This recording was the recording of the night life of a shopping center in Vivo City and as well as Bugis Junction. Actually, you might feel like there’s nothing special from these recording because it’s way too common. However in this research I would still like to portrait one reality of modern Singapore which was the existence of shopping centers.
To many people, Singapore is identic with ‘shopping’ and in actuality this entity has been its’ DNA since Raffles ‘established’ Singapore in 1819 as a free trade port. Since then we could associate commodity, economy, trading activities as an inseparable part of Singapore. However, if we look back to the many historical journals especially from tourists and researchers who visited the country, the form of trading practices here always transform. The same could be said the characteristic of its’ soundscape. For example, the area around Singapore River was always congested, full of the hustle and bustle of trade ships from many nations. Since Lee Kuan Yew era, this district had become ‘sterile’. Or back to the time when Chinese shopping complex grew rapidly after mid 19th century. Then, the latest examples would, again, be the theme of this recording, shopping mall in Singapore. Briefly quoting data from www.sgmagazine.com, we could see the historical journey of this country’s shopping mall. In 1958 for example, Tang Plaza was opened on Orchard Road and became the first shopping mall before this street had become the center of shopping mall with all its glamour as we know them today. Then there was the Katong Shopping Center on Mountbatten Street which was the first shopping center in the country to Air Conditioner installed. Truly intriguing data.
Back to the matter of sound. During this research, the sounds at shopping malls also caught my attention. So what was there to identify? First of course was that shopping malls were identic with the crowd atmosphere of people walking around and shopping. Then the sound of escalators (remember, escalators was also a modern technology closely associated with shopping malls). There were also music played from all the shops in the mall. Furthermore, there were sounds from the game center.
Once again, these sounds might already be very familiar to us and some might say to me: “Why record it, this is normal, in other words there is nothing special about it right?”. One one side the character of this soundscape was so different from traditional markets and shops on the street. Next, if you think about it further, the sounds at a shopping mall are also the cultural narration of the modern civilization and urban culture. Not only in Singapore, their existence have closely associated with big cities in South East Asia: Bangkok, Jakarta, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur. More evidently in Singapore, the shopping mall culture felt more alive. Take for an example: If we ride an MRT, from the underground station it’s not rare that we will be lead straight to a shopping mall.
The shopping mall culture is so close to us, that when we take a step back, we can feel that the reality is so much different that in rural areas in South East Asia. The soundscape character of course would also be different.