San Francisco in the 21st century is experiencing the tumbleweed-silent steel buildings canyon of the Financial District transition into the always-lively cacophony of the badlands of The Tenderloin.
“The Tenderloin is an area that a lot of people ignore because of it’s reputation as kind of crime ridden,” says Kevin Corcoran, a sound artist living and working in the city, “but I think it warrants at least walking around in The Tenderloin and looking, and hearing, what kind of community exists there.”
What does exist there is a vibrant, poverty stricken, constantly underserved by the city government, section of San Francisco, a place where many new immigrants find themselves, a place where gays, lesbians, and transgender people once found refuge from bigotry, and a place where the most historic buildings in the city are still standing, and still very much in use.
At the ground floor of The Cadillac Hotel, one of those old historic Tenderloin buildings, lies The Tenderloin Museum, a museum that chronicles the history and character of the neighborhood of The Tenderloin. In collaboration with the ongoing Soundwave Biennial
series of audio arts projects and exhibitions going on throughout the city until September, the Tenderloin Museum has created, with sound artists Kevin Corcoran and Jen Boyd, an audio collage of the residents of The Tenderloin, mixed with the ambient sounds of the neighborhood itself, that will serve as a soundtrack, performed live by Kevin and Jen, for a bus tour of the neighborhood on July 31st called “Audiobus - Energized Vectors
“I refer to it as kind of an experimental audio documentary”, says Kevin Corcoran, one of the sound artists who created the Audiobus sound collage piece, “The program is all based on recordings made in the neighborhood from people who we talked to, some people who have lived in the neighborhood for 50 or 60 years who we got to talk to with help from the [Tenderloin] Museum, to people we recorded talking as they pass by in their vehicles, to the sounds of people talking and kids playing in Boddecker park, to the way that the architecture of these buildings in the neighborhood sounds like.”
Kevin describes the sound of the architecture of the building and neighborhood itself not just as ambient sound but “hearing the way that architecture isn’t defined by the windows, or the walls, or the streets outside, but by these forms of sonic energy you hear through people. People opening up this other architecture that’s being created by people themselves inside and outside of buildings.”
“Architecture is a very appropriate theme to focus in on” says Alda Tchochiev, a spokesperson for Soundwave Biennial, about the theme of this year’s Soundwave Biennial series of sound art pieces and performances, “because in the Bay Area, architecture and the city, and the environment that we inhabit and interact with are changing so rapidly and they’re constantly at the forefront of what we’re thinking about in terms of displacement and affordability, and how do we live in the city when it’s so different than it was even five years ago.”
But while Kevin and Jen Boyd’s Audiobus piece touches on the architecture, and how the residents of The Tenderloin interact and inhabit the buildings and public spaces of the neighborhood, their Audiobus sound piece is much more about the community, and history, that The Tenderloin holds together.
“We’ll be doing some edits and processing to make the sounds we recorded more musical, more tonal and rhythmic, and we’ll be live mixing while the tour goes on from the bottom of this double decker bus, which will be pipped up to headphones on the upper deck where the audience will be. It will kind of be like live podcasting” says Kevin, “the challenge in this is not taking the sounds, or the cultural identity [of the neighborhood] not to exploit it and turn it into some fetishized thing, but how can we be a transparent medium to take the voices of people from this neighborhood and present that in an environment, the art world, where those peoples voices really aren’t present.”
Kevin, and Jen, hope that presenting the voices of Tenderloin residents, in context to where they live, and broadcasting those voices with as little audio gussying up or obscuring as possible, to their audience on the Audiobus, many of whom undoubtedly will not be Tenderloin residents, will help those outsiders understand and value The Tenderloin more.
“We hope this is a way for people to engage with the community.” says Kevin, And hopefully the case for using your ears and listening to the space around you as a way to interpret the world.”
After a reception at 6 p.m., The Audiobus boards for its first ride at 6:40 p.m., and for its second ride at 8 p.m. on July 31st, at The Tenderloin Museum, 298 Eddy Street.