Sound of space and time in audio art

Read more below

  • Published 5.07.10

Studio21 offered a different art form in the works of Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, an SRFTI alumnus and a new media artist who primarily works with sound, in its second installment of artist presentation and talks on Thursday evening.

Incorporating field recordings, sound design and new media to produce works of musique concrete (“real music”) — an art form little practised in this country —Budhaditya creates what he calls “audio works”.

Called Music of Sonic Space, the presentation featured selected works by the artist, who presented his art at venues including Transmediale in Berlin, EreticArt in Florence, CAVI in Aarhus, Denmark and Programme for Sonic Arts in Copenhagen.

With two published CDs to his credit, Budhaditya — a former Sarai fellow — took his audience on a sonic journey that was in parts clinically distanced from emotion, in parts painstakingly personal.

The showcase was opened with Budhaditya’s earlier inter-media/sound installation Passage, created in the basement of a huge building in Florence in July 2008. Using a condenser microphone and active speakers, Budhaditya recorded the sound of a specific space, running and thus “controlling” this audio recording through the Max/MSP interface software.

The resultant audio-work was intriguing; in this day and age, with the absence of silence all around us and the complete lack of being in tune with the elemental, this sound of space between two points, the sound of time passing by, if you like, made for immersive installation.

The pieces Windsong and Watersong — recorded in a toilet in Aarhus and underwater, respectively — were parts of the exhibition project called Elements Tour 2008 and were equally intriguing.

Passage was a meditative work that edged the gathering towards the next offering by Budhaditya, the busy urbana of Florence’s downtown bustle at San Lorenzo and named after the area. Primarily a raw field recording, San Lorenzo was part of a project that involved a whole sound design studio team and a group of 23 photographers.

With its images of everyday life in one of the busiest parts of the city and its soundscape of street noise, constant chatter and overwhelming traffic, San Lorenzo made a rare exhibit at the Medici Riccardi Palace, juxtaposed with figures of the Madonna.

A technically challenging medium — or rather an amalgamation of more than one medium — where even the constants are given to flux, it is difficult to inculcate the personal into site-specific sonic installations.

Over his two-year stay in Europe, Budhaditya experimented with the same and created the yet-unpublished series of works in Arithmetic of Distance. Waves lapping at the Hamburg dock and its associated sounds denoted sorrow — though Budhaditya explained that the work, with its mechanised sonic palette, could also be termed “suffering”.

The series delved into a range of seven emotions that the artist felt during the period and their consequent reflection in his work, ranging from fear to longing to joy.

The showcase ended with a touching piece, a later-day recording at Tumbani on the Bengal-Bihar border. Another raw field-recording, this audio-work illustrated the change in our fast-changing rural hinterland, being aggressively “developed” into towns, cities, metropolises. In effect, the music of the birdsong or the cricket’s cry gets obliterated as the chug of heavy machinery takes over.

If effect, it is the music of these spaces that die.