Week 6: Soundscape (Victoria Rusu + Xinye Jiang)

The Soundscape:

The idea:

We tried to look at Shanghai from the perspective of a newcomer or someone who just came here and started exploring the city in its most raw form. We also thought that in order to get to certain places in Shanghai, transportation is a very important factor of this experience. We decided to focus on Shanghai subway, specifically line 2 on Century Avenue, and portray the atmosphere and the feel of the subway. We decided to look at it through the eyes of either a newcomer, or someone who has always lived in Shanghai, but never really decided to pay attention to what is happening at subway stations. either because they were rushing, or because they have been there frequently. Subways are the connecting spots of someone’s journey, they are an experience in itself, the experience of connecting with the culture, the people and the very specific pace of life in a big city like Shanghai.

The process:

We have visited the Shanghai line 2 subway at Century Avenue a few times during the week to collect different sounds and deepen our understanding of the sounds that surround us. We have noticed and captured a multitude of moments, that we tried to portray in our soundscape and emphasize on different sounds and encounters that we would have otherwise ignored in real life. There is a variation of sounds and conversations, footsteps, children talk, vending machines, and even subway advertising music that fills out the subway void every day. Our soundscape presents itself as a sound story, where you can feel yourself emerge into the subway setting, starting of the sound of a subway leaving and finding yourself in a relatively quieter environment where the conversations, sounds, footsteps turn out to be more obvious and complement each other. Through our short soundscape you can experience in a more rapid pace, the sounds of a subway station that would otherwise happen after certain intervals of time. We all have definitely heard most of the sounds portrayed in our soundscape, specifically while waiting for the train on Century Avenue line 2, but I believe most of us have never paid much attention to them, or we would be quick to forget them, even if they caught our attention. Our soundscape makes sure to offer an amplified experience of the Shanghai subway atmosphere, in its most natural and authentic way we could deliver.

Week 6 – Soundscape: “Dancing in Yuanshen” – Agnes Santiano

The Idea:

On my way home from campus, I was inspired by the sounds of Yuanshen Stadium (源深体育中心体育场) – basketballs hitting the metal fence and swooshing through the hoops, kids getting picked up by their grandparents, and every kind of plaza dancing music you could imagine. Being such a large space and including so many sports and activities, Yuanshen Stadium’s music was certainly a challenge to compress into a cohesive 3-minute sound file. At first, I grouped sounds from different activities in the stadium then planned to transition between each one with the sound of bike riding, like a soundscape of biking through the stadium. Yet, it was impossible to separate each activity cleanly from the others. The plaza dancing always included shouting children, and the exercise machines sounds bled into those of the plaza dancing. I asked myself, why should I separate the sounds if they do not naturally exist in isolation? After all, this is a soundscape. There should be overlap in sound. Listening to excerpts from Feld’s “Voices of the Rainforest,” I was inspired by his focus on activity and time for each piece. I decided to focus on the actions of one individual and include surrounding sounds that often occur around that time. No painting of scenery can encompass all aspects and feelings associated with the space. Likewise, my soundscape will capture a snapshot of some of the sounds of Yuanshen Stadium.

The Soundscape:

Yuanshen Stadium, 7pm. In an expansive tiled plaza, there is a grassy area with squeaky outdoor exercise machines with pulley mechanisms, rotating discs, and elliptical machines. The exercise area blends into the playground with swings and monkey bars. One energetic granny has propped up an iPad on a bench with dancing videos to follow along to. Friend and stranger alike join to learn or to help as she follows the choreography to different songs. In the background, children play and people exercise.

The Process:

As a first-time sound editor, I thought that the hardest part would be the editing, which in a way, it was, but that was only because I had not been brave enough with my recordings. I had been warned in class and in workshop to get good recordings by going up close to the subject, minding input levels, and using headphones. It’s certainly a skill to not only know how to use the equipment but also to know how to approach a subject without feeling shy or awkward. I learned exactly how important these tools were during sound editing while trying to reduce noise and maintain consistent volumes. Another difficult hurdle was that of choice. In editing and producing, everything is considered intentional and significant – the order, the layering, the volume. There are so many ways to combine and present all the different sounds I recorded, I hope that the choices I made present a lighthearted and energetic soundscape of but one slice of Yuanshen Stadium.

