Hypercinema - Listening & Hearing

Exploring the psychoacoustic and physical phoenomena of sound

Hypercinema - Listening & Hearing

What is hearing? What is listening?

The Sound of Yellow (full audio available here)

This piece brought me in with a warm, bright feeling. Higher pitches rang like bells, echoing lightly in the air. This left a sense of a slightly enclosed space, feeling the sounds fall back on themselves at the edges. Undulating lower tones solidified the base of the range, and left me feeling enveloped.

As the speaker entered, the sound began to change, wavering in pitch to bring in a bit of minor bend and a touch of sourness. This begins as the speaker mentions some of the more negative associations with the color yellow; falsehood, decay, exclusion. As these become more prevalent, the music also introduces a near-mechanical fast pulse, like the chirping of a bird or a too-fast heartbeat. In its high pitch, I experience a sense of anxiety which is emphasized by a the voice’s lower toned bass. This shift into a heartbeat is almost uncomfortable.

Later, the speaker shifts into more positive associations, and the heartbeat fades at the ring of a bell. This bell ushers in a chord on an organ, low and warm like a ray of sunshine. But soon the heartbeat is reintroduced, and the poem/reading is started over again.

Overall the piece brings together an interesting story; the color, shifting from warm to cold and back, from comforting to deeply unsettling. While never uncomfortably loud, it still manages to overwhelm through discordant tones and a fast pace.

In wonder about these associations linked so intimately with the color. I wonder how the cultural context of the writer, the speaker, the creator shapes this piece. Where does the association of yellow to falsehood come from? As a Chinese American, I can only think of the biases against East Asian Persons of Color, the idea of “Yellow Peril” that ran rampant in this country (and others).

As a side note, I also briefly looked through The Pirate Shadow Library, and glanced through the names to find a strong lack of East or South Asian names. While this is not exclusive, I did find it interesting that there were none of the following names listed in the file titles:

  • Chang
  • Lee
  • Kim
  • Liu
  • Chen
  • Wong

This is not to say that the accumulation of pieces is exclusive, only that I had trouble finding this specific subset of people. And that’s worth thinking about.


September 08, 2021