We may celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. with firecrackers, but July 4 aside, for many the popular combustibles summon up images of China, where they are thought to have been invented.
And yet for all China’s association with firecrackers, the country is anything but laissez-faire about them. There were bans around the time of the recent Olympics held there. And by some reports, there appears to have been a long-running ban, from 1994 to 2006, in areas of Beijing, and elsewhere.
Robin Dumont captured sounds of firecrackers being launched in 2006, when that ban was relaxed, and posted two and a half minutes of them archive.org (MP3, MP3)
For soundcrafters looking for some seasonal audio experimentation, they make good source material. For the rest of us, the recordings provide a consideration along the lines of the phonography koan, “If a tree falls in a different forest, does it sound different?” How are these recordings Chinese — is the layering of sounds, the sheer density of simultaneity a sign of populism beyond that of most casual municipal fireworks? Is there something in the range of noises (pops, crackles, explosions, whistles, roars — not to mention some car alarms) that speak of China-specific materials, experience, or culture?
Original files at archive.org, including higher-resolution VBR and Ogg Vorbis recordings. Dumont has a lot of great Chinese audio available, including sounds from a Chinese McDonald’s and the Beijing Metro: archive.org. (Photo of firecrackers exploding at five frames per second shot and compiled by Wesley Oostvogels, flickr.com. It was taken at a Chinese New Year celebration in Antwerp, Belgium.)
2 thoughts on “Chinese Red Glare & Blare (MP3s)”
this is a very interesting topic. Indeed it would be interesting to see if anybody who has been to china (which I haven’t) is able to find any china-related elements in the recording. So far, I would say they sound like firecrackers here where I live, just with less mountains around… which is already giving some geographical connotation to the sound.
Yeah, there may be local sounds I don’t recognize — maybe those cars sounds are very region-specific? I hear hints of voices, which if you know the language may be more self-evident.
Growing up on Long Island, not far from New York City, I am used to thickly hazy July 4ths, and the way the fireworks are seen often through summer humidity, less visual displays, and more coloring agents in the clouds. There’s a certain dissociation of sound and image that goes along with that reality.