As I took my soundwalk through the upper east side of Manhattan on an early Sunday evening, I noted the array of sounds that flooded my open ears. I walk along 83rd street and Lexington Avenue for a while, before heading to 3rd Ave.
During the walk, I hear the soundmarks that are most often affiliated with New York City living. For example, the aggressive horn honking of the taxi drivers or that of the construction that bellows in the distance. Sound signals that I instantly became aware of are the vendors, namely hot-dog carts, fruit-and-vegetable stands and Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine trolleys. The enticing aromas lured me closer toward the carts, but I decide to keep on and focus on the project at hand.
I am mostly taken by the cacophony of keynotes. All kinds of background noise zipping by, whether it is sirens, children at play, adults barking into their cell phones, dogs snarling, clicking and clacking of stilettos, boots, and so much more. I reach my destination and analyze my experience.
The exercise was relaxing; it was fun to consciously become sonically astute in a city that never sleeps. What I found especially interesting is how I am used to this exercise: more often than not I remove my headphones or poke my nose out of my book to peak above and look around and listen to what is going on all around me in subways or city streets – here in New York, and definitely when I am travelling. Here, though, I love the sites and sounds of city living. Out in the country, you hear things differently. Often times, it is significantly easier to end up in a trance-like state, absorbed in one’s own thoughts in harmony with the humming of crickets, the wind and other such various aspects of nature. But a city sound — NYC in particular — involves a whole other level of listening technique. This slightly more challenging practice involves being able to separate the very many layers of sounds all around us that act like instruments, and to thoroughly digest and comprehend these individual sounds before allowing them to form into their own unique orchestra.