Saturday, 17 March 2018

Japanese soundscapes

When you come back from travelling, you will probably have some photos and films, some souvenirs and some local foods to help you relive those memories.

But sounds are often overlooked. Possibly because they're not as easy to capture as a visual image and possibly because, when you're constantly seeing and tasting new things, it doesn't occur to you to stop and listen.

The website goes some of the way to solve that. It hosts a large number of soundscapes that have been uploaded by people, which are then pinned to a map of the world so you can browse by location.

There are fascinating clips from everywhere and it's easy to lose hours just going from one place to the next, but I'll be concentrating on those from Japan.

There's quite a large selection, taking in all the usual images people have about Japan, from Akihabara and a Sega arcade to temples. Quite a lot of temples, actually. While I was interested to hear unique and location specific sounds, I found that the more everyday sounds, like the chimes of a train crossing, are the ones that make me feel nostalgic. I mean, the sound of a shamisen being played on a beach in Okinawa Prefecture is very nice, but I don't get the same personal connection that I do with the sounds of a city street.

Nevertheless, this website gives you a chance to explore new things as well as the familiar. There's an eight minute recording from a temple in Hamamatsu and, oddly, a lengthy excerpt of John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing” read aloud (in English) in Kyoto.

With the whole world to listen to there is, quite literally, something for everyone. I found that there’s a sound recording made at the end of the road where I live! An impressive collection.

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