Brick Lane, Jewel of the East. The air is awash with the scent of spices, the sound of conversations, laughter, arguments, sermons, music, footsteps, cars, doors opening and closing. People in transit: tourists, guidebook in hand, hipsters on a night out, friends uniting over a serving of curry, homeless asking for change, immigrants carving out a living.
Brick Lane presents itself as a tapestry of sensations, always in flux, awash with people, colours, sounds, smells. I have for years lived a stone’s throw away and cannot number the countless times I have wandered up and down the Lane.
As the slice cuts right through the lower part of Brick Lane, this has been an opportunity to engage with the place in a different way. I have centred my research on a short stretch, between Fashion Street and Fournier Street. Everything has been recorded there, or at places that people who I have met there have taken me to.
The strategy was simple: To immerse myself in the environment, equipped with microphones and a recorder, and capture whatever happens there and then, guided by an imperative to break down the tapestry into a diversity of social actors, each one guided by their own purpose of being there, each one with their own ambitions, struggles and desires.
What has been recorded has been done so in an almost rudimentary fashion, akin to the conversations and the stories that came about serendipitously. Favouring the spontaneity of the moment over technical perfection has meant that the recordings contain whatever happened, including background noises and abrupt movements.
I have been careful to retain this immediacy throughout the arrangement of the material. Much sound editing is concerned with illusionists’ work – cuts are smoothed over, unwanted noises reduced. The decision made here was to leave the edits just as they are, without crossfades or other embellishments, to emphasise rather than obscure the process of selection, of rearrangement and ultimately reinterpretation that has gone into creating this work.