Week 6: Soundscape (Xinye Jiang & Victoria Rusu)

The soundscape:

Idea:

For this assignment, we thought of going to the subway station to record. But a lot of people might think that there is nothing special about the sound of a subway station, right? However, Victoria and I think the opposite. Since the subway station is so ordinary in our life, we will not pay attention to its sound and the sound around it, so we might often miss the noises of the subway station. We also think that the subway links all the sounds in Shanghai, such as the students who just come to Shanghai for study, the adults who come for a job, or the outsiders who have been in Shanghai for some time and the Shanghai natives. It also contains a rich collection of sounds you might not expect, such as the rush steps from people being late for work in the morning, the happiness talking sound of people going shopping with family or friends, and so on.

In our recording, we focus on line 2 at Century Avenue, because it is actually the line that connects to the Pudong Airport, so that we think it is a good indication and distinction of newcomers versus the people who already live in Shanghai for a while. You can also hear that from one of the times in our soundscape when there is one lady asking the security where is the exit to a certain place, which is a very obvious interpretation of newcomers. You might not feel the different atmosphere of it at different times, because we actually combine different sounds we recorded during different periods together to represent the sound of a subway station as a whole, however, you will be aware of some of the subway noises that you usually miss when you are in a rush or without paying attention to.

The process:

We went and recorded several times in different time periods, and we also captured some different sounds that are able to represent the sound of the subway station. For example, some conversations, children talking, footsteps, advertising sounds, the sound of the vending machine and in particular, the sound of the subway arriving at the station, its door opening/closing and the sound of driving away. We incorporated all of these sounds into our recordings. Although these sounds were recorded at different time periods, we have integrated them to prove that they are likely to happen at the same time. Our soundscape is also very much like the narrative of a story where a person hears these sounds from the time he gets to the subway station until he gets out of the station. So our soundscape doesn’t feel too distant, because everyone could be the one in it, and we hope everyone can learn about the noise in the subway station that we often ignore by listening to our soundscape.

Soundscape Project: New in Town

Instructors: Ann Chen & Leksa Lee | Student: Sabrina Goodman

New in Town: An Audible Introduction to 源竹小区

Background

I’m new in town. I moved to 源竹小区 (Yuanzhu Xiaoqu or “Origin of Bamboo Community”) in early September. Adjusting to my new environment has naturally been a drastic change from what I was used to back home in Los Angeles as well as here in Shanghai, as both my freshman and sophomore years were spent in the Jinqiao dorms. The community is mostly made up of the retired elderly who often take care of grandchildren during the week while parents are at work. There are some younger individuals and families here and there, but it is predominantly an older community. As far as I know, it has been around for at least two decades, and sits directly behind Lianhua as you walk towards Yuanshen Stadium. There are vacant chairs scattered here and there for ayis to sit and chat with one another in the afternoon. Mobikes and scooters are at the entrances of every building for tenants to use. There are cars lining the walkway but people hardly use them – they seem to be more of a decoration than a necessity. The soundscape reflects my observations as I walk to school and return home, and notice the acoustic environment of this community.

Process

I set out to record the sounds of this community in order to create a sense of place from my perspective – from the eyes of a novice ethnographer. I include a variety of short audio clips that represent the sounds I hear nearly every day, and some sounds I simply noticed as a result of becoming more aware of my environment since I’ve lived here. As I edited the piece, I decided to transition from one sound to another according to flow. For example, in the beginning of the piece, you may hear a car speeding up closer and closer to the microphone until it fades away and the sound of water drain echoes it out. I also decided to edit the piece to create somewhat of an arc as you might find in a story. Sounds are compiled one after another, at times becoming increasingly noisy and chaotic, until I open the door to my complex, walk up the stairs to my apartment, and open the door. Crickets chirp as the sound was recorded at 2am and the community is silent save for the ecological environment. This is meant to buildup the cacophony within this community and provide insight into the transition from sound to silence as morning turns to afternoon and afternoon turns to evening. Some of the audio is overlaid with other segments I took at different times of the day such as the conversational piece with a variety of voices speaking to one another, but for the most part it is simply segments of audio I pieced together and faded in and out. Recording the audio was a lengthy process, especially when considering what sounds best represent the environment and the community, but I think in the end this soundscape does a decent job of portraying 源竹小区.

