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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, September 08, 2008
    What is the sound of the war on the poor?
    What is the sound of the war on the poor? An interesting question to ask sonic artists - because all wars create noise. And precisely the question posed by the sound-art collective Ultra-Red last year.

    One artist (anonymous as far as I can tell) made two audio pieces in response. One was a recording of the Severnside Siren over at the heavy industry docks of Avonmouth and the other was a recording of a walk from the M32 motorway during rush hour to Stapleton Road, Easton, Bristol.

    The artist web page describes the M32 as 'a large motorway built in the 1970's, dividing the communities of St Paul's and Easton. It was built with minimal consultation.' They quote a Bristol City Council document:
    "The M32 is the motorway that runs into the heart of Bristol from the M4 (London to South Wales). It carries over 80,000 vehicles per day and links the M4 north of the city with the city centre. It runs into the Broadmead Expansion area where it becomes Newfoundland Way, which is not classed as a motorway. The City Council will shortly take over responsibility for this road from the national authority, the Highways Agency. The location of the road is problematic for a number of reasons: it divides the two communities of Easton and St. Paul's, it generates a high level of vehicle emissions leading to declaration of an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) along its length, and it also generates high levels of noise due to the high traffic flows and speeds. Additionally, part of the motorway ... is elevated above the ground approximately 8-10 metres and is in close proximity ... to residential properties in this elevated section. This means that air and noise pollution impact disproportionately on the residents of these properties, adversely affecting their quality of life and potentially, their health."
    Thus the 59-second long wav file, a recording of the thunderous roadway, is the sound of a war on the poor. Other artists listed here [scroll down] responded with recordings of a rickety bus ride from Jerusalem to Beit Jala, a mass protest against the election of Sarkozy as President of France, and the sounds outside the factories of Sanyo, Pioneer, Panasonic, JVC and Casio in Tijuana, Mexico.

    Almost inevitably, thanks to The Wire for featuring Ultra-Red in two recent issues