Our exclusive Unsound Festival coverage continues with Ezekiel Honig‘s guide to sampling spots around New York City. You can catch the Anticipate Recordings founder at the label’s Littlefield showcase tonight, deep in the heart of Gowanus. Doors are at 8 and tickets are $10, with details available here.
My music makes liberal use of field recordings–objects and spaces that are as important as instrumental sources. Though I choose what and where to record, I look for randomness and accidents in locations like the…
There is the classic sound of the subway train starting and stopping and trudging along the track, but I’m more curious about the occasional train that’s not going anywhere yet and making a loud exhaust noise. The sounds have unpredictable variations, too, like the way people’s voices or footsteps on the stairs bounce off the tunnel. I’ve been in other train stations in other cities and the sounds in and around an NYC subway station are still my favorite, although I admit my bias.
Central Park is an interesting place sonically (and otherwise) because it is this big swathe of ‘natural’ setting in the midst of the city, which has a healthy amount of quiet and space and grass and trees, but also has crowds of people, horse-drawn carriages or a car driving through the middle of it. The approaches to the entrances/exits are especially exciting, where the sound is a mix of the tranquil and the chaotic, the balancing point between a manufactured rural setting and the vehicle/foot traffic of the street immediately adjacent to it as one passes from one environment to the other. You can mark the point where the sound transfers over from predominantly park to predominantly street or vice versa. I always find the degrees along that continuum striking.
West Side Promenade
Another location which plays on the nature/urban noise divide is the West Side Promenade, which runs downtown along the Hudson River and has a path for running, biking, dog walking or sitting on a bench. It can be empty sometimes, but on any decent weather day it’s filled with people. It’s right off a traffic-filled street but is set back enough that the louder sounds feel removed, and the water can peak in there if you’re lucky. My favorite part of it is the grating that leaves an opening over a sort of container for the river water. When the wind is right, it laps up against the concrete wall in an interesting deep tone sort of way which is distinctly not oceanic or anything you would find by chance outside of this slightly concrete-contained, yet naturally moving waterway.