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.

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