Alexis Madrigal on his quest to find the first recordings of the urban soundscape:
Could I go back a hundred years and listen to New York or Paris?
When it comes to film, you can see all kinds of old places. Sometimes even in high resolution, thanks to the work of archivists like Rick and Megan Prelinger. These films are incredibly important records for historians and citizens alike. They give us eyes in the past.
There’s an amazing film sequence of San Francisco in 1905. A camera was placed on a streetcar and driven down Market Street, the diagonal that cuts through the city’s core. Pedestrians, cars, carts, horses, the whole dizzying array of urban life before electricity and the automobile turned our cities inside-out. We recognize our buildings, but not our city. Similar recordings exist of most major cities.
I figured that there had to be similar documentation of the metropolitan soundscape, or any soundscape really.
Back in the 60s, before synthesizers were commercially available, the BBC Radiophonic workshop was creating electronic music and sound effects for shows like Doctor Who. The BBC has now published a set of web-based simulations of some of this equipment, using just the Web Audio API of HTML5. The code and explanations are included.
My favorite album of the year thus far is Portland trio Bruxa‘s new album Victimeyez. It’s an occult informed dark hip hop album, with tastes of electro, chopped and screwed, witch-house and dubstep thrown in. They call it witchstep.
The digital version Victimeyez is free to download and was released by Mishka, a streetwear company in New York City that also puts out some Pyschic TV merch. A cassette release will follow from Sweating Tapes, the label that released their debut EP Eye On Everybody last year.
They’re from Portland, but I have no idea who they are. I randomly stumbled across their first EP on Bandcamp and was hooked — it was my second favorite album of 2011 (after Zomby’s Dedication). Discovering Sweating Tapes set me down a rabbit hole of Portland-based dark electronic scene that I had no idea existed.
Last month I performed at Rotture in Portland, OR opening for The Steven Lasombras, along with Cult of Zir and Meta-Pinnacle. I had some technical difficulties in the beginning, so you might want to jump forward to about 3:00 minutes in. It’s hard to tell from the video, but what I’m doing is bowing a broken drum cymbal with a cello bow. I have a contact mic on the cymbal, and the signal is being routed into Ableton Live, where its’ be processed through multiple effects. I have some other noise sources running in Ableton as well.
You can download my most recent single here and my album here.
In the 1960s, Stanley Lunetta created a number of interactive scultures using electronic audio generators. Some of them were still running as of 2008. Some responded to elements such as heat and light to change the sounds, others had more explicit human interactive elements.