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Listening to Tehran

October 24 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT

The Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Institute of Iranian Studies, University of Toronto


Listening to Tehran: Sonic Palimpsests and Affective Historical Imaginaries

Laudan Nooshin, City, University of London

Tuesday, 24 October 2023, 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time 

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In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi powerfully evokes the image of a sound preserved like a dried flower between the pages of a book. This is not just any sound, however, but the more-than-sounds of sirens, bombs and other sonic experiences during the missile strikes on Tehran in the later stages of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Nafisi’s account speaks both to the profound entanglement of sound, affect, and memory, and to the intense somatic materiality of sound experienced through the entire body. This paper will draw on current research on the sounds of Tehran to explore this entanglement and in particular the palimpsestic nature of historical soundspaces with their layered sonic archaeology. Where do such sounds go and might it be possible to discover their reverberations today, rather like the primordial cosmic aftereffects of the ‘big bang’? How do we understand sound’s materiality as it enters spaces, bodies, buildings—impacting, shaping and changing them? And what does it mean to listen to historical spaces where people have experienced violence and trauma due to war and other acts of aggression? I focus on two case studies: Tehran’s Qasr Museum, and Sayyareh, an app-based soundwalk through which the streets of Tehran are reimagined. In both cases, sound offers an important lens through which to explore how such spaces are remembered and memoralised, and their role in the national sonic and affective imaginary.



Laudan Nooshin is Professor of Music at City, University of London. Her research interests include urban sound studies, music and sound in Iranian cinema, music and youth culture in Iran, and creative processes in Iranian classical music. She is currently working on a Leverhulme-funded project on the sounds of Tehran. Laudan is co-Editor of the CUP series Elements in Music and the City, a Vice-President of the Royal Musical Association and Co-Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Music Studies Network.



October 24
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT