Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jed Speare - Cable Car Soundscapes (Valient, 1982; Folkways, 1983)

Inspired by R. Murray Schaeffer’s The Tuning Of the World, Jed Speare set out to document the decline of the San Francisco cable car. Beginning with a third part field document of the familiar sounds of the cable car, first with the rumble and hum inside the cabin, then the sounds along the tracks, concluding with the rapture of bells as the conductor alerts passersby of the cable car's approach. He then interviews several passengers and conductors, shedding light on the previous sounds. He concludes by tying the three together in an impressive tape piece. Very much approaching Tony Schwartz territory until the concluding piece, which takes him several steps beyond any semblance of documentation.

Cable Car Soundscapes
Liner notes


  1. thank's for this
    i know only from sound works on family wineyard
    very later.....
    exelent blog


  2. thanks for writing about this. for those interested in the original Valiant Records cover (up top), there is something technically quite good going on. In the photo, the photographer, Peter McCandless created nine (?) different masks for a 4x5 piece of film, and then exposed pieces of film, the sections of imagery, individually, with the different masks protecting the rest of the film from exposure. So each bit of film exposed required a different mask until all parts were exposed. You can see the result - amazingly, all the images are crisp and well-exposed. It's a very innovative approach to photography then that he used in other images he composed as well. Also made was a video that goes with the tape piece at the end, Mettle of Metal.

    Sound Works, 1982 - 1987 is also Speare's work from that era, a double-CD with a 12-page insert with texts and images, and an introduction by poet George Quasha. That album was released last year (2008) and is on Family Vineyard records. thanks - !

  3. I bought Sound Works a couple years ago. Excellent.