“There’s an experiment I did,” Eno tells us; it was “a good exercise that I would recommend to other people.”
I had taken a DAT recorder to Hyde Park and near Bayswater Road I recorded a period of whatever sound was there: cars going by, dogs, people. I thought nothing much of it and I was sitting at home listening to it on my player. I suddenly had this idea. What about if I take a section of this – a 3-1/2 minute section, the length of a single – and I tried to learn it? So that’s what I did. I put it in SoundTools and I made a fade-up, let it run for 3-1/2 minutes and faded it out. I started listening to this thing, over and over. Whenever I was sitting there working, I would have this thing on. I printed it on a DAT twenty times or something, so it just kept running over and over. I tried to learn it, exactly as one would a piece of music: oh yeah, that car, accelerates the engine, the revs in the engine go up and then that dog barks, and then you hear that pigeon off to the side there. This was an extremely interesting exercise to do, first of all because I found that you can learn it. Something that is as completely arbitrary and disconnected as that, with sufficient listenings, becomes highly connected. You can really imagine that this thing was constructed somehow: “Right, then he puts this bit there and that pattern’s just at the exact same moment as this happening. Brilliant!” Since I’ve done that, I can listen to lots of things in quite a different way. It’s like putting oneself in the role of an art perceiver, just deciding, now I’m playing that role.
All of which is interesting already – but it makes me wonder if a band could then reproduce that tape, live, as a kind of cover song, in concert. Godspeed You! Black Emperor plays the sounds of Bayswater in their closing set, a perfect rendition of Eno’s old tape…
Instead of another Led Zeppelin cover band, you book a Times Square cover band for your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah; they play the traffic, voices, and horns of a typical Times Square day, for hours. Even lifetime Manhattanites can’t tell the difference.
Or an International Space Station cover band, playing for you, live, acoustic versions of the Station’s lonely clicks and whirs.
A St. Louis Arch cover band – the St. Louis Arches® – reproducing the sounds of Eero Saarinen’s structure on stages around the world. “It’s just like being there,” The New Yorker reports. “The effect is uncanny.”
An Elevators of the Empire State Building cover band. Alexanderplatz acoustically reproduced on guitar… by a busker in Alexanderplatz.
The sounds of Death Valley – live, at the Hollywood Bowl.
What the Kremlin would sound like if it had been built in the Piazza Navona – played live, in a small room outside Tokyo.
Or a man who tunes the infrastructure of his building till it sounds exactly like a hotel he once stayed in in Paris. The ducts rattle in just the right way, and the door hinges creak… reminding him of better days. He then hires a band to reproduce those sounds at the office Christmas party.
He is promptly fired.
(Earlier on BLDGBLOG: Soundtracks for Architecture and Silophone resonance: architecture to play by phone. Coming soon: a great interview with Walter Murch, in which I ask him about the Brian Eno quotation, above).