The Sounds of Federal Hill

I want to use my public humanities project to explore what it might mean to make audible associative layers or continua between sound and music; between the informal, everyday, and ephemeral and the formal, instituted, permanent; and between the political necessities of a black music archive historically and in a so-called “post-racial” present. Again, not entirely sure what this will mean, but I am starting to dig into sound studies discourse, the young subfield of ecomusicology, acoustic ecology, soundscapes, soundmaps. I am paying attention to how sound orients us in space and time and contributes to our sense of place. Reading about how people ascribe meaning to place though music and sound. Just as important as the bibliographies I am beginning to compile, the reading I’m doing, the workshops I’m attending and so on as I learn the contours of a new set of discourses, is the fact that I am experimenting with new processes. I am trying to imagine and create for myself a research practice/process that centers imagination and my heretofore utterly neglected sense of play. I want to learn through doing, I want to honor the sense of wonder and insatiable curiosity that made me a lifelong learner in the first place.

While there is much I will remember about Providence, Rhode Island after this fellowship is over–obviously the gorgeous Brown campus, the intellectual generosity of my fellow public humans, the excellent Hope Street Farmers Market–I think the rich soundscape surrounding my little Federal Hill apartment will stay with me the longest.

Take for example this bit:

I live directly across the street from Carl G Lauro Elementary school and I hear the gloriously chaotic sound of recess three times a day every weekday (and something that sounds exactly like recess at 7:40 or so and 2:40–when the buses unload and load). While I loathed it initially and couldn’t believe my bad luck, I have grown to love this sound of raucous play. When I work at home, I barely have to use Pomodoros. The kids remind me when to get up, stretch, or at least stop taking things so seriously.

The chimes at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Church ring clear and true at noon and six every day.

Recorded on my iphone outside the church in the rain on October 9th at 6:15. A very imperfect recording but I love the way the traffic sounds serve as a hectic counterpart to the steadfast, consistent clarity of the chime. The chime structures my day and reminds me that chances are, whatever I’m getting stressed out about just then, it probably pales in comparison to more eternal things.

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