Put The Needle On The Record #8 : Philadelphia : 240919

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 24092019: “We are based in a rougher area today for the gig, so the sound of the luggage bag on the the street was more brutal and closer to ‘noise’ today. Rough and chipped concrete. As I walked towards a more desirable area, the street sound developed into a more smooth and regular refrain (Gentrification?). Some streets again have the concrete delineations of space, they are not so much individual slabs, as a larger section of pavement overall, with troughs in straight lines to delineate a rectangular space on the surface.”

Dragging my luggage bag across the streets near to each venue that we play on this American tour, I am making a record of the histories etched into the very street I am walking along. Connected to the street, I read and write this encounter as recorded sound. There is a sense of ‘presence’ as I am walking, listening, and creating sound at the same time. I am engaged and engaging with the street. A form of stylus, the luggage bag reads the physical topography of the street and vibrates like a traditional stylus might, faithfully rendering the unique physical topography into sound. One recording cannot represent all activities, all agents, all histories, but it can work as a starting point for these. And as we compare each location, a certain story is told in each. The rhythms reflect the physical ‘document’ of the street, and how it has been written by multiple authors: government, local government, architects, accountants, municipalities, construction workers, repairmen, commuters, businesses, artists, tramps, vagrants, criminals, tourists, musicians… A palimpsest, the street is constantly being written, imagined, interpreted. As we walk the streets and are present, we can be open to this collaboration. Even better to play it out loud.

Luggage bag recording: Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia 24092019
A visual selection of Spring Garden street (no sound).