It has been a slow last few months, the way time always seems to be when it's full of variety rather than intense drive. Sadly, my back has been full of intense pain, from general soreness during the day, to spasms when I try to get out of bed in the morning. As a welcoming present upon my return to the U.S., I was denied health insurance, so I've largely been dealing with it myself.
Yoga, walks, and mornings that drift toward full movement around noon. The last week has been better, largely thanks to these remedial cures, such that (until this morning) I had already started to think of the previous months as the "era of the bad-back," past tense. Joy!
However, the bad posterior has been cause for much creative thought, or, more accurately, the annoying antagonist that reminded me to do things not only good for my back, but also my mind. In particular, daily walks. Walking without immediate purpose almost always puts me in a contemplative mood, and the natural open space of Boulder does much to incite the inner voice. Allora, backspiration, one of which I want to share.
I've always enjoyed soaking up the ambiance of a scene. Or, maybe, it's the other way: I take in the ambiance when I'm relaxed. The brain opens up and starts to notice things normally edited out in the name of concision. As a aurally focused person, sound particularly brightens up. Birds, conversation, a distant flute. Volume itself becomes fascinating, as people walk by, children scream joyfully, and the wind acts as DJ, mixing it all together. Last week, one gust brought a sudden onset of bagpipes.
But I can only walk so far, only go to so many places. You may have experienced similar problems with time and space. How about recording it? Put it online, let others listen to it, and accept their donated wanderings in return?
Alone, this isn't a particularly interesting idea, but the advent of large, semi-public geoinformation databases opens up a range of fascinating possibilities. The presence of GPS on most modern phones makes it easy for anyone to make a highly accurate track of their movements. Put these together with the recorded audio, and you have a website that explores the interface between place, context, time, and sound.
Imagine two windows on the screen, one a time-line/audio player, the other a Google map widget. As one plays the audio, a little figure on the map moves synchronously, following the GPS track. Somewhere, the time is presented. Hear something interesting? Calm? Calamity? Cacophony? Click the map, and the location will be looked up in the numerous public image databases, the resulting images revealing the context of the place.
I suppose this is somewhat related to Google's Street View, but two things things set it apart. First, of course, the audio is the heart of the project. A particular snapshot of time, I would hope that people would walk the same or similar routes multiple times, sampling them for their variance. Second, each recording would be a path set upon not becuase streets happen to be there, but because a person, an individual chose to go there. That agency adds something unique to every recording. Does the person choose to speak, saying hi to strangers? Do they spit? Cough?
I'm almost convinced to build the thing in my spare time. If only it didn't hurt to sit for extended periods of time. Backspiration failing.