New Yorkers: Time Travel On Your Lunch Break

A series of soundwalks brings sonic life to 12 historical sites around New York City.

Attention Lower Manhattanites: Digital Sanctuaries, a new urban soundwalk project by renowned composers Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez, will let you time-travel on your lunch breaks all this week.


Bring your headphones to one of three locations in Manhattan at 12 p.m. or 2 p.m. to experience 12 historical sites in the city through an added dimension of sound. Accessed via a mobile app, the tunes of “Electric Kulintang,” Ibarra and Rodriguez’s collaboration, bring sonic life to the African burial grounds, the Native American Indian Museum, historic Jewish and Irish communities, Chinatown, and Castle Clinton.

Ibarra tells Co.Design that the project began when she and Rodriguez “started to imagine what it might look and sound like to have maps of digital public art in NYC.” That thought evolved into a series of curated meditative moments in an otherwise bustling and noise-polluted city.

Their resulting musical map combines influences from classical and opera to punk to Asian gong music in a truly idiosyncratic sound, with each track serving as musical history of its site on the soundwalk. “African Lullaby” accompanies the African burial ground site, for example, and sings of “feet tuned to rhythms of a thumb piano.” Pier 15’s track also evokes the journeys of thousands of immigrants to New York City. The Stock Exchange track is appropriately fast-paced and electronically based, whereas the Louise Nevelson Plaza composition is more ethereal and atmospheric, a swirl of bells, gongs, and white noise.

Interaction designer Shankari Murali and visual artist Makoto Fujimura helped turn the compositions into an app, which allows users to “remix” the music themselves and post about their experience. Music and history lovers who work or live near lower Manhattan are encouraged to bring a set of headphones and meet a team of hosts at one of three locations: the Red Walk, at the African Burial Ground, 290 Broadway; the Green Walk, at South Cove Park, 50 Battery Place (between 1st and 3rd Place); or the Blue Walk, at the India House, 1 Hanover Square. The walks will be held from November 7th through 10th between noon and 2 p.m.

For those who don’t live in NYC, the next opportunity to sound-travel will take place in Pittsburgh. For more information, go here.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.