[Video + Sound] Zooms and Soundwalks

Assignment: Go on one of the suggested soundwalks. In teams, collect sounds for a 3-5 minute sound walk to a specific location inside of 721 Broadway.

Soundwalk: Passing Stranger, Pejk Malinovski

Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours only nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take of  my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

Taking its title from the Walt Whitman poem “To A Stranger” (above), this 1.5 hour soundwalk through my favorite neighborhood in Manhattan gave me new eyes to see my beloved city. A few stray thoughts and takeaways:

  • I know very little about poetry and always felt alienated by the beats but having this embodied experience of seeing and feeling where they, their predecessors, contemporaries, and all those that came after was thrilling. It reminds me that we know and understand things through our body as much as our minds.
  • I’ve lived (so-to-speak) and worked in the Village for over a decade and I didn’t know 90% of the things in the tour. I also felt they skipped over a couple of crucial parts of the neighborhood that I have a hard time believing weren’t connected to the history of poetry in the neighborhood: namely, the community garden movement.
  • This is the most at home and dialed into the city I’ve felt in a long, long time.
  • That story about spreading Algarin Pinero’s ashes along Ave C… my god.
  • Trotsky’s Novy Mir was where La Palapa is! 
  • While standing outside 101 St. Mark’s, I saw two very poet-looking gentleman go in… I wonder if they know?
  • You know what we don’t need more of in this city? Fucking condos. The church that was supposed to be in front of Allen Ginsberg’s apartment on 12th is no more since the recording of this tour:
Formerly the site of a church. Mr. Buongiorno who lived across the street would ring the bell every Sunday… if the soundwalk story is to be believed.
Allen Ginsberg lived on the 4th floor.

A few things that were techniques or moments in the recording that left an impression:

  • Using two distinct voices––male for the narration and female for the walking directions
  • The method for giving walking directions included several moments for each distinct direction interspersed seamlessly through the audio commentary: 
    • the first direction: “Continue along blahblahblah..”
    • the set-up: “You should be approaching something on your blahblahblah…”
    • the check-in: “You should now be in front of blahblahblah.” *pause* “Are you there?”
    • the final direction: “We’re going to hang out here for about 5 minutes.”
  • Sparse sound design that is strategically placed:
    • at Allen Ginsberg’s, a church bell starts ringing before the section describing Mr. Buongiorno the bell ringer
    • as you walk along Tompkins Square Park’s perimeter a background of layered natural noises plays
    • during the Walt Whitman block, they play what seems to be a recording of multiple random people (I’m hoping they were strangers found on the streets of the Village) reciting each part of the poem “To A Stranger”
  • At certain locations, you hear audio of the people who lived there or had a strong relationship to it actually going into the place
  • At other locations, a poem related to the place is read as you walk through after giving its historical background