Posts tagged with capitalism

In December, 2011, I visited a protest outside of the Credit Suisse offices in Manhattan to make sound recordings. Below is the podcast that resulted. The event was staged against that day’s military contracting meeting, hosted by Credit Suisse, but connections to Occupy Wall Street were evident on many levels, from the organization of the protest to the perceptions of observers.

Image from

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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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One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World
by Gordon Hempton
Free Press, 2009
368 pps., $26 ($4.20 used on

Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear
by Steve Goodman
The MIT Press, 2009
240 pps., $35 ($25.20 on Amazon)

“As for cost-benefit analysis,” Gordon Hempton begins a climactic soliloquy to an audience of frowning Federal Aviation Administration agents, “we have three million visitors to Olympic Park each year. We’ve had two timber mills close. I have seen the poverty in the town of Port Angeles. I live there at the park. To be designated the world’s first quiet place and to develop quiet tourism in that area – let me tell you, I do a lot of traveling and it is so noisy. There is a tourist need for this quiet place. It would be a tremendous benefit.” [1]

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Few frustrations match the one that involves lying in bed, dead-eyed in the night, as the neighbor dog’s ten-billionth bark pierces the thin psychic veil between sanity and bloodlust.

People kill other people distressingly often over noise.

Plenty of evidence implies that the planet is noisier than at any other time in human history. What now?


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One of the buzz safety issues this holiday shopping season is toy volume.

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The annual Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) conference starts Wednesday; look for live updates here, and via the #sem09 tag on Twitter. This material will comprise the rest of the week’s posts. Expect some combination of panel reactions, SEM celebrity gossip, and sound snippets from around Mexico City. For today, please enjoy browsing a late draft of the paper I will be presenting at the conference on Thursday. Comments and discussion are most welcome.

Apologies, incidentally, for the lack of updates over the past six days. (I got hitched.)
Wedding! Wedding!

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What are the consequences of believing in the synchrony of representation and space? Usually not confusion. More often hucksterism.


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The city of Pattaya, Thailand, closish to Bangkok, hosts an annual laughing contest.

The winner of the 2008 contest, who laughed for more than 12 minutes and reached 110 decibels

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This (see “about artworks” or “Artwork #1” for background) was recorded about a year ago.

One day in downtown Bangkok, I crossed paths with a blind man using a lead pipe to echolocate his way down the street. The resonance of the hollow pipe is especially well-suited to producing sonic images that can reveal large objects at a distance – walls or buildings or sets of steps, say. This is a useful supplement to the cane as a means of feeling objects directly. As the man walked, a gym in the ground level of a shopping center played a trancy jingle through loudspeakers mounted outdoors. The gym is called California WOW Xperience, and they’re all over the city, enticing natives and visitors alike with kitschy, oily body-building imagery that nevertheless gets its point across.

Music in advertisements, rather obviously, recruits consumers. Songs plug into associations between identity and sensuality that we often don’t even realize we carry around. The California WOW Xperience ad declares in sensual terms (i.e., without needing to use words) that the gym is high-tech and modern. The accelerated tempos of trance suggest not only the pace of exercise but of the modern more broadly. The use of this ad thus creates and maintains a space that might “feel” “right” enough to passersby to entice them into laying down good Baht for a personal trainer or a yoga class or whatever.

Any useful acoustic analysis has to account not only for primary sound sources as they come into contact with materials, but also for reflections and noise. Sounds interact with one another in complicated ways that can confound engineers attempting to manage sound environments. This recording gestures to another source of confusion, one that lies beyond echo or interference – listening. The taps happen to be audible acts of listening that disrupt or at least mingle with the advertisement, which is what makes this work as a piece (I think). But it should also remind us that listening is a kind of work we do every time we encounter a sound, even if it seems to be second nature.

The ad and the taps are also, finally, kind of amusingly indifferent to each other. I like this a lot, because it rightly insinuates (to my ear) that human encounters are only fleetingly cooperative and never truly systematic.

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