Week 6: Soundscape: One Day in Zaozhuang Trade Market – Le(Gwyneth) Yin (Chen&Lee)

Location: Zaozhuang Trade Market(枣庄集贸市场)

A candid shot taken by my friend when I was recording the market at night.

In my last blog which is about the two samples I recorded for this Soundscape, I mentioned that this Trade Market was like a “familiar stranger” to me. However, after working on a sound recording project about it, I’ve become more familiar with it and in this project, I would like to show you one day in this Trade Market from my perspective.

This soundscape begins with the drones made by some insects, then drones made by the traffic. Putting these two drones together, I created a piece kind of like a “Sound Wave” (I’m really inspired by Agnes and Kristine’s presentation). This “Sound Wave” is aimed at showing the sound of silence before the Market opens for business. I also repeated this “Sound Wave” once for the first wave as the starting point and the second as a transition into the market sound.

As the market sound starts, you can hear the voice of cutting meat, baby crying, and then the voice of the fish tank (vendors use pipes which can supply oxygen into the fish tank. As oxygen goes into the water, it creates several bubbles and this water sound comes into being). By putting these sounds together I also created a “Sound Wave” and this wave appears as a transition several times in this soundscape.

After these three sound elements, you can hear people chatting in the market. I recorded this part when I noticed an old lady standing next to me was chatting with a vendor in Shanghainese, you can catch her voice as it’s the clearest human voice in this piece. This part is aimed at showing the morning in the market.

For the noon part, I used the cooking clip which I uploaded in my last blog. The vendor was frying something in the market and from the noisy recording, you can tell the market was really crowded at that time. This part shows that in this market, not only the physical distance between people but also the distance between people’s hearts, are reduced. Also, this market is really close to life– customers buy ingredients for their meals there and vendors cook their own meals there as well.

For the afternoon part, it’s quite similar to the morning part–people’s voice. As the water sound transits the soundscape into the evening sound, you can hear some kind of opera in the background (a vendor at the gate of the market wasn’t closed yet and he was watching CCTV 11, a TV channel for operas) while hearing the sporadic human voice. Finally, the traffic drone covers the market sound and transits to the insects’ drone–the ending echoes with the beginning.

I hope you’ll enjoy this soundscape!

Soundscape_Final

Initial Idea:

The initial thought was inspired by the concept of sound ’waves’ we discussed in class.  One of the places I am most familiar with in the vast city of Shanghai would be the Nanjing Road, although the East and West regions of the road combined are extensive so there is always something new to explore.  As it is a very popular location, at times it gets very crowded, while at others there’s no one in sight. Through my soundscape I wanted to represent the waves of activity the area endures. 

1st Visit:

During the first visit I manly focused on observing how different hours of the day influenced the ambiance. [8-11 am] people passing in a rush, opening of food courts, bicycles. The momentum is slow yet seemingly with a purpose. The start of the day. [10-12pm] the area is alive, crowded with people. More of the individuals seem to be enjoying the moment there, rather than rushing to get from one point to the next. – After I returned I’ve decided that the day I chose, which was a Friday, most definitely had an influence on the observations I noted down. 

Post-Visit Development:

Although it seemed as if I was hearing so much ambiance (since I focused on purely being there to listen, it seemed like I saw and hear 10 times more, almost as if I was in a new place for the first time), the recordings wouldn’t grasp such a wide scope of sounds that a human year was designed to hear. I knew that I had to narrow down my thought-flow. Maybe choosing just one street, or a corner by the Central market? But then I would be limiting myself from intricate sounds and might not be able to develop my ideas with the recorded material. I decided to improvise and make a plan for the following visit to be efficient. 

