New for Old

A common response to my work is people’s realisation that many of the sounds that they are fond of are in fact dying out. When people think about it they realise that their favourite sounds, for example, because of their musicality or of childhood memories, already have their alternatives and are becoming scarce. It’s not so much then that sounds are disappearing without trace but that they are being replaced.

Over the last few weeks Chongqing has provided many visual metaphors for this phenomenon as the city is undergoing a rapid change programme in preparation for October’s ‘Asian Pacific Cities Summit’. In just one day last week all the street-name signs were replaced by newer bilingual versions, and then within hours the old signs were collected, probably never to be seen again.
One of my favourite hawkers in the city is the recycler. With the aid of a megaphone he wanders the streets calling out for old televisions, computers, air conditioners and loudspeakers; some also collect plastic bottles and cardboard. I feel an affinity with this trade as in a way I see myself as a recycler of sounds: I go out with my recording gear, collect, and then recycIe them into installation form. As a result I have thought about seeing what would happen if I too went out with a looping megaphone requesting people to bring me their old sounds….

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