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).”
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.