2nd Visit:

At this time I primarily knew what I wanted to capture, but now I was struggling in getting the sounds I so hoped for recorded properly. I will say I had to fabricate some of door slams myself, and have my friend drive by with his scooter a few times to get my vision expressed – but all was inspired by the initial visit to the area. During this time I had decided I will be producing a Soundscape of Waves, and was aware I will most definitely have to do a lot of layering to her the charisma of the city captured audibly, therefore I chose places with  sounds coming from all directions, I even stood in the middle of the road (safely) for maybe 10 minutes to capture the ‘drone’ sound of traffic well. I was sure I was getting so much useful material of people’s voices, but as it turns out it is not as clear when you play it back. I was lucky enough to have recorded the ‘silence’ of the morning the last time I went, which served as a base to build my track on top of. Although taking notes and being organised went a lot better in the beginning, I got the sounds I needed and was ready to try to express my vision.

My Vision – The Waves+Edditing:

The track is made up of 3 waves. Each more intense than the last and represents the 3 times of the day – the morning, the afternoon, and the night. I am basing this on weekends, as the area is much more lively. The subtle sounds of wind and road sweeping welcomes you, a layer of chirping was overlapped to symbolise the morning dawn. The first element of “opening doors” is heard (I achieved some of these by aggressively pushing the metal public telephone-booth buttons). As the “drone” of the city is increased in volume and people voices are lightly heard the first peak of a wave hits at 40 seconds. The a subtle 10 second drop, and the next wave starts to form. Voices, traffic, game machine sounds  are more distinctive, although still generally overlapped by the city humming. The second peak, at 1:30, is much louder and accompanied by a rolling garbage contained slam. The simmering down takes approximately 7 seconds and the last wave is starting to build. More of the door slams, general crowd hustle, scooters, and honking are head clearly as the buildup peaks at 2:25 with a zooming scooter sounds, and as it passes the wave also starts to settle down, allowing a 30 second window to start detaching the layers and leaving the audience with the same wind humming that welcomed them in.  

Evaluation:

I did manage to spend time in one of my favourite places of the city and do more in-depth observations, which is a big success for myself. In terms of sound recording, there were a lot of moments I was sure I was getting something magical while it did not turn out to sound the same at playback – I would say this mostly relates to the scope of the area. If I was to recreate a soundscape I would chose a more narrow, more site-specific, maybe even less crowded area. I wish I had more ‘exciting’ elements, but the waves I wanted to achieve are heard which was exciting also. Overall I believe I did not chose the best site, but the ability to layer so many recordings o top of one another helped in creating the ‘city ambiance’. I would go as far as to say this doesn’t quite represent Nanjing Road , but maybe more generally a busy city street? 

Week 6 – Soundscape (edited) – Sally Wang

Main Idea

My grandparents live in a small town in Suzhou called Qidu near Lake Tai. During the National Day holiday, I followed them to record their daily routine. My main idea is to find out what the elderly’s life is like in a small town in the Yangtze Delta region. During the holiday, we got up early in the morning, visited the construction site and the open market. After having lunch, we went to the mahjong place. In the evening, we went for a walk at the bank of Lake Tai. I find the mahjong place is really an interesting entry point. Playing Mahjong itself is a social behaviour, which is not only a kind of entertainment but also involves communication.

Soundscape

There are four parts in this soundscape.

First — Beginning — The sound of my grandpa’s battery powered motorcycle. We are on our way to the Mahjong place. You can hear the traffic in the street though not as much as in Shanghai. The dominant sound is the speeding-up sound of the motorcycle. It’s one of the happiest moments in the day because my grandpa can meet his mahjong friends! He parks his motorcycle and takes his keys in a hurry.

Second — Mahjong’s ready! — Mahjong tables are all automatic. The elderly don’t have to shuffle or roll the dice themselves. The sound of the dice separates each game clearly. The background sound is the shuffling sound given off by the table. We can also hear people talking in different Wu dialects, most of which are similar to Shanghainese. When grandpa gets a good hand, he cheers up like a kid. So do his friends : ) The sound of the coins is also outstanding. The clinking sound shows that one game is over and another starts.

Third — It’s time to go home! —  We hear the scraping of chairs as well as the coins. People are counting how much they earn or lose today. The slight droning sound of the lights has bothered me for the entire time but it seems alright for my grandparents and their friends.

