Other than the hawker centers, shopping mall and various entertainment centers, it felt like Mass Rapid Transit or MRT was also a reality that couldn’t be separated from Singapore’s everyday life. The MRT train had connected various spots on the island, from the center, north to south, west to east. MRT had become the primary choice for transportation mode for the people of Singapore. According to data released by the SMRT (Singapore’s MRT management office) in 2018, everyday MRT served 3.3 million passengers from and to various destinations. A fantastic number!
During my stay in Singapore, I also recorded soundscape about MRT. Including sounds at the MRT stations, and several recordings during my trip in the MRT coach. The sounds of MRT are so unique. To the point that, if you stay for a week in Singapore, you will probably miss it when you get back home.
The sounds in an MRT station included the sound of announcement using a unique note because it was made through sound recording. It’s identical and repetitive. The announcements across all MRT stations in Singapore were in multiple languages, from English, Malay, Chinese, and Indian. This was a very interesting fact because it was also a representation of the multicultural backgrounds of the people of Singapore.
Other than the language factor, I would also like to point out about the speakers. I felt that the speaker system for the announcements in MRT stations in Singapore was excellent. The speakers quality were guaranteed and the volume intensity was just right, never too loud and all the information could still be heard clearly. At least I never complained about the speakers in an MRT station when I was in Singapore. Why do I have to go over this? Because in Indonesia for example, I often hurt my ears listening to the announcement at stations which I don’t know why are always set on the highest volume possible. Even though you can still hear the announcement clearly on moderate volume. Why damage your eardrums?
Next, in MRT stations there were sounds of passengers conversing while waiting and the sounds of escalators. Maybe these sounds weren’t so special because they were common sounds found in every underground train station. However compared to the sounds of stations in Vietnam or Thailand for instance, the sounds of MRT stations in Singapore felt more sterile. The main reason was because the track was separated from the waiting room by a glass insulator. The glass door would only open when the train stopped. The opening and closing of the glass door also had a particular sound, and was usually followed by signalling sound like tit-tit-tit-tit from the train when it was about to depart. These sounds were very repetitive.
Inside the MRT coach itself the sounds included the announcement of the next station which was broadcasted through the speakers that was installed on the coach’s wall. The intensity of the voice was also on point. Before the announcement, it usually began with an instrumental melody to the note do sol mi do sol which the sound color was very unique and modern. Then of course, the sound of the MRT going and stopping which felt so smooth, sterile, and calculated. Other sounds were the conversations between passengers. Even though this was not for certain. Because most of the passengers plugged their ears with headphones and stare to their own phone’s screen. It’s different in Indonesia for example, during a trip on a train, people could easily talk with strangers sitting next to them which then they get ‘to know’ during the trip (sometimes too friendly for me, so I feel bad when I get tired and don’t have the energy left to interact). In Singapore, I feel it was unlikely to happen other than because questions about information were practical, like routes and designated stations, etc. Then, during the rush hour, you could notice many footsteps sound in a rapid tempo at the MRT Station.