SOUNDSCAPING: Raffles Place

Sound artist Bani Haykal serenades the suits.

14 Jul 2011
SOUNDSCAPING: Raffles Place

SOUNDSCAPING soundtracks Singapore, and even Raffles Place needs a tune – above the shout of stockbrokers and click of killer heels.

One day at lunch, we play in the land of finance with Bani Haykal. B-Quartet’s frontman, Bani performs at four Raffles Place locations with his voice and clarinet. Using these field recordings, electric guitar is layered on afterwards. With that: four pieces for four Raffles places.

While commerciality is the order of the day there, over here we offer you these melodies gratis. Take a midday stroll with us. Download them via Soundcloud, or stream using Mixcloud. Then again, why not play them in any order you like, or even all together?

In money metropolis, it’s whatever you make of it.  

It would have either been a complete misinterpretation, which I happen to have a very strong interest in, or this pluralistic approach in expressing a district riddled in structure. At least on first glance. For now.

Whilst I do admit to having a relatively cynical opinion of this place, the spaces I opted on visiting had a lot to do with the ability to step away from said cynicism and into a frame of mind which offers an environment to introspect, maybe just a little.

The square, just above the station.

I have nothing much to remark other than a borrowed expression from that 1931 classic, “Alive, it’s alive!” Yes, Frankenstein. But even then, borrowing that sentiment should only state that it’s a monster that I have created and a witness to. Whilst fortunately it isn’t the case, as someone witnessing the barrage of conversations, footsteps, and laughter, it is the space which intrigues me. An initial instinct that I had was to imagine the area clear of human life. No trudging, breathing soul hoping to catch the next empowering ad. What, then, is this place?

No real inhabitants. Cold. At best, an archaeological find a billion years after some great tragedy. Not as alive anymore. Here, I unravel an epiphany.

The narrative was clear. Everything was close quarters. It had to be efficient. Steps away from a cubicle is a cuticle care stand, a lifestyle copy waiting to shower the next bystander hoping to be enlightened. But I’m being too cynical. But it seems to me that distractions are a huge necessity for those operating in the vicinity.

I've roamed this space before. As a messenger. Roam here long enough and you’ll learn that every wrong turn leads to an empty room.

I admit, it was uncomfortable for me to exist within the parameter. The junctions were filled with anti-pause mechanisms which begs you to consider your life’s choices.

I fled.

North Canal Road. To my right, the corporations are cooking up a master plan. My left, food for thought.

balance is a bitch, offhand.

Here, where the roundabout is just further up ahead, this space here, the crack of culture, I sought solace. In this stillness, where everything else passes by, I confront a dilemma. The balancing act. To exist on either side from where I was, would be terribly devastating. I came to a conclusion that I would have to spend as much time on either side in order to maintain stability. Too long on the right, and I imagine I’d have dissolved into nothingness. Too long on the left, I’d pay someone to put me out. Here in the middle, I repeat, I can appreciate the confluence. Confluence and all its turbulence.

balance is a bitch, offhand.

Just up ahead is the river. Whilst everything under the merciless sun prostrated, my refusal wasn’t left unturned. I could hardly open my eyes.

But even without them, it was worth experiencing the silence. Away from street noises and chatterboxes. Static.

Raffles Place seems like it is dissolving. I wonder if my opinion is shaken at the very moment I am here. The background is a blur and everything before me is a dormant fragment of an estranged memory. I do not affiliate with the debris behind me. This, here, made sense.

I somehow cannot seem to find a centimeter anywhere here and allow cynicism to slide back in. This felt a little bit foreign as compared to the rest of the spaces I’ve visited. Marble slabs welcome me and I feel odd unable to reciprocate. For once, a space dominated by silence, offering me room to breathe. Static.

I am a tourist all over again. The view, from here, is stretched. Leaving the river, I reconnect with the sounds familiar, passing by tunnels, walkways and alleyways, yet the only view I could offer amidst the hubbub is an impression.

The fourth track begins with a clarinet line performed as a response to the activity in the tunnel of the train station. No one pays attention. Everyone passes by. And for a moment I questioned the purpose of the freedom to express and focused on a preference for freedom of thought. An aside, I believe that no artist can expect reciprocity. Freedom of thought dominates the food chain of being liberal. Everything else is a byproduct.

I fled.

Lau Pa Sat is different in the afternoon. Everything is cold. Almost as if the tourist engine was just warming up for the evening. The only exciting moment was the old man blanketed in tattoos working on a sketch. The monotony was exhilarating. At least from a music perspective. The clarinet heard on this track represents and pays homage to the dormant beast that is Lau Pa Sat. It slithers, hovers, but does nothing more to excite the senses.

Night edges its tip on my tongue as I diminish the aftertaste of this engineered haven. Maybe next time, things could be different.

Music & Words Bani Haykal

Images Benjamin Naef


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