Final — Ending — Motorcycle remixed with the shuffling sound. On our way home, my grandpa keeps talking to me about one of the games that he was almost there to win. But I think instead of putting his long speech in the soundscape, it would be better to remix the sound of shuffling because this sound reflects more directly that he is still thinking about that game. Also, it is so difficult to understand his dialect for most of you : )

Takeaways

To make a series of recordings about the elderly’s daily routine in my hometown is my original blueprint to do this soundscape. However, due to the limitation of time (both the time to record and the time to present the edited recording), I only select the sounds in the mahjong place. Here are some interesting observations and takeaways.

  1. Coins. The earning or loss of one game won’t exceed 10 kuai, which partly reflects that the elderly are abstemious and they play mahjong not to earn money but to engage with people. And the use of coins rather than paper money reflects another feature of the Yangtze Delta region. That is, it is usually so humid that paper money can easily be broken during daily transactions. It is why people in the southern part of China prefer coins while those in the north prefer notes.
  2. Mahjong place as a community. The sounds of that environment and people’s communications are mainly what I pay attention to during the process. I don’t know when the automatic mahjong tables have completely replaced the traditional ones. Apparently, elderly people are satisfied with this change because they don’t have to shuffle the cards by themselves and they can chat with each other more. My grandparents and their friends are very close in a way that they call each other in their nicknames. (For example, there is an old lady who’s over 80. They call her “big girl” (大姑娘)) The shuffling sound and the talking sound are like a duet. And they cover a wide range of topics, including housing prices, children’s marriages, trade war, and so on. It seems like there is also a kind of anxiety “inherited” from the younger generations in the mahjong place.

Soundscape : Entering a Kindergarten – Miki Bin & Shirley Zhao

Date:

October 12th, 2018

Time:

8:30 a.m.  –  5:00 p.m.

Location:

上海小风车广洋新景幼儿园

Team Member:

Miki Bin, Shirley Zhao

Project Description:

Entering a Kindergarten Classroom: the manifestation of the usually unseen “selves” and a tilted power relation

CONCEPTION:

Kids are pre-mature individuals in need of incessant protection, care, and tutelage. Their agency is only partially recognized, as we can see through such cases as where decisions are made for instead of by them. Their identity is being constructed in relation with adults around them. If we think of our society as a power hierarchy regarding age, kids are naturally put somewhere at the bottom. However, when we walk into and listen to a kindergarten classroom, which is relatively isolated from the general social environment with a disproportional age distribution, we discover something different. We discover the kids actively creating their own space, eagerly pronouncing their senses of self, and tilting the usual power relation between kids and adults. We interpret the kindergarten classroom as space where the kids are not “oppressed” by the more mature, freely developing their agency and becoming increasingly capable of claiming a place for themselves even outside the wall of the kindergarten.

Recording:

process documentation:

Shirley and I arrived at the kindergarten before school starts. We camouflaged our recording device like a bag decoration by hiding it in the school bag. This way, we just look like school teachers standing in front of the gate, and the parents won’t feel suspicious when we record the audio.

We followed one class, 苹果班(the apple class)for an entire day. Their days start the earliest. We recorded them doing morning exercises, having drawing class, watching TV, having meals, playing on the playground outdoors and their noon naps.

It is worth mentioning that our recording process is also our attempt to reflect on the ethnography methods. The kids only got used to us in the later part of the day. When we first showed up, the kids were surprised, curious, and kept touching our recording devices when we first mingle with them. Then it came to us that we should officially introduce us to the class, and tell them that we are going to spend the entire day with them and be their friends. Instead of recording standing in front of the class, we sat next to them during class on the small stools, and even sit on the floor behind them so that we wouldn’t be that noticeable. It turned out to be great, because the kids are used to our presence after some time, and they started their small talks as if we were air.

In terms of editing, we figured out some good ways to piece things up.

  1.  Always leave room for redundant sound.  When we first started the project, we cut the sounds exactly to the second we want them. However, later we realized that it is crucial to leave enough space before and after the desired audio so that we have room for fade in and fade out for a smooth transition.
  2. Fade in and Fade Out itself is Good Enough to Make Natural Transition. Since our project is more language and speech oriented, and speech is present almost throughout the piece, we did not use that much effect for interview sound treatment. We mostly used fade in and fade out to edit transitions, and smartly place audio pieces together with the right transition can create really good and natural effect, as if the entire piece is presented without extra editing (at least in my opinion…).
  3. A Storyline Is a Good Guide for Editing. Before we put our hands on the editing, Shirley and I brainstormed a story framework for our audio piece: what kind of message do we want to convey in this piece? What sounds can help convey the image? We write down the time in each labeled audio piece, and write down the framework on paper first, and then started editing. We find it a great guideline.

