The sound of a hutong

Directly from Beijing: Here is the sound of a hutong, an early Saturday evening in 2015.

Hutong is the name of the narrow streets found especially in Beijing. They are crowded with greens sellers, hairdressers, bicycle workshops, small restaurants and everything else you might need. People also live in the hutongs.

The hutongs are the old settlements of the city, and they are now threatened. A great number of them are demolished and replaced by modern buildings. However, some of them are preserved as protected areas by the authorities. These hutongs are also popular among the many tourists visiting Beijing.

The soundscape of a hutong is rather dense. People communicate and announce their bargains. Suddenly an electric bicycle appears from nowhere, recognized by its whining brakes only. This is not a quiet, ‘hi-fi’ soundscape. On the other hand I do not feel that there is a stressful or aggressive ambience here. Despite the many people and the density of sound, there is a relaxed atmosphere in the hutongs, I would say.

Here is the sound recording (works best with earphones):

Hutong sound 18 Apr (MP3, 1 min 15 sec, 1,2 MB)

Gjermund Kolltveit

Music archaeologist, ethnomusicologist, musician – Nesodden, Norway. Main research interests: sound and sound tools (e.g. jew’s harps, lyres, ringing stones, bells) in human culture and soundscapes.

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