IN TOUCH: Rasa - Three Minutes in India

Inspired by their experiences in India, musician Tristan Carter and visual artist Kelly Spencer's work Rasa combines Carter's field recordings and Spencer's graphics to take the viewer/listener on a surreal stroll through the streets of an Indian city. Rasa is the latest instalment of the Foundation's 2021 IN TOUCH arts commissions.

Watch Tristan Carter and Kelly Spencer's work Rasa - Three minutes in India

Can you describe the work?

Rasa is a sound piece created from field recordings I made largely while wandering the streets of India. I collaborated with Kelly Spencer who created an animation evocative of her own experience of India, resulting in a sound and visual collage where the listener might be transported to the streets of India for a brief moment of time. 

What inspired you to make the work?  How did it develop?

I have been to India several times and over the course of those visits have built a collection of field recordings. I have always wanted to make a radio piece with them. This was an opportunity to make an experience of India from a listener’s perspective.

I began by listening through all of my recordings to reconnect with that world and those memories and to get an idea of what sound materials I had to work with.

I played with various form-related or metaphoric threads to connect the recordings and improvised with arranging recordings in different layers and orders to see what interesting juxtapositions and transitions arose.

Once I created the sound piece, I passed it over to Kelly who developed a beautiful palette of colours, images, patterns and symbols both reflective of her experience of India and in response to the form and content of the sound material, digitally hand-drawing every frame of animation.

Can you talk about making the field recordings during your Bangalore residency and subsequent trip to India?

I carried my recording device wherever I went and would record any interesting sounds or scenes I came across.

There was a street close to the 1Shanthi Rd Residency that would often have festivals celebrating various important dates in the Hindu calendar. I would go down and take part, bringing my recording device, and capture as much of the soundscape as possible.

I would also record marketplaces, busy intersections, temple sounds, parks, rikshaw conversations, street musicians, interesting-sounding machinery, concerts, music lessons, thunderstorms...anything really.

Tristan wearing a suit and playing a violin on a busy Indian street

Tristan performing on a street in Bangalore during his 2013 Asia New Zealand Foundation residency at 1Shanthi Road Gallery (Photo: Hannah Mackintosh)

What was it about India that fascinated you so much and had you returning?

India encompasses the fullest range of human experience, endeavor and consequence and lays them bare in front of you. You see the best and the worst of humanity and it doesn’t hide its contradictions.

It’s one of the oldest civilisations on the planet and is fascinating from any perspective I can imagine. The depth, age and variety of cultures and therefore musical traditions is huge. The music of India is infinitely rich in complexity and nuance, and therefore endlessly fascinating for me as musician/composer.

Why do you think it’s important for NZ artists to collaborate with artists from overseas?  What do you get from such collaborations?

I think it’s important for people to connect with and learn from people outside their usual spheres.

I think experiencing, or at least observing, how other people live and create art and form their opinions is an important and interesting thing for all humans to do, whether they call themselves artists or not.

Seeing how other people do life or art can make you question certain assumptions you have in how you do life or art.

Tristan holding his violin while sitting with a group of three Indian musicians holding their instruments

Sanjeev, Srinivas, Santosh and Tristan at 1Shanthi Rd Artist Residency (Photo: Hannah Mackintosh)

What do you hope an audience will take away/learn/feel from watching this work?

I hope they can glean some feeling of the vibrancy and colours of India, and feel momentarily immersed in the atmosphere of the sounds and environments recorded. And I hope they use nice headphones or speakers if they have access to some!

What's have you got coming up?

I am lucky enough to be performing in the live band for the upcoming Auckland season of Ahi Karunaharan’s beautiful show, The Mourning After at Q Theatre in July [A play supported by a Foundation arts grant]. I will also be helping develop an exciting new show, 'House of the Gods' with Sacha Copland's Java Dance Theatre, set to premiere in Wellington this September.

In 2013, Tristan Carter spent two months on an Asia New Zealand Foundation-sponsored residency at 1Shanthi Rd Artist Residence in Bangalore exploring Indian musical traditions, making field recordings and working with local folk musicians. 

Find out more about Tristan’s work at

About the Foundation's IN TOUCH arts commissions

Rasa - Three Minutes in India is one of ten digital art works to be produced through the Foundation's IN TOUCH arts commissions. The commissions were offered to New Zealand arts practitioners who had previously participated in Foundation programmes to develop new works suitable for digital channels and which draw on the artist’s ongoing connections to Asia.