Elastic City was started to answer the question, "How do you travel in a city that you live in?" Founder Todd Shalom's answer was to discover a new way to experience it—in a series of walks, designed and executed by various artists chosen by him. Todd, a poet, performer, and active member of the New York Society for Acoustic Ecology, gives his own walks based on sound. The most recent of these soundwalks, "Brighton Zaum," expands the participants' experience of the city through an awareness its noises, while also giving them the chance to actively create sound poetry with the city. A guide, a leader, a teacher, but above all an artist, Todd melts into the background of the walks, allowing the participants to use the practical and poetic awareness he gives them to open up to the city in a completely new way. "Brighton Zaum" continues through August. Buy tickets here. Other Elastic City walks are here.
One of the first things you established on the Brighton Beach walk was that people don't notice the sounds they hear everyday, which you drove home by showing less than half the participants could recognize the sound of their keys with their eyes closed. Why do you think it's important for people to become aware of everyday sounds, especially the everyday sounds of the city they live in? Because it's an oft ignored sense. I mean, pretty simply. We all have our taste in music, but we really don't know the sounds that we live with. So the idea is if we can tune more into the sounds of the environment, the sounds that are around us, then we'll make more conscious decisions of what sounds we want to have in our lives, what sounds we choose to create, and what sounds we choose to have.
Part of your role in the Brighton walk was giving definitions of acoustic terms, such as attack and decay, and pointing out examples of them throughout the walk. What do you hope the knowledge of these terms and what they refer to will give the participants? It kinda ties into the last question. There is an education component to this walk. I mean it's kinda a 101 primer in acoustic ecology terms but also some terms from acoustics. I think with a knowledge of these things one can be informed of how they listen. And in doing so, it really brings the focus to listening. Some people do not know that sounds are waves, that sound is vibration. So when we did that exercise with acoustic shadows, this idea that walls or other things can actually block the sound waves and that's why we don't hear something as well or sound is muffled or something. It's like I just want people to more fully realize the sounds that we're listening to.