Posts tagged with audiences

The fourth installment of the ongoing podcast series, Bangkok is Ringing, is up now at Triple Canopy.

Or listen to it right here:
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Give it enough time and attention, and anything will become musical.

The same sounds, repeated again and again, compel us to hear melodies and rhythms we usually ignore. Say the same word the same way fifteen times out loud – cookiecookicookiecookiecookiecookiecookicookiecookiecookiecookiecookicookiecookiecookie – and you’ll begin to hear it in new ways. It will seem both more and less familiar, more and less strange. You’ll notice pitch and texture irrespective of meaning.

A visit to the Bangkok Metropolitan Electricity Authority reminded me of this effect two weeks ago. You can usually pay your electric bill at the nearest 7-11, but if you’re delinquent like I was this month, you have to brave the buses on busy Rama IV Road and haul it over to the central office.

When I went, there were at least one hundred people chatting and killing time in the waiting room. I took a number. The process was so efficient that the automated voice was calling numbers in direct, almost uninterrupted succession for minutes at a time. I made this recording while waiting for my number:

For each announcement, the automated female voice began by saying Maai Laehk, which means “number.” Maai has a rising tone; you say it by starting from a low pitch and ending on a higher one. Laehk has a falling pitch; you start with a high pitch and end on a low one. Next, the voice announces the number, and since different Thai numbers have different tones, this introduces some variation. Then she says Deern Tawng, which means (roughly) “walk to.” Deern has a middle tone; you say it without any special inflection. Tawng has a falling tone. Finally, the voice announces the number of the desk that’s just opened up. Then back to the beginning.

The sameness/predictability of the announcement brings out the music in the automated voice, especially if you listen for it. In the middle of a tremendously boring situation, this kind of hearing can be a defense mechanism, a way of stepping away mentally for a moment.

Fashioning political analogies out of allusions to local religion, cycle and repetition have become a trope in recent reports from Bangkok. The reporters ask: is any of this really new? Is this place trapped in a cycle of suffering?

I’ll ask a different question: Are people hearing music here now? And answer it: yes, but music is not always beautiful.

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Wat Dhammakaya, just north of Bangkok, is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world. Built in 1970, it is the epicenter of Dhammakaya Buddhism, a large, rapidly growing, and at times controversial sect. Architecturally, Wat Dhammakaya is a palace for the age of mass media.


The UFO-like Chedi (inner memorial hall)

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Max Neuhaus: Times Square, Time Piece Beacon
Lynne Cooke, Karen Kelly, and Barbara Schröder, editors
Dia Art Foundation, 2009
140 pps., $35 ($21.75 on Abe Books)

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Speaking of film, as we have been, Melena Ryzik interviewed Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award-winning sound designer Alan Robert Murray yesterday.

The pursuit of authenticity apparently knows no bounds. Says Murray:

We went and recorded a lot in South Africa and tried to be accurate to the background. My recorder went to the shantytowns. We found circa 1990 phones that we believed would be in Mandela’s office. We went to Robben Island — the jail door you hear is actually Mandela’s cell door. We got to record in his cell, which is kind of eerie.

and …

In South Africa, we recruited 25 guys, professional players that they rounded up in Cape Town, and we had a professional rugby coach there. We got them together and we set them 25-30 yards apart and said, O.K., you guys run into each other as hard as you can. And I mean, it was just brutal what we got back.

Ryzik professes honestly that sound design is a mystery category, Academy-wise, that it’s “one of those categories that make people lose their Oscar pool.” Murray, like most people who deal with sound professionally, is obviously used to the association of invisibility with nonexistence that accounts for such a lack of awareness. (He starts the interview by saying “thanks for noticing. A lot of people just think the sound happens when they shoot the movie.”)

Coming up: a sound studies primer

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Precious, out for about a month now, was a tremendously complicated movie to attend. Audience members were divided on how to respond, vocally. How should people react to difficult art? Loudly or quietly? And if loudly, how? This problem took on an ethical dimension, and the sound of the theater became one of the key ways that viewers experienced the movie as a document of race and racial difference.

Amina Robinson

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This is a montage of crushing sadness and fleeting joy (the essence and the promise, respectively, of fandom.) Mostly joy, though, last night, because the Phillies won. I cheered silently for the concept of Manny Ramirez, and for Chan Ho Park’s fabulous new beard.

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Movie theater culture varies dramatically, but in most places audiences respond out loud in ways that are normative and even, in a sense, ethical. These modes of response are a very important part of how people are expected to relate to artwork. For instance, Film Forum has sustained, respectful silence with dashes of old-man snore, followed by a hearty concluding round of applause to recognize auteurship. The UA on Court Street has text-pages and outdoor voices. You might be interested to know that Jaipur, India has crying, whistling, and viewers generally wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

Although none of us knew a word of Hindi, the plot of “Rab Ne Bana De Jodi” (“God Made This Couple”) was pretty transparent. We were riveted for more than three hours (plus an intermission) by a twisting love story in which two of India’s most glamorous models played an ordinary working couple struggling through an arranged marriage. In a device I found Shakespearian, especially for its implausibility, the male lead did double-duty as a working schmo and a hubristic fop, changing only his shirt, glasses, and mustache in the transformation.

You get the idea from the trailer:

Anyway, the crowd in the gigantic one-screen theater with the ice cream paint job treated the movie like an event from the opening shot. Particularly in the first and the last half-hour, every scene was accompanied by shouts of delight and expressions of concern. By the end, the crowd was worked up, and the babies were at their crankiest. As the protagonists (fop now revealed as schmo) were named the winners of the climactic dance contest, and the central motif began playing for the last time (1:45), there was a grand finale of appreciative clapping and whistling.

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