Sounds at Disneyland – Club 33, Aurally

17 Jan
I’ve been thinking about the project I would like to do for my Audio Cultures class…and I think I might want to examine a section of Disneyland (although I still need to run this by my professor first). So, I was at Disneyland today, looking at some of the different areas that might be interesting for such a study. I’ve narrowed it down to somewhere along Main Street (where, when we were there, playing something from the Music Man, metaphorically welcoming visitors to Disneyland into middle America — I’ll find the song later), or right in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. I suspect sounds in those spots would be interesting because of just how many people are around in those areas, figuring out where to go, traversing through, not to mention how Disneyland cast members clear Main Street before each parade, and during the fireworks display, people are standing out on the streets, but few are walking around. So, interesting. But not urban, so not sure my prof will go for it. We shall see (and plus, he’s reading this, as part of the class assignment is blogging).

Josh (my prof for this class) talked in class last week about how silence and class are closely interconnected. The “higher” class/wealthier a community, the quieter the area tends to be. My friends and I had the privilege of eating dinner at Club 33 tonight – a secret dinner club located in New Orleans Square. Right next to the Blue Bayou, there is an unmarked door with an intercom. If you have a reservation, you ring the bell, and someone answers on the intercom. You give this someone the reservation name, and they let you in through the door.

Our reservations tonight were for 9pm — right as the Disney water show, Fantasmic, was starting just across the way. It was very loud – not to mention that a group of people were gathered around Blue Bayou to wait for seats. So when we rang the bell, we could not hear an answer. Finally, we made our way into Club 33 as others were leaving.

The difference between the outside and the inside of the club was drastic. It was completely silent in the club once the door closed. Ok, not completely silent, but one could hardly make out the cacophony outside. We were then taken upstairs, where the main dining room is located. It has, I think, some of the more unique acoustics I’ve ever encountered. And I’m not sure how they do it. It felt very quiet. I’m not sure if it was because the room looked so austere, or because people were talking in hushed tones, but there was a weighty sense in the air, and a quietness that was nice, if not a bit unnerving.

We were seated at a round table, which concerned me, because I did not fancy raising my voice to speak to my dinner companions. However, we soon realized that we could speak relatively quietly to each other, yet still hear each other perfectly. Perhaps it is because the atmosphere was such that hushed voices were used at the other tables, and the ambient sound was low, so all verbal cues were easily picked up. What is striking, though, is that once you’re positioned in that space, you interpolate yourself into the mannerisms that the space requires. We didn’t speak loudly, because it seemed improper. Which really follows the manners of high class culture, where speaking softly and with reserve indicates someone who is more highly educated and mannered than someone who speaks loudly and abrasively with no concern for their neighbors’ comforts.
During dinner, we also enjoyed the music and sounds of Fantasmic, which had started outside, that penetrated the silence and added a nice touch to the soundscape for the evening, yet seemed intrusive to the mellow silence that existed before. The entertainment, presumably, were for those who could not get reservations to Club 33. So here, again, we see a built-in class difference, with the “lower” classes’ sounds penetrating the “upper” classes’ silence.

I should make a disclaimer that I use these terms “higher,” “upper,” “lower” loosely to reductively talk about sound and silence. I am not saying that because were able to get reservations to Club 33 that we are in any way in the “upper” class of Disney society (we are most decidedly NOT). I simply use it as a metaphor to talk about the positions in which we found ourselves this evening possibly in a way Disney intended – a space in which the rich, elite Disneyland connoisseurs gathered (Club 33), versus the space of the lower to middle Americans who came for a day of enjoyment (the park itself). It is a deliberate, constructed separation that I use simply to talk about how people are interpolated into spaces, rather than the classiness of the people themselves.

Goodness, I hope that made sense…

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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Uncategorized


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