A few days ago I was directed to the site You Are Listening To Los Angeles by my brother in law. I was amazed at the sounds I was hearing. A constant stream of the LAPD’s radio system flowing out into the webs ether, fused with ambient drones, noise and synth based music from various artists through the soundcloud website. In the process creating a ever-changing film score where the sound of crackled ghost like voices echo throughout forgotten soundtracks to movies that were never made.
After listening to these sounds all day I was intrigued to find out whom had created such a fantastic site. I emailed Eric aka idontlikewords to find out more about the project and how it came about. Eric kindly answered some questions and here are the results;
GF: Ok firstly, your name, where you live and what are you up to at the moment?
Eric: Eric Eberhardt / San Francisco / Digital Product Manager for a entertainment & publishing company
GF: How did the idea and concept come to light? Who was involved or was this a solo project? How long has the site been up for?
Eric: When I first put the site up I posted a brief explanation here. So far it’s just been me involved & it’s been less than a week since the launch!
GF: Was there any legal issues with streaming Police Radio over the web? Have you had any officers of the law contact you about it?
Eric: Haven’t heard directly from any officers but I would think they are already aware of the existence of sites like radioreference.org and if there were legal issues they would have come up already. Still I certainly don’t want to be on the “wrong side” of a disagreement with the police and if anything I hope this site increases awareness of the huge 24/7 commitment they have made to help deal with all the craziness that happens every day in our cities.
GF: There seems to be a lot of unknown/underground artists streaming on the site. How did you go about finding/sourcing music for the site and how many artists are now streaming through it?
Eric: I originally got inspired by the SomaFM ambient streams as mentioned in the above link but since I didn’t want to just “hijack” their stream & bandwidth I started looking for other alternatives. A friend suggested SoundCloud which I had used a little bit before but was amazed to find out just how much great ambient music was available on the site with a “remix-friendly” Creative Commons license. Initially all the music came from searching the SoundCloud “ambient” tag and then hand-selecting tracks that I thought would work well and since launch I’ve been contacted by many artists who have enjoyed the project and asked to be included. If the music seems like it will work I’ve been adding everyone who asks!
GF: The pictures for each city are beautiful! How did you source these artists for your site/project?
Eric: The site launched with LA first & I asked my friend Hyperbolation on Flickr who lives in LA if she had any good photos of the city at night. Turns out she had a bunch and I selected the one you see now in order to fit with the other elements on the page. The rest were selected pretty much the same way as the SoundCloud tracks, by searching Flickr’s CC-licensed photo collection.
GF: Is there any funny or strange stories to tell us since the site has gone up?… any strange emails or people contacting you about the site?
Eric: Been getting loads of great comments & tweets from people all over the world including some musicians & web entrepreneurs that I really respect and admire so it’s been very rewarding. Possibly the weirdest one was from M. Doughty of Soul Coughing, whose song “Screenwriter’s Blues” provided the inspiration for the title of the site. Apparently he’s not fond of being reminded of his past works and so after countless people sent him @replies on Twitter he posted this message:
“Dudes. Please DO NOT tweet me about the listen-to-LA tumblr. The very thought of that song makes me want to rip out my own eyeballs.”
I also spoke to Eric about the incredible exposure he has given to the musicians that can be heard through the site. In creating such a project, Eric has given a platform for many relatively unknown or underground artists to be heard by a much wider audience. For the many ambient/bedroom artists out there on the web, there isn’t many opportunities/places to be heard like this!
Here is one of my favourite discoveries since listening to the site. The sound of warm drone static with deranged sad flutes and tv transmissions! The artist is called Dj Derrida, the track “In a silent way”…
Lastly whilst searching the web for peoples reactions I came across this comment from a ex-policeman, whom shared his experiences whilst working with the LAPD;
“The seeming incongruence of the police calls and the music selections is just that: “seeming” but not as dissonant as one might think. Having been a dispatcher for LAPD, I can assure you that nothing would have been as welcome in my ear as these mellow tones as I handled radio and 9-1-1 calls ranging from the absurd to the heartbreaking to the truly devastating. We frequently found ourselves as literally the only lifeline available for citizens and officers who were in genuine life-or-death situations. The ability to maintain our own calmness was often the very thing that made the final difference.
Looking back on those unforgettable years and some specific moments, I think I – like my successors we’re listening to today – must have kept within myself some subconscious stream similar to this music as we forced ourselves to remain calm. And when some of the worst of events were finally finished, only then could we ask for a break and step outside and once again breathe. And (always) ask ourselves “What could I have done better?” Or just cry. Even us alleged tough guys.
For me, your work here is a masterpiece. Thank you.”
… as well as this comment from another user called PastaBagel
“The iconic image of Los Angeles is the one used here. An image of lights in an infinitely receding distance, out of focus, out of reach. Points of light, rivers of light, like dreams. But the lights move and drift throughout the city over time. The lights are never all in the same place twice, so Los Angeles is never the same place twice. The buildings, the geography are of no consequence. Los Angeles is twinkling starlight reflecting off the surface of the ocean.
This site is the sound of that ocean, the rippling of waves. A thousand tiny calamities dissolving into the surface of the city.
I have never been to Los Angeles. No one has.”
So there you are peeps. Check out the site for yourself… oh, and if you listen long enough, you might now hear some Gentleforce sounds over Los Angeles too!