Imagining urban thresholds as sites of historical significance. Areas of friction change and persuasion
Im thinking about how improvisation in music, or the skills of improvisors and spontaneous musicians, can be deployed in the urban world, intersecting with common space and opening thresholds up to new pontentials. I have been reading texts about Commoning and Democracy. Particularly during the Covid lockdown period, the access and function of public space has become an important place of action. Without all the usual haunts and services that we rely on for our social lives, people were made to discover the spaces that exist amongst us, that are open to everyone.
What becomes clear is that these places are few and far between. Can you think of anywhere that doesnt have a designated purpose, behaviour?
The places that I have been drawn too are sites of transience. Tunnels, Bridges, Roads, Pathways, and Rivers. These locations seem to have the singualr function of taking us from point to point, moment to moment. But could they be transformed into creative spaces? If you stop and decide to do something then a whole world of potential opens up. No one can tell you what kind of creative act you should do or what you are able to do.
Whilst working on 'Murky Sovereignty', my collaboration with David Birchall, I realised that there is a whole section of society who use these spaces in creative ways, but due to societal stigma its easy to cast a blind eye and not notice them. This speaks also to the skills that these people have of dissapearing from view, hiding in plain site.
when you stand or crouch or wade through them, when getting close to the thing. feel caught up in rhythms, pulsions and patterns of unhuman forces, which have used stealth and guile to immerse themselves in the most urban environments. palaces of dirt and concrete and unlikely royalty, a murky sovereignty.
i feel like making music here is pushing through a field of thick substance and catching some of it dragging it into new places ending up with a massive mess of gunk and bile.
getting out to bits of the city where these pockets of space have started to appear. try to feel comfortable and over the times going there, more at ease with being there and being able to use it. and the music has to figure out a way of happening there, it doesn’t work straight away. crossing a threshold which never gives way to the next stage, it leaves everything open we could do whatever we wanted here. its possible to choose where threshold leads us next.
things i remember feeling: keeping an eye out and self conscious about singing too loud, or playing something through the speaker too loud. wary of unexpected intruders, hang on thats a ridiculous thing to think when I look at myself, the unexpected intruder. do i want to become a lawyer or not?
climbing into a chamber about a metre high about where the road starts to lift from the ground. being in the chamber and thinking that this is someone else’s place, maybe home. thinking as i go in that its going to be a great place to record in but i don’t remember any sound being particularly present in there, i get out sharpish. is it quieter when the sun is shining?
each time on my way to get there i pass shirtless men who quite literally float over walls and through gaps in the railings, fishing in amphitheatres. the fish are huge, and apparently rarely bite. i’m surprised they can survive in the stagnant water held just away from the thames. actually the next time i come past the fencing has been completely bent and you can wander in as you please. It's difficult to imagine they’ve caught anything but they don’t care, just a way of passing the time together. I’m too shy to ask if I can record and play some music near to them. maybe later.
bringing dave’s recordings with me: can’t get the speaker as loud as i want, forget to bring the sampler with the clips i’d spent ages preparing. turns out a microphone is broken.
at home remembering that I passed the same person walking their dog on the Ridgeway path between Thamesmead and Plumstead. wonder whether they noticed me, or if the dog noticed. in hindsight i would’ve loved to have asked if they minded being part of the recording. or at least told them what I was doing there. I am imaging the music that the two of them might be making at the moment in the same places, its extra great.