Indian sampling expedition - By Arjen

On August 20 2005, a letter reached Audio Ease. It said:

" Dear Sir, I would like to enlighten you that since you have captured the greatest impulses and have made plugins with the best of reverbs. I thereby would urge you to build a plugin with perhaps the richest ever reverbs that any one has ever heard. Hold your heart ...I really mean what I say. As you are aware India is a Country that has rich heritage monuments & these buildings are among the wonders of the world. The monuments have been built with great acoustic conditions & have examples of genius brilliant mathematics of sound reverberations and acoustic conditions.. In eyes and ears of an Audio engineer It could only be the GOL GUMBZ of Bijapur in INDIA as an acoustic wonder of the world which has the richest acoustic reverb ever in the universe. "

I was taken by the tone of this letter from Mr Rahul Atul, a recording engineer of Solapur India, that at the time was involved in audio and music for film. I Googled up the building and it's history and the pictures and descriptions that I found were so powerful, that there was no question that we needed to do our best to obtain Gol Gumbaz for our sampling library.
After numerous letters to the government of India, with the help of Rahul, we finally obtained enough stamps to gamble on a shipment of gear. A huge flight case, including a 90 pound Genelec 1037, was flown over to Delhi where it got stuck in bureaucracy right away. Many months were necessary to locate the gear, safeguard it and finally get it back to the Netherlands, where it arrived a year later.

But I wanted to go, so we decided to make it a lower profile session. We re-worked the portable speaker sampling method, and made an aluminum spider to mount the trusted DPA microphones on. It enabled me to double the VR camera stand as a microphone stand. And so I got a recording set together that was portable and could be taken as luggage on my flight.

A final two days at the Indian Embassy in the Hague got me my visa, and I received a cocktail of anti viral shots in both my shoulders that was threatening to either make me go bald or turn yellow. Finally, almost 18 months later, in February 2007 me and my gear were ready to embark for India where my faithful help had arranged a string of transportation that would bump me through the next night and the best part of the following day.

I was allowed a 6 hour crash before we took off again to Bijapur, to explore the actual building and decide on locations for sampling the next day. It was then that i found out what the magnitude of this building was, and how lucky i was that our Genelec 1037 never made it to the spot. There would have been no way to get the 1037 up the hundreds of tiny steps of this spectacle.

The most stunning feature (apart from the sheer size of the building, the staggering number of suicides that take place inside the building, and 20 + seconds of reverb from walls made of mud) was undoubtedly the whispering gallery.

Right below the rim of a dome that is second largest in the world (second to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome) is a gallery in which even whispering can clearly be heard at a 37 meter distance, and each sound gets repeated 10 times over.

Superintending Archaeologist. Mr Venkateshiah himself had travelled to Bijapur to be present at the our sampling gig, and in the early morning of februari 23 we took him and his delegation of security people from the gallery in the top to the shah's tombs below ground level.

Busloads of people were held at the gates so we could have silence. And when temperatures were approaching 40 degrees celcius our job was done after 7 strenuous hours of work.
During my stay we also managed to obtain a good set of samples of the 16th century Ibrahim Roza, a tomb that served as an inspiration for the Taj Mahal. More about that session later.

Back home, in the dark, in our surround studio, the samples turned out to be great successes, and comparison to our reference samples (tabla's played back through our set in the Gol Gumbaz) revealed no artifacts. It seemed like we had been able to capture the "...acoustic wonder of the world which has the richest acoustic reverb ever in the universe...."

Arjen van der Schoot
June 2007.

The samples have been released in september 2007, more on this page.

We thank everyone involved, most notably superintending Archaeologist. Mr Venkateshiah, and Rahul Atul, who turned out to be a relentless supporter, a resourceful street-snack authority and a great laugh. This trip didn't make me go bald nor yellow yet, and introduced me to food, people, territory and acoustics that I consider a privilige to have experienced.

Listen to the Gol Gumbaz. To give you some reference, the Vienna Konzerthaus and Chartres' Notre dame Cathedral are included as well: