Kate didn't go with me so this was the first time I was traveling in China completely by myself. Doesn't sound like much but if anything doesn't go quite to plan, the lack of language skills proves to be a wee bit scary. Shanghai and Suzhou are really close in the grad scheme of things. Only about 1.5 hours apart by car if the traffic is decent. However, without a car, public transportation is the name of the game. You have to take the following to get to where I was going:
1. about an hour on a bus to get up to the high speed train station = 1RMB (about $0.16)
2. 30 minute high speed train ride to shanghai hongqiao station = 39.5RMB (about $6.50)
3. an hour on the subway to get across town to the convention center = 6RMB (about $1)
4. 10 minute walk to the convention center
5. Do it all in reverse to go home.
Grand total for travel to and from one of the biggest cities in the world = 93RMB or $15
BUT - its 3 hours. You have a lot of sitting time. I've been using these moments more and more as pockets of creative time during the day. As long as you can keep your face out of your phone, this is the perfect time for mental creativity. You are killing time. There is nothing you are supposed to be doing and there also isn't much you realistically can do. It is fertile. As much as you need time to do the work of composition or "administrative time," you need these down times just as much. And more and more I'm trying not to combine them. Anyway...
So if I'm not using the time for creativity, I'm listening to the world around me (as much as possible I'm trying to keep my face out of my phone - since everyone else is doing that, you can do a lot more people watching and go unnoticed). So I'm going to start sharing my travels with sound. These are all taken on my iPhone so the quality isn't great. But you get the point.
1. The Bus.
The other night, Kate and I were reading an expat blog post about the sounds in china that will annoy expats more than anything. Things we are not used to hearing in our own culture. One of them was spitting. The thinking is that it is better to spit it out than keep it in there. But, some people take this to an extreme. And the constant clearing of one's throat or "horking" as Kate and I call it can be really disgusting. My bus ride consisted of a man sitting in front of me horking every 2 minutes, turning to the side and spitting it into the bus garbage can. This pretty much nixed any chance of my bus ride being used for creative thought. Enjoy.
Since I was getting on pretty much at the start of the particular subway line, I was actually able to get a seat before it got wicked crowded. The Shanghai subway system is much louder than Suzhou's. Also, the announcements come first in Chinese from a female voice and then from some very prim and proper man with a British accent. More accurately, I think it is a Chinese man who is really working on the British accent. You can kind of hear it if you listen closely.
An hour on the subway is a really long time. But, I thought the people watching was more poetic when listening to music. I chose Trent Reznor's score to The Social Network. I thought it worked.
So if you've ever been to a big music expo, it is a bunch of booths of people trying to get you to buy whatever their product is. They also have tons of instruments they are trying to move. And anyone can sit down and play them. This is usually a terrible idea because people who have no business being behind a drumset sit down and start beating the shit out of the drums. The only difference here is that no one is regulating the dB level like at a PASIC or some other convention. And if you are a kid sitting at a drum set - holy shit everyone loses their minds over you, gets their smart phones out, and start taking pictures and video.
Why? Who knows. All the kids I heard were awful - even for kids. Yes. They can make noise and hit the hi-hat really hard in a quasi 8th note rhythm while their feet and other hand have a battle for who can be more awkward. But not much else. Could I do any better - maybe not. But, I'm not sitting down at an expo. It is the prime place to hear the best MUSICAL MASTURBATION behind the guise of "testing out" the instruments. Well friend, I'm standing right next to you and I can't tell the difference between a great . Its too loud. And you are part of the problem.
A lot of the noise is coming from the reps doing 20 minute sets at their small stages to show off their productive. Not a bad idea until you get 4 going at once at adjacent booths. Drummer playing at max volume next to washed-up 80's hair metal guitarist playing a blues riff and his amp is feeding back next to a DJ dropping some dope beats from a 'lil John song. Even Ives would think the sonic texture of the room is a bit much.
Side note: I've never seen this done at PASIC but I saw at least 4-5 booths who were employing really smoking hot girls to stand around in next to nothing and makes nerds feel like perverts when they were sneaking looks at these girls. I really wanted to walk up to one and ask them to explain to me the finer points of their product. Or maybe if they could display some different musical styles on the instrument. But, I kind of felt like a pervert.