Sacred & Profane

by Iain Armstrong

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The recordings in this collection span several years and several countries. They are essentially documents of my travels as a tourist with a microphone. Each soundscape was recorded in a sacred place, or captures the sound of a sacred ritual. This notion of sacred sounds was the initial thematic concept for the collection. However, while selecting and preparing the material I became more aware of the secular sounds that are present alongside the religious sounds I originally set out to record – the profane. These commonplace, usually quieter sounds have a powerful ability to frame, contextualise and ground the listener, drawing one back from the spiritual and abstract, to the concrete.

What is also interesting for me, as a non-religious visitor / listener / observer, is how one feels as an outsider, sometimes literally confined to the outside of the temple. In this scenario, I am uninitiated in the mysteries and rites of the religion, but yet participate in my own tourist rituals of visiting these ‚important religious sites of interest‘, and documenting them with numerous photographs or sound recordings. I am required to partake in rituals such as ‚remove your shoes and place them in the plastic carrier bag provided‘ to carry with me whilst visiting mosques in Istanbul. I exchange my Thai Baht for 108 satang to make offerings to the reclining Buddha in Wat Pho. I find myself asking to what extent do these acts really demonstrate reverence? Is there some irreverence in the manner that one ‚collects‘ religious sites?

Religious sites and activities have historically been one of the most prominent contributors to the soundscapes of human habitation, and in a world that grows increasingly noisy these sounds often still prevail; though their reach may be somewhat limited or require amplification. Ironically, it is within the architecture of these same sites that one may seek relative silence, or certainly a hushed sanctuary when the tourists have subsided.

And so this duality of the sacred and the profane, of prominent punctuation and muted quietude, inside and outside, came to influence my process of deciding what sounds to include in this collection and where, within each recording, to make the cut.


released December 31, 2015



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Gruenrekorder Frankfurt, Germany

Gruenrekorder is a German record label for field recording, soundscapes and sound art. It was founded in 2003 by the sound artists Lasse-Marc Riek and Roland Etzin in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The releases are mainly published on CD and Vinyl, but they are also distributed on Tape as well as in digital formats (USB-Card USB flash drives, WAV/MP3/FLAC). ... more

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