Azadeh Nichiani – Commutators and urban sonic spaces [EN]

The notion of commutators – as introduced by Paul Claval (1999) in the field of urban geography – outlines
the contours of social interactions in the context of the city. The commutator plays a crucial role in the
organizational vision of urban space in that, it ensures connections and provide the possibility of crossing
territories. The interconnections of beings within the shared urban environment come partially from their
ability to move and cross places. The urban commutators enable “multiple connection structures”, to quote
Abraham Moles. But most urban commutators of our time such as train stations and airports have their own
conditions and limits.

Airports and train stations as urban commutators are in charge of connecting spaces much larger than their
territorial expanses and beyond their geographic location. The sonic dimension of these places has been the
subject of much reflection and site specific sound pieces. The famous jingle by Bernard Parmegiani (1969) for
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, lasting just 3 seconds, describes the commutator status of this airport. The
sound installation Study for Strings, by Susan Philipsz as part of Documenta 13 (2012), was located in Kassel
Hauptbahnhof as an urban commutator. Philipsz’s piece alludes both to the memory of the place as well as
the human beings crossing this central station, which provided mission-critical connections in rail transport
during the Second World War.

This paper sets out to analyze the role of urban commutators in their sonic dimensions by focusing on site
specific sound creations.

Azadeh Nilchiani is an artist and a Ph.D. fellow in laboratory LISAA at the Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée.
Her artwork is based on interdisciplinary connections between the visual mediums, sound and space,
specifically by installation and video art.
She holds a Diploma in sculpture, University of Tehran, Faculty of Fine Arts (2003) then in Space-Art from the
Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Decoratifs of Paris (2007), Diploma in Sound Art and Electroacoustic
Composition from the Pantin National School of Music (2009) and Masters degree in Art, Music, and Media at
the University Paris-Est (2010). She has been a research associate at Bibliothèque nationale de France on
archives of Institut international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (IMEB) 2016-2019. She is a
Temporary research and teaching assistants (ATER) at The University of Lille, in music and musicology since
October 2019.

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