2011-02-13: Further adventures in downtown San Jose and its nearby post-industrial developments, in particular the old Del Monte Plant 3 water tower.

In February of 2011 we were checking out the resonant properties of Jun Kaneko’s sculptures downtown and comparing hand-held recording options. I went back with the Sony PCM-D50 and Schertler mic to get a good comparison to what I’d captured the day before with my Xperia_X10. But with a morning left to spend exploring, it turned into a bit more of a ramble.

Sights and sounds: Hammer Theatre

February 13, 2011

First I sampled a few metallic objects near the Hammer Theatre Center just behind Kaneko’s sculptures. The lampposts were looking confusingly festive—as they sometimes tend to do in California weather—with the florist shop’s bouquets hanging gaily beneath the colored lights left over from the previous holidays’ season. Light strings tend to jump and bang around in the wind, and these were no exception.

File San Jose Hammer Theatre at freesound.org

File San Jose Hammer Lamp Post at freesound.org

Heading south on nearby Second Street, there is a procession of similar lampposts with old-fashioned cast iron bases running alongside the VTA rail lines. I sampled one as the trains and cars went by.

File San Jose Second Street Lamp Post at freesound.org

Here’s an open-air recording of a similar event nearby a few minutes later, as another train passes in the opposite direction.

File San Jose 2nd Street and San Carlos at freesound.org

Water tower by former Del Monte Plant 3

Checking out the Hammer Theatre Centre in downtown San Jose

Lamppost outside the Hammer Theatre Center, San Jose

Lamppost on Second Street, San Jose

Sights and sounds: Del Monte water tower

For several months I’d been circling the old Del Monte water tower just across the freeway, wondering whether it was accessible—Google Maps satellite images were inconclusive—so rather than sample an endless series of nearly identical lampposts (not always a lost cause, mind you, I just wasn’t in the mood) I jumped in the car and drove about two miles to travel less than one.

The former Plant 3 was closed down in 1999 and has since been built over with modern flats, but the old water tower still stands. The Los Gatos Creek Trail runs right past the tower, just north of Auzerais Avenue just south of West San Carlos Street. There’s a fence surrounding the tower’s legs, but you can walk right up to it and the legs themselves are within (a somewhat extended) reach. I managed to get one sample,and though it is a faint one it seems to me to be suffused with voices, whispers, something just beneath the surface; nothing I can actually identify, though.

The SNR is pretty weak here, so download it and play back with some equalization to hear what I’m talking about. When I get time, I’ll post a cleaned-up version, but my first pass attempt left the sample muddy so it will require some serious attention or else another take.

File San Jose Del Monte Water Tower at freesound.org

One word to the wise: the base of the tower and surrounding fence have received some landscaping attention and a great deal of attention was apparently paid to drainage. That means sand—quite a bit of sand—has been added to the soil. And sand, in an urban environment near a brushy watershed attracts…cats. I was so intent on looking up and leaning in through the fence bars that I neglected to look down until it was too late; one pair of perfectly serviceable but aging leather shoes instantly became gardening apparel, all in a day’s adventure….

Nearby, Los Gatos Creek meanders under Auzerais Avenue. I wrapped up with a pair of urban ambient recordings in that quiet part of town.

File San Jose Los Gatos Creek at Auzerais Ave at freesound.org

File San Jose Los Gatos Creek at Auzerais Ave Take 02 at freesound.org

Schertler microphone on the water tower's leg

Remnant of the old Plant 3 facade

Plaque commemorating Del Monte Plant 3

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