2-2-2016 BLOG: LISTENING TO CHINA 1986 and 2015
Listening live to China’s globalization, to its fastest and most extensive urban development ever with an interval of 29 years was an overwhelming experience. Right now I have available 2 sound files of daily life in urban China from two different periods – one of my visit to Communist China in 1986, when western sound had just started to resound, and the other of cosmopolitan China citycentres in 2015.
It had been made possible by 65 donors; as a result of a successful Crowdfunding project at the Platform ‘Voordekunst’. I had been given a blank cheque to do ‘Urban Sound’ research in order to be able to let arise something new, with the element of surprise not knowing what it might be.
In those 6 weeks I went back to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Guilin, Kunming and Chengdu and made a daytrip to Shenzhen, a mostly new built millions-city.
I tried to find locations and places from 1986 and looked up the new hotspots of today. Under many fly-overs I hung out, I recreated together with the newest forms of mass tourism strolling along in China’s largest shopping malls. I travelled on High Speed trains, wandered through demolished areas, sat on a banch in a park or just followed my ears and saw where I ended up.
With my mics in my ears and/ or my earbox in my hand I listened to the environment, ready to start recording. From the moment I pushed the start button I had to decide hów I should record the uncontrollable sound environment ‘binaurally’ that is to say ‘as a space’. Every movement of my head would have an effect on my mics, on how the future listener would experience this 3d space. So what did I want to evoke? How did I want to approach the imagination of the listener with these interpretations of reality?:
Do I speed up my pace or do I walk slowly?
Am I turning around or do I stand still and hold on?
Do I stay behind a group of voices or do I pass them to walk in front of them?
How fár do I open the window in order to record the 21th century citynoise entering the room?
Do I stand near the window or more backwards in the room? Shall I direct one of my ears (mics included) towards the window or both ears?
Do I record the motorised traffic beside me, in front of me, or do I turn my head slowly while timing?
Where do I position myself in the dog meadow? Beside the commanding voice of the boss or in the neighbourhood of the snarling dog?
Do I stand at the back of the row of ordering clients in Mc Donalds or am I going to sit down in between the eaters?
Do I stay right under the announcement of a public address system or should I walk away? And how long will I move on, while making a natural fade out of the announcing voice…
Many choreographies I have made in space.
On October the 26th 2015 I landed at Schiphol after 6 weeks long having listened to and capturing China in 3D. 9 Hours later I was biking through the Amsterdam Nieuwmarkt neighbourhood to the gym. I was stunned. Dull, empty and unambiguously sounded the neighbourhood through which I am biking year after year and enjoying at times the small scale sound environment.
It took me weeks before that sentiment of dullness had been ebbed and the Nieuwmarkt sounded ‘normal’ again, and in those same weeks I started to take distance of, and to appreciate my sound recordings which on my headphones in China had sounded so threateningly insignificant.
Still until now I miss being surrounded by those Chinese voices in the streets, although I found myself in one of the noisiest nations in the world. These thoughts are still on my mind, an incongruous experience.
The research trip of Time Lapse China is over. Right now I have captured two important moments of China’s recent history in 3D sound. Thanks to my donors I have been able to listen, intensely listen to urban China anno 2015….. listening as a tool to penetrate this country. It has infuenced the way I experience an environment: ‘Listening’ as the essential source of inspiration for my work. The fantasy will be adressed by what the sound itself has to tell. I will keep you updated.
PS this is my chipband, which is the prove that I inhered my promise to my crowdfunders by way of swimming in the soundspace of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu, the world largest building.