Initially, both ride types were part of the simulative tradition, with the Ark Speedway clearly mimicking the thrill of riding a fast motorcycle, while the Waltzer referred to the swirling movements of a dance. The Ark Speedway took DeNora’s idea of entrainment even further with the simulation of motorcyles, finding resonance with Willis’ research into biker culture and the linking between music, rhythm and riding a motorcycle. The artwork developed for either ride cleverly reflected these simulative purposes, with speed, thrills and bravery alluded to regarding the decoration of the Ark Speedway, and twisting, interlocking patterns associated with the Waltzer. This artwork served a dual purpose, both enforcing the illusionistic and disorienting whole of the fairground through its familiarity and repetition, and signalling the punter towards an individually marked-out ride through nuanced differences of evolving modernity and novelty. As Stephen Walker shows, this artwork was fast and furious, applied, abused and then recommenced when fashion or fatigue necessitated.
The fairground offers a complex soundscape that incorporates both music and non-music in a variety of patterns, frequently pushing towards multiple manifestations of noise through modes of distortion, cacophonous overlay and sheer excess. After proposing a reading of the totality of the soundscape of the fairground, this chapter argues that music is an integral part of the fair, and is listened to in a variety of collective rituals in a heightened state of anticipation. The chapter focuses on the Waltzer ride, and follows the work of a particular ride called Atmosphere Creator, which prioritises modern dance music within its armoury of attractions and effects. An extended film clip of the ride in action is included in the chapter, and a key part of my analysis involves a detailed study of this clip, identifying various actors and their relationships, choreographed through the diegetic soundtrack. I then take the music of the fairground and the Atmosphere Creator as a specific genre and look at its social uses outside of the fairground. The sound of the fairground and the crossover between music types and subcultures is a subject that has avoided academic research or serious documentation, and this chapter is a start to redress that absence.
Jonathan Gross is based in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London, working on the Get Creative Research Project as part of the BBC-led Get Creative campaign. He previously worked on collaborative research projects at the Universities of Leeds and Liverpool, and at the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre. His PhD was an ethnography of audiences at the BBC Proms, which he completed at The London Consortium.
The collective or social enjoyment of dance music evolved through venues and nightclubs catering for the specific scenes that flourished in post-war British popular culture. Research in this area tends to focus on the structure of the scenes and the testimony of participants, rather than structural, technical and aesthetic nature of the building and space itself. Certainly during the mid-1970s under the regime of Northern Soul venues were spartan and functional, with an emphasis on providing a surface for expressive, acrobatic dancing. Again, the nature of this subcultural scene with regard to its sheer dedication and transgressive vectors prioritises a literature drawn from, and deconstructing, social participation. The Northern Soul scene crossed over with the disco scene during the 1970s, and here an emphasis on a structured atmospheric was evident with considered effects through multiple forms of lighting (flashing sequences, lasers, light panels in structures including the dancefloor itself), smoke machines, mirrors and advanced sound-systems. While fairgrounds are said to provide a version of a nightclub space, it is important to separate out between the provision of an opportunity for those not able to go to a nightclub and the simple copying of a nightclub, which would suggest a vector running from the nightclub to the fairground ride.
The Second Summer of Love is usually associated with the year 1988 and the explosion of rave culture as both a genre of music and a new mode of collective engagement with the music. An amalgam of dance music styles from various cities (Chicago, Detroit, New York, London) or scenes of eclectic and experimental partying (the Balearic scene) birthed a full-on new sound that was both distinct and evolving (acid house, breakbeat, techno, and so on). Collective consumption of the music switched to large raves and the resistant free party scene, with subcultural accoutrements including designer drugs, clothing and argot. The fairground embraced this pulsating and energising sound after a decade in the 1980s when music had fractured into various pop scenes. As raves became licensed and larger in scale, fairgrounds began to appear on these sites, augmenting the link between the music and the fairground.
Both the Ark Speedway and Waltzer were social rides with an enclosed space, and benefited from the post-war boom in teenage subcultures and new music scenes. The Ark Speedway and Waltzer became the space to experience new music in both a defamiliarised space and also without the restrictions placed upon the young (age barriers, money, parental governance). As prominent 1960s artist Dudley Edwards comments: ‘When Rock and Roll first came on the scene in the fifties the ONLY place you could hear Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran at loud decibel levels was at the fairground and we would all dance around the edge of the Waltzers’. One sound effect associated with old Ark Speedways and Waltzers would be a slowing down of records by about 6 or 7 rpm when the showmen applied the ‘knife’ to start the motion, the generator effectively being diverted from powering the audio equipment to starting the ride.
This work builds on diverse existing scholarship on the embodiment of ways of listening to music. This has included work on still, silent listening in various global contexts. In Listening in Paris, a study of the ‘historical construction of listening’ in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Paris, James Johnson links the emergence of still, silent listening practices with broad shifts in musical ideology (towards romanticism). The ethnomusicologist Lorraine Plourde, meanwhile, has discussed the still, silent practices of listeners to the Japanese new music genre onkyo. She links their particular ways of listening to the aesthetic of the music and shows how listeners’ experiences and behaviour were shaped by pamphlets and other written materials, as part of a niche culture of musical connoisseurship.
From the various writings above, we can understand the reasons behind the absence of a Chinese audience in the early years of the orchestra, as well as the effort of the critics to promote western music in the Chinese community. These writers not only shared their concert-attending experience, they also expressed their own views and reported other Chinese people’s views on western music. The polarised opinions on colonial culture demonstrate one characteristic of semi-colonialism in Shanghai as suggested by Shi Shumei. These views were also translated into the varied responses of the Chinese musicians when they collaborated with the Municipal Orchestra in the next decade, and to a greater extent led to the multi-directional development of Chinese music in the next century.
Ju Qihong categorises thought in early twentieth-century China about western music into three different camps, namely revitalisation, abandonment or impoverishment, and syncretism. While the first two factions represent two poles of the dispute as seen from the article above, the last proposes an eclectic approach to the question. Revitalisation was a repercussion against the influence of western music. It loathed school songs, the adoption of the western music education system and other western influences on the development of Chinese music; and supporters asserted the revitalisation of ancient court music and traditional music. Abandonment or impoverishment, on the other hand, proposed an almost wholesale adoption of western music in place of Chinese traditional music. Proponents of this camp urged the learning of western music for the purpose of improving traditional Chinese music or creating new Chinese musical style. Syncretism, as suggested by Nettl, is a ‘fusion of elements from diverse cultural sources’ and the resulting ‘hybrid styles seem to have developed most readily when musical similarities between non-western and western cultures can be identified, when the musics are compatible and most important, when they share central traits.’ The thought of Liang Qichao, an important figure in the New Culture Movement, is representative of this attitude. He pointed out that:
The writings above illustrate two poles of discourse on the cultural encounter among the Chinese – one admiring and the other rejecting western musical culture. The varied responses of the Chinese as the colonised towards the colonial culture are characteristics of semi-colonialism, as I suggested in my study of the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra.
Zhang suggested that music possesses the quality to cultivate people and incite different feelings and emotions – an idea quite consistent with the general belief in the West. In his opinion, the Chinese should therefore share the same interests with the westerners and appreciate the value of western music. By attending the Municipal Orchestra concerts, the general Chinese public would acquire knowledge about other cultures. Western art music would widen their views – western harmony, instruments, musical genres and orchestration – these would make them realise the advancement of western culture and the deficiency of their own culture. This might make them feel ashamed, which would then arouse their eagerness to learn from the West.