Brooklyn Waterfront Listening Walks

Join me for a free listening walk in Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Bridge Park!

The worldwide COVID shutdowns of the last year spurred new interest in the urban soundscape. As the background noise of transportation subsided, many noticed the smaller sounds that were there all along. The planes may have resumed, but I hope we can hold on to the practice of listening to the city with open ears.

During this listening walk we will attend to the actual vibrations of the city, descending through layers of sound, stories, and history from the windy precipice of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade to the murky depths of the East River. With contact microphones and hydrophones we will discover the hidden vibrations of objects and reveal underwater sound worlds. Like a doctor’s stethoscope, these tools of auscultation “take the pulse” of the city, revealing connections that are only audible to augmented, dislocated ears.

We will follow the Promenade north to Squibb Park, over the pedestrian bridge into Brooklyn Bridge Park, then south to Pier 5, pausing at specific waypoints for group listening sessions using the contact mics or hydrophones. Each participant will be supplied with an FM receiver on a lanyard, pre-tuned to match my transmitter. Plug in your headphones to access the wireless, socially-distanced live feed!

I’m looking forward to sharing these listening moments with you, and engaging in some conversations about what we hear. Some topics of discussion:

  • Acousmatic encounters: listening to what can’t be seen, or using listening to see differently.
  • Resonance as a metaphor and a tangible phenomenon. All sound is physical.
  • Transportation and vibration: movement through v. movement within
  • Bridges are never still. They move us across a boundary but they also move with us, vibrating in sympathy as we walk.
  • Strata of infrastructure and history. How are stories are buried & revealed in the layers above and below us?
  • How is our soundscape shaped by the land and its transformations? Can we hear class inequities? (BQE, we’re listening at you!)
  • The often-ignored soundscapes of NYC waterways: Bioacoustics, sound pollution and drone aesthetics, oysters, shipworms and hopes for the future.

To accommodate more people, there are 2 identical sessions. Choose whichever one fits your schedule. (Rain dates are the following weekend: Oct 2 & Oct 3.)

September 25th, 2021 @ 5PM

September 26th, 2021 @ 5PM

Meet at the flagpole on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

All curious listeners are welcome. No listening/recording experience necessary. Family-friendly but it will be boring for smaller kids (says my 10 yr old). If you have a sound recorder, feel free to bring it and try out the contact microphones for yourself after the walk.

BYO headphones (with a plug, not Bluetooth). Contact me if you’d like to attend but don’t have headphones. I can bring a few spares.

COVID precautions: This is an outdoor event, but in some locations we will be in close proximity. Please wear a mask regardless of your vaccination status.

Accessibility: This outdoor walk is approx 1.3 miles, wheelchair-accessible, with frequent stops along the way.

Reserve Your Free Ticket
(Tickets required. No drop-ins because I need to make sure I have enough FM receivers for everybody.)

Excerpts From The Walks


Although we were focused on the present, I did record a little bit for posterity.

The excerpts below represent what participants heard on their headphones (via micro FM broadcast from my sound bag).

We began by connecting the sky and land, listening to a flagpole through contact mics, hearing the tuned resonance of the nearby playground and the rhythm of the wind slapping the cables.

As we walked along the promenade, I attached contact mics to the railing. The cars on the highway below aren’t visible from here, but they’re a constant source of sound and vibration.

We listened to the wind rattling the branches of a tree. (Later I played excerpts from David Dunn’s The Sound of Light in Trees album.)

As night fell, we dropped hydrophones into the East River to hear the boats pass, the underwater subway tunnel, and even the brief calls of the oyster toadfish that live under the pier. (You can hear them around 13sec into this excerpt.)

This event is supported by a grant from the NYC Artist Corps