Folder of found sounds for our group sound walk: google drive
Reflections of Sound Walk, 9:09 by John Luther Adams
As I was walking down 5th Ave between 83rd and 75th St, the sounds of the traffic and the sounds of the people talking as they passed me by would merge with this slightly ethereal and very ambient soundtrack. Not knowing which sounds were coming from the recording and which were coming from my present time made for a very surreal experience. I don’t know if it helped me be more aware of the moment, but it definitely made me look around more and try to find where the sounds were actually coming from.
Since I was walking right along Central Park, it was a great blend of both nature and street sounds. There would be birds chirping and sirens mixed in with his symphonic piece. Sometimes, I thought that the soundtrack worked better than other times. For example, along the park I thought the sound walk would help me try and pay attention to my surroundings more. If there were bird chirping sounds I would try to look up and see if I could spot a bird to figure out if the noise was from real life or not.
As I was walking from 5th Ave to Madison, there were some historical buildings with spiky fences in front of it and some abandoned-looking buildings. At the same time, the soundtrack had some piercing, eery sounds that amplified the gothic quality of the architecture. For some reason, I imagined of 19th century men in their top hats and women with their parasols were walking around these very streets. It was a slightly religious sounding soundtrack at times, so I also pictured catholic priests with their dramatic black cassocks walking around. With 9:09, it was easy to imagine myself in these different time periods.
After I finished the uptown and downtown walk, I realized that I couldn’t always tell what was a part of his soundtrack and what were city/nature sound that was a part of the present. His past recording and my present surroundings coalesced to form an experience that can’t be recreated by any one else at any other time.
Funny note, there were some shrieking sounds during my walk uptown towards the Met Fifth Ave. During the walk, I simply imagined that the high-pitched shrieking was a part of Adam’s surreal, slightly eery and ambiguous soundtrack. It just went so perfectly that I imagined it was planted by him. Turns out, when I finished the walk and I took my headphones off, the shrieking was coming from a large group of kids in Central Park. Just another example of how amazingly the soundtrack and the sounds from the street and park merged together to create an experience that was my own.
This experience reminded me of this beautiful interview with John Cage, in which he describes there is no such thing as silence. Even when I turned up the volume as loud as I could during the sound walk, I could still hear the noises around me. There was the exhaust from the buses were the most loud, certain groups of people talking loudly as they walked; cute city dogs barking. This experience reminded me that there is no way to separate myself from my context; I am linked to my surroundings.