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Just off Spout Run in Arlington runs Lorcom Lane, a quiet, church-lined suburban thoroughfare. The only remarkable thing about the road is its sheer plainness. On most weekdays, commuters use it as a shortcut between Lee Highway and the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
In a few weeks, local artist Alberto Gaitán plans to add a staccato rhythm to the morning soundtrack of WETA’s violins playing in all those Mercedeses and Volvos. The artist will unveil a “sound installation” along a one-mile stretch of Lorcom, which will remain in place for one month. Gaitán, 43, plans to affix hundreds of rubber hoses across the D.C.-bound lane of the street, spaced at fixed intervals. When drivers pass over the installation, observing the 30 mph speed limit of course, they will hear a series of thumps. The effect, he hopes, will be to create a two-minute syncopated rhythmic piece in quarter and eighth notes. If you imagine an aerial photograph of the street, Gaitán explains, and view it as a music-notation staff, then the project, which he calls Loci, will become “the score to the road.”
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Several years ago, while driving along a churned-up road undergoing construction, Gaitánwho has been mounting public art since 1985heard a distinct series of thumps that formed a consistent beat. “The car became the instrument, and the driver became the audience,” he says.
It dawned on Gaitán to turn found rhythms into a formal composition. He applied to Arlington County for a grant-in-aid. When the county’s distributing body reviewed his proposal, its members were so impressed that they decided instead to commission the piece for its Innovator Series of public art projects. The word “loci,” which is plural for “place” in Latin, also refers to the locations of genes on a chromosome. Gaitán says he thought of a chromosome when he began to map out the project.
“The point of the piece,” he says, “is to manipulate the mundane.”
The artist will start work on Loci Sept. 19. He bought hundreds of yards of soft hoses from a traffic-engineering supply house. With the help of friends and volunteers, Gaitán plans to drive the hoses into the street with nail guns powered by internal combustion engines.
He still has to face the neighbors, however. In early September, Gaitán will meet with three neighborhood associations around Lorcom Lane to hear their doubts and objections. He expects some opposition to the piece, he says, because the project will hold a sizable chunk of the community captive. Local residents, after all, will have to cross the installation every day for a month on their way to work.
“You may not like it,” he says, “but you probably don’t like going to work, anyway.”Guy Raz