Budhaditya Chattopadhyay – The Auditory Setting, Environmental Sounds in Film and Media Arts


Edinburgh University Press, ISBN-13: 978-1474474382, English, 212 pages, 2021, UK

Environmental sounds are a key element in understanding our current perception of space. They help our senses to locate our bodies and are used in immersive sound technologies. Chattopadhyay, author of The Nomadic Listener, has studied environmental sounds in depth on theoretical, artistic and processual levels. This book develops a range of listening perspectives and localisations, from the fictional reconstruction of sound in films to sounds gathered in field recordings. The state of consciousness evoked by these environments, the ‘ambience’, is discussed in the second chapter with the shift from diegetic to mimetic quality of sounds through the transition from analogue to digital, from early optical recordings with monaural mixing to magnetic recording with stereophonic mixing to digital recording with surround design. The third chapter deals with the analysis of nine abstract ‘places’ as they are represented in film sequences and sound artworks. According to the author, we should suspend epistemology and not try to make sense of the sounds in a place, but just focus on “being in that place’ in a very psychogeographical and phenomenological way. Since sound precedes the visual in our understanding, Chattopadhyay’s critical listening is not only methodologically strategic but also perceptually revealing.