Listening in LA

By: Peggy Nelson
March 8, 2011

An hypnotic, lovely, and strange mashed-up soundscape is making its way to you. Called You are listening to Los Angeles, the concept is deceptively simple: stream real-time LAPD police scanner transmissions against an ambient music background.

Go, now; listen:, by Eric Eberhardt

There’s a compelling tension, but not a clash, between the nothing-ever-happens ambient and real-things-are-happening police radio.

It reminds me of the thought-voices in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, of the constant stream of individual meanings heard by sad angels in overcoats, normalized out of sheer quantity, yet somehow retaining their individualism: because they are heard. This tone, this sonic landscape, is what the LA-based remake, City of Angels, sadly missed.

Of course the police blotter is a very small and specific segment of society. But it’s not too much of a leap to imagine other voices, other lives, filtering up from the lights and the noise. It’s what very small segments of Twitter — very occasionally — rise to in text.

Tell me of the men, women, and children who will look for me — me, their storyteller, their bard, their choirmaster — because they need me more than anything in the world.

— Homer, the aged poet, Wings of Desire


Eric Eberhardt describes how he got the idea.

Here’s a handy guide to codes and acronyms you may hear: LAPD radio signal codes.

Thanks to @cfrossi and @LizardAcres for the ping.