site sonology #6 
the rose factory
wayland & bowdoin sts.
1pm 11/18/01 

The ‘rose factory’ must be a blindspot in the neighborhood.  I have long gotten over worrying about being hollered at while traipsing through the lanes of overgrowth and dilapidation.  I’m not so sure that one can even be seen while inside the complex, as the entire block upon which it rests is bordered by a high wooden fence.    Anyway, it’s not really a trespass as there isn’t a single warning sign posted.  Not even a For Sale sign or old business sign.   A friend of mine once suggested that maybe this place was a distillery for rose fragrances—a “perfume factory”--since at one end of the property there is a large tank connected to a sort of ‘laboratory’.  Each time that I visit I am amazed that no new ‘trash’ has mattresses, beer bottles, appliance parts, dirty clothes, food or condom wrappers, drug  paraphernalia or bags of garbage.  And the overgrowth of berry hedges, grasses and wildflowers never appears disturbed. I suppose it’s just that no one wanders in here.  It’s the kind of intersection through which you’d never pass unless you lived in one of the nearby streets.  So, this enchanting ruin persists without ever really accumulating any of time’s degrading inscriptions. Each time I visit I look forward to the new state this strange wilderness will have entered.  Has the watermelon growing in the central corridor rotted on its vine yet?   Mostly though, what will be the state of the roses that thickly fill each of the twelve long sheds?

A sonology of this place consists mostly of its silence.  It is so serene, its atmosphere so concentrated, that I can reasonably imagine something like the sound of stems stretching inside the rosebushes, the hedges expanding and bumping up against the irrigation pipes, windows and doors. Imaginably, on a wet day, there would be the plink of waterdrops on the panels of glass, much of it still mounted in the rotting wooden grids, but many pieces of it also cracked and lying about in the dirt and weeds.  Temple-like, such a place offers itself as a seat from which one might listen to the world.  The sounds of the neighborhood and from all corners of the sky resonate equally here.  The harsh edges of sounds are somehow eaten up or softened as they travel from the outskirts of the property to where a listener might sit or stand near its center.  And curiously, tiny noises are somehow amplified and made significant.

For the event scheduled on Sunday the 18th I asked the people who showed up to hop over the fence with me and find ‘instruments’ or ‘situations’ with sonic potential among the plantlife and passageways.  I decided my role would be to ‘listen’ to them and make occasional recordings.  In a way, I realized how my documenting of their activities might make them self-conscious.  This didn’t seem either good or bad; it’s just that I understood it would influence each of them in a certain way and perhaps make them especially conscious of sound as it lies latent in an object, situation or detail of the environment.

The exploration went on for a while, migrating in and out of the sheds, sliding along surfaces and edges, riveted by moments of laughter and surprised gasps, sustained also by meticulous obsession, indulgence and trance.  

Often, at a distance from one of the participants, I could only infer the sound from an action.  Mostly, the action itself was evocative enough.  I recall a shard of glass still mounted in the framework of a window being carefully bowed by a live rose branch that had been pulled across from a thicket inside the shed.   Behind me, a rusted wheelbarrow rattled in the grass, and elsewhere a brick moved circularly over the heads of nails pushing through the wood of a doorframe. Eventually, the participants moved within range of each other and seemed almost as if to be improvising while listening to each other’s ‘sound’.  Then, a knot of rusted wire stretched and creaked from the pipe where it hung and below, a heap of  dry petals emitted, under influence of a hand, almost a pulsation. Nearby, bits of glass crackled continuously beneath a boot while a whistle and a bark arced overhead from some coordinate in the neighborhood.