INTERPRETATION:

Beginning our soundscape is the sound of guardians walking their kids to the kindergarten. They go from the gate to the entrance of the building, where they accompany the kids to have their body temperature taken. We can, of course, hear the kids since it is them who attend the kindergarten, but we hear much more clearly the voices of adults. Conversations between parents and teachers stand out. They greet each other and tell the kids to also greet people, but we only hear some vague “morning (早上好 zhaoshanghao)” coming from the kids.

However, as the parents leave and the kids enter the classroom, different things start to manifest. A loud, clear “morning (早上好 zhaoshanghao)” from a boy breaks the quietness of the classroom. Then when the teacher starts to take attendance, they shout out “Here (Dao到)”. Each is an assertion of their individual presence. Then, we hear them singing together, confidently and loudly. Yet note that it is an activity organized by the teacher, and apparently following the teacher’s instructions hardly satisfies their desire to express themselves. What we also hear are free communications among the kids. They talk, play, and laugh. Such occasions are usually what the teacher tries to prevent, and we hear her trying to discipline the kids with loud and high pitched voices. Contrasting what usually happens outside a kindergarten, what we hear in the classroom is the ineffectiveness of the authority of an adult. Voices of and sounds made by the kids not only continue but also escalate. They mask the teacher’s vocal presence to take over the space.

But don’t take us wrong here. We don’t mean that kids show their agency by unreasonably making noises. Keep listening and you will hear when they are quiet, concentrating on their teacher reading storybooks. Yet please also note that this should not be read as the “victory” of an adult authority. Kids become unrested again when their teacher stops reading, and their protests, shouting “I want to listen (我要听 woyaoting),” intensify into another round of sonic chaos. The chaos is not an unwarranted rebel against the teacher but rather it is powered by the kids’ recognition of their own desire of listening to stories.

Our soundscape ends with a classroom returning to quietness after the kids go back home. It will remain quiet till they come back tomorrow, leaving us some time to reflect upon the many voices of and sounds by the kids during the day, especially how those have contrasted their belittled presence in the morning.

Week6_Soundscape_Entering a Kindergarten Classroom_Shirley Zhao (with Miki)

Entering a Kindergarten Classroom: the manifestation of the usually unseen “selves” and a tilted power relation

CONCEPTION:

Kids are pre-mature individuals in need of incessant protection, care, and tutelage. Their agency is only partially recognized, as we can see through such cases as where decisions are made for instead of by them. Their identity is being constructed in relation with adults around them. If we think of our society as a power hierarchy regarding age, kids are naturally put somewhere at the bottom. However, when we walk into and listen to a kindergarten classroom, which is relatively isolated from the general social environment with a disproportional age distribution, we discover something different. We discover the kids actively creating their own space, eagerly pronouncing their senses of self, and tilting the usual power relation between kids and adults. We interpret the kindergarten classroom as a space where the kids are not “oppressed” by the more mature, freely developing their agency and becoming increasingly capable of claiming a place for themselves even outside the wall of the kindergarten.

SOUNDSCAPE:

INTERPRETATION:

Beginning our soundscape is the sound of guardians walking their kids to the kindergarten. They go from the gate to the entrance of the building, where they accompany the kids to have their body temperature taken. We can, of course, hear the kids since it is them who attend the kindergarten, but we hear much more clearly the voices of adults. Conversations between parents and teachers stand out. They greet each other and tell the kids to also greet people, but we only hear some vague “morning (早上好zhaoshanghao)” coming from the kids.

