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date: 17 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Over the last decades, much has been said and written about urban renewal and gentrification in Los Angeles. However, the issues addressed have been associated with the types of sounds present or created and musics played. This chapter examines the process of opera in relation to downtown Los Angeles’ gentrification. More specifically, drawing on Tim Choy’s and Ben Anderson’s notion of the “atmospheric” and “air politics,” this chapter addresses the ways in which considering the very acoustic part of the soundscape can offer entry into understanding of the process of gentrification. The listening into the acoustic realization of sound and the reverberation of distinct space can give evidence into broader and deeper shifts in the space’s value, otherwise often difficult to discern. The author does so by considering director Yuval Sharon’s and sound designer Martin Gimenez’s setting of Invisible Cities (composed by Christopher Cerrone) within Union Station’s waiting hall and courtyard. While each singer sang within the everyday soundscape and acoustics of the station, their voices were treated with a thorough sound design and offered up to audiences via wireless headphones. This partial interaction and selectively available product marks a project of “upgrading” the Los Angeles downtown acoustic soundscape—a process, the author proposes, that can be understood as an indicator of the late stage of gentrification.

Keywords: acoustics, air politics, atmospheric, downtown Los Angeles, gentrification, headphones, materiality, soundscape, Union Station, voice

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