Tuesday, September 21, 2010

sounds of İstanbul

What a year - my excuse for leaving this blog to languish for so long.

Sounds of İzmir - sounds of İstanbul. In the last 2 weeks I've finally made the radio programs from the interviews and music I collected in İstanbul in January, not long after my last post. (If you want to hear the music and learn more about the artists, check out my programs on New Music Up Late, available for 4 weeks after broadcast.)

The image is a doorway to one of the many bars and venues in İstanbul's downtown Beyoğlu area. In January I had the good fortune to meet up with and interview 3 quite different voices of the İstanbul new musical world. The three artists in question were guitarist and electro-acoustic composer Erdem Helvaçioğlu, computer noise-based artist and event producer Batur Sönmez, and contemporary classical and theatre composer and sound installation artist Alper Maral.

Interestingly, all three of these artists has in recent times been drawn to make studio works drawing on the rich soundworld of urban İstanbul, this crossing point between Europe and Asia (see the photo of the Bosphorous which divides the two continents and the bridge which joins them below). Each in their own way is attracted by the richness of the source material but at pains to avoid falling into a simple exoticism or picture-postcard relationship to their famous hometown.

There is Helvaçioğlu's A Walk through the Bazaar, playing with dangerously touristic material, but through the shifting prism of of electro-acoustic and beat-based re-contextualising. Maral's Das klingende Alphabet with its structure around the cycles of day and season, emphasising the sounds of contemporary urban transport in a way that suggests nostalgia, but for the İstanbul of everyday life rather than tourism. And then Sönmez whose more disguised investigations of the sounds of ferryboat engines in Noise İstanbul are intriguingly interrupted by incidental street music, creating interesting tensions between his noise aesthetic and music as it is more widely understood.

I wonder, is the need to make works out of the sound of a city more likely for these artists because of the overwhelming character of the sonic (and socio-cultural) environment of their city? Or is there some other explanation? Could this be a wider international trend on the back of the extraordinary ease of making such recordings since the arrival of cheap, portable digital recorders and the pervasiveness of sounds from beyond traditional 'music' in the increasingly important field of sound design?

No comments:

Post a Comment