Put The Needle On The Record #11 : Atlanta : 29092019

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 30092019: The whining metallic ringing persistent sound of the juicer in the juice bar. But I felt lucky to be treated to juice, what a gift at this point in the tour. Also the busy people sound, activity, community, culture… at the thrift store, looking for second hand clothes…

Today we are premiering my attempt to sync a Roland R-05 field recording with a video, shot with my iPhone at the same time. Both taken on 30th September 2019. It is the end of the day, the gig is finished, we are packed up and soon to leave, but I want to make a ‘recording’ of Atlanta road / pavement surface somehow for my diary. I start in the carpark, wandering out for a short walk, recording sound with R-05.. I then later start recording a section of video, which I later sync-ed together. So the film starts off as black… Some really interesting streets in Atlanta, as we leave the car park we intermittently run over rough concrete, smooth concrete, there are images spray-painted onto the floor, graffiti, litter, the shadows make interesting patterns on the floor, which is interspersed with metal utilities covers, tree plantings, stencilled names of bands / organisations like ‘FUNKWITT’… What histories lie in these streets…?

(Video starts black) A field recording and video sync together, Euclid Ave NE, near to Atlanta Variety Playhouse.

Put The Needle On The Record #10 : Asheville : 28092019

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 26092019: The scattering, atomised, sound of rain on the roof of the taxi, and on the windows of the bus, with high impact resonating on the metal stairs leading up to the venue. There was lightning, and a crack and flash indoors at the venue. Delayed sound. The sound of Moogs! (as we visited the factory that day). Air conditioning in the dressing room marauding the air space again… that grey windy drone always on seemingly.. the backdrop of sound you notice when things aren’t that great? Relief in the sound of water in the shower, and the self-conscious sound of my case as I move it around the bus.

Wheeled luggage ‘Just off the bus’ Asheville… 26092019
…a street that led to the Moog factory.

Put The Needle On The Record #9 : Nashville : 26092019

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 26092019: Turned up early and got coffee in a diner. The luggage bag recording was of me going to the day room, walking up the hill. I’ve been experimenting with video here and I want people to be able to see the surfaces they are listening to, I think this is best… in some ways it has to be there as a visual thing. The patterns on the road, the objects etc.. and their relationship to the sound and story.. they all relate.

Luggage bag recording: Nashville street 26092019

Arriving and being in a historical place of such ‘traditional’ musical heritage, I made field recordings of the pavement – or ‘sidewalk’ as it is known. Yet in some ways this is the most dynamic form of reportage I could do – to get up close to the material, the story, the real life, as it is now. What is the sound of the street, when you play it like a record? And which musicians have walked these streets I am trawling along now? What state were they in? Where were there careers heading, pulling back from? Nashville is one of the main centres of musical activity and industry in the USA, but also has the most colleges and universities after NYC/Boston, and it is known for its healthcare. What characters have walked these streets in the past? Students, academics, vagrants… How has Nashville and its network of streets been shaped – if at all – by its own musical history and musical ‘legend’ (and legends)? If anything ‘Nashville’, and the idea of a music city lives above the streets as a romantic idea, not on them. What lies on the streets is more the truth of the matter: pavement forms created by municipal protocols and economic constraints; impacted with social and societal encounters leaving traces such as dried bubble gum, spilt drinks of various consistencies, litter, scratches, dents… devastation and entropy lie waiting on the outskirts of what is clear to see..

Outside the venue, the streets look fairly normal. But I wonder what dramas have taken place here? At what times?
Facing the direction of the gear being loaded in.
The legend of Nashville is ‘above’ rather than ‘on’ the streets…

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).

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

Put The Needle On The Record #6 : Brooklyn : 21092019

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.

No travel today, and no luggage bag. Instead, free-walking with written sound diary entry, and a gallery below.

From my sound diary that day: “Brooklyn/New York. Police cars, my footsteps on the sidewalk on my way to meet {x}. Cars travelling along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway above me, as I walk beneath it. Later in the day we walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and there is the sound of car tyres making a ‘popping’ sound as they hit and roll over over a metal grid at high speed, which is about 2/3 of the way along the bridge. In the heat of the day, the air in the tyres is fully expanded, and so the popping sound resonates in the air. It creates a punctuated, repetitive and rhythmic sound over what would otherwise be a whitewash’ of constant car movement and engine noise below. Entering the Subway… the noise of the subway train arriving, filling the air, filling the entire space with sound. Rising up and out into Times Square, the voices of the crowds and the traffic… Finally after having read about it, admired it been inspired by it, I arrive within range of the sphere of sound that is Max Neuhaus’ ‘Times Square’ piece. I could have spent hours there… As an intervention, Neuhaus has covertly set a drone to emanate from beneath one of the metal ventilation grids of the street. Having created a level of frequency and of volume, the effect is that all sound around interplays with the drone. Different types of sound both merge and separate with it, in ever-changing and curious ways. Voices are over taken by traffic noise, which may then quickly recede to leave the drone exposed on its own. I enjoyed way that the piece creates both a ‘base’ and ‘bass’ level, so that any ‘natural’ sound happens around the intervention piece and interacts with it. Natural sound for this area might be: the sound of crowds, both moving and stationary; the sound of sirens – emergency services, police; the sound of individual conversations – tourists and ‘locals’; sounds of shouts, exclamations, traffic noise. I had to get back in time for the ‘instore’, so we took a taxi back to Brooklyn, the main thing noticeable was how the level of overall noise ‘calmed down’ on that side of the river. Manhattan was now distant. However there was much intense noise in sirens and horns and shouts when a fire started in the restaurant we were eating in… and I remember the crackle of material being consumed in the vivid and violent flames, just as I got out.

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