However, as the parents leave and the kids enter the classroom, different things start to manifest. A loud, clear “morning (早上好zhaoshanghao)” from a boy breaks the quietness of the classroom. Then when the teacher starts to take attendance, they shout out “Here (Dao到)”. Each is an assertion of their individual presence. Then, we hear them singing together, confidently and loudly. Yet note that it is an activity organized by the teacher, and apparently following the teacher’s instructions hardly satisfies their desire to express themselves. What we also hear are free communications among the kids. They talk, play, and laugh. Such occasions are usually what the teacher tries to prevent, and we hear her trying to discipline the kids with loud and high pitched voices. Contrasting what usually happens outside a kindergarten, what we hear in the classroom is the ineffectiveness of the authority of an adult. Voices of and sounds made by the kids not only continue but also escalate. They mask the teacher’s vocal presence and take over the space.

But don’t take us wrong here. We don’t mean that kids show their agency by unreasonably making noises. Keep listening and you will hear when they are quiet, concentrating on their teacher reading storybooks. Yet please also note that this should not be read as the “victory” of an adult authority. Kids become unrested again when their teacher stops reading, and their protests, shouting “I want to listen (我要听woyaoting),” intensify into another round of sonic chaos. The chaos is not an unwarranted rebel against the teacher but rather it is powered by the kids’ recognition of their own desire of listening to stories.

Our soundscape ends with a classroom returning to quietness after the kids go back home. It will remain quiet till they come back tomorrow, leaving us some time to reflect upon the many voices of and sounds by the kids during the day, especially how those have contrasted their belittled presence in the morning.

RECORDING:

Partner: Miki

Date: Oct. 12, 2018

Location: Little Windmill Guangyang Xinjing Kindergarten 小风车广洋新景幼儿园

Device: TASCAM (Built-in Microphone)

Description: Miki and I arrived at the kindergarten at around 8:30 in the morning. We recorded at the gate and at the entrance of the main building. We were a bit late, so most of the kids have already settled with their class. Yet still, we managed to capture some typical sounds of the kids’ going to school such as saying goodbye to their parents and morning greetings. Shortly after we arrived all the kids gathered at the playground and did morning exercise with their teachers. We stood by the side of a class and recorded. The qualities of these recordings were not very ideal because we were constantly meeting, greeting, and thanking people who supported our work in their kindergarten. Then, we followed one particular class of kids at around the age of four and five to their classroom on the second floor. We recorded them washing themselves and having breakfast before they were gathered together to be taken attendance. Our presence was novel to the kids. They turned to stare at us curiously and seemed uncertain what to do when passing us. Realizing the abruptness of our presence, which was counter effective to the participatory observation we intended, we asked for the teacher’s permission to introduce ourselves to the kids and to have some natural conversations with them after they were gathered. It indeed largely reduced the awkwardness for them, yet some limitation still exited and I will address it later. We spent the whole day with this class. In the classroom, we spent most of our time sitting beside the kids and sometimes participating in their activities as they learnt drawing, singing, watching cartoons, etc. We also followed them when they moved across different sections of their classrooms and when they went for and came back from outdoor activities. In order to capture some dynamics between people and the space, we did not have our recorder “tied to” the kids. Instead, we stayed in the classroom as they rushed out to the play yard and we returned earlier to the classroom to wait for them to come back. This way we also captured the change and contrast of a sonic environment with and without the kids’ presence. Besides, we also took our time walking outside the classroom. We captured sounds such as teachers talking, lunch preparation, and the gate being closed. At around 4:30 pm, the kids were about to go home. We thanked them and said goodbye to each of them as they left the classroom. We stayed a little longer to record after all of them were gone, and left at around 5:00 pm with the teacher.

Reflection: It was a joyful and meaningful recording experience. Both the teachers and the kids were supportive in their own ways. We observed the kids’ behavior and their environment and collected a decent amount of acoustic data. Initially, we thought about doing something related to dialects. Guided by this idea but open to surprises, we paid relatively more attention to voices of and sounds made by the kids than those found in the environment. It turned out that we captured only very few non-mandarin sentences during the whole day, which were not enough for any further analysis and interpretation. Unexpectedly, the kids impressed us with their voices and sounds taking over the whole space. Intrigued by this, we shifted our focus of interpretation of the space to their expressions of self and a reversed relation between kids and adults.

