Tag: Walking in the city

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 #1

Put The Needle On The Record was created by Loz Colbert.

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. Comparisons beg to be drawn between cities, districts, and individual streets with their unique surfaces: such as St Aldate’s, Oxford; Rui Frei, Sao Paulo; East Congress Street, Detroit; Shibuya-Ku, Japan; and Stutter Street, San Francisco. Visual patterns of the manifestations of these streets are recorded also as they appear as images, and sometimes scrolling in movement, as video footage. Rather like the relationship between music, history, and fashion, luggage bag recordings explore the relationship between street, sound, and architecture in passing and in movement alongside traditional and emerging walking practice theory (e.g. Wunderlich, 2008; Edensor, 2010; Springgay & Truman, 2017).

At the same time I have been using Lefebvre’s notion of rhythmanalysis as a mode of enquiry, as a way of analysing these luggage bag recordings, as indeed it fuelled my curiosity for making them. With its evocation of both analytical (cerebral) and sensory (bodily) modes, rhythmanalysis offers a fresh perspective for the experience of, and the study of, sound in architecture and the urban built environment: rhythmanalysis presents itself as a fascinating mode of analysis for all field recording practices.

From my sound diary 14092019:

On the road to Detroit 14092019

“In general the bus has the drone of rubber fast over tarmac, gladly muted by sound proofing. I wonder if on different days, at different speeds, the drone will have different pitches, so if you recorded each of them, you could almost construct the entire frequency range of a keyboard made up of different days.”

I’m starting this collection of wheeled luggage recordings with the sound of the tourbus hurtling across American tarmac, from 15th September 2019. It was during the first few days of the tour, I was up early, there was no-one about so I recorded some sound of the bus in motion. It can be hard to stand up on a moving bus, so the recording device gets knocked about (as do I) trying to find a central spot to capture the sound. You are in a large, heavy vehicle that reverberates with the sound of its own movement through air, the terrain below, and of course its own engine, as well as the air conditioning fans and any other devices that happen to be switched on. In the end I give up and sit down. At this point you begin to hear the blast of the air conditioning, as to sit down and relax means to come right up against the vents which are positioned directly below the main side windows. I put this recording up here first in the series because soon we are to come into direct contact with the streets of America on a one-to-one basis. Here, at this point, wheels are indeed rolling over the surface of American freeways, roads and the built environment of the particular state we are travelling through and its connections. But we are rolling at high speed, with no real connection with the exterior other than through a slowly morphing vista of landscape, and an occasional reminder of the bumpy surface. Soon we will be walking, experiencing the streets as they unfold step by step like scrolls.

On the Road to Detroit 140919