Put The Needle On The Record #25 Berlin: 02022020

Italio Calvino (1972) suggested that histories of cities are written in their streets as ‘scratches and indentations’, as ‘scrolls’ to be read.

Inspired by works such as Christian Marclay’s (1999) ‘Guitar Drag’, and Francis Alys’ (2004) ‘Railings’ I have been using various styli – including a rolling luggage bag – to read the grooves of the street surface, and make audio records as part of this.

I have recently been experimenting with turning the audio patterns into visual scrolls – and printing them out as posters.

Original luggage bag recording on 02022020-Friedrich Strasse, Berlin.
Berlin Scroll from the recording on 02022020.

From my sound diary:

Sunday 2nd Feb. Wandering around Berlin again. I am on Friedrich Strasse, the street on which Check Point Charlie used to be. Visually there were focused pavement designs using various surfaces with coherent patterns. I remember the close ticking sound of pedestrian road crossing with the sound of passing traffic. I got to the Brandenburg Gate, where a group of people were meditating next to another group of Arabic-looking people who were having some form of a remembrance or protest rally. Also moving around the city, I saw the marker of the position of original Berlin wall, the marker drew a red line across stones, and all across the pavement…I followed it for quite a while, thinking of the older previous borders and boundaries that have gone, with no markers; the city and the streets as palimpsest

Put The Needle On The Record #24: Hamburg 01022020

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.

We are in a constant dialogue with the space around us. The ever-changing acoustic switches between inside and outside in a lifelong series of cadences between the two.

A visual ‘scroll’ of the Hamburg stylus field recording (01022020).

This recording is one of the shortest but moves from the inside to the outside of the venue (Gruenspan, Hamburg) on 01/02/2020.

Stylus field recording of Gruenspan, Hamburg, Germany (inside and outside).

Once the performance is over the inside of the venue becomes reflective and reverberant again, after the dispersal of the crowd.

There are only remnants of the presence of a crowd in the squashed plastic cups rattling around the floor, and other spillages/ marks.

Inside.

Compare then the outside, which is more chaotic and public, and subject to the weather. The outside is a contested space: for pedestrians, cars, cyclists, skateboarders. Out here you feel the weather, the season, the time of day, the community (or lack of one).

On this occasion when I am filming, the oily urban pavement glistens with sparkles of rain in the sodium glow street lights and headlights of the passing cars. It is wet, but not clean.

All characters, all ages patrol and navigate the streets. There is no entrance fee, or need for proof of ID; the streets are for everyone.

A short Rhythmanalysis:

Think of the activity in the venue over a week as it fills, empties, is cleaned, gets ready to start again. Think of the individual and crowd movements as people arrive over the day, as they disperse at night. Think of the changes in the weather, in the temperature as day and night shift. Expand the timescale and think of the changing fashions in music and clothes over years, and the changing use of the building over time.

Put The Needle On The Record #22: Amsterdam 28012020

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.

The Paradiso venue in Amsterdam is a former church in the old district of southern Amsterdam. The venue is placed directly by a canal which is at its rear in the Leidseplein area near the Melkweg, with the front of the venue facing onto a busy street. I recorded a short trip from The Paradiso venue that went onto the streets and into the Leidsplein area.

The streets were busy, flowing, animated, with several modes of transport circulating simultaneously and fairly harmoniously in this area. There are tram tracks on the road, built-in cycle lanes, car and bus lanes, lanes for water drainage, as well as pedestrian areas and various crossings of these tracks. The pedestrian pavement surface was initially made of grey-worn square paving slabs laid perpendicular to the direction of travel. The slabs were all polka-dotted with flattened gum circles. Next to these, some tessellated patterns of older red-brick were visible in the areas closer to the venue that led to the canal by way of side streets.

The pattern soon changed to the design of what looked like granite brick blocks in a diagonal ‘hatched’ formation. At the same time, I also came across some more traditional-looking older hatched patterns created out of the smaller red brick flooring to the left of me, near a small shopping arcade. Curiously all bricks – whether granite or red – switched from perpendicular to hatch at the same time. I wondered was it the original older bricks that set the pattern or rhythm of that area? What changed it?

It happened that also some road works were taking place on the road that spanned the tram and cycle lanes with road diggers and metal fences around them. This represented a ‘disruption’ to the otherwise harmonic and integrated floor patterns and the rhythmic flow of transit in this otherwise busy area.

Sounding the surface of the streets in Amsterdam. (field recording)
Multiple lanes, multiple uses and users.
Video clip of Leidsplein walk

Put The Needle On The Record #23: Köln 30012020

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.

Again thinking of rhythm as not just as ‘a systematic arrangement of musical sounds’ but rather as a universal principle that can explain history, fashion, technology, and other changing aesthetics; the pavement surface of Koln was really fascinating. A collision of times, textures, tonality, and tempi – Köln’s past really did seem to be written in the streets. Looking at this slideshow you can see different street patterns and different eras mingling with evidence of changing cultural aesthetics and power influences. The streets are a palimpsest, they are constantly written and overwritten as various rhythms of cultural change radiate through the city.. they are scratched, marked, and wiped clean again. These echoes, as worn icons of past eras like eddies in a flowing stream, are slowly but constantly shifting and mingling with the recent: a cigarette butt, chewing gum, ice cream spilled…

Stylus field recording of K0ln streets.

These are all visual rhythms below and they speak of different uses, different purposes, different intentions.

Put The Needle On The Record #21: Bordeaux 26012020

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.

