ideas & actions:
New York Soundscape

Joel Chadabe, executive curator
ear to the earth


At this time in history, more than 50% of the world's population lives in cities. It follows that an understanding of cities and of the quality of life in cities is essential to an understanding of the ecology of the world as a whole. Our focus for Ear to the Earth this year, consequently, is urban. Specifically, New York.

The Ear to the Earth 2008 Festival
Schedule of Events


Our idea is to understand cities by listening to them. Our immediate project is New York Soundscape, a panoramic portrayal of New York City's personality and urban ecology in sound. To be launched during this year's Ear to the Earth festival, New York Soundscape is a multi-year project, culminating in a comprehensive collection of documentary field recordings, music and sound art compositions, and multimedia, created by artists, students, and New Yorkers from all walks of life.

New York Soundscape is a major artistic and preservation activity. We view it also as a social experiment in bringing people from diverse backgrounds and with different perspectives together in a common creative civic project. We see educational possibilities. We ask: What is the learning potential in creating digital art based on environmental issues?

New York Soundscape is a central theme of this year's Ear to the Earth festival. And like New York itself, the theme contains myriad variations. The works of the participating artists, among them Walter Branchi, Francisco Lopez, Agnieszka Roginska, Paul Geluso, Robert Rowe, Tom Beyer, Joel Chadabe, Alvin Curran, Marina Rosenfeld, Michael Schumacher, Miya Masaoka, LoVid, Richard Lainhart, Andrea Polli, and Charlie Morrow, vary widely in artistic concept, in sound, and in performance.

It's a strong beginning. It's a starting line from which New York Soundscape will grow through the water and wind of next year's festival and into the next few years. But for the moment, this year's festival also includes other concerts based on other soundscapes, with music by Olivier Messiaen, George Crumb, Ezequiel Viñao, Helen Fisher, Matthew Burtner, Charlie Morrow, Orlando Garcia, and John Cage.

The festival ends with John Cage's Lecture on the Weather. It's a powerful piece in which Cage states his political concerns. Composed in 1975, it is more than ever relevant today.

Photo by Marc Battier