Summer Trip 2011- Part 2
Hong Kong is a place of stunning water and islands, where the old and new coexist. The skyscrapers, a veritable crowd of high-rise giants lean together with their toes at the waters edge. Sounds ricochet out between them, like an amplifier, especially when the fireworks show is happening. Here are snap shots and sound bites from the second part of our three-part trip to Asia.
I was interested to find an interview with Yang Yeung, a Sound Artist, resident of Hong Kong and director ‘Sound Pocket’, describing the way sounds are perceived from high up the buildings, ‘I remember going up to a 20-storey factory building with some friends in Aberdeen, south of Hong Kong Island. It used to be a fishing village and now a vantage point for getting boats to outlying islands. We stood on the rooftop one sunset and the birds were playing around. The traffic noise from below was audible, but not disturbing. It’s like it is suspended on the 18th floor or something, forming a “cloud,” hanging.’
30 stories up, the ground seemed like another world away, and quite quiet. The sky seems to move and the buildings actually do sway about especially in a high wind and especially typhoons that are quite common. My brother, who lives with his family in Hong Kong, described the improvements done to the design of the foundations of the high buildings so that the surplus rain does not damage their stability. Even now, during the typhoon storms , the movement from the tower blocks’ is quite dramatic, especially the higher up you are. To warn you of an impending typhoon, and especially the boats in the harbour, a signal is sent out. Historically it would have been a gun or explosive so ships would and still do take cover by the shore, although now it is broadcast over TV and radio.
Commenting on sounds representing Hong Kong nowadays, Yang Yeung says in an interview with Pandie Ho ‘I wouldn’t say it is representative, but the “doot” of Octopus cards dominates the everyday soundscape. But I miss the sounds of the coins going through the slots on public vehicles.
I didn’t get a recording of the Octopus cards, (equivalent of our Oyster card) but did get the omnipresent pedestrian crossing beeps.
In a side street – Qingming or Ancestors day – observed here by office workers in their lunch hour by burning money to be carried in the smoke, up to their ancestors.
Still working daily down on the water, the Star Ferry takes passengers from the main land Kowloon, to Hong Kong Island for a mere couple of Hong Kong dollars. The Star Ferry Company, dating back to 1888, still has its 1933 diesel electric engines. The top deck is still the first class and the bottom second class, and climbing on especially the lower deck you hear the lovely diesel engine and smell of oily fumes, and the vibration goes through your bones.