The recording you are listening now is the recording of the atmosphere near my hotel at night near Đường Trần Hưng Đạo street, Saigon. It’s famous as a backpackers district. When I first got here on 24th February the atmosphere near my hotel was not very crowded (like how I explained regarding the Banh Mi vendor). 50 meters from where I was staying, I only saw bars and cafes along the roads that were active in the morning. The scenery of serenity sits on the side of the road, street lights, clean tables, and empty roads that indicate a world that is not yet active.
The night I walked out of the alley in search of food, was greeted with an entirely different atmosphere. Honestly, I was already able to hear the hectic atmosphere from my hotel. Along the road, there were bar stools filled by mostly young adults. These chairs even went as far as to fill the road, and didn’t give space for vehicles making it hard for the vehicles to pass by. Motorcycles parked along the side of the road. The tables were full of beers, drinks, and food, and not to mention the music coming from the cafes that are played at the highest volume possible. The cafes and bars did not have closed walls, even though they were all next to each other making the music from different cafes to merge. It felt as if every sound competes and collides with each other in this relatively small area. It astonishes me how people here are able to stay here for hours in this condition, even though you need to use much energy just to talk to each other in this hectic environment. I was even able to feel the vibration of the music. I only lasted for five minutes as I was walking through the boisterous street. It very much drained my energy to be hit by overwhelming sonic waves from every direction. Perhaps, people have different tolerance level towards sound (could that be true?). I did not put the recordings input level above 14% (this is a very low input level), because if I were to use a higher input level then the sound would exceed the limit. Amazing is it not? The intensity of sonic waves in that area.
I came to remember my experience with Sekaten at Yogyakarta square, especially the in last decade. Every amusement ride gets highlighted with sound systems. Loud sounds are somehow associated with festivals. For example, when we ride “ombak banyu” or “kora-kora”, the excitement gets escalated by the beat of music. I still remember when I was a child, around 20 years ago, Sekaten was not as hectic as it is today, except near the stage and tong stalls. I feel that the Sekaten of today is more of a competition of amplifiers, where each amusement ride would play a very loud music so that people will hear them. Due to that, the sound would accumulate into a higher level of noise. Ironically, the beautiful sound of gamelan sekati, which is part of the ritual in Pagongan Lor and Pagongan Kidul, has to compete with the sounds of amusement rides that are more than 100 meters apart from where the ritual takes place. In the past, this giant gamelan was built so that the sound can be heard from far away as part of the Maulid tradition.
I don’t mean to be ignorant, but I feel that we have to re-evaluate how we use the technology around us, in this case speakers. Don’t let the advancement of technology makes us aloof to the fact that our body have limitations, especially our ears that cannot be exposed to a constant high sonic waves.