The subway was my destination, and all the more so when I reached the top of the staircase. This was in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, last week, toward the end of a recent trip I took back east. I’ve since returned to the Bay Area, where the world is considerably less dense — with people, with activity, with sound. In Greenpoint, it seemed, in that moment — in the moment preceding this audio — like a chorus might be performing down below the surface of the city, the voices gaining heft in the twisting, tiled hallways. I was in no rush to return to Manhattan, so when I took my first step down, I was looking forward to lingering. Buskers are one thing. Buskers transformed by the cavernous sound conduit that is a subway is something else entirely.
However, as is often the case with audio illusions (or hallucinations, perhaps), the impression I had fallen prey to was dispelled the moment I reached for my phone’s record button. It’s not simply a matter that I can’t hear the chorus in the audio I recorded. It’s that I no longer heard it when I was there. It simply evaporated. But the change in atmosphere did not deter me. I continued to record as I made my way.
You can hear those footsteps, my foosteps, here. I had two pairs of footwear on the trip: sneakers that are like marshmallows, and boot-like shoes that are firm as tires. This day was a tire day, and the hard tap of each step is evident. Once upon a time, the presence of those footsteps in the recording would have disappointed me. I would have thought of evidence of my being in the place as a taint. Instead, the footsteps lend a linear context to the sounds. They confirm for a listener, even one who was not present at the time, that space is being navigated. And I was, in the end, rewarded with a voice — not a chorus, per se, but a municipal announcement so utterly altered by the echo that it became a sort of chorus itself. Perhaps the very chorus that had caught my imagination earlier on.
Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/disquiet.