The Sound Mobile

The Sound Mobile was like a wind chime that you could walk through. The third and best version was set up in a big room in the basement of an old house. Resonant pipes, bike frames, different types of air tanks and an evolving assortment of metal junk and debris that sounded good, all hanging from the ceiling by guitar and bass strings. The strings were not only functional they sounded good. We had gotten an old violin bow so we could bow the strings as well as pluck them while pulling down on each piece.


This photograph was taken by Greg Peterson in 1986.

My favorite single piece was and is The Gate, a heavy cast iron chain-link gate with a frame around it. My good friend BT and I had gotten it home somehow on a tandem bike from an old dumping ground by the river. The Gate was suspended from all four corners with a set of bass strings with a contact mic on the center support of the gate. Some objects like The Gate were big and heavy while some like that custom made Titanium bike frame that had been in an accident and was bent beyond use, were light weight. The suspended objects all pulled on the strings with different tensions and the strings were mostly deeper sounding. The lighter gauge wire strings broke easier. Spacey waaaa-waaaa string sounds added zings and zangs into the clings and clangs of the metal things hitting each other and the buzzy wuzzyness of the vibrations picked up by the contact mics. There was a variety of contact mics and later drum triggers, connected to the ceiling joists or attached to specific objects. These mics were connected to a patch bay into an old digital delay and echo machine into a mixer into a 4 Track. There were a few room mics also connected to the 4 Track (I loved that machine!). Radios and a few TVs tuned into different places and the in between spaces added a media wallpaper to this industrial ambient noise. I’ve never been able to play an instrument or make music so I make sounds. Radio & mixing & recording & production. I would use Sound Mobile recordings as audio beds for certain kinds of mixes on my late night radio show. They would add an air of familiarity and mild dread to the mix. The objects would be hit and pushed around, so that when they swung they would hit each other back and forth. It was fun to throw things into the mix, as it were, and IT ALL MOVED and was never the same. It was really something to be standing within it and to be a part of a moving noisy object. Some of these late night sessions would get pretty loud and chaotic with strings breaking and things crashing down. No one ever got hurt, but sometimes late night sessions could get pretty loud.


This very short recording of The Gate was recorded at an event called Noise Spectrum at the old Walker Art Center’s Gallery 8. It was the last event held in the space before the renovation and expansion of the museum. The event was curated by John Vance in 1998 – 99. A dozen or so noisy people got together and created a spectrum of noises.


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