Put The Needle On The Record #26: Geneva 05022020

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.

Italio Calvino, Invisible Cities
[Geneva Scroll]

Above is the ‘scroll’ I made from a field recording of a dragged street walk in Geneva. This is a visual manifestation of the stylus-based field recording, which is posted below this text section.

Sound diary, Geneva, 5/02/ 2020: Of all the recordings possibly the most regular in terms of the evenly-spaced pavement slabs. There were also more cobble-like areas in the part of the city I was in, which broke up some of this regularity. Also, there were some tram lines like iron girders, laid into the tarmac of the road.

Geneva Audio
Geneva Video

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.

Goodbye Twenty Twenty #6 : San Juan Atezcapan

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Lucia Hinojosa Gaxiola
Location: San Juan Atezcapan
Time and Date: some time in twenty twenty

Insect Poem

I started some time ago writing a series of thoughts, poems, scores, instructions called insect poems. During lockdown I was away in the countryside at San Juan Atezcapan and the sound of stridulation was fascinating and decided to make a composition-performance for the insects, or in collaboration with them. I only had a singing bowl with me so I tried to match its drone with the sound of the insects….

Goodbye Twenty Twenty #5 : Back Streets, Oxford

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Loz Colbert
Location: The Back Streets of Oxford
Time and Date: 05122020

The back streets of Oxford

The sound of the luggage bag on the streets has been largely absent – as has been my physical presence on them – since lockdown. So recording this sound on my first walking trip in the City Centre for many months felt like a beautiful moment.

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #27 : Ardington & Lockinge Sports Club

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.

Ardington & Lockinge Sports Club

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #26 : Loyd Recreation Park, Didcot

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.

Loyd Recreation Park, Didcot