Listening to the City

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Original Air Date: 
September 29, 2018

Cities can be cacophonous and loud, a chaos of sonic discord. If, that is, you don't really focus your listening. People who’ve trained their ears to hear urban soundscapes in new ways hear something different.

That’s what David Rothenberg is doing. He’s a composer and an environmental philosopher who’s made a career of listening to and performing music in the wild, with birds, animals and insects. Lately he’s been giving himself a crash course in the art — and science — of urban listening.

His experience made us wonder: what else can you hear from a city when you really listen closely? People's patterns and everyday experiences emerge in detail, along with their struggles against prejudice and abuse. Some people hear pain, others hear art emerging from the chaos of sound.

In this hour, we make the case for exploring your city sonically.

Interactive

Well, maybe not all of them. But we'd like to get there! In "Listening to the City" we travel from New York to Los Angeles to Jacksonville to Baltimore and beyond, seeking to better understand the urban environment through some seriously close listening. 

headphones in the city
Articles

A composer, environmental philosopher and guest producer on "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" teaches us how to deeply listen to urban spaces.

A tree recorded by David Haskell.
Photo Gallery

Biologist David Haskell has been listening to and recording the sounds of urban trees. Haskell can identify leaves by sound, and talks about listening as a way of doing science. He explains why nature/culture is a false dichotomy.

Length: 
10:43
Left to Right: Aaron Henkin, Wendel Patrick (WYPR)
Audio

Baltimore-based podcasters Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick are interviewing people and telling their stories, block by block.
 

Length: 
10:22
gas station
Audio

Can you hear racism and intolerance? Jennifer Stoever can when she listens to the “sonic color line” — a way to hear racial division, how it’s reinforced and maintained, by whom and why, and at what cost. 
 

Length: 
13:51
trains for the train sounds, Paris
Sonic Sidebar

Cities are full of music — but can cities also BE music? David Rothenberg gives us a tiny history of how composers have used cities to make music, beginning with Pierre Schaeffer’s “Musique concrète.”

Length: 
03:04
From Vivienne's Shadow Walk in Venice
Articles

 Sound artist Vivienne Corringham takes us on one of her "shadow walks," where she records local spaces and how they affect the people who live there, then "sings the walk" through vocal improvisations.

Length: 
09:10
Extras

Show Details 📻
Airdates
September 29, 2018
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Last modified: 
October 03, 2018