by Joe Petrozzino
The Light Club Lamp Shop (off of Radio Bean) is a very unique restaurant/lounge. A vast range of antique lamps deck the walls of room, creating a dim yellow-orange glow throughout. With every lamp being equally distinct as the next, one could spend hours looking at all of them. However, that is not the main reason that most people come to the Light Club Lamp Shop. Each day of the week, the Lamp Shop hosts a number of different musical/poetical events, including DJ’ing, open reading, and the one I chose to focus on, Irish Session Open Jam. Similar to the way the lamps decorate the walls, the sound encompasses the space. The fun, upbeat, load Irish Session is a very noticeable sound which could be broken down into unique tunes and sets. However, that is not the main reason that most people come the Irish Session Open Jam. In order to understand the effects of sound and space on a culture, it is crucial to understand the point of view of that culture, so the data gathered has an accurate explanation. It’s not enough to know that 2 and 2 equal 4, because you could be multiplying or adding. The point of all this, is that while the numbers may not apply to my life, the processes can still be used. I want to
There are essentially two different acoustic environments that are present during the Irish Session Open Jam. The most predominant one is the musical soundscape, the one “designed” for this space. The loud volume of the music compared to the rest of sound there immediately grabs attention, similar to the way church bells and calls for prayer cut into the sonic composition of city life. The reaction to this aural intrusion is part of what I think separates the Irish Session from the other forms of loud sounds. In part due to the privatist nature of the Lamp Shop, people seemed more inclined to stop and listen to the music, instead of immediately leaving and looking for different sounds. Given that the space is used commercially as a bar, one is essentially allowing the music to intrude on their life. After adjusting to the volume, the music evokes this warm, cozy, tavern feeling. The sound is very energetic and exciting, with emphasized upbeats and a wide range of pitches. As a spectator, it essentially makes you want to have a good time, whether its dancing, eating or talking with friends. In an interview with Thea, the bartender, I asked her what about the music gave off this “middle-earth” (as she described it) feeling. Similar to how I would have answered the question before I inspected the music more closely, she thought about and said she had no clue, adding that was just the music that was playing while she worked. At first, it would seem that the structure of the music what brings about this vibe, but I realized that was false when I played some Irish Session for my friends. They changed the song in under a minute and were vocal about their distaste for the music. This made realize that the way culture is formed through space, sound, and other factors should not be thought of as objects or “25% Irish Session, 25% Antique Lamps”, but as influences that push people to act in certain ways, in turn defining the culture.(Weiner)
The idle soundscape is a much less “purposeful” sound, which results more from the process of the event going on rather than the main event itself. For a couple minutes between songs, the volume shrinks back down to a quiet murmur, conversation becomes more apparent all around, and random notes occasionally sound as the musicians tune their instruments. This felt very similar to sitting down after dancing at a wedding or getting off a rollercoaster, the rush from the music dies down and one can relax and almost process what just happened. The main sounds that I hear in this soundscape are conversation, the door opening/closing, glasses clinking against the table, the plucking of strings, and people walking around. Other than being generally quiet overall, it is confusing to see how someone can find this background noise relaxing. Only after looking the sounds during the musical soundscape did I realize where this feeling came from. The only thing other than music that can be heard during performance is the sound of laughter or if someone speaks loudly. It dawned on me that in an instant, this rush of music filling up the entire room, silences. It’s not necessarily disruptive or intrusive, but in the same way you walk in and get bombarded by Irish Session, the music stops and a calm silence envelops the room. Should it stay like this for an extended period of time, the sound would begin to be “normal”, but the anticipation of the next song prevents any kind of aural normalization. This soundscape plays into the culture of the Lamp Shop mainly by complementing the musical soundscape. Once again, this soundscape gives a slight persuasion on the mood of people, but is distinguished from the influence of musical soundscape because its effect can only be felt in a short period of time.(Feld)
When I asked Thea about the culture at the Light Club Lamp Shop, she immediately talked about the diversity. Hosting different events all throughout the week, each unique to the other, brings a wide range of people into the shop. Even though there was a different crowd each week, the feeling of the place never left. This seemed odd, because without people to listen, it was much less enjoyable just to be there. It wasn’t until one of the musicians stumbled on difficult section, when I saw this culture in action. Almost immediately as the music came crashing to a stop, one of the musicians says, “Let’s try that again”. After trying the difficult section again, successfully, the song flowed on like nothing had ever happened. If the musicians had acted in a different manner (e.g. starting a different song, getting mad at whoever messed up) the musical soundscape would have been changed, negatively impacting the tavern feeling. When I looked around at the people, most were either talking to or sitting with someone. In the same way that the musicians worked together get past a slight blip, the community members comes together to overcome the differences between individuals, and give birth to this diverse culture. That is why it doesn’t matter if the same people come to watch each week, because it isn’t essential for specific individuals to be there, just people that want to be there. (Sowers)
Front of Room:
Towards the front of the Lamp Shop, the music is relatively quiet because the musicians are in the back. The hushed volume and being located close to the door almost takes the music out of the foreground. The majority of the groups that would hangout and socialize, tend to locate towards the front. With the large party tables in the front, soft volume, and two big windows this space is almost specialized for socializing. The Light Club Lamp Shop in general is most likely either visited for the specific purpose of hanging out with friends, grabbing a bite to eat or a drink at the bar, or to listen to music. As I investigate deeper into the different areas of the room, space within space, I notice a correlation between the specific purpose and the specific space in the same way that acoustic environment and aesthetics contribute to the feeling and culture. For the front of the room, the variation in design of the space in combination with distance from the music shifts the focus on conversing and socializing while still maintaining the vibe and culture of the Light Club Lamp Shop.
Middle of Room:
In the middle of the room is where both the stage and the bar are. Again, this space seems to be more geared to more specific purpose other than to ‘just have good time’. The focus in this space is on eating, drinking and letting go. The sound here is strong, but not so powerful that it is impossible to adjust to it. Since the unused stage takes up roughly half the middle, the bar and some small tables/islands make up the space. This serves the purpose of indulging perfectly because it you can enjoy both the drink and the music, while still being able to have a conversation. In my opinion, this specific purpose most precisely portrays that general feeling of a tavern from Lord of the Rings.
Back of Room:
At the back of the room is where the music is coming from. Most of the musician’s friends and family sit around here. In the back, the music is near deafening (to me). The space constricts a little on one side forming the back into a cozy circle. While the music is always prevalent throughout the room, with the enhanced volume it makes the music the inevitable center of attention. Although you can effectively listen to the music anywhere in the room, the back is where the sound is coming from, and where you should go if you’re looking for more of it.
The ways that culture is developed in a community is very complex and undiscovered. I believe space and sound play an important role, because essentially those are our eyes and ears. Unlike taste or smell, we see and hear constantly so it could be possible that these are major factors in development. The sight and sound of the place together invoke a certain feeling to anyone who enters that place. Those who dislike that new feeling will most likely go elsewhere, leaving those who enjoy it. The specific feeling radiating from the environment is what influences the culture, and through analyzing our physical environment along with our acoustic environment we could maybe explain the direction our community or culture is heading and possible make it better
Feld, Steven. “From Ethnomusicology to Echo-Muse-Ecology: Reading R. Murray Schafer in the Papua New Guinea Rainforest,” Acoustic Ecology Institute. 1994.
Nick Sowers, “Soundscapes: Burning Man,” Places Journal, January 2011.
Weiner, Isaac A. “Calling Everyone to Pray: Pluralism, Secularism, and the Adhān in Hamtramck, Michigan.” Anthropological Quarterly 87, no. 4 (2014): 1049-1077.