SF Lunchwalk: Forty-three Ambient Slices of the City

Why even bother with the names of streets?  In a world of sound, the names of streets ring silent.  They are dwarfed by the din of traffic, overwhelmed by thousands of diffuse sounds from the city hulking above.  Market Street, for instance, beckons to be renamed every time I walk out onto it.  My feet are willing to forget, but my head still wants to know: where am I going today?

East.  The Lunchwalker needs not the guidance of familiar street names.  It's not as though these walks are to be repeated.  Nor could they be.  Tracing the footsteps of a previous day's walk is not possible.  (Although that would make a fascinating walk to attempt to do so, even memorizing the sounds as though scripted by iambic pentameter, and to recite and overlay the previous day's walk upon a new day's walk.)  The soundtrack on a given day, at the same time and with the same route, will capriciously yield an entirely different experience.  So I walk east, and I could walk east every day and still find new things to hear, new worlds of sound to discover even though the world we see appears much the same.

What is that funny thing about an urban walk which enables the feeling: "I've walked here many times and yet I've never seen that before."?  Getting lost in a familiar place is part of it.  We all read the street signs and use them to familiarize ourselves with our whereabouts and communicate to others our experiences there.  Practicality aside, the real advantage of an urban walk is ignoring precisely the need to communicate the location.  Streets should be named instead for the sounds one may hear on them.

I have provided this recurring satellite view of my walkable terrain, but I even question its value other than to give a sense of scale of the walk.  For example, the spaces which continue from the outside to the inside -- how are these sonic continuities to overcome the familiar delimiting of interiors and exteriors?  The satellite photo is blind to interiors and numb to the scale of individual sounds.

But there are unexpected relationships between quadrants of the island which in fact drive me to explore more every time I go out.  Deeper into the grain of the city, similarities between two different spaces in different moments of time could be knitted together by a precise framework.

The spaces of the city could be taxonomized by a host of sonic qualities: loudness, frequency range (Hz), frequency of occurance, breadth, height, reverb, diffuseness, velocity, proximity, timbre, fuzzyness, reproducibility, and even its inaudibility i.e. vibrations which are below the threshold of hearing.  These new names, not just for streets but for all thoroughfares and places for pause, might go this way:

Street of Cars Bowling for People
Garden of Circling Sparrows
Garden of Reverse Waterfalls
Sidewalk Spouting 700 Hz
Cranes Thumping Every 15 Seconds Alley
Muzak's Shortcut
The Street Where I Heard a Strange Bird but Maybe It Was a Machine

For this sixth Lunchwalk, I took 43 slices of sound out of the walk and glued the slices back together.  Each slice is potentially a new entry into the sonic taxonomy of the city.  Listen: