Soulspinning Ford
At 7:15 am, the proposition sounded quite reasonable.

"You spin vinyl, right? Well, we're going to spin our tires and listen to some soul."

And with that bit of one-man dialogue, the proposition's sponsor, Nick Ford, hit play on his smartphone and then tucked it in next to the portable speaker in his backpack, zipped the backpack closed, wove his arms through its shoulder straps, nodded at me, stepped on the cranks of his bicycle and pedalled out from our meeting place in the parking lot by Crestwood Liquor, me behind on my bicycle, smiling, as James Carr sang "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man" into the blue-black of the morning.

In the late 19th century, before the newly invented telephone had settled into its accepted cultural usage, it was thought to be best used as a conveyer of music. David Mercer makes this point in the book The Telephone: The Life Story of a Technology as he recounts the vision of The American Telephone and Telegraph Company's E.J. Hall who said in Detroit:

"More wonderful still is a scheme we now have on foot, which looks to providing music on tap at certain times every day, especially at meal times. The scheme is to have a fine band performing the choicest music, gather the sound waves, and distribute them to any number of subscribers."

So, here we were, some 125 years later, on a Tuesday morning in Edmonton, back at the start of the technology's story, in a scheme on pedalled foot, in which the phone is used to provide the choicest music as we rode our bicycles to work.

Nick was not trying to hit a historical communications note, mind you.

He wanted to make some noise as a safety measure, to be heard and not just seen.

He wanted to make a particular kind of noise, being a fan and an expert of some note in group soul harmony and the sweeter side of Chicago soul and funk.

And I think he wanted to participate in that sense that the work of riding a bicycle somehow creates the scenes we ride through and the soundtracks that colour our paths.


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