Posts tagged with politics

The sixth and final installment of my podcast series “Bangkok is Ringing” is online now at Triple Canopy. Or, listen to it right here.

This last episode takes us through some of the distinct sonic spaces of the 2010-2011 Red Shirt protests. The diversity of these spaces tells us something important about the movement, namely that it’s heterogeneous. The language of protest movements is often compressed by the media until it fits a single index of complaint – unequal rights, no jobs, censorship – and the Red Shirt movement was no exception. But protests are rarely that simple. People have all kinds of motivations for turning to dissent, and protesters often disagree with each other. Such (very normal) internal difference (see: Wall Street, Occupy) is taken by some as a signal that movements are disorganized, or at the extreme even pointless.

We might have to work a little harder to find patterns, but there are always patterns. History, anyway, will sort things out one way or another. But we can understand a lot in our own time. In the case of the Red Shirt protests, they raged with noise always, and that noise (music, speeches, conversation, etc.) was rich in meaning. The question is, what did we hear?

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The third 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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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 Abebooks.com)

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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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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This recording sounds absurd, abstract, and probably doctored. In truth, it is only the first of these three.

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Voice is integral to many acts of protest.

Why? First, voice, in the low-tech sense, is a readily available public alert system. If one is unable to appear on broadcast media, or to start a blog or distribute printed material for fear of political reprisal, one can usually still walk out into the street and scream.

Second, the use of the voice has acute affective power for listeners. It carries not only explicit meaning but also a great deal of emotional content. If listeners feel the depth of a speaker’s resolve, they may be moved by it.

Third, the use of the voice in unison, as with singing or chanting, produces a sense of political singularity that can serve to inspire fellow protesters, and to recruit others.
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