This recorded conversation takes its departure from a critical listening to a sound work elegy for Bangalore (Chattopadhyay, 2013a, b, c) originated from an award-winning project Eye Contact with the City (Chattopadhyay, 2010 – 2013). Originally produced for and aired at Resonance FM, London as part of an interview project Sensing Cities, the dialogue between artists and researchers Budhaditya Chattopadhyay and Maria Papadomanolaki aims to develop a discourse on contemporary urban sounds. While responding to the interviewer/interlocutor Papadomanolaki, Chattopadhyay contextualizes his work within a body of research and artistic practice as well as recurrent thought-stream, and conceptualizes the sound work stressing on the notions of urban alienation and the lapses in the (aural) memory through frenzied navigation in the contemporary cities, arguing for the contemplative listening as a strategy for empowerment and emancipation.
Elegy as a form denotes melancholia and lamentation especially for the dead or the passed away. In the work elegy for Bangalore, the poetics of elegy is explored towards the expression of sorrow over the passing of time, affecting detachment, decay and departures in aural memory within the transfiguring landscape of a city. The passing of time forces the disappearance of the hitherto known landscapes from the immediate sight into pervasive emergence of a megalopolis that is under rapid growth and development. Stemming out of intense phenomenological experience embedded in a psychogeographic practice of dérive (Sadler, 1999; Bassett, 2004; Coverley, 2010) in an Indian city and its complex sound world, the work represents a sonic construct that investigates the processes of unadulterated listening to the city under dynamic transformation. Working on the assumption that passage of time can be captured employing a contemplative and poetic mood of elegiac pacing as a methodology of listening to contemporary urban sounds, this work uses indolence in order to facilitate meditative and in-depth observation of the city involving a keen sense of temporality and spatial history that reshapes memory associations disconnected and erased in the pervasive passing of time.
The primary material for the work was gathered in six months of extensive fieldwork. The audio composition took two more years to take a final shape. The sounds that were gathered during the extensive field recording undertaken at different locations of Bangalore City, embody the imagery of urban growth, exemplified by the enormous metro-rail constructions. This disruption occurs in an anticipation of idleness quite typical of Bangalore and similar to that of other Indian cities. Sounds restored from the collection of used reel-to-reel tapes found at the flea market provide insights into this idleness within the city’s endangered memories. Apart from being mere auditory information extracted from the industrial environment of the construction sites, the field recordings are the impressions, reflections, and musings of a nomadic listener. They are intensive and inclusive of the phenomenological experience of attentive and expanded listening and recording at various locations in the city.
These recordings can also be considered as the location study and field research towards developing the composition. The primary layer of sound as industrial drone formulates the quintessential continuo on which tones and textures from used and damaged tapes are posited and re-contextualised as the secondary layer of experience. The city of Bangalore, the protagonist in this work, appears as the third layer in terms of various traffic rumbles and minute vibrations in buildings. These recordings have augmented the imaginary, surreal cityscape by framing the fleeting, transient impermanence of sounding urban growth. The strategy of the composition primarily remains a digital-acoustic mediation of recognisable environmental sounds and contexts; the aim has been to evoke the listener’s spatial association, pre-cognition, and imagination of the city that is currently in a state of slow decomposition. In this context, the conversation between Chattopadhyay and Papadomanolaki helps to locate the transcendental potentials embedded in the work towards conceptualizing a number of issues the artists have been concerned with, namely urban sound, contemplation, listening and memory.
Basset, K. 2004. “Walking as an Aesthetic Practice and a Critical Tool: Some Psychogeographic Experiments.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 28(3), 397-410.
Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. 2013a. “Auditory Situations: Notes from Nowhere.” Journal of Sonic Studies. Special Issue, Sonic Epistemologies, 4.
Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. 2013b . Elegy for Bangalore. Frankfurt am Main: Gruenrekorder.
Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. 2013c. Interview in In the Field: The Art of Field Recording. Lane, Cathy, & Carlyle, Angus (eds.). London: Uniformbooks.
Coverley, Merlin. 2010. Psychogeography. Herts: Pocket Essentials.
Sadler, Simon. 1999. The Situationist City. London: The MIT press.
Self, Will. 2007. Psychogeography. London: Bloomsbury.
Budhaditya Chattopadhyay is an Indian-born media artist, researcher, and writer, with a PhD in sound studies from Leiden University, The Netherlands. Prior to his PhD, Chattopadhyay has graduated from the national film school of India specializing in sound, and received a Master of Arts degree in new media/sound art from Aarhus University, Denmark. Chattopadhyay’s work questions the materiality, site-specificity and objecthood of sound, and addresses the aspects of contingency, contemplation, mindfulness and transcendence inherent in listening. His artistic practice intends to shift the emphasis from object to situation and from immersion to discourse in the realm of sound and media art. Chattopadhyay has received numerous fellowships, residencies and international awards, and his works have been widely exhibited, performed or presented. Chattopadhyay has an extensive body of scholarly publication in the areas of contemporary media, cinema and sound studies in leading peer-reviewed journals.
Maria Papadomanolaki is a Greek sound practitioner and researcher currently based in London. Her work and research focus on creating collaborative listening experiences, often in sites associated with transience. Either in the form of telemetatic soundwalks, outdoors listening events, durational broadcasts or workshops, Papadomanolaki is interested in investigating sound in response to placemaking, perception and memory. Papadomanolaki has presented her work and research at galleries, conferences and festivals in Europe, UK and the US. She is a founding member of SoundCamp collective and has co-edited the publications Transmission Arts: Artists & Airwaves (PAJ Publications, 2011) and sounds remote (SoundCamp/Uniformbooks, 2016).
 Sensing Cities investigates the themes of urban exploration and narrative through the use of sound, writing and new media art. It aims to create an initial understanding of the processes behind artists, writers and specific projects and to raise questions about perceiving, creating and narrating place, be that fictional, real, internal or external. Sensing Cities brings together different creative approaches that engage with personal or collective memory and history, transience, listening, recording, sensing, voice, words, walking and locative art. Past interviewees: Viv Corringham, Dan Scott, Daniela Cascella, Iain Sinclair, Francesca Panetta, Tom Wolseley, Olivia Bellas, Joel Cahen, Ian Rawes. See the online archive of Sensing Cities: https://sensingcities.wordpress.com/
 A radio version of the work: https://soundcloud.com/budhaditya/elegy-for-a-city-1