhad is Silence or "Maun".
    If you could follow Marathi, please see my recently published post on Maun, on my Marathi blog "Remichi Marathi Boli": remichimarathiboli dot blogspot dot com.

    Plan and section is variation of tribal's hut - outer room and inner chamber which is kitchen and room for confinement for the labour and after (as I understand).

    Please do visit my blogs and care to comment...

  3. Beautiful Remi. Just got back from Rajasthan Kabir Yatra.Was some experience.When one is so used to noises of a city, it certainly becomes difficult to listen to 'other' and 'others' sounds.Silence becomes a non-entity.

  4. Thanks Maya! Best Wishes!