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Infrastructure Song

Sara Hendren


Dimensions Variable

Audio media, custom pedestals, vinyl 


Crosswalk signals are both infrastructure and culture. They sound like beeps, chirps or drums, or other sounds, depending on the city or town. They are everyday wayfinding infrastructure and unusual bits of the hyperlocal soundscape. This sound installation uses many different global variations of audible signals at crosswalks in a composition that suggests the music happening in the built environment every day. By collapsing this aural plenitude into the gallery space, it invites reflection upon all kinds of crossings and migrations.


This composition was made by layering tracks of audible pedestrian signals frequently heard in the United States: single-tone and two-tone beeps, chirps, drum series, clicks, and short melodic phrases. The song opens with a two-tone beep, augmented with reverb for a cavernous, spacious sound, and it continues with additions of mixed signals as high and low musical notes and sequences. Under the signal sounds, slow-growing tonal bass notes build in volume as the signal layers become more dense and frequent. The sounds of motorways and tires and sirens join in—all forms of infrastructure that color the aural cityscape. The piece crescendos and fades to the single two-tone signal, heard at last as it’s experienced in everyday life, the passing of cars and human voices in the background.


In the foreground, two headsets on pedestals punctuate a black and white crosswalk - the architectural ground of Sara Hendren's audio installation "Infrastructure Songs."  On the back wall,  other installations showcase this section's urban theme, including  a large graffiti sculpture and a still of a wheelchair dancer against  a backdrop of concrete stairs, her arms gracefully framing her body as she looks into the distance. Image credit: Richard Lomibao.

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