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28:sound links

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an urban narrative: Daddio Listens, 2012

Lady McCrady aka Lexi Axon. Daddio Listens, 2012. oil on canvas, 68" x 54"

Thinking about how to talk about paintings as texts, layers and layers of narratives that appear on canvas.  Clearly this includes the making of a piece, the technical processes that put an image in place; it includes the history of the artist, whether or not this is evident to either them or us; it includes the incorporation of art history, popular and visual culture, whether or not these things have been actually rejected, filtered or used.  

Now, what is it to be a New York painter of a certain age, born into abstract expressionism and Milton Glaser, who came of age with The Factory and SoHo, went on to a Hunter MFA and a family.  One would expect something of this biography to be in the work, whether literally, or torn away from it.

As editor of On Site review, a journal about architecture and urbanism, I chose a Lady McCrady painting, Daddio Listens, [68” x 54”, oil on canvas, 2012] for the cover of issue 28: architecture and sound.  This being a fairly ephemeral topic – sound whistling by us as we move through space, adequate architectural images do not spring to mind.  Daddio Listens, on the other hand, is a noisy flashing moment on a Manhattan street.  Daddio saunters; the world is rich, colourful, loud.  One cannot find the photographic image that says this, not even Bill Cunningham’s photographs convey this almost eternal roar of New York life, but a painting, this painting, can.  It is littered with traffic cones, temporary street barriers and luminous tents over open manholes, orange warning flags flap, dark pits sink into the sidewalks, a yellow cab shoots off the side, oil on the roadway gleams, Daddio walks through a patch of sun that has flashed into the canyon – someone has walked here before; there is his foot.

This painting was recently in a 2018 show of figurative work: figurative certainly isn’t the word I’d use, but rather narrative, and not in the realist tradition, but more in the sense that there are stories in this work, not sitting up front on the surface, but almost implicit.

Daddio, 1950s hip, snapping fingers, too cool.

Traffic cones, testimony to Manhattan infrastructure laid down in the nineteenth century continuously under repair.  Traffic cones warn, block, sit like witch’s hats on the road surface, untouchable.  

Red and white diagonal stripes: warning, warning, especially with orange flashing lights pinned to the top.

Construction tents: made out of plastic tarp material on an aluminum frame; for night work they glow.  They are so flimsy they could easily be knocked down, as all these street work objects could be, but they aren’t because they are removed from the social commerce of the city and belong to another layer: infrastructure, necessary and through our general ignorance of the plumbing of a city, mysterious.

Yellow taxis, under threat from ride sharing, there are about 13,000 medallion cabs in New York City, egg yolk yellow since 1908, utterly iconic, endowed with speech through their horns which register danger, impatience, prescience, traffic prangs about to happen, wandering pedestrians being idiots, or being slow, or being people.

New York in the 1980s when it was on its uppers, poor, dangerous, filthy, glorious, full of artists living in nooks and crannies now cleaned up and going for oligarchical prices.  There is something a bit nostalgic about Daddio Listens, seedy streets harder and harder to find.

Blue: songs are like tattoos, you know I’ve been to sea before. Crown and Anchor me, or let me sail away.*   All that is concrete and asphalt is blue and purple, like a vast bruise; all that is living is yellow, cast with green, and orange cast with red.  Not entirely optimistic – the yellow is worried, acidic, the red is hot and angry.

Outlines: people are the only things outlined.  It gives them a clarity set apart from the thick stew of stuff that surrounds them.  They are drawn rather than painted.  They are transparent.  They are easily rubbed out, cut off. They are un-embodied; the city is very much the complex body here.

Is Daddio in that middle-aged man in the overcoat?  or is he the one looking out the window onto the street, listening, invisible; the painter.  Don’t know, don’t really care. I've assumed, perhaps wrongly, that he is.  I read a novel for the truths in relationships, not for verifiable facts.  It suits me to think of people on the street with their inner lives often so much more exciting than their clothes. But everyone necessarily reads a text differently.

68” x 54”  This is large. 5' 8" x 4' 8" One thing about doing a mid-career MFA is that artists, no longer limited by the size of small apartment walls, are given industrial-scaled studio space where they learn to control industrial-sized canvases much larger than they are.  This is an impetus to move a career onward to maintain that kind of studio community and studio space – that most valuable of commodities.  

Tell the truth but tell it slant.**  The ultimate grid city, Manhattan, is all atilt here.  Just because one is looking out a square window down to the traffic filled street below, does not mean that one’s head is fixed to the frame.  Our gaze is a frame without rules.  The field it frames is a tilt in the inner ear; new things are heard.

These are just some of the narrative fragments in this painting that have given me things to think about: each is autonomous – even disconnected; the canvas is a Beckett-like chorus of voices that collectively make a work that does not start at any particular point and certainly does not end with a conclusion. 

Daddio listens to the fugue that is the city.



