You won’t believe what a bridge opening sounds like

Three NoiseFloor engineers are out scouring city neighborhoods in search of sounds “that highlight the unique sounds of Chicago,” says the recording studio’s co-founder/engineer Corey Coken.

An NDA restricts Coken from revealing project details, except to say, intriguingly, “The sounds are for what will be, let’s say, a tourist app. We’re working directly with the client and the project will be completed within a year.”

The assignment began May 18 when the Noise Floor crew of sound designer Stosh Tuszynski, audio assistant AJ Olstad and composer Devin Delaney were given private access to record the sounds of the Michigan Avenue DuSable Bridge as it was raised to allow sailboats to glide from the Chicago River into the lake.

To capture the bridge-lifting sounds, Tuszynski strategically placed a variety of 10 microphones — contact mics, Neumanns and Stennheisers — throughout the lower south-end bridge house, to which the client had arranged access through the City of Chicago. Chicago’s more than 180 moveable drawbridges – the most of any other city in the world – span the three branches of the 156 mile long river. The bridges are balanced with gigantic counterweights that swing down into massive pits, so surprisingly, a small motor is used for the lift, Coken points out.

“It’s quite a sight to witness such a large piece of infrastructure lift to the sky so quietly,” he notes. “For instance, only two 108HP motors are used to lift each 4,100 ton-side of the Michigan Avenue Du Sable Bridge.”

What was surprising to the Noise Floor crew was that, aside from the constant clanging of warning bells, the entire bridge-lifting process was relatively quiet from the outside.

The crew also recorded a video by positioning a GoPro camera on the north end of the bridge exterior to capture a spectacular view of the bridge side opening to reveal the skyline. The video also contains Tuszynski’s serial mix of sounds, inside and outside of the bridge.

Noise Floor is still for recording more bridge sounds for the Unnamed Project. “All the bridges are very cool to see, but some are noisier than other,” Coken says. “We’ve just got to find the one that hasn’t been greased up for a while.”

Sidebar: Relates Coken: “On the one day we had private access to the bridge house, the bridge broke. the bridge rose only a foot or so the first time the lift was attempted.

“The engineers’ failed to raise the side over the course of three hours. Finally, just before rush hour, the bridge broke free from whatever was seizing it and rose to the occasion. It was quite something seeing the engineers figure out the problem(s).

“We wouldn’t want to be in their position. If you think troubleshooting computer problems is hard, try fixing a broken Michigan Avenue.”