Volumetric Brooklyn

Max Ritts (2016)

An attempt to evoke ‘volumetric’ space – i.e. space produced by the enclosure of solid surfaces. How might sound allow us to explore interconnected urban strata – such as the roadways, sewers, subway networks, and effervescent sounds that characterize Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant neighbourhood?

In this composition, I use a combination of looped and discrete passages to explore sections of Brooklyn, NYC. I begin with the rich musical life and dense automotive activity that defines Fulton Ave, Bed-Stuy’s main thoroughfare. A recent ice melt gave me the opportunity to explore perforations in the street and follow water down into sewer grates and off buildings. Underground, New Yorks’ multi-tiered subway system invites us to ask how different layers of echo and delay might interpenetrate with the water sounds above as well as more ‘machinic’ sounds (wheel screeches, compressed air release) that define the subway space.

The last part of the piece moves back to street level. The intense digging and earth-moving I was able to capture proposed not only a commentary on the changing volumetric of urban form (e.g. the filling in and filling out of solids), but an aural signifier of gentrification’s ‘hollowing out’ effect too… relentless condo building and road improvement I ear-witnessed proposes important shifts not only in the materiality but the very the idea of “Bed-Stuy” too.

Each of these 32 recordings was recorded in Bedford- Stuyvesant (Brooklyn, NY) over several days, in December, 2016. All sounds were recorded on an omnidirectional microphone on Zoom H6 recorder. I then imported the files onto my computer and did some editing and arranging on Reaper, cutting up each of my recordings and arranging them sequentially according to my intended effect.

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