‘Unexpected item in the bagging area’

While strolling down the Peckham Road earlier this week with a few students on my course, an ambulance with a screaming siren screeched past us interrupting our conversation. As a result, a conversation ensued about how loud emergency service sirens have become in recent years. Why is that? A thought occurred. Well, it is possible that as we now live in a ‘wired’ society, wearing headphones/ earphones and being preoccupied with our devices have blunted our street awareness and our peripheral vision. Just a thought. Anyway, back to sounds in the suburbs. We continued talking about annoying, familiar sounds you hear in shops especially supermarkets. The repetitive voices from the self-service check-out machines have seemed to replace background music. And for those of you that love a bit of trivia, a former well-known actor from the British TV soap Eastenders is one of the voices used on the self-service check-out. Check it out (excuse the pun).

Earlier Last year I made sound study while walking through a shop in Tokyo. The shop in question, Village Vanguard is regarded as Tokyo kitsch. The products are usually a mix of low-brow style with mass-produced art or design using popular Japanese or Western icons. The products can be quite pricey yet very popular among Japanese and foreigners. As I’m interested in retro industrial design, it’s a great place to kill time for a few hours. I’ve always been intrigued by the assortment of sounds that can be heard in these shops. Even though the sound quality in my film isn’t exactly high-tech (filmed with a basic Nikon digital point and shoot camera), you can get a general feeling of character and atmosphere inside the shop. Hopefully, I can follow this study up again but next time using an audio recorder.

TEST: First, try watching the film with your eyes closed. Imagine the visuals from the audio. Then, watch the film normally. Were your initial preconceptions similar or different?  Oh, and make sure to crank up the sound before listening!

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