Boomkat Product Review:
‘Panopticon Specularities’ is an ambitious and complex feat of avant-classical chamber architecting rooted in Turkish politics and cultural identity, effectively thawing the “frozen music” of the Hagia Sofia’s 1500 year old architecture. It is the bold debut proper by Berlin-based composer Turgut Erçetin for the ever-searching Edition RZ
Istanbul native, Turgut Erçetin (1983) studied composition and completed his doctorate studies at Stanford University. His work engages with sound as sonic entities that interact with time and space, with an inherent focus on acoustics and psychoacoustics. He uses computer-aided compositional processes to realise unique impositions of space and place that question notions of physicality and metaphysics: employing a highly technical approach to stage practically impossible soundscapes, bringing the meridian sounds of Istanbul - seagulls, ships horns, street noise, the muezzins’ call-to-prayer - and the uniquely purposed Byzantine architecture of the Hagia Sofia, once a venue for singing, then an Ottoman mosque, and now a museum where music is banned, via the CCRMA facility at Stanford, and into the performance space of a Berlin church.
Unable to actually use the Sofia Hagia for recording, Erçetin did the next best thing and modelled its architecture with a computer after gauging its space with sine waves and balloon pops. In the recordings they found the Hagia’s acoustics created specular reflections, localised echoes that highlight specific places, particularly int he 56-metre high dome, which gave the impression of sound descending from above, or from heaven itself. Applying this ancient crafty way of manipulating audience perceptions to the relatively modern idea of F-prisons, smaller cells introduced in Turkey in 2000, as a way of disrupting, segregating prisoners, stymieing their communications, he arrived at the belief that “one could be resilient and free form the solitude to which one is condemned inside and outside, as long as one can move.”
The four works in ‘Panopticon Specularities’ bring this idea of freedom of movement within space - and spaces within spaces - to light in remarkable ways that will have ears and eyes wandering across the whole soundsphere, bewildered and rapt. In effect he’s reverse engineering Goethe’s notion of architecture as “frozen music” by using the reaches of technology to “thaw” and make the building’s music liquid again. Directing four spatialized chamber ensembles in the same space, together with pre-recordings in anechoic chambers, to create a complex space of interaction between gendered voices, both human and instrumental, to wonderfully conflate the ideas of the Panopticon - an 18th century British prison design whereby all points are visible from the centre - and public squares where people of all social strata would see and be seen, establishing their identities and social status in the process, in turn revealing the power of freedom of movement.