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Toot ‘n Blink, a sound event, tooted and blinked in a small portion of dusk on a big harbor that never sleeps, but you may have missed it last weekend.  The audio archive from WFMU is here:  click on upperleft MP3 (or pop-up player) and then (if all works) advance the slider bar to 59 minutes into the show.  If it doesn’t work, click here for a description of  an event celebrating the “harbor and boat as a musical instrument.”  Below, voice captains Joan LaBarbara and Ed Herrmann call out commands to an assembly of small boats divided into the quayside fleet and night squadron.

Sample commands are “two short toots, please” or “all craft sweep your lights.”

The best place to experience Toot ‘n Blink was from a central location (mission control aka the conductor’s station) on the east end of the Battery.  From my vantage, I could hear the commands from the voice captains, hear the fleet respond both over the dockside PA and across the night water, and see the blinkings directed toward us.

Fleet included a small ferry, a museum tug, some schooners,

a small fireboat,  Lady D, Big G, and a few other non-profit vessels.  I hope I’ve not omitted anyone.

Charlie Morrow’s inspiration for this was a sound ‘n light extravaganza orchestrated in the Caspian Sea port of  Baku on November 5, 1922, the fifth anniversary of the Soviet Republic.    It was toots and blinks magnified a million-fold:  “A spectacular, called the Symphony of the Factory Sirens, [combined] a huge cast of choirs (joined by spectators), the foghorns of the entire Soviet Caspian flotilla, two batteries of artillery guns, a number of full infantry regiments (including a machine-gun division) hydroplanes, and all the factory sirens of Baku. Conductors posted on specially-built towers signaled various sound units with colored flags and pistol shots. A central ‘steam-whistle machine’ pounded out The Internationale and La Marseillaise as noisy half-tracks raced across Baku for a gigantic sound finale in the festival square.”

Wow!!  Foto below shows the “sound captain” for that event, composer Arseny Avraamov.

Bravo to Charles Morrow and crew.  Seriously, I enjoyed the half hour, which reminded me of an acoustic guitar solo with some call and response from the audience.

I’d really like to out-Avraamov Avraamov.  Imagine a Super Blink ‘n Toot for some upcoming harbor celebration:  call it FLASH ‘N BLAST.  Orchestrate bells into squadrons.  Wire entire buildings to blink, and the blimp fleet to wink back.  Synch all horns from buses, taxis cars, trucks, ships . . . or let them blow at will.   Throw in a few million kazoos and any vuvuzelas left over from World Cup celebrations.  Mix in serendipitous car alarms, howling dogs,  and all the wild parrots of Brooklyn . . .   Call in jackhammers, fireworks, foghorns to synchopate …  And to really pulsate, bring in all then late-night booze cruise boats with their deafening thumpa-rumba-drumba-boom rythyms. 

OK, I hear you . . . it’ll never work . . . .   Hmmmm…   b-  b-  b-  but … if a smart phone can relate the Moby Dick epic . . .  and if Boardwalk Empire’s Atlantic City can be built on a Brooklyn waterfront parking lot,    then maybe movie magic can make the harbor and all its vessels into a huge 3D musical instrument/video.

All color fotos here by Will Van Dorp.

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October 2010