The One Who Woke Up

Binaural Headphone Experience


The One Who Woke Up is a sonic experience based on the life of the Buddha until he attained the pinnacle of enlightenment. It is an electroacoustic music album featuring four pieces. It is designed as a headphone experience, which incorporates binaural spatialization techniques to create the illusion of a three-dimensional space. The work is created in the style of an experimental radioplay (Hörspiel). Feel free to listen to the pieces at your own pace, and immerse yourself in the sounds that surround you.


The One Who Woke Up is an album containing four pieces, each of which describes a specific phase of the Buddha's life. The Sanskrit verses featured in the pieces have been taken from Aśvaghoṣa's Buddhacarita. Translations have been provided for a better understanding of these verses. This is a headphone experience, so please use headphones when listening.

The Beginning

The Beginning portrays the birth of a great being upon this planet. The piece is based on the events that took place during the Buddha's birth and his upbringing.

bodhāya jāto 'smi jagaddhitārthamaṁtyā tathotpattiriyaṁ mameti |

caturdiśaṁ siṁhagatirvilokya vāṇīṁ ca bhavyārthakarīmuvāca ||

‘I am born for supreme knowledge, for the welfare of the world, — thus this is my last birth,’
thus did he of lion gait, gazing at the four quarters, utter a voice full of auspicious meaning.

The Four Signs

The Four Signs portrays the signs of suffering - Old Age, Sickness and Death. It revolves around the four journeys made by the Buddha, when he realised the existence of human suffering for the first time in his life.

avaimi bhāvaṁ tanayaprasaktaṁ viśeṣato yo mayi bhūmipasya |

jānannapi vyādhijarāvipadbhyo bhītastvagatyā svajanaṁ tyajāmi ||

‘I well know the paternal tenderness of the king, especially that which he has displayed towards me;
yet knowing this as I do, still alarmed at sickness, old age, and death, I am inevitably forced to leave my kindred.'


Aescetic is a piece based on the Buddha's life as an aescetic outside the palace, representing the weakening of his body due to fasting and extreme ascetic practices.

mṛtyujanmāṁtakaraṇe syādupāyo 'yamityatha |

duṣkarāṇi samārebhe tapāṁsyanaśanena saḥ ||

And thinking, ‘this may be the means of abolishing birth and death,’
he at once commenced a series of difficult austerities by fasting.

tvagasthiśeṣo niḥśeṣairmedaḥpiśitaśoṇitaiḥ |

kṣīṇo 'pyakṣīṇagāṁbhīryaḥ samudra iva sa vyabhāt ||

Having only skin and bone remaining, with his fat, flesh and blood entirely wasted, yet, though diminished, he still shone with undiminished grandeur like the ocean.

kṣutpipāsāśramaklāṁtaḥ śramādasvasthamānasaḥ |
prāpnuyānmanasāvāpyaṁ phalaṁ kathamanirvṛtaḥ ||

‘Wearied with hunger, thirst, and fatigue, with his mind no longer self-possessed through fatigue, how should one who is not absolutely calm reach the end which is to be attained by his mind?'


Enlightenment is the last piece of the album, which portrays the Buddha's meditation under the Bodhi Tree, where he achieved the state of enlightenment.

tataḥ sa paryaṁkamakaṁpyamuttamaṁ babaṁdha suptoragabhogapiṁḍitam |

bhinadmi tāvadbhuvi naitadāsanaṁ na yāmi tāvatkṛtakṛtyatāmiti ||

Then he sat down on his hams in a posture, immovably firm and with his limbs gathered into a mass like a sleeping serpent's hood, exclaiming,
‘I will not rise from this position on the earth until I have obtained my utmost aim.’


This project was carried out as part of the MSc in Digital Composition and Performance Programme in the University of Edinburgh. It is an exploration of the possibilities of binaural technology. The motivation behind the project was to experiment with internalization and externalization of sound on headphones.

Internalization and Externalization

Real world sounds arrive at different times into each ear depending on the location of the sound source. The human brain's ability to localize sounds is based on these time differences (commonly known as interaural time difference). Through reverberation cues, a listener can also deduce the distance from the sound source and the characteristics of the listening space. However, when a listener is listening to a conventional mono/stereo recording on headphones, these inter-aural time differences and reverberation cues are absent. This causes the internalization of sound, that is the perception of sound coming from inside one's head.
In order to get the illusion of a three dimensional sound space or to externalize sound, the binaural cues need to be accounted for. This can either be achieved through binaural recording techniques or binaural spatialization tools. It is difficult to achieve a perfect binaural experience, since every pair of ears is different, and other factors such as body reflections, head related transfer functions (HRTFs) have to be accounted for. However, a generic binaural experience can still be created using spatialization tools that are available today.

The album The One Who Woke Up aims to create an immersive and effective headphone experience, by combining binaural and stereo formats to achieve a fusion of external and internal sounds. The main goal was to create a unique experience that is unlike the conventional stereo listening experience.

Technical Details

All of the pieces in the album were generated by processing prerecorded sound files algorithmically using Common Lisp Music (CLM), a sound synthesis and processing package written in the Common Lisp programming language. The sound files generated through CLM were then arranged and mixed in Logic Pro X. Logic Pro X's inbuilt binaural panner, IRCAM's Max MSP external spat~ and Rui Penha's Spatium Tools were used to spatialise the sounds in 3D Binaural Audio.