Keith Fullerton Whitman Dartmouth Street Underpass

[Met Life/Locust; 2003]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: electro-acoustic, process music, field recording, ambient minimalism
Others: Fennesz, Gas, Stephan Mathieu, Greg Davis, Jim O’Rourke

It’s obvious that those of us with vision have the ability to see just about anything we want; providing there’s enough light. We can also hear just about anything we like with just the smallest amount of attention. However, it’s been said that blind people hear and see with their ears? Although Keith Fullerton Whitman is not a blind man (that I know of), he is going to give us a lesson in the concept of “seeing sounds.” His new album, Dartmouth Street Underpass is a two-song experiment that captures the sounds of the Boston-area subways. With the first movement, Whitman buries himself in the underground subway systems to record the passing of several trains, passenger’s conversations, and the almost annoying sound of the lights that fill the dark and concrete dungeon. On the second movement, known as its reply to the first, Whitman attempts to conceptualize his experience through his own electronic equipment. The beginning starts with a drone that represents those of the florescent lights. It then begins a slow metamorphosis into something larger and more surreal. The piece resonates in space for just about ten minutes before another element sneaks in to take part. It’s a truly remarkable experience, and one that is very intriguing to me. Mostly because I was always curious to know how artists like Whitman came up with their ideas for long-spanning tracks. If you are like me, Dartmouth Street Underpass is maybe a good place to start. It’s also one of the better sounding drone albums I’ve heard in quite some time. I guess you could say I’ve finally “seen” Whitman’s work for what it truly is: visually stunning. 

1. Dartmouth Street Underpass, 3PM, July 12, 2002
2. Dartmouth Street Underpass, Reply Piece, August 4, 2002

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