Music in odd places.

It’s the little things that will drive you mad in this country.

China has a lot of reputations, many of which are poor. One of which is stealing things whole cloth from the west. But the truth of the matter is that you’re lucky if you merely get a trademark ripped off wholesale, as was the case with Under Armor/Uncle Martin. That actually makes sense, in the respect that I understand why the hell th lazy Chinese would do such a thing. There are other, slightly more irritating rip-offs in China.

My old flat here in Hangzhou was in the middle of nowhere despite the fact that it was located at the junction of two fairly major roads. When it wasn’t rush-hour there was very little noise to be heard. I found the silence to be haunting. But every now and again even from the ninth floor and about a block and a half away, I could hear the street-sweepers pass.

China seems to spend a surprising amount of time on cleanliness for a country as filthy as it is. Everywhere you go you see an orange jump-suited street cleaner uselessly sweeping the sidewalks, or using pincers to pick up an unending bloom of cigarette buds. You will as well see large street cleaning vehicles that come by to scrub and wash the roads. What is odd about these trucks is that as they move about the city, they play what can best be described as a child’s-first-music-box music. The first time I heard one pass I wondered what the fuck was going on, but didn’t think too much about it.

The fifth time I was puzzled.

By the twentieth time I knew that I recognized the music, but couldn’t put a label to it.

The fuck was it.

A few months in and I recognized the awful tune as It’s a small world after all.

I have no god-damned idea why.

Now, I don’t know if the music is controlled by the district, but around the time I moved I noticed that the trucks were no longer playing It’s a small world after all. Instead, they were playing another hauntingly familiar tune. But again, what the fuck was it?!

I struggled over and again to listen, until the theme burrowed deep in my head and rang the bell of memory.

It was the gaudy, child’s-first-music-box version of the main theme from Harry Potter.

I am terrified to think of what the next song will be. But I am even more bothered by wondering why the fuck anyone would pick Harry Potter’s theme as proper street sweeping music. This is ignoring the even bigger question; why in the world do your street sweeping vehicles need childish music. The cynic in me wonders if this is not a form of population control, with the government hoping to lure some unsuspecting children under a truck or two. But jokes aside, why?

For me this whole phenomenon is extremely troubling. All this music that China is culturally vandalizing has strong cognitive ties in our brains. We are used to hearing it, and we are used to hearing it in a certain context. Feeling that sense of wonder build up inside of you, only to then see a damn street sweeper, is aneurism inducing.

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