*Joni Mitchell, Blue, Reprise, 1971

**Emily Dickenson, 'Tell all the truth, but tell it slant' (1263) The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998


cover: sound

Lady McCrady: Daddio Listens ...

original 68"hx54"w, oil on canvas, 2012
Installations and Paintings
Power & Light - The Sublime - giant forces we can't comprehend.  
Burning, flashing, steaming Danger Zones.  Corp Icons



Stephanie White: Sound, firmness, commodity and delight.

The is the intro to the issue, part of it – I left out the discussion of the National Music Centre – but would like to include the last paragraph, because I quite like it:

Thinking about an architecture that addresses sound, it doesn't have to be the sound of our civilisation, its music, its mechanical noise, its bellowing spatial control.  It can be something much more fundamental – the sound of our place on the earth.

Where to buy On Site

How to buy the current issue directly from us



Nick Sowers: Listening Practice

Fes, Morocco, on a scrubby hill overlooking/over-listening the city. Like the view, the image in sound is dense in detail. Tiny spikes of contrast: a distant horn, sparrows flittering in the foreground, the sharper cry of a child nearby. Emerging from a grey droning sea: scooters, voices, air conditioners, idling buses, the overlapping calls to prayer. This sound altogether is the averaged sound of a city.



Caelan Griffiths: the stratigraphy of Vancouver and Amsterdam :

This is an excerpt from the 1973 album, Vancouver Soundscape.  Various other tracks and further information are available at the Simon Fraser University Sonic Studio website, here.



Will Craig: sound control :

On any given day, my office suddenly becomes thick with sound. A tremendous din permeates every inch of the building. The Kimball Theatre Organ, donated to the National Music Centre in Calgary (formerly known as Cantos), is stationed on one of the lower floors. It is the largest organ in the collection, occupying approximately 200 square feet of museum space. Its sole mission is to generate noise. At one time the bellows would have been hand-pumped by a team of dedicated men; now, electrically-powered, it can be turned on at a moment’s notice to educate inquisitive school groups. It combines an array of instruments simultaneously to create an explosion of sound until, with a wheeze, the contraption completely exhausts itself of air.




Chloé Roubert: the bells of Notre Dame :

Click on the image of the bells and it will take you to a sound file of the bells.

The Notre Dame Project, Paris. The future soundscape of the cathedral



Emily Thompson: the roaring 'twenties :

The Roaring ‘Twenties is a collaboration between the Emily Thompson and web designer Scott Mahoy, produced under the auspices of Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy of the University of Southern California. The project analyses and discusses the sound of New York at a time when protests of the sheer deafening sound of the city were growing louder themselves. 

The websites for the project will be accessible in late 2012 via Vectors at or at  In the meantime, this will take you to an absolutely wonderful set of newsreel outtakes from the streets of the city:

The Fox Movietone Newsreel crew captured the sights and sounds of New York City in 1929, documenting the soundtrack of modern city life. Sound engineers measured noise in Times Square; construction sites resounded as machines dug and pounded the city’s surface; and along Cortland Street (known as Radio Row), the sound of traffic mixed with jazz and opera pouring forth from radio shop loudspeakers, an advertising practice that the city would ban in 1930.



Zile Liepins: singing the revolution :

Gaismas Pils (Castle of Light)   Jazeps Vitols, words by Auseklis. Composed in 1899 during the First Awakening, and removed from the repertoire in Soviet era song festivals.

Manai Dzimtenei (For my homeland)
Raimonds Pauls & Janis Peters. Written for the Song Festival centennial in 1973.

Saule Perkons Daugava (Sun Thunder Daugava)
Martins Brauns, words by poet Rainis. Composed in 1988.

Ieva Akuratere of the rock band Perkons singing "God, Help" at a music festival in 1988. This song became the anthem of the awakening of the late 80s.

Some stunning footage from the Barricades, showing the situation in 1991.




Helena Slosar: embedded sound : hearing architecture

The sounds that animate architecture, and the ways in which architecture augments those sounds, can be examined by observing the essential qualities of constructed space: material and geometry.  These characteristics, plus scale and construction method, inform soundscapes that are embedded within all built environments.  

How sound is shaped by space, and how experience is shaped by acoustics, I look at three distinct sites: the Abbaye du Thoronet, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and a Boston duplex, and how they are defined by the acoustical quality of the architecture, or, the ambient conditions of inhabitation. 

Abbaye du Thoronet, Le Thoronet, France
June 2012



Eon Sinclair: singing in the rain :

Ever wondered why we sing in the shower?  Evidently it is a very valuable recording space: all those tiles, all that damp air.




Urs Walter + Olaf Schäfer: acoustic models :


 Reading Hall, morning

Reading Hall, afternoon



Joshua Craze: everything has its own silence :

This is a podcast of the article that appears in On Site 28: sound, on page 52.