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.

Put The Needle On The Record #3 : Detroit : 16092019

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 16092019:

The luggage bag on the pavement, made some really interesting sounds, the big slabs of concrete created large flat areas with moments of gentle impact where they joined. The impacts were far apart (when compared with other streets).”

Wheeled Luggage on the streets of Detroit 16092020
Detroit 16092020

Arriving in Detroit, the first chance to really get out on some pavement. American cities are generally vast, and the built urban walkways seemingly endless. Starting from just outside the venue, I walked towards the ‘centre’ of the city (a curious concept in itself). Most noticeable were the huge slabs of concrete that made up the streets. This immediately made the rhythm of impact with the wheels of the bag much slower and spread out, with more rolling in between. In UK streets, paving is made up of multiple tessellated shapes that create repetitive patterns and rhythms; in Detroit these slabs are uniform and recurring, and also three times the size of an average UK pavement ‘slab’. Immediately we can sense a different rhythm, a different pace: one written in the streets that suggests different interpretations of ‘space’ and its purposes, needs, restrictions, and of human purpose, needs, restrictions. My assumption would be that ‘the city’, commerce, and the efficient movement of bodies are more important than the needs of those bodies.

Outside St Andrews Hall 16092020
The Street 16092020

Put The Needle On The Record #2 : Chicago : Riot Festival 15092019

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 15092019:

“The sound of the buggy as I got moved around, the distant sounds of festival music, bassy, incoherent. Walking through the crowd, and the man shouting at the top of his voice literally to people to back off. The difference between side of stage and in front of stage. The different mixes and sounds of the bands playing as I moved around of course.”

Riot Festival took place at Douglas Park, Chicago on 15th Sept 2019. Below is the shortest sound clip in this series, but it is the first taste of the luggage bag on American soil – and not. The ‘soil’ of an outdoor festival is usually covered with metal grids or ‘ground mats’ in the busiest areas such as walkways for crew and professionals working backstage. I managed to capture some of this, while in transit.

15092019