Put The Needle On The Record #18 : Portland : 10092019

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 10092019: The striking difference in sound between running outside, across the bridge, and the close nicotine muggy silence of the motel room. The cumbersome sound of dragging my luggage bag in and out of the building up and down stairs, as I had forgotten things! Smooth concrete mainly. A homeless guy listening to something like radio on what seemed to be a smart phone of some kind. Then the grateful quiet of a spare dressing room when I needed it. Doors opening & closing. 

The luggage bag recording today is pretty smooth. In what felt like mostly a concrete environment I remember Portland on that day as bright piercing sun, open spaces, and an often brash, bold and convenient simplicity to life. Like many American cities: everything was ‘there’ – its just in daily life you don’t question what is behind ‘there’ or why… maybe you’re not supposed to, but probably this is the most interesting part. The single motel room we used for showers was near a bridge and river, which I ran along earlier that day.

Russel Street, Portland.

As a partner to the audio recording above, the visual and conceptual rhythms are appealing to me in the photograph below. As well as the sounds that were taking place at the time we might also in this ‘moment’ spot the architectural rhythms of the girder structure of the bridge, with cross-hatching bars that create larger beams, that cross over each other linking even larger sections. There is the visual pattern of the shadows of these structures on the floor – shapes stretched out and disjointed and in constant flux as the diurnal rhythmic movement of the sun above shapes them throughout the day. Although they ultimately both move in the same direction, the shadows will also move in direct opposition to the placement of the sun, so there is the ‘dance’ of this. There were of course also the audible rhythms of car tyres on tarmac, the crescendo and decrescendo of passing vehicles, the rhythm of the city in the back ground while a tree on the right grows ever so slowly, and shifting gently in the wind…

NW Broadway bridge, Portland.

Put The Needle On The Record #15 : Boulder Colorado : 04102019

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 04102019: Boulder, the sound of the wind in the trees, finally! There has been a distinct lack of the sensation of seasons, only glaring persistent heat, until now. In the evening of today, a marching and dancing band in the public square, the tuned bass drums made a great watery sound; the snare drummers were excellent and highly choreographed…

Street-wise, Boulder was more dainty, neat and connected overall. The street surface was mainly small slabs and neat tiles. The luggage bag clacks along happily with regular, unbroken and repetitive sections. We were based more directly in the city centre for this concert, and an acceptance of ‘culture’ seemed to shine out here and be an appreciated jewel in the community, as the photo below shows, and as opposed to the somewhat sleazy sub-cultural status of the locations where bands like ours might play in Austin and Dallas. There was a community feeling here, there were student villages and parks. Most notably for me here: a gust of wind or two, and a cool freshness in the air – finally the suggestion of a season – autumn, fall. We had previously been told we don’t really have any seasons in Texas anymore … due to global warming…

04102020 first hint of Fall; wheels are crisp on the streets of Boulder
04102020 Outside the Boulder Theatre
04062020 Pavement
04062020 side street, Boulder; Why are these images the ones hidden from sight?
04102020 And why not? Different rhythms on the streets

Put The Needle On The Record #14 : Dallas : 02102019

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 02102019: Running earlier in the day I remember the sound of myself panting in the heat, my footsteps getting slower as I ran in the midday Texan sun. The sound of Elm street where the venue was, in which later on were lively street people and noisy bar music drifting out through open doors…

If Austin was lively for the locals, then Dallas was a lot louder overall. I’m glad to have made this recording during the night on the street outside the venue after the gig. There’s plenty of local ambience in the recording. Listen out for pool bars, pimped up cars and bikes, some fairly deep grooves in the street… Snatch of dialogue at the end:

“Where you goin…? You gotta sit down man…

No images or videos of the street today, just the sound.

Wheeled luggage on Elm Street, Dallas 02102019

Put The Needle On The Record #13 : Austin : 01102019

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.

On this day, I couldn’t quite believe the amount of life that was going on… but ‘low life‘. I hadn’t realised how run down Austin was where we were: vagrants, homeless, wandering the streets, helpless in many ways, and somehow abandoned. We were warned in the morning at breakfast by a local “don’t go beyond 6th Street..” Our venue was on 10th. It wasn’t the safest place to be. I remember rolling over paving slabs, rough broken concrete, rough grass and mud where I was trying to avoid other sections of paving. I recorded twice in this location, as it was very active at night everyone came out, prowling like edgy zombies. I sat down to eat a slice of pizza and people flocked to me as they could read I wasn’t from around here. I guess I was an outsider, an easy soft target. I can’t believe the hard lives that most of the people I saw must be living. So hard. A level of brutality is expected, anticipated in encounters. Situations have to be managed, as it all felt on a hair trigger… You get a sense of more of the street life during the night, although there was an ecosystem of homeless and drug addicts around throughout the day. You don’t hear anyone approach me in these recordings although they frequently did at other points during the day: asking for food or money. Not what I expected from Texas at all… maybe this is just where the music venues are….

No images or videos of the street today, and for a while I focused just on the sound recordings of the streets I was on…

Wheeled luggage on Red River street, Austin (Day).
Wheeled luggage on Red River street, Austin (Night).

Put The Needle On The Record #11 : Atlanta : 29092019

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 30092019: The whining metallic ringing persistent sound of the juicer in the juice bar. But I felt lucky to be treated to juice, what a gift at this point in the tour. Also the busy people sound, activity, community, culture… at the thrift store, looking for second hand clothes…

Today we are premiering my attempt to sync a Roland R-05 field recording with a video, shot with my iPhone at the same time. Both taken on 30th September 2019. It is the end of the day, the gig is finished, we are packed up and soon to leave, but I want to make a ‘recording’ of Atlanta road / pavement surface somehow for my diary. I start in the carpark, wandering out for a short walk, recording sound with R-05.. I then later start recording a section of video, which I later sync-ed together. So the film starts off as black… Some really interesting streets in Atlanta, as we leave the car park we intermittently run over rough concrete, smooth concrete, there are images spray-painted onto the floor, graffiti, litter, the shadows make interesting patterns on the floor, which is interspersed with metal utilities covers, tree plantings, stencilled names of bands / organisations like ‘FUNKWITT’… What histories lie in these streets…?

(Video starts black) A field recording and video sync together, Euclid Ave NE, near to Atlanta Variety Playhouse.

Put The Needle On The Record #10 : Asheville : 28092019

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 26092019: The scattering, atomised, sound of rain on the roof of the taxi, and on the windows of the bus, with high impact resonating on the metal stairs leading up to the venue. There was lightning, and a crack and flash indoors at the venue. Delayed sound. The sound of Moogs! (as we visited the factory that day). Air conditioning in the dressing room marauding the air space again… that grey windy drone always on seemingly.. the backdrop of sound you notice when things aren’t that great? Relief in the sound of water in the shower, and the self-conscious sound of my case as I move it around the bus.

Wheeled luggage ‘Just off the bus’ Asheville… 26092019
…a street that led to the Moog factory.

Put The Needle On The Record #9 : Nashville : 26092019

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 26092019: Turned up early and got coffee in a diner. The luggage bag recording was of me going to the day room, walking up the hill. I’ve been experimenting with video here and I want people to be able to see the surfaces they are listening to, I think this is best… in some ways it has to be there as a visual thing. The patterns on the road, the objects etc.. and their relationship to the sound and story.. they all relate.

Luggage bag recording: Nashville street 26092019

Arriving and being in a historical place of such ‘traditional’ musical heritage, I made field recordings of the pavement – or ‘sidewalk’ as it is known. Yet in some ways this is the most dynamic form of reportage I could do – to get up close to the material, the story, the real life, as it is now. What is the sound of the street, when you play it like a record? And which musicians have walked these streets I am trawling along now? What state were they in? Where were there careers heading, pulling back from? Nashville is one of the main centres of musical activity and industry in the USA, but also has the most colleges and universities after NYC/Boston, and it is known for its healthcare. What characters have walked these streets in the past? Students, academics, vagrants… How has Nashville and its network of streets been shaped – if at all – by its own musical history and musical ‘legend’ (and legends)? If anything ‘Nashville’, and the idea of a music city lives above the streets as a romantic idea, not on them. What lies on the streets is more the truth of the matter: pavement forms created by municipal protocols and economic constraints; impacted with social and societal encounters leaving traces such as dried bubble gum, spilt drinks of various consistencies, litter, scratches, dents… devastation and entropy lie waiting on the outskirts of what is clear to see..

Outside the venue, the streets look fairly normal. But I wonder what dramas have taken place here? At what times?
Facing the direction of the gear being loaded in.
The legend of Nashville is ‘above’ rather than ‘on’ the streets…

Put The Needle On The Record #7 : Washington DC : 22092019

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 22092019: A hot day: 32-37 degrees C. Slabs (concrete sections) are much closer together. Is Washington ‘more refined’ than Detroit? Some variations on the street such as manhole covers and ventilation grilles. Two pedestrian stops to cross the road. I took a luggage bag walk and saw how the hot pavement slabs (well actually concrete sections like in other towns) were closer together. Some metal grids like the ones I saw in Times Square were there, which cause a dense and full sound like a drum roll. Heard today, the sound of the water in the shower, limpid, unimpressive. And the sound of my luggage bag rolling into and out of the dressing room. 

Luggage bag recording: 5th St, North West, Washington DC 22092019

What could be said of the street surfaces I have seen so far? Some have felt very impersonal and some have felt characterful; some have felt dangerous and some have felt safe; but there is always a story if you have a look and a listen… ‘Listening’ to sounds, but also to the different streams of data and information is a form of Rhythmanalysis. In Detroit, Brooklyn, and Washington the streets I walked were impersonal. What factors lead to this? Is it just financial concerns, practical concerns, or social? Is it historic or technological factors that shape the streets and the experience of walking them? Or, was it just the location of the venue I find myself near? Is my experience being directed by different approaches to music, and to the location of live venues in the city? Venues can be central to culture and invited into urban planning, or they can be pushed away from it. Why was Boston (a University Town) more human and socially responsive somehow? Different communities respond in different ways to street perspectives. What factors shaped those responses, those communities..?

Out on a luggage bag walk in Washington DC 22092019