Tracing economic rhythms through visual and audio montage
So far play has been dominated by sight, with the visual, one of what Re calls the "distance senses .through which you perceive things which are spatially separate from you" (1999, 34) . The switch is now to the other distance sense, hearing. The invocation is to listen geographically to the sounds, the rhythms of Berlin's new centre, not only to try to see, but also to hear how monetised time becomes spatial. The redevelopment or development of Potsdamer Platz some would argue is testament to the new place of architects in the redesigning and reimagining of urban centres. This refound role, as Charles Jencks amongst others has noticed, heavily influenced as it is by the requirements of international companies and investors (often the same body, particularly at Potsdamer Platz), helps to re-rhythm space. The international architects act in a way as sensual cartographers (unwittingly maybe but nevertheless) effectively smothering the possibilities of other experiences and the stuff of memories from which alternative futures could be rekindled.
As earlier video clips show, panning from the modest and uniform height of most of Berlin's built form to the skyscraper effect of the likes of the Sony Centre jolts the eye. The redevelopment of this wilderness, its remaking into a collection of private and quasi-public spaces, is a visually striking montage. The built form, its architecture, the materials and their surfaces, are what seem to make today's Potsdamer Platz. These are visual spaces. Spaces made present by the ear would seem to have no place. Yet as Lefebvre suggests, the characteristic features of the street are "really temporal and rhythmical not visual" and need to be approached with the "multiplicity of the senses" (1996, 223). As such a montage of sounds is just as integral to the making of this new space as are its buildings.
Walking through Potsdamer Platz, through its Arcade full of shops, eateries, cafs, or in amongst the tables set out along its newly built streets, there are the inescapable and obvious sounds of people chatting, eating, drinking, walking, talking, lingering, shopping.
It's almost as if the building materials have been chosen to reflect these sounds, to amplify them, ensuring that they linger in the air and on the ear. The shiny materials and surfaces serve visually to herald newness. The same emphasis greets the ear as well. The old unpredictable sounds - the street traders, and alike - are jostled out, smothered by the motifs of Lefebvre's conceived space. Attuning the ear it is possible to pick up the traces of such motifs, the abstract monetised influences, the sounds made almost inaudible because of their everydayness, working to make and rhythm this development; it is a sort of white noise of capitalism.
And it can take a number of forms, from a background hum to an electronic zip and feeds and aids the learning of the rhythms, "the sensual adjustment in spatial orientation" (Mai 1997, 76-77) required in such places.
Admittedly, when you think of montage you think generally of the visual. It may seem unusual then to talk of a montage that should be listened to, rather than sensed, felt, with the eye. The evocation to listen to space perhaps begins with Walter Ruttmann's 'Wochenende' commissioned 1928 by Berlin Radio Hour. This was a story of a weekend to be told in sound, the sounds of trains departing the city for the weekend, to the crowd surging home on Sunday night. It was described as an 'audio montage' . It was a montage of what were at the time increasingly familiar things and the sound people grew to associate with them. They all came together in the 'symfonie der grossdadt' that was Berlin of the 1920s. Maybe there is a need to recover this sense of the aural to make more sense of the rhythmic production of space.