On the first day of the European tour, we arrived at Bordeaux. Notably, the first case of Coronavirus in France was reported in Bordeaux two days before we arrived. I took the luggage bag out on the streets nearby to the venue, which was an arts/culture centre with surroundings of mostly tarmac and grass.

My experience of Bordeaux was quite rhythmic. Once on the streets, I noticed that the thick terracotta tiles create regular, repetitive patterns, but also that these are used in adaptive and creative ways. There are variations to the pattern. There is the reactive placing of the tiles in relation to positions of street lights, drain covers, driveways, etc. Someone – or a group of people – had to make these decisions as they were laying them. This contrasted to many of the broader streets in America, where large plain slabs of cheap, mass-produced concrete materials were lain with great uniformity to facilitate the large-scale movement of people. When we think about these motives and contexts for the urban environment and for its use, for its consumption by people, wider narratives begin to materialize – what are the differences between European and American cultures for example? How and why did they evolve so?

Bordeaux

Listening notes: Crossing the road you hear a run-in groove of tarmac, before going up the curb onto the streets with the thick, square, terracotta tiles. Once rolling, the unique tiled rhythm sets up and continues for most of the journey. There were variations in speed in my walking, which created variations in the intensity of sound. There are broken rhythms as we come into contact with items such as manhole covers, street repairs, larger drain covers, cracks (cracks due to weather, cracks seemingly due to the weight of heavy vehicles), etc. What is interesting is that all these features are set on, and written in, the street. These are the grooves, the document. All we have to do is reveal their sound. An experience of dragging something over it from a given start and ending point is what creates the unique ‘record’ of that time. It is putting on the needle on the record to play it. The playback is from my starting to my endpoint.

A still from the Bordeaux street journey showing the smaller tiles, stones, and their resulting patterns.

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #25 : Memorial Playing Fields, Hanney

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Memorial Playing Fields, Hanney

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #12 : Appleford Recreation Ground

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Appleford Recreation Ground

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #06 : Letcombe Regis Recreation Ground

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Letcombe Regis Recreation Ground

Q&A : Jacek Smolicki to Marlo De Lara

Lola

Every day new footage arrives depicting another colonial statue being dismantled, broken into pieces or dragged along the streets to be eventually drowned in the water. Highly dramaturgic ways in which these acts of dismantling colonial landmarks happen proves that performativity and radical interventionism do not need to emerge as forms of artistic responsiveness. As an artist who has worked extensively with the issues of representation, identity, racial injustice and postcolonialism, where do you see the place of an artist and how do you perceive the role of arts in this current moment?

In the most traditional sense, I believe the artist holds an incredible capacity and potency for defamiliarization. As discussed by Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky, this ‘making strange’ is central, particularly within social art practices and public art. While the artist is not the only empowered or positioned to make ways to intervene or question a status quo, actions often can be momentary and the dissenting protesters make their mark through documentation and witness. Deeply moving works often are indeed seen as such, not by over directing the viewer with its vision, but rather by giving pause to automated and normalized responses. The desensitization to lived realities is often times ruptured merely by reframing sensory cues. What has become acceptable such as institutional racism or supremacist and misogynist public policy is transposed to hopefully something questionable, once something becomes framed as a work of art. Again, this can be complicated by an artist intention but I personally take the position that there is room outside the originating frame, an afterlife, that can be just as powerful.

In your artistic and scholarly practice you’ve often been relying on autobiographical material.

In ‘Spaces of Making’ you revisit your childhood memories and personal journals to give them new meaning. I wonder what functions and impact might artistically and more specifically sonically approached autobiography have today, in the context of the struggle for decolonization of not only our institutions, public spaces, archives but also public life and the way it gets expressed through/in sounds and soundscapes?

In that piece, I capitalized on what is often perceived as a denarrativized sensory field, the aural. Sound is just sound. The stories and judgements we put upon sound are created by those who manipulate or stage it in order to do so. I reviewed my personal story and amplified its presence in order to see if indeed childhood story can both simultaneously be distracted and enhanced by sounding. In this moment of rebellion and revolution, I think we are all acutely aware of enforced silence in our home habitats caused by stay-in-shelter orders as well as the swell in Black voices that previously were disregarded or made to disappear. It is the extremities between the silence of empty motorways and the inescapability of the chants of “Defund the Police” with cars honking horns in solidarity. In these ways, sound-based storytelling has become the going rate, if you look at post-production choices of audiovisual essays and the decentering of diegetic elements within narrative works of previously invisibilised folx. In short, right now everyone is turning up the volume. Because gatekeepers of those controls are being questioned. So, the public sphere and the norms of injustice are well served by the focalizing what is heard in and around living in this moment.

Stuck Tape

Defining yourself as at once an activist, artist, and academic, how do you perceive relations between these roles today and do you believe that each of these activities should have a space on their own, or rather blend and cross-feed with one another?

I think there is an intellectual and creative violence in categorization that binds one only to recognizable social functions. We are all holistic beings and yet when we speak, we often require external qualifiers to hear a message. If I comment on a current event, often it is those signifiers of ‘activist’ and ‘academic’ that give my words traction. But in reality, often I am just articulating as a human moving through space who is feeling and thinking in real time. That alone should be valid enough. But it does not even register unless I say my qualifiers. As Hannah Arrendt once responded in an interview about her own identification: ‘if one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew.’ Identity is assumed in relation to the political activity, ‘not as one’s personal identity, or a generic identification, but as a mode of struggle.’

Distal Bodies 46.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 20th September 2020

Time: 08:58 – 09:13

Weather: Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze

Temperature: 15oC

Average Sound Level: 46.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green