Waiting For The Bus

An introduction to my Travel Fellowship:
Traveling, Listening, Songwriting: A Personal Exploration of Urban Sounds in Southeast Asian Capitals

In a few hours, I’ll be sitting on the steps of Golden Mile waiting for my first bus.

Okay, so it’s not my first bus. Not the first bus I’ve taken to Malaysia, or taken to KL, or taken this week, or taken alone. But it’s the first of what I expect will be a deeply personal journey.

I’ll be traveling (mostly) overland from Singapore to other Southeast Asian capital cities in this order: Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Vientiane, Hanoi, Phnom Penh. In each city, I will be exploring how ‘the urban’ is reflected in sound and in listening. I will record the sounds that stand out to me (this is to say, I’ll be recording urban soundscapes, not a problematic ‘local music tour’ vibe). Then — and this is probably the deeply personal part — I will weave those sounds into original songs which I write and record in the very same city, using electric guitar and vocals. My framework is mixing an Urban Studies influence with the concept of travel as listening: by literally listening to the city I am in, I hope to not simply absorb from the places I visit, but also create something knew with what I have learned.

The goals I’ve set out with are these: 1 capital city = 1 song, and to have every piece of the song recorded within the city. This means no synthetic or pre-recorded loops (and, unfortunately, possibly quite lower-than-studio-quality sound despite the many cables Arts has generously lent me). So expect it to get weird! Tuk-tuk outtros and a stranger yelling in the street as percussion!!

If it’s sounding like a bit much at this point, never fear because it’s a bit much for me as well. Thus, out of anxiety that I didn’t know how to operate any of the equipment, I used finals week to put together an example song in Singapore. Here is the link to it on SoundCloud, where I’ll be publishing all of the songs (and where Annette is currently my only follower, no thanks to you all!) https://soundcloud.com/isabella-nunez-331676613/beach-the-doors-are-closing

I’ve titled this song “beach : the doors are closing” and, unless I change my mind, I might try to follow this format for the other songs: one name for the lyrics I write and one for the urban audio clip that stands out most.

To explain the framework and background for this fellowship, I’m going to include another link which I included in my application. It’s a Google Drive link because it’s really quite low in the quality department, but that’s actually kind of the point: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YJdFLdHrRQtBR_GQYdAhBFjwiwkDCaN7/view?usp=sharing

The file is called “Voice Memos” because it’s an amalgamation of voice memos from my phone from last year when I lived in Bogotá, Colombia and started writing songs with my roommate. If you give it a listen, you’ll hear a few originals we wrote, and you’ll also hear the fact that we lived close to a highway, and the fact that we didn’t much care about sound quality when we made these recordings. I had many thoughts on these recordings and this time in my life, which held many firsts: moving away from home, living in a capital city, traveling alone, traveling with instruments around Colombia, trying to teach myself guitar in the music room after work, and writing songs which were actually shared with someone other than myself.

So, this Travel Fellowship is personal because songwriting is inherently personal. But I think it is also very much something shared. Not only is this the first time I’ll be bothering to put songs I’ve written anywhere other than the Notes folder on my laptop, but the songs’ production will itself be shared with whatever sounds these cities hold.

In this way, my summer is an exploration into the balance between the individual and the city. It is private and it is public. It’s individual and it’s shared. It’s like waiting for the bus alone.

And, hopefully, it’s something we can all enjoy hearing!