Sounds from memory #4: Falling
January 9, 2008
(Not really a sound from memory more the memory of an imagined sound…)
The ideal city is a city with mountains – Naples, Lisbon, Sarajevo, Phoenix Arizona even. The flat and claustrophobic city of London lacks this topological quality but tries to make up for it in the form of council tower blocks (not quite the vertical exuberance of Hong Kong or Shanghai but it will do…) and it was to these buildings that i was drawn in a skyward search to try and ‘understand’ the city and the London landscape.
In the early Eighties council housing was in chaos and these blocks had been more or less to fend for themselves; the original tenants had moved out (except for a few aged ” i’ll only leave here in a coffin” types identifiable by heavily armored front doors) leaving the run of the place to a colorful mix of smackheads, the smackhead’s drug dealers, ‘antisocial’ families and the dregs of the squatter population.
(a friend of mine who lived in the top flat of a fourty storey building, hacked a head sized hole through his bedroom wall so that when he was lying in bed he could remind himself that the only thing between him and the void was a thin layer of breeze blocks. His occupancy of the flat was cut short when a pirate radio station gang persuaded him to leave by dangling him out of the kitchen window…)
Access to the buildings was unrestricted, I spent happy hours exploring and climbing these imitation mountains – walking up the stairwells, climbing scaffolding or directly up the exterior of the building, balcony to balcony to sit, dangling my feet of the top. Much of the mid-period bourbonese qualk imagery derives from this architecture (not as commonly supposed an ‘industrial’ affectation but a search for the echo of a more rural landscape) as video, album covers, posters and photographs. But more and more the focus of my climbs became the attempt to record the fall from a high building; Sitting on the edge of the top of a tower block caused me an almost unstoppable physical urge to leap off – i was sure the falling sensation would be worth it, however brief. I decided to try and capture a simulation of falling by dropping microphones and video cameras off high buildings creating a series of short, very short, films and audio recordings (and smashed equipment). I never came close to matching the imagined sound, a sound which has to be experienced to be fully appreciated: in a short six seconds the sound of televisions, and children crying changing pitch though doppler distortion as i drop past the balconies, the noise of the city – traffic, car alarms, sirens fading as the range decreases to a single point of impact on a concrete surface bringing the short journey full circle from solid to void and back again.
Some tips on falling: