Put The Needle On The Record #5 : Boston : 20092019

The histories of architecture in the city are ‘scrolls’ waiting to be discovered and ‘read’ (Calvino, 1972). While investigating these scrolls through the practice of walking the streets of the city accompanied by wheeled luggage, I have found a ‘stylus’ for reading the pavement topography, the skin of the city. The wheels of the luggage bag connect directly with the built environment, rather like putting the needle on a record: a record that is city-sized and can be played in any direction. This practice presents a way of recording, mapping, and sonifying the streets of the city. 

Put The Needle On The Record was created by Loz Colbert. Find out more about the project here.

Boston 20092019


From my sound diary 20092019: “My rolling luggage on the driveway to the bus. Big case, smooth rolling sound, small case, a heavier gritty sound. The silence of the bus with no-one in in. Now back to the grey-er white noise and rumble of moving on the road. Why is this sound more boring? How could I find the sound of bus travel interesting and fascinating and delicious now, like a meal to be savoured ? The sound of the juice dispenser at breakfast, industrial, empty, the soulless delivery of liquid refreshment….”

On arrival in Boston the pavement surface was noticeably more intricate compared to both Detroit and Montreal. It was made up of a smaller size of paving slab, and the street ‘space’ was made up of a mixture of sandstone paving slabs and parquet tiles to delineate different areas. I found this more appealing. We are definitely not in Europe, but the floor reflected culture and multiple social usage. The rhythm is more active and steady as the bag rolls over the slabs, which are equally spaced. The faster rhythms you hear are the parquet tiles. Overall the floor surface was far more delicate, defined, there were different (more expensive) choices of colour and texture, and attempts to make what might be perceived as interesting or beautiful shapes. The way that the floor space is broken up into different ‘areas’ is of note, in comparison to Detroit specifically. Perhaps people and their surroundings, their different uses of street space are catered for (e.g. bicycles, skateboards, electric scooters), and one could pay attention to even the appearance of the street surface. I then find we are in a University town. As I walk past Boston University it makes sense: there is a sense of culture to this street paving. This is a younger environment, it is accepted that the street will be purposed in different ways; maybe the community of individuals and voices fits the unfolding street array…

Luggage bag recording: Pleasant Street, Boston 20092019

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