In 2012, a journey through China resulted in new and up-to-date recordings from the land of smiles. We weren't always smiling ourselves, though, particularly not when dealing with Tibetan border controls. But we digress ...
Traveling through China, we were able to make comprehensive sound recordings in Beijing and other megacities like Xi'an and Xining, as well as in a new Airbus A380, which carried us to China. In Tibet we recorded cities, villages and country atmospheres, monasteries, prayer wheels, singing monks, fluttering prayer flags, yaks as well as nature sounds at 4700 m - far from civilisation!
One of the most interesting aspects of the city recordings was the unexpectedly quiet atmosphere of a place like Beijing. This is due to the high number of electro mopeds in use now (petrol-powered mopeds were probably banned before the Olympic games because of the smog issue). This has created a very different city ambience and also outdated any older recordings made of the city.
But before we could travel into Tibet, we ...
In order to access Tibet, you have to travel through China. Mainly because Tibet IS China. We thought this would give us an excellent chance to capture some Chinese city sounds on the way as well. But as it turned out, our stay in China lasted for much longer than expected. Traveling to Tibet created all kinds of visa issues that kept dragging on. Finally, we were told that the border to Tibel was closed. Time for Plan B, then.
Or, in other words: sitting and waiting in the 'relaxed' atmosphere of a traditional Chinese restaurant ...
The Amdo region is one of several provinces in Tibet and can be accessed without any visas or permissions (unlike the 'autonomous region of Tibet' that also includes the capital, Lhasa). Visitors are allowed to move around freely - which isn't really a problem as long as you know how to read a Chinese food menu.
So we decided to scrap our plans of visiting Lhasa and its surrounding areas because we couldn't get a permit for the city anyway. Instead we traveled through the Amdo region, which turned out to be an even more impressive experience: untouched nature and authentic Tibetan life-styles far from the tourist-infested territories around Lhasa.
Both the people and the landscape of this remote region of Tibet had a lasting effect on us. Hidden away from Chinese censorship among the endless green of the rolling hills, the people of the region told us soul-shattering stories of the government's repression and chicanery.
Here are some impressions from the Tibet recordings. The Tibet and China Soundpack is expected to be released in 2013. Until then, the recordings are available on request for preview in our archives.
Grass plains with grazing yaks (unlike cows, yaks don't make any noise and don't wear bells - sorry to disappoint you!)
Everyday scenes on a country road
Mount Amnye Machen, a high-altitude plain (4700m) - completely quiet when the wind isn't blowing
Professional recording equipment: Sound Devices 788 Recorder
Tibetan monastery atmosphere
Prayer wheel with bell
Yes, this is the village centre. Left of the road, right outside the frame, we found a yak skeleton, by the way.
Tibetan village and road atmosphere
Yaks are rather suspicious creatures by nature and can't be bovvered with sound recordings!