A traveler on this new island, my first forays radiate out from the center. At 12:36 pm, I start walking due west.
Not a few moments pass before I am pressed up against fellow travelers, compressed in the space of the city, stacked like the bricks around us. A clicking signal indicates to the blind, such as yourself, that a street crossing is permitted by the local authorities. Let loose once again up the concrete walk, I slip around pedestrians along my strict course of travel.
This staccato pedestrian pace of long strides along the blocks and standing still at the corners is the dominate rhythm of a city walk. Giving in to this rhythm does not preclude the variety of encounters--spatial, social, sensorial--which are possible. The corner of a block leads to collisions between unlikely actors. The frictionless straightaway, on the other hand, permits a certain isolation, allowing me to observe and record a singular cut through the cityscape.
These blocks of buildings form larger groups of blocks with distinguishable characteristics (tall buildings, hard surfaces, voids of parking garages, etc). These groups may form called districts or neighborhoods, but I abandon those artificial boundaries. Look, listen, to the physical properties which unite them. This walking radius is an island: the order it contains is the order I have given it. By walking through the heterogeneous clusters of built and un-built space, I produce an organization. I organize space by walking through it. Then recording sound and reassembling that sound into a single track, I attempt to illuminate that order, to give clarity to it through a language of sound. Listen:
SF Lunchwalk: West by nicksowers
At the beginning of the track, I am compressed on a corner. Layers of travelers cross over me, vehicles shred the space of the possible, and a man with a cane bends over talking to a woman inside her car with a small dog in the driver's seat. An open-deck tour bus with the driver's well-beaten narrative, amplified, is momentarily captured by my microphones before disappearing off the edge of the map. Above my head taps a hand against the stucco face of a building to a beat independent of the street. Shrill brakes and electric bus straw snapping, the volume thickens.
Cars roar up and down an artery named after Van Ness. They drown out the layering of space, flattening the sonic sphere momentarily until I cross it. Walking further up, a slight increase in elevation, and I find a tennis court. Leaf blowers signify greater affluence.
Later, at a two-block wide park, at the boomerang moment on the walk, I welcome the great depth of field. Hills to the south are visible with their own little orchestras of sirens and cars tinny like the sound from a miniature train model. At the park, space releases itself from a tight coil. The aural vista opens wide. The city is out there.