Zany Sound Experiments

Today on Japanese TV, which is generally either excruciatingly boring (watching people eat and talk, duh) or wonderfully creative, especially at year end, there was a show showing some interesting and zany experiments with sound.

Chord around the Race Track - one experiment was whether a chord played in unison (the very definition) by trumpeters around a racetrack, will sound like a song from the vantage point of a passing car. They spaced the musicians according to the rhythm of the music, and had them play the notes from the theme from the latest Miyazaki movie “Ponyo”. The notes make up a chord, and sure enough, as the car passes you hear Ponyo, in all its doppler-ized glory. Sounds like a bunch of cats doing quick crescendo-decrescendos. I quote:

mEOw, mEOwmEOw, mEOwmEOwmEOwmEOwmEOwmEOwmEOwmEOw, mEOwmEOwmEOwmEOwmEOwmEOwmEOw, mEOwmEOwmEOw, mEOw.

Cup Chorus - if you think of the string-phones children play with, the contraption in use was several of those strung together. Imagine a set of spokes made of string, tied together in the middle, with each outer end having a cup attached. There was one listener, and the listener’s string was extra long. Manning the other cups was a group of chorus members spread out in an arc, singing the “Cutie Honey” theme into each of their cups - sopranos, altos, tenors, basses. It works quite well, as the listener could hear the theme perfectly, and, it sounded like it had a funky kind of reverb, too. Flash!

Racing Siren - the last sound experiment I saw was where they attached a police siren to an F1 car, to see if it would sound like a regular ambulance buzzing by some stationary listeners at 300 kph around a racetrack. Interestingly, you could hear the siren rising in pitch as the F1 car got close, and falling as it went away, but when it was close the engine was so loud it drowned out the sound of the siren entirely. Pshaw, you couldn’t get an F1-er through the streets of Tokyo even if you could rig it up to be an ambulance!