The American Soundscape

What did Walden Pond sound like when Henry David Thoreau built his cabin in the woods over 150 years ago? Today there are many new sounds at Walden: planes fly overhead, yellow school bus groups visit in droves, couples play music from their phones on shoreline picnics, and cars honk at a nearby intersection. The soundscape was changing in Thoreau’s time as well. The “smoke and steam and hissing” of the steam engine train, or “iron horse,” rumbled the fish in the pond and quieted local song birds and belching bullfrogs. Thoreau knew his surrounding environment and his furry and feathered neighbors by their sounds; this vibrant soundscape contributed to his democratic impulse—we must all participate as the crickets do with their relentless chirping—and it bolstered his nonconformist spirit to challenge what he called “the broad, flapping American ear.” Sounds have always played a part in shaping national identity, from the “howling wilderness” to “the bombs bursting in air” in our national anthem. Yet our wild soundscapes are rapidly disappearing.

In this Olio, we will listen to sound recordings of birds singing, insects humming, amphibians croaking, and industrial noises; we’ll expand our hearing to attend to the nuances of organic sounds in a few listening exercises; and we will discuss sounds in American poems and books written before sound recording technology. As we become more attentive earwitnesses to our local soundscapes, what music will we hear? How different will New York City sound to us compared to Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”? Will it sound as democratic and melodious? Is it a song with room for nonhuman animals? How might we establish and share sonic territory differently in and near our homes and our communities, in our local environments, and on our daily commutes? Let’s take our earbuds out for a moment to listen and find out.

*This Olio will take place in a Williamsburg living room off the L train to Graham Avenue stop. Address will be sent upon rsvp* 

Location: Living Room

Address will be shared with attendees.

Living Room Salons take place in a Think Olio member's apartment to provide an intimate learning environment. We'll email you the exact address upon rsvp.

Interdisciplinary Learning with the Best Professors

Think Olio is not about learning a new skill or adding credentials to your resume. It is about getting together with other people and expanding our worldview. It exists as a conduit for fruitful discussions, a dissent from the regurgitation of facts, and an embrace of new perspectives.

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Other upcoming Olios

Sep 17

Our Pornographic Education

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7:30 p.m. at Crystal Lake

Sign Up - $15

Sep 18

Mediated Intimacy: The Dating App Landscape

Taught by Pani Farvid
7 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Sep 19

* Sold Out * OlioTrip | Cienfuegos, Cuba

Taught by Teresita Levy
10 a.m. at Cienfuegos, Cuba

Sign Up - $

Sep 23

New York, The Neoliberal City

Taught by Lauren Hudson
7:30 p.m. at The Old Stone House

Sign Up - $15

Sep 26

Living Room Salon | 'Dirty Computers', Voice & Visibility

Taught by Kashema Hutchinson
8 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Sep 29

Olio FieldTrip | Skateboarding and Modern Art

Taught by Ted Barrow
1 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $30

Oct 4

Modern Privacy: Reclaiming Our Self Narratives

Taught by Lawrence Cappello
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Oct 15

Olio Seminar | Kafka will Ruin Your Life and Make You Laugh About it

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Strong Rope Brewery

Sign Up - $60

Oct 22

The Fear of Leisure

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Threes Brewing // Greenpoint

Sign Up - $15

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