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.

Learn about joining the Scenius for $10 / month

Other upcoming Olios

Jul 21

Olio Breakfast Club | The Stranger

Taught by Patricia Kim
10 a.m. at Greenberg's Bagels @ North 3rd St. Market

Sign Up - $25

Jul 25

Frida's Fragrance: Art, Scent, & Persona

Taught by Jessica Murphy
7:30 p.m. at The William Vale Hotel

Sign Up - $20

Jul 31

Prospect Park Philosophy | Art vs. Reality

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:15 p.m. at Prospect Park (Grand Army Entrance)

Sign Up - $15

Aug 2

OlioHouse Weekend | Midsummer Night’s Dream

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $200

Aug 14

The Allure of Masculinity

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7:30 p.m. at The Assemblage | NoMad

Sign Up - $15

Aug 17

OlioHouse Weekend | Scenius (Un)Skillshare

Taught by Lauren Hudson
2 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $100

Aug 20

Dementia Americana: The Persistence of Forgetting

Taught by Ward Regan
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $15

Aug 21

Philosophy Club | "God is Dead"

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Sep 19

OlioTrip | Cienfuegos, Cuba

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

Sign Up - $

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