Found sound from the Tyne & Wear Metro, shaped and moulded by Andrew Hodson.
Steve Beauchampe 2004
The sound of the underground: Map Music, an evocation of the modern, efficient, technically savvy public transport system, clicking and bleeping its aural footprint on early 21st-century living. This is Hodson's 'film' soundtrack accompaniment to a journey on the 'loop' section of Newcastle's Metro system. Heard to best (if for many, impractical) effect in situ via headphones, it's a combination of found sound collages, captured on trains, in stations and station environs, this information disassembled, processed and melded into a sympathetic vision of what so often proves an unsatisfactory component of urbanisation.
Augmented by three 'Interpretations', taking the recording beyond the fifty minute real time journey of untitled tracks 1-6, Hodson produces a sleek and often cosy homage, juxtaposing the sounds of street games, birds and light aircraft with ticket machines, P.A. systems, the smooth glide of the trains, their doors and motors - light rail as integrated transport sound system.
These rhythms of contemporary travel, swish and clean, where their predecessors were clunking and dirty, are testament to the homogenised nature of the developed world's mass transit systems. Thus Hodson's soundtrack is as recognisable in Berne, Osaka or Sao Paulo as it is in North East England - acceleration and deceleration, tunnel echoes, the whir and hum of machinery, microprocessors, commuters.
The two principal vocal contributions re-affirm this: Ana Collado's Spanish language reading of 'The Canadian Challenge' (track 3) and Carol McGuigan's sampled sound art piece 'ein stein drei' (track 5) emphasise this internationalism.
However, there are darker hues, with Hodson's microphone passing amongst industrial decline, sink estates, perceived adolescent threats, the timbre of social decay (most tellingly on track 9 - Plan D). It's no Aphex Twin 'in your face' crime wasteland, neither is Hodson's representation of technology as overtly politicised as on, say, Radiohead's OK Computer. However, though often polite and measured, fortunately Map Music avoids the shopping mall-style musak laden environment that mass transit system designers appear to strive for.
This isa record of the now. Impossible to have recorded five years ago, impossible to record five years hence.
For a free copy of Map Music, email Andrew Hodson at email@example.com