‘Berea in Soap’
The following is an attempt to capture rush hour traffic of Berea road in soap, using the phonograph, (one of the first sound recording devices) an invention of Edison originally intended for the capturing of business phone calls. Several diffent types of soap were tried out for their ability to carry an inscription.

This is achieved by a telephone call to Durban. Colleage Jan Henry stood at the side of the road at 10:08 on Tuesday the 8th of July, with his mobile phone on an outstretched arm to register the traffic and peripheral sounds. The call was then received in Amsterdam, taken directly from the telephone line and amplified into the horn of the phonograph. The sapphire recording head then cuts the signal into the soap.

Berea Road
Berea Road is the main road from Durban, South Africa, to the interior.
In the early days it was a mudslide in summer due to its bad surface and steep decline. A tollgate once operated at the crest of the hill to raise funds in order to pay for the hardening of Durban's roads. This road still functions as the main artery for commuters to and from the city, a pathway bearing the affluent guts of the city.
At the base of Berea road lies Warwick Avenue triangle. About 300 000 commuters a day pass through the junction, which was once a tourist attraction with its famous Indian and fresh produce markets.


The Junction accommodates between 5 000 and 7 000 informal traders, some of which had built makeshift homes from plastic and wood, trading directly from their houses onto the street.
All of these settlings have since been made illegal and removed.  Some 200 buses and 2 000 taxis converge on the area daily, and 60 000 to 70 000 passengers commute by train from the nearby Berea Road station.  The junction has become a free-for-all for criminals who rob shops and hijack, murder and mug pedestrians almost daily. A significant percentage of these events are claimed by Taxi Mafia, caught in wars of competition over the public transport industry through- out the city.

During 1996, three friends and myself lived in a perpendicular road off Berea road called Florence Avenue. As spoilt young students we moved from the sheltered suburbs of a nearby city to the chaos of Berea. In our first year of living here we had seen stabbings and drug busts, several of us having been threatened with knives. It had become practice to carry mace in either handy key rings or larger spray cans the size of deodorant. In the upheaval of Berea, inspiration was spawned. People were loose and mixed.


In contrast to the plastics of insular suburbs, people spoke. Music was loud. The street was not only a travel route, but an extended mess of a community centre, a destination.

A warehouse, ‘Marine Salvage’ sold excess, lost and sunken stock from the harbour, another shop sold bulk sweets you couldn’t digest.

Late one night we stripped down to our underwear and ran around in the pouring rain, another night we rubbed Vaseline on the door handle of our landlord’s car and tried to piss in the window.

Schoenberg to soap
Shown here is one-sided record of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, cast into soap and hence loosing quality through the inability of plaster to hold fine detail. The original cast is eaten away when the needle runs over the grooves holding the potential piece of music.  This illustrates that the hardest of the three soaps used to record Berea can be inscribed yet when palyed back will discitergrate.  In effect this means the white cylinder holds an inscription which can be seen but not heard.
The Austrian musician Arnold Schoenberg had devised many techniques for what he had termed ‘The Emancipation of Dissonance’ achieved primarily through atonality, or serial music, a technique whereby a composer would arrange all twelve pitches in a piece, having to exhaust all tones before returning to the original note. This actively denies a sense of resolution and results in a position autonomous of scale.

A somewhat vaselined up Schoenberg record after having been cast.

The word "atonality" later became a negative term to describe and to condemn music in which chords were organized with no apparent coherence. Riots erupted at both Austrian premieres of his two string quartets in 1905 and 1908. Such experiences led him often to feel persecuted by a public that could not understand his music.
An earlier piece Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night, 1899) was written for string sextet in the chromatic tradition of Wagner's Tristan. As an Opera Tristan had already stretched tonality to its limits

The sounds of a cast soap record are reduced to a splutter when eaten away by the playback needle.