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Future Cities: the sounds of Istanbul

The next stop on our tour of the world’s urban sounds takes us to where Europe and Asia meet on the Bosphorus – let’s tune in to Istanbul sounds.

The call to prayer is a classic sound of the city, and David Webb recorded this one on a hill in the cemetery at Eyüp in Istanbul at call to prayer. You can hear a chaotic chorus from mosques all around, mixed with birdsong and traffic noise.

City version:

This call to prayer was reimagined by Alex Hehir, who writes:

“I’ve always loved call for prayer sounds and what they evoke. I have used the field recording throughout the ambient piece and added many layers of synths and real orchestral sounds.

“There is also a female voice call for prayer that weaves in and out of the mix.”

Memory version:

No picture of Istanbul would be complete without including the Hagia Sophia, as recorded by Kamen Nedev:

“This is a “sacred place” only up to a point – the Hagia Sophia was desacralized a long time ago, and is nowadays a museum. This is a sound ambience recording done right under the dome of the basilica – so, no chants, no calls to prayer, just the sound environment of about a hundred tourists scrolling under the dome and gazing upwards.”

City version:

The Hagia Sophia, one of the most iconic of Istanbul sounds, was reimagined by James Kent:

“The original recording of the interior of Hagia Sophia interested me because of the attached memories and the attachment of visitors looking on and wondering about the history, people, noises that were present in it original use. I chose to immerse and dissolve the piece as a way to illustrate the changing and re-planting of memories.

“With the sound of original recording being reimagined by being immersed and then dissolved in the Dee Estuary the piece creeks and splutters as the small speaker becomes engulfed with salty water. Unfiltered and unedited this original recording re-positions the notion of a sacred memory and remembering past events. Such as with the Interior of the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul the recording offers an alternative use of the echoes that previously existed from this sacred place.”

Memory version:

Another characteristic sound from Istanbul seems to be the sound of protest – this particular recording was made by Istanbul Is Ours.

“It’s 7th of April, 2013. The crowd is gathered to protest the shopping mall project which will eventually demolish Emek Movie Theater. They shout “This is only the beginning, on with the struggle!” Then Costa-Gavras makes a speech for supporting the demonstrators and asking authorities to stop the demolition project. Then the crowd wants to go in to Yesilcam Streets shouting “down with the barriers!” and the pushes at the police barrier. And then the police attacks the crowd with pressure water and tear gas. After dispersing the crowd comes together again on Istiklal street and resists to police violence, shouting “We stand together against fascism!””

City version:

This protest was reimagined by Dave Cowlard: “I wanted to keep the drama of the protest and the key speech by Costa Gavras but approached the remix with a cinematic style of editing in mind. I have looped, mixed and overlaid segments and wanted to keep the overall sense of space that came across in the original recording.”

Memory version:

Istanbul sits squarely at the centre of two continents, and its presence as a port and trade centre is essential to its identity. Here we’re visiting a quiet spot on one Istanbul’s many beaches – this is Caddebostan beach as recorded by Berrak Nil Boya.

City version:

Our reimagining of Caddebostan beach uses the Oblique Strategy cards ‘Give away the name’ and ‘Organic machinery’ as inspiration.

Organic machinery was the straightforward one. We layered several instances of the wave sounds and applied some bitcrushing effects to some of the layers, panning them to the extremes of the stereo field to give a light machine-like ‘crunch’ at the edge of the wave sounds.

We then brought in some synth sounds built from the sounds of piece of metal and oil drums to work around the edges of the piece, giving organic machinery a presence throughout, but not so strongly that it overpowers the beauty of the original recording.

For ‘Give the name away’, we decided to recall the noble tradition of the musical cryptogram, in which the notes used in a piece hold some meaning external to the piece itself. we used two different synth lines to spell out the location name as far as we could – since the name contained lots of letters from the beginning of the alphabet, there was rich musicality in its name.

The lead, higher synth spells out C-A-D-D-E-B-ost-A-n (Caddebostan), while the underpinning bass synth answers it with B-E-A-C-h (beach). The two synth lines weave in and out of one another, as the two halves of the location name are allowed to build the melodic base of the whole piece.

Memory version: