Cloudy Day, Sunny Day, Occupy, Not to Occupy
Interview 採訪：Law Yuk-mui/ 羅玉梅, Liza Chan/ 陳曉盈
Editing 編輯、整理：Law Yuk-mui/ 羅玉梅
English Translation 英譯 : Daniel Ho Sze-hin/ 何思衍
Transcription 謄錄: Janie Chan Tsang/ 陳錚
Hong Kong/ 香港
Wong Chun-hoi is the co-organizer and musician in experimental music collaboration “diode”. Currently an independent sound designer, he sometimes makes art.
The Library: You have mentioned that the first time you were aware of the element of sound in the context of a social movement was during the “Withdrawal of the Crappy Electoral Reform Assembly”?
Wong Chun-hoi: That was in 2010, when I just entered university. It could be considered the first time when I went out on the streets and came to grips with a social movement or a protest. The sound from the “Withdrawal of the Crappy Electoral Reform Assembly” was shocking, because a musical instrument called the Vuvuzela—originally used during the FIFA World Cup South Africa to cheer up a team—was deployed by protestors as a tool of resistance. The sound from people collectively playing this instrument was amazing.
The Library: Under what circumstances would they blow on the vuvuzela?
Wong Chun-hoi: At that time, I was watching live broadcasts on Chater Road at the old Legislative Council. There were always some exciting moments, like when Cyd Ho Sau-lan said something powerful, as though she vented for all of us. And when the pro-government camp spoke, the people outside were either very angry, or the host would lead everyone to make catcalls. So this instrument ended up being used. Now that I think of it, it really felt like an empty show of force, and I don’t know who it was blown for. But it felt stunning being in the middle of it all.
The Library: Did you play it yourself?
Wong Chun-hoi: I did. As early back as a month or two before the assembly, that thing could still be redeemed at KFCs, so they were brought over by the protestors themselves. At the same time, you could also buy it in toy stores at Apliu Street; but now it’s gone. I actually play woodwinds myself, so I’m rather sensitive in this regard. That instrument felt so lo-fi and was played outdoors. Now that I think about it, it was truly unforgettable.
The Library: Speaking of lo-fi, I remember listening to your analysis of the public address system in the “Anti-Northeast New Territories Development Plan” protests. Could you talk a bit more about this?
Wong Chun-hoi: At the time of “Anti-Northeast New Territories Development Plan” (ANDPP ) protests, there were organizations like “Caring Hong Kong Power” that started to appear. At locations like the new government headquarters, Tim Mei Avenue, and outside the CITIC Tower, the Citizens’ Square was still open at the time, so protestors at the Tim Mei Avenue Citizens’ Square would congregate towards the direction of Harcourt Road. On the other side, there were organizations like “Caring Hong Kong Power” that were opposed to ANDFF. In these situations, both sides had PA systems like microphones and loudspeakers and so on.
On the ANDPP side, it was more hi-fi, and the speakers were better, with a solid bass; you could imagine this being used in a normal outdoor concert or address. On the other side, Caring Hong Kong Power, who were against the ANDPP, used loudspeakers like hand-held loudspeakers used by coaches in elementary schoolyards. Although I was in front of a set of very good PA system, paradoxically, most of the time, I only heard the speeches by the Caring Hong Kong Power side. With those speakers, they played “Under the Lion Rock” and the national anthem, and then they also said things like “Now the government is building homes for you—you don’t want it, and then you say you’re poor.” Together with the earnest admonishments, it was really hard for the ears—hard for the ears in terms of the senses or emotions. Yet it so happened that you had no way of resisting these sounds prickling you.
The Library: You were rejecting them but have not been able to resist?
Wong Chun-hoi: Right, there was no way of resisting. Even if we had something called the “cocktail party effect”—which is when you talk to me now, focusing on me, you can temporarily ignore other sounds—but when the sounds from the grounds outside are really loud, forcefully and suddenly coming out with loud hammering sounds, there is no way for you not to listen. I felt it was the same with Caring Hong Kong Power because the human ear is more sensitive to higher sounds. I believe they had completely no conscious intention of doing this—they only had those one or two pieces of PA equipment but they were very effective. With one heart and one mind, they aimed to counter-protest, to screw with you. So in terms of the politics of a place, they did something very effective.
The Library: I watched your interview on Apple’s “Animated News”. Outside the new government headquarters, you discovered fake frog and bird sounds?
