site sonology #2
I arrived at the tunnel at 9:45. The morning was foggy and damp. About a dozen workmen were busy loading trucks with debris at the far end of the Academy service road and fifteen to twenty people were practicing Tai Chi in the central courtyard on the lawns around the fountains. Inside the tunnel, trails of mud and dried leaves ran the length of each wall.
I began by recording the local ambience from inside the tunnel, the space becoming a sort of crude resonator for the intermittent sounds of rubble falling from barrels into truck containers, hollers, the hiss of fountain water, birds, dogs, whistles and wind.
With a small rock from the tunnel floor, I walked the length of the tunnel several times while continuously scraping the stucco’d ceiling, my feet sporadically traipsing on and crushing the large crab-shaped leaves.
Then I amplified an edit of the recordings I had made from Sutro Baths (site sonology #1),concealing the speaker beneath a pile of leaves near one end of the tunnel. At the other end I set up a small amplifier and by specifically positioning a contact mic with the weight of a rock on it, generated a pulsating feedback pattern.
During this time (about twenty minutes), no pedestrians came through.
I did see, however, several pairs of legs at different times stopped above the south entrance to the tunnel, as if observing/listening. I realize that my activities might seem a little strange and could very well discourage people from walking in.
I decided to move on to something more ‘accessible’. I continuously struck a bell with a mallet, slowly changing my position within the tunnel. Not long into this, I heard a discussion from outside the tunnel. Several children were asking a man, “What’s he doing in there?”
“It sounds like he’s ringing a bell.”
“I don’t see why not.”
They came in and we had a short conversation and I let the children ring the bell.
I left the site at nearly eleven.