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Arpeggiating Amsterdam’s roads

Amsterdam traffic signals.
Amsterdam traffic signals.

Last week we visited Amsterdam to give a presentation on sonic heritage as part of a conference there – of course, while visiting the city we gathered some field recordings to bring back to Cities and Memory.

One of the first things you notice when visiting a new city in terms of sound are actually the most mundane – the way announcements in the airport sound, the sounds of the public transport system or in this case the sounds of a pedestrian crossing.

The pedestrian crossings in Amsterdam click out a dolphin-like rhythm, constant for a while, then slowing as the signal comes back to red – and occasionally pitching up to a higher level too. All completely mundane and doubtless not even noticed by locals any more, but striking to new visitors.

The obvious idea that struck while listening to this rhythmic pulse was to build some arpeggiated leads around it using various layered synths, and then to bring in various drum parts, all tracked to the tempo of the traffic signals to create some new music from the sounds of everyday street life in Amsterdam.

City version:


Memory version: