A few nights ago, I drove to Staten Island to look for one of our city’s most dynamic ethnic communities. Between 4,000 and 5,000 Sri Lankans live on the island, and they have worked hard to preserve as much of their culture as possible. While I sat eating fish, lentil cookies and vegetable pastries, I noticed that this small, steam table restaurant is far more than a place to buy a meal. Over the course of our one-hour meal, at least 20 people popped in to pick up some much needed snacks from the restaurant’s owner, a much loved, utterly charismatic woman who stands like a gracious queen behind her counter. The neighboring grocery store is equally friendly, functioning as a Sri Lankan sundry for most of its customers and a sort-of anthropological museum for the few other people who happen to stop by. If you listen to our audile recording, you will hear the owner of the grocery welcoming his customers.
While listening to “All Things Considered” this afternoon on WNYC a brief but fascinating segment came on about Hua Mei birds in Chinatown. With a little further research it seems that it has been an ongoing activity for owners of these songbirds to bring them to Sara Delano Roosevelt Park most every morning.
It is now at the top of my list to make a stop downtown this week to record the chirping for audile.
I was at The Tank the other day and picked up a postcard with information about current projects of The New York Society for Acoustic Ecology (NYSAE): Sound-Seeker, Giant Ear))) and City in a Soundwalk. I noticed how similar the concepts from Audile from Abecedarium: NYC are, although much smaller is scale and simplified. All of the NYSAE projects listed are very intriguing. Here is more information:
Sound-Seeker: What kinds of sounds can you find in New York City? With sound-seeker, you can zoom, pan and search for sounds with interactive satellite photos or detailed maps. Click on hot spots to listen to the recorded sounds of a location pin-pointed by gps.
Giant Ear)): A monthly, two-hour radio show webcasting recordings of the NYC soundscape, (wo)man-on-the-street public interest interviews, live on-site sound explorations, special guests, and more on free103point9 Online Radio.
City in a Soundwalk: Composer Michelle Nagai leads you through various soundwalks in the city. Through a practice of focused listening, move through an environment with complete attention to sound. Any environment, at any time of day or night, can become a soundwalk. Anyone, anywhere, can make a soundwalk.
“Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) first proposed this playground in February 1954. In a letter to the Board of Estimate, he requested the assignment to Parks of “the entire easterly frontage of Sixth Avenue between 55th and 56th Street.” According to the letter, “this parcel is the only vacant area in a densely built-up community in [this] section of Brooklyn and the nearest recreational facilities are over half a mile away.” The Board of Estimate assigned the property to Parks a month later and it became the 56th Street Park In the 1970s, in an effort to revive the deteriorating park, Community Board 7 and other local residents formed the Friends of the 56th Street Park. The group organized a cleanup, initiated supervised play, and banished undesirable elements, all in the hopes of making their park more enjoyable. The organization sponsored a contest to rename the park and “Rainbow Playground” won. A 1984 Local Law formally named it.”
- The Daily Plant. Volume XVIII, Number 3868. Wednesday, May 21, 2003. http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_newsroom/daily_plants/daily_plant_main.php?id=16879
With reluctance and anticipation, I trudge down to the World Trade Center with my microphone and recorder to listen. I feel somewhat liberated and invisible without a camera, the sensation of witnessing a site with such a horrific story to tell shifts when my ears are responsible for leading the way. With all of the clutter of this new form of tragedy-tourism, I am trying to find a charged audile experience that will resonate. I record a grizzled, bearded man playing Auld Lang San from beginning to end, at the same time that a group of Midwestern tourists chat comfortably about the falling bodies they never saw.
I love factories, so I feel lucky to spend three hours in the world famous Steinway Piano Factory. It is almost impossible to believe that such an old world institution, producing some of the most sublime musical instruments on earth, is flourishing in the middle of Queens. Here hundreds of craftsmen hammer, bend, glue and tinker with the wood slats and the keys that comprise one Steinway piano. During our three-hour tour, we witness the meticulous step-by-step process. We record the musical cacophony created by the creation of these renowned musical instruments. These sounds will become our second sound addition to the audile archive of New York City noises to remember.
On a cold winter morning, Susan Agliata, my Abecedarium:NYC collaborator, and I visit this surprising burst of sculptural splendor. Modernism meets camp here mid-week, when no one else seems to remember that a symphony of East River wind chimes are beckoning the birds, the boats and the muses. With our microphones in hand, we reach up to the clouds and listen to a lovely, twisting, mobile sculpture as it produces exquisite, rhythmic, bell-like tones. This is our first of many Abecedarium recordings. We will create a sound map of New York City in which our website users will travel from burrough to burrough exploring this metropolis with their ears.