Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sounds Overheard: Smog, Muzak & Crickets

The 13 story tall Iron Pagoda of the Buddhist Youguo Temple dating from 1049 pierces the smoggy sky last September in Keifeng, Henan Province, China. 

Ambient sounds recorded in Iron Pagoda Park range from tranquil to chaotic: 0:00 gabbing tourists, 0:14 background music on loud speakers, 0:31 parakeets for sale,  0:46 children's train ride, 1:23 cooing while feeding pigeons, 1:40 grand children & grannies, 1:48 crickets compete with music in quiet corner. Direct link for iPhones & iPads or if receiving post via email.

One of the surprises of traveling off the beaten tourist track in China is finding authentic photographs and sounds in not so glamorous places, so as dawn broke over Keifeng in China’s Henan Province, I was excited to get going.

This being my eighth trip to China, I knew from experience that Sunday morning last September that I could stumble onto interesting people doing interesting things in colorful ways.

Once in Yunnan I left a history museum tour and discovered a bride and groom in full wedding regalia strolling through the park. A random turn off the highway led to Buddhist monks in Qinghai inviting me into their yak hair tent to listen to eight-foot-long horns. In Inner Mongolia I sipped warm horse milk inside a yurt and met Westernized tweens texting in bunny slippers. All these chance encounters made terrific memories.

Early morning exercises follow well worn track around trees in park surrounding the Iron Pagoda in Kaifeng, city of five million on the banks of the Yellow River.

This morning as the sun rose it feebly punched through the thick gray smog. Buildings across a four lane street were obscured, and it was hot and humid too. Ugh, I thought as I optimistically entered the park surrounding a temple. There had to be a picture here in spite of the horrible light. There had to be sounds of everyday life here somewhere.

Yes and yes, within minutes I found both,  photographs and ambient sounds depicting off the beaten path China. Maybe not as colorful or glamorous as my other Chinese experiences, but authentic enough for another terrific memory.

During my assignments and travels I've been recording the sounds I overhear, and many don't have supporting photographs or stories. This occasional series will be my excuse to share my audio orphans, these Sounds Overheard.

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