Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Katy Saunders


Music pervades urban space. From street performers to the city orchestra, local bands and historic stages to new media innovations, industry, art, commerce and technology integrate to form an elaborate music-structure. Music-structure is urban infrastructure, underground and overhead, invisible and vital, technical and cultural.

The following images capture a few elements of Seattle’s music-structure. Event, person and performance dominate a collective understanding of music in the city. We seek out shows and performers, collect albums and interviews, but it is the stages and spaces, stations and sites that form the city’s music-structure.

By focusing this project on Seattle’s music-structure, I’ve captured particular layers of voice, history and environment that together describe the city’s sound. Telephone poles swollen with music posters suggest one rhythm, while the repetition of posters on a wall or window sample a different beat altogether. Technology mixes, changes and marries unexpectedly. Culture drives commerce and commerce drives culture.

I made observances of these spaces at different times for the project, to include audiences and last-call crowds. On a Saturday night at 12th and Pike, food vendors and patrons lines the blocks, which are loud with noise and clamor, darkness and electric light. On a Sunday morning, the same block is muted, grimy and sober. To capture the idea of music-structure, I decided to take images during the day. There is an emptiness to the images which suggests infrastructure- that it isn’t just the form of the space, but also the function.

And yet, historicism is important here. Venues struggle with historic buildings, and yet make relics of that same history, evident in the examples of the Moore Theater and the Crocodile. Where technological innovation so often marks a sea-change or point of departure, here they linger and integrate unexpectedly. Record shops become variously fluent, selling used and new: CD’s, vinyl, eight-tracks, cassette tapes and downloads. The call radio call letters KEXP describe the west-coast air-space, but join .org to provide a website-- and all this, announced by a sticker on a bumper of an old pick-up, parked on a deserted rail line.

View Seattle's Music-Structure in a larger map

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