Wong Chun-hoi: One night during Occupy Central, it was still possible to cross the bridge along that road with the roundabout along Tamar Park, and I heard birds and frogs constantly calling out. It was at night, with lots of people, and under the roundabout there was a projection being screened. I thought it was odd, believing they were really frogs and birds. I don’t know why I would have such feelings. Maybe because it was too chaotic, too noisy, or perhaps at the time I wouldn’t have thought it was strange.
The Artificial Frog and Bird
0 9：15 PM, 12/12/2014, Outside the New Government Headquarters
The Library: Is this the “cocktail party effect”?
Wong Chun-hoi: No. I think nowadays with garden design, you would put in some elements to make people get a sense of nature. Especially new pavilions and gardens would play some bird, insect, and water sounds with little speakers; these are artificial sounds. It didn’t use to be like that. Instead, you would build a fountain. The sound of a fountain has a broad spectrum which can cover up other sounds and make you feel it s not as noisy—like the design of the Peninsular Hotel, which makes you a little more comfortable. Now that I think of it, it’s satirical, but during the Occupy period, I didn’t notice this at all. Only on the night I was interviewed by Apple’s “Animated News” did I notice these things. Before I had always thought they were real bird and frog sounds, but those sounds, no matter if it’s cloudy or sunny, Occupy or no Occupy, were always there.
The Library: Getting back to your recordings, you made some recordings during the Umbrella Movement. What kind of state were you in when you were recording?
Wong Chun-hoi: I would record, I would take the recording device out, but I could not be as impulsive as Samson (Samson Cheung Choi-sang). Since you had a recorder in hand, you would rush forward—that was what I thought. Why didn’t I do that? I felt it was a bit effected and sentimental; whenever the slightest thing happen, I would bring my recorder and want to record these—for me, I couldn’t really justify that. Did I collect the sounds to make my own work? Or to leave my name in history? Or what is it? I had not resolved these contradictions, so I didn’t do it. It was my choice, after all, to decide when to take out my recorder.
The Library: How did you choose?
Wong Chun-hoi: The first prerequisite of recording is safety, which is to make sure everyone is safe when recording. I have no interest in things that go “Bang! Bang!” I don’t think sound can effectively help us grasp things that go “Bang! Bang!”.
The Library: Does “Bang! Bang!” refer to those extraordinary historical moments?
Wong Chun-hoi: Right. I feel “historical moments” are what video journalists have to capture with their camera microphones on their shoulders.
The Library: What sounds did you collect in the end?
Wong Chun-hoi: Mainly sounds of people walking and some ambient sounds. I only recorded in Admiralty, I didn’t go record in other occupied areas in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. Actually I was greedy; at that moment, I wanted to gather all of the ambient sounds. Every time I crossed the bridge, I was stunned how the streets were full of people. I feel every time with these social movements, there would be lots of photographers and videographers who would come and collect a whole bunch of images and videos. It’s beautiful—but then they would end up being accompanied by Beyond’s “Combat for twenty years”. Maybe it’s because I have some “film people” around me. I am wondering if they would be able to make use of it afterwards.
11：35 PM, 10/18/2014, 金鐘
On the bridge, whether at night or in the afternoon, it was a very ordinary street, but once you listened carefully you would know it’s different—because there were no car sounds. I don’t know how to say this, but it’s the proportion of sounds of traffic and human sounds. Even though there was this ecology that maintained itself for three months, the place constantly changed. Towards the end of November, when the crowds were thinnest, I went over once to Occupy at the same time of day, and already I couldn’t hear what I heard from two weeks ago. These I have no way of recording. I can only recount my experiences like this; I don’t know how to capture them.
 A Cantopop song (Chinese: 抗戰二十年)
王鎮海: 是啊，沒有辦法反抗，即是我們有一樣叫cocktail party effect的東西，就是你現在聽我說話，將注意力投放在我身上，暫時將其他聲音置之不理；但若果外面地盤的聲音真的很大聲，而且很有力地突然發出兩下打樁聲的時候，你沒有辦法不聽。我覺得「愛港力」就是這樣，因為人耳對高音是比較敏感，我相信他們是完全無心的，他們就只得那一兩件擴音工具，但卻很有效。他們一心一意要反，就是要搗亂。所以在一個地方的政治觀而言，他們做了一件很有效的事情。
0 9：15 PM, 12/12/2014, 新政府總部外
聲音圖書館: 這是不是cocktail party effect?
11：35PM, 10/18/2014, 金鐘
Withdrawal of the Crappy Electoral Reform Assembly/撤回政改爛方案集會