Urban Drift for Aural Pleasure: Wedding, Berlin 20-04-2021

With headphones in, I’m not surprised that I become more attuned to the audio environment and move according to what might sound interesting. I consider passerby according to how I think — or rather sense — they might contribute to the recording. At the same time, I try to hum absent-mindedly. I don’t want to think about what I am humming; when a motif from a song or a familiar musical phrase escapes from my vocal chords and I wonder a little about what it is or where it came from, but try not to dwell on it or consciously change.

My sounding is not ‘echo location’ (at least not in any conventional sense), nevertheless I am humming as way of perceiving the environment. I hum at a volume that I think only I can hear it. Indeed, and especially with earbuds in, humming feels like a sound that is only inside my head. It’s much more intimate than, say, whistling. As well has drawing my attention to my sonic surroundings, humming also makes me aware of a certain pressure in my chest and nose and mouth. It’s a muffled expression —like a muted trumpet — rather than an expressive open mouthed articulation and I wonder why I never noticed this before.

Around the 11 minute mark I try to hum with the sound coming from a GeldAutomat which, now that I think about it, seems to be installed quite randomly along an otherwise residential street. I did attempt to harmonise with the sounds expressed from the vents of the machine, that upon close listening seems more granular than regular — ie more like static noise than a drone.

Drifting, I try not to notice where I am going. I try not to make conscious decisions about where I am in relation to where I began and let the audio experience by my guide, although other factors are at play. It is a warm day in early Spring and I favour the sunshine. I come to a street that I recognise as the address of a wholesale ‘oriental’ grocer that a friend had sent me to more than a year ago. I’m surprised to come upon it, but what strikes me more is the acoustic resonance of the laneway. At around 21 minutes in the recording, I pause in silence to appreciate a patch of sunlight between concrete structures that shape this light industrial zone and listen to the bass pumping out of a nearby parked car. I am surprised when the music is drowned out by an encroaching truck, pulling into a nearby parking bay. The sweeping ‘woof’ of the truck engine is physically palpable and I cannot distinguish the sound from the hot air which seems to engulf the truck like a cloud. The screeching highs of hydraulic truck brakes accentuate the effect as a full spectrum audio-body experience. It’s remarkable.