Acoustemological Investigation

Sound Diary: #Tehran

Babur’s garden, Baburnama, 16th c. British Library

Pardis Phase 11,  Part 1

The use of acoustemology as an important tool has been critical in this research. As a result of the sound recording process in Pardis, developing a relationship with the location became possible. Through listening, a physical encounter with the empty concrete tower blocks, with their wandering dogs around the construction sites, was made. In Pardis Phase 11, I consider my recordings to be an artistic intervention aimed at creating an archive of the history of listening. The recordings are representation of my interaction with the locations and their particularities such as the materiality, the physical aspect that surrounded me, the size, and the dimensions of the landscape features. Furthermore, the recordings are essentially my way of interacting with places as an artist and urban researcher, of exploring the sonic reality of those places. The recordings featured in this exposition were made during a fifteen-day visit to Pardis Phase 11, and I chose eight of them to represent the experience and feeling of that location, those that remind me of being there and listening to the reality of people’s everyday sonic experiences. To convey reality and a sense of place, none of these recordings have been edited, nor have any special audio effects been added. As a result, the recordings are taken directly from a reality that was part of my own listening experience. This allows for the possibility of transmitting something about the location that feels coherent, which is typical of Pardis Phase 11.

Listening to the recordings, one may notice that the dominant sound in nearly all of them is the sound of cars. Going inside and outside of the mini city, as well as moving around for shopping or other daily needs, all necessitate the use of a vehicle of some kind. The echoes of engine sounds travel far into the distance, and when they vanish, one is left alone in between brutal concrete tower blocks. The location’s typology and climate dictate a strong windy condition, which can be heard in few of the recordings. The sound of human interaction is rarely heard due to a lack of greenery and parks, as well as other public spaces such as libraries, recreation centres, and playgrounds, which contribute to a low level of human interaction. Going for a walk, spending leisure time, dining out, and other activities that one would expect from a neighbourhood do not exist. Pardis Phase 11 is an isolated suburban housing development cut off from the rest of Tehran, enclosing life and privatising nature. As a result, the location has ghostly characteristics, which I intended to convey through the recordings. The sonic reality of this place is made up of heavy machinery interacting with the earth, constant movement around the construction materials, and going in and out of Pardis Phase 11.

Title: #Sound Diary 6

Location: Pardis Phase11, entrance to Pardis 2

Duration: 4:01 min

Audio channels: Mono

Time of recording: 15:30PM

Device: Zoom H2N

Sample rate: 48kHz

Pardis is being built on a 3,953,449m2 plot of land that will house 37,000 apartments and public infrastructure. Pardis is nearly 50 kilometres outside of Tehran and is part of the government’s social housing project called Maskan-e Mehr. This was a government plan to provide free land to developers in order for them to build affordable housing for first-time buyers (Messy Nessy Chic Blog). The project, which was signed by Iran’s Ministry of Road and Urbanisation during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government in 2009, has been described as the world’s largest social housing project. The word Pardis is Persian in origin and means ‘paradise’. The word paradise evolved gradually from various etymological roots. It came into English from the French paradis, derived from the Latin paradisus, which is derived from Greek parádeisos. This term derives from the Proto-Iranian paradaijah, ‘walled enclosure’ (Etymonline Website). By the fifth and sixth centuries, this word was known in Assyrian as pardesu, or ‘domain’. As a result, by the time of the first Persian Empire, the term had come to refer to walled gardens. The concept of paradise is frequently associated with religious contexts. Every religion views paradise as a promised land full of goodness and happiness. For instance, in Christianity, and specifically in the New Testament, it refers to ‘the Christian heaven, place where the souls of the righteous departed await resurrection' (Etymonline Website). In Islam, it also refers to Muslim Heaven, known as Jannat or Behesht in Persian, which is a place of extreme beauty and bliss where one can find prosperity, and life-after-death continues with exceptional happiness. There is only peace and prosperity in paradise. This ancient word in Iranian culture means garden, Firdaus, Behesht, and heavenly, and it should include water fountains, pools, and trees. It is quite ironic, then, to name a housing construction site paradise, as Pardis Phase 11 has done, despite the fact that it is in the middle of desolate desert-like land with no sign of a blade of green grass.

Image: An overview of Pardis Phase 11, east side, photo by Saeed Moosavi

Video recording from Highway 77 towards Pardis minicity in Tehran province. Entrance to Pardis Phase11.