Put The Needle On The Record #17 : Seattle : 08102019

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.

From my sound diary that day 08102019: My fingers tapping on the keyboard on the laptop writing this late at night. Alert sounds. The sound of the Lime bicycle and the Lime scooter coming to life. The ‘sound walk’ experience of Seattle and then the accelerated version via electric scooter and via electric bicycle, all three in the same day, with the wind in my ears for both electric transports. The hubbub and closeness of Pike Place Market, vs the outside where sound could disperse. A slamming door. My IEMs going in and making things quiet.

Union Street, Seattle 08102019

This recording of Seattle has some good examples in it. Why? Because it is a bit busier, you get the sound of the pavement / sidewalk which has some gritty ‘grooves’ and rhythmic patterns on it in an unfolding in a linear pattern. Seattle for me symbolises an edgy, unpretentious, and visceral reaction to music and culture. But in the recording there are distant police sirens, pneumatic brakes of lorries, passing cars, there is the sound of other machinery & life taking place as I pass as I roll down the street. It creates a landscaped soundscape image. There is the connected, kinetic ‘stylus’ recording of the street heard through the scraping and dragging of the luggage bag: a writing in stone that is to be read as we pass, and is very direct; but with the ambient looser sounds of Seattle around it. The section of Seattle we find ourselves in – the central business district near to Belltown – is lively, busy, active. The ‘Space Needle’ is nearby, and I am rolling downhill, towards the famous Farmers Market. There is a pause for the pedestrian crossing (this is now a familiar instance and phrase of the metre of the luggage bag recording), we hear some other pedestrians and street ambience. Then I return back up the hill to the tourbus. It is midday and we have just played a lunchtime ‘showcase’ that was broadcast live. We will then still play the ticketed gig at the Crocodile later tonight.

Business is taking place on many strata in Seattle
Multiple rhythms, multiple modes of transport on the streets of Seattle
Some visual street rhythms, in a brutalist cityscape