In terms of methodology, spending a whole day in the classroom with self-introduction at the beginning no doubt contributed to effective participatory observation. In the morning, we could feel the kids becoming less and less nervous and uncertain and they no longer seemed to have any problem with us around in the afternoon. However, even though the kids quickly started to trust us and play with us, we were still very new to them, and this added some unusual stimulation to their routines. A lot of them were very interested in our recorder, especially the puffy sound buffer, and some of the kids would become particularly active when they saw us observing them (yet this does go with our argument that the kids are eager to insert their self in the classroom). Obviously, compared with other ethnographic works, the duration of our observation was quite limited. We could imagine ourselves being more “invisible” among the kids if we spent more time with them on a day-to-day basis. If possible, as we progress to the final project, we hope to spend more time with people during the preparation stage before the actual observation.

On the technical aspect, we had a problem editing some sounds like the sudden screaming of a kid. Then we realized that since there were two of us we could have recorded with two recorders simultaneously, one set at the normal level and the other adapted for capturing screaming.

Soundscape: Shanghai Bus – Jiannan(Nan) Shi (Chen&Lee)

Location: Shanghai Bus No.66, No.977, No.961

Time duration: 15:00 – 22:00 of a Day

Description:

I combined three audio pieces into a single one with the sound of getting on and getting off the bus as the transition, which created three major parts of my soundscape on Shanghai bus. I smoothed, blurred, and cut some parts in this audio to make it concise and sound as if I naturally recorded this piece on a single trip. When editing, I intended to restore the actual sonic environment on the bus without edit it too much. These three segments are intended to describe 1) the electronic system on a bus, 2) the “busy hours” of a bus as a period when a family can get sit and talk with each other, and 3) the “quiet hours” of a bus.

  1. The first segment which was recorded in the afternoon begins with the sound of bus arrival, transit card taping, the sound of a disordered electronic reporting system, and the sound of mobile TV on the bus which was playing a program called “Shared Shanghai [共享上海]”. The basic meaning of the broadcasted program talked upon the money worship ( – What can make you happy? – Money!). The disordered reporting system shows the fallacy of technology, and the murmuring from the passengers shows its influence on people. Shanghai bus broadcast the next destination and bus notification using Mandarin, Shanghainese, and English, but not all of the messages conveyed have English broadcasted. The trilingual broadcast is time-consuming, so when this system gets disordered it would turn itself to a situation where perhaps only one language is pronounced and it may confuse the passengers. On this bus, the destination is broadcasted over and over again in Mandarin whereas the bus number “66” is only in Shanghainese and no English sentence is broadcasted. When notification sounds, the volume of the TV program will automatically be turned down to draw your attention in the purpose of reducing the “synecdoche effect.”
  2. After a transition of the door opening and closing, the second segment begins with the conversations between passages including me and the conductor who is selling the ticket. It was recorded in the evening time after dinner which I call it as the “busy hour” of this bus, and the bus was getting crowded. On this bus, the manual pricing system is still adopting. The focus of this segment lies in the conversations happened on the bus. As a situation where playing with phones can lead to the sick symptom, sitting on a bus provides an opportunity for a family to talk with each member and practice its educational role to the kid in this family. In the beginning, a kid is screaming and his parents are talking in dialects, but as long as the father played a video with the content Three-Character Classic [《三字经》,Sanzi jing], the kid stopped screaming and started to recite these Confucian classics in Mandarin. With the guidance from his mother, the kid then started to learn Disciple Gauge [《弟子规》, Dizi Gui] which teaches the kid to show absolute loyalty and obedience to his parents.
  3. The third segment shows a comparative leisure time at night (around 22:00 pm) when there aren’t so many people on the bus and every couple on the bus are whispering in their languages, so it must be the quiet hour on this bus. But there are several of course, as you can hear from the tapping sound from the transit card reader. Even though compared to the daytime this bus is much less crowded, the quiet hour of this bus is not so “quiet.” The sound from the reporting system and the noise from the bus are getting articulated in such a time. Out of the same reason that the broadcaster uses three languages, the long and tedious sentences make a lot of “repetitions”. But the passengers can still get the information of when they should get off clearly from such a broadcasting system. This same reporting sound also appears in the second segment of this piece while you may not distinguish it clearly since the main focus is altered by the sound of that screaming kid.

The background of this soundscape in all segments works as the “drone” which can be distinguished into two components: the “wave” of speeding up and down and the constant existing noise of the bus motor.