Monday, September 26, 2011

The sound walk

On the night of Friday, September 23rd, I decided to do a soundwalk of a neighborhood I frequent. The neighborhood is in the Stapleton section of Staten Island and I decided to do this as I already sound walked my own neighborhood for a previous class.

I've rented out a music studio on Sands Street for years. During the day the only sound is the train running overhead as the neighborhood is mostly deserted. Several years ago I had a rent dispute with the studio and they locked us out of our room. To get it back we had to break in during the day time. That should say volumes about the neighborhood.

I began my walk at the Stapleton train station and its roughly five past nine. The train rumbles on to the neck stop and the station is deserted. I walk down the steps to find an elderly woman whispering in her cell phone and tapping her foot impatiently.

My goal is the studio on Sands street a street over. Even from the train you can hear the crash of half of dozen different drummers pounding away as hard as they can. You can see the building across an abandoned lot, but you've got to walk around onto Bay Street to get there. Walking onto Bay you get the hum of traffic and the hiss of hydraulics of the bus dropping off its passengers.

There is a small mexican deli on the corner. Music can be heard blaring from a crappy AM/FM radio filled with Latin flair and a bouncing salsa rhythm. Two men are arguing in Spanish inside. Making a right onto Sands street you can start hearing guitars playing repetitious distorted rhythms. The metal door up top slams with a hollow clang and boots pound down the stairs as people leave the studio. I had up the same stairs, go to my room, and drop off my bag. Its quieter here than outside since most bands are too lazy to completely soundproof their rooms. There is still a deep rumble of bass and drums somewhere on the floor but I leave the way I came and head back outside.

I go farther down Bay Street towards the direction of the ferry. There is a constant sound of indecipherable shouting and bass heavy music in the distance interrupted only by intermittent traffic. The is a harsh crackle from the order cue at the McDonald's drive through as people place their orders. Another train rolls by.

There aren't many people out and about and this hour on Bay Street and the ones who are stand silently at bus stations. I hear a fog horn in the distance as the next ferry boat docks and another as one departs. Several minutes later another train rolls past in the opposite direction.

The is the rattle of shopping carts as late night shoppers roll out of the Western Beef supermarket. I decide that its time to head back because its getting awfully close to rehearsal time. On Sands Street there is a screech of tires as people race to the end of the dead end street.

The sounds of traffic, the shopping carts, music and people talking are considered to be background noise.
Sound signals could be the sound of the order box at McDonalds, the screeching car tires, and the sounds of the heavy metal doors at Sand Street opening.
The only sound land marks that seem relevant to me, is the sound of the trains and the fog horn from the ferry. They denote the time and are constant reminders of the location of the neighborhood.