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

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