Sounds from memory #4: Falling

January 9, 2008

SE London 1986(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:

3 Responses to “Sounds from memory #4: Falling”

  1. I. Khider said

    Oh for goodness sake! Simon, have you ever heard of a sport called base jumping? I would be happy to send you a copy of a documentary of an underground sport in Toronto. Basically, people look for condos to climb leap off them around 2 or 3 am while the city sleeps…with a parachute. It is a fun, safe sport, provided you are patient and make sure the weather is favorable. No need to get into those dramatics—you can use a videocamera while jumping, and get to use it afterwards! for footage.

    Heck, we can do this support together some time.

    I. Khider

  2. crab said

    Um, base jumping is better without parachutes. It would also rid the world of those irritating thrill seeking ‘extreme sports’ types.

  3. Andrew Hardman said

    The last few lines in particular are beautifully described & very similar to how I’ve always imagined the experience pre-impact. Yeah, growing-up during the 70s around Britains council estates and the tales of many unfortunates who met such fate cause you to imagine it.
    Loving this blog, came for biscuits & decorators supplies & found so much more.
    Re: the above, smirk

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