Put The Needle On The Record #20 : Los Angeles : 14102019

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: All the sounds I heard and found while doing the study of the venue with Cruel Diagonals: clanking chains, slamming doors, creaking doors, ringing metal protective fence sections. Imagining electro-magnetic sounds (I didn’t have headphones) . The sound of the gear being loaded up the aluminium ramp during the ‘get in’. The humming sound of the fridge in our dressing room. The reasurring sounds of humanity, the clash and bang of catering, having breakfast at a cafe, earlier in the day. 

This luggage bag recording was made after the show at the Teragram Ballroom on 14102019. I am walking from the tourbus, around the venue and back. It is late at night, dark, you can hear some chatting from some of the audience still loitering around the venue. This outside ambience is subdued in contrast to the sounds during the day that myself and L.A.-based vocalist / field recordist Megan Mitchell (aka ‘Cruel Diagonals’) spent a few hours recording. We used hand-held recorders, contact mics, electromagnetic coil microphones and standing microphones to explore the sounds around the venue, inside and out. We captured the ‘load-in’ at the back of the venue, as well as boiler rooms, kitchen, a deserted entrance hall and IT cabling rooms at the front. As part of an ‘architecture and sound’ project we were looking to find the acoustic, electromagnetic ‘soul’ of the venue at that point in time. Hopefully Megan and I will do a collaborative piece with these sounds at some point. In any case we both came away with a wealth of sounds from the study. It was a fantastic day to be thinking about and exploring ‘non-musical’ (or non-band created) sound in a music venue.

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 #17 (Part #2) : Seattle : Image and imagined sound

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.

We’ve been thinking about styli, architecture, and sound. We’ve been thinking of the city as a record, the world as a playable ‘record’ – so it seems perfect to present this image I came across in a dressing room Seattle. Imagine: what would this recording sound like?

Track 2: Mike Klay (screen print, 2009)

In Mike Klay’s image, a screen print titled ‘Track 2’, the famous landmark of the Space Needle is taken as a literal needle. ‘Needle’ of course as we know is a homonym that also signifies ‘stylus’ in popular culture. Mike playfully imagines the Space Needle as a giant stylus, playing a giant record (or a shrunk Space Needle playing an actual record). If I was looking for an image to feed into my abstract thoughts of needles, styli, city sounds, architecture, landscape and playing the city at the time – then this would be it. It is also worth noting the connection Mike places between landscape and soundscape. The topographic physical landscape is directly above what could be waveforms of sound, or indeed other form of the landscape: grass, trees… It is a beautiful synaesthetic puzzle of architectonic and musical slippage, visual and textural puns.

This image is a great metaphor for some of the emphasis I am placing on exploring sound, architecture, the built environment, and potential styli for the sounding of each. Next we are off to Portland.



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 #12 : Interlude : Stop For Train : Shreveport : 30092019

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.

6020 Freight train arrives in Shreveport about 3:40pm (very slowly)

We’re about half way through now, so let’s pause for this train to cross our path in Shreveport, Louisiana. The recording took place a few metres from the train, sitting waiting for one to pass. In general I noticed that they waited at a distance for quite some time, until given the signal to move. Then a series of blasts on the air horn, the engine takes up the strain, and it rolls the final half kilometre or so into the depot. It took ten minutes to trundle past, and while sitting there I was treated to a horizontal scroll of graffiti…

A different kind of rolling luggage


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 #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

Put The Needle On The Record #4 : Montreal : 18092019

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.

Waking up to the school run 18092019

From my sound diary 18092019: Waking up in Canada, Montreal: the quiet of the residential street (from inside the sound proofing of the bus). the air brakes repeatedly flushing as the bus driver sought to park accurately. The sound of the coffee machine as it boiled water, and the frustrating silence of it as I worked out how to get it to make coffee. Crunch of cereal in a polystyrene bowl eaten with a plastic spoon when you are the first one up and the cereal is crunchy. Sounds of traffic passing by, and the horn of the bus that disagreed with the way our driver pulled out in front of him. Luggage bag: Started in the venue and went outside and around on the streets at night time, leading back up to our bus.

In this luggage bag recording you can hear me leaving the ‘The Fairmount’ venue, after the night’s gig. I pull across the empty venue floor in front of the empty stage, and then lumber down the stairs of the venue with my luggage bag. Once outside, I walk Park Avenue to make a ‘record’ of the streets near the venue. Street surfaces in Montreal appear to be structured and organised; the ‘sidewalks’ are interspersed with iron covers masking entry to underground utilities. There are also iron grids around the tree fixtures, that regularly punctuate the street line. There is a distinctly ‘municipal’ feel to the street environment; the experience during the day was welcoming and quaint. But strangely at night the street felt inhospitable, tense, the streets were practically empty and even had a hint of (unknown) danger to them. Now, the municipal qualities now seem odorous and mocking. In fact the sound of the idling tour bus engine is reassuring when I eventually return to it and get on…

Wheeled Luggage on Park Avenue, Montreal, after dark 18092019
Park Avenue, Montreal, Canada.