Stillspotting nyc: To a Great City explores the relationship between space and sound in Manhattan

For To a Great City, the second edition of stillspotting nyc, Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and US and Norway–based architect Snøhetta are creating urban soundscapes around Lower Manhattan to explore the relationship between space and sound.

Organised by the Guggenheim Museum, stillspotting nyc is a two-year multidisciplinary project that explores the relationship between space and silence within the crowded urban environment. Working with a select group of architects, artists, designers, students, composers and philosophers, it combines urban experiences and public education programs – taking the museum’s architecture and urban studies programming into New York’s five boroughs.

Pärt has described his music as a frame for silence and uses reduction of sound rather than augmentation to create his compositions. Pärt’s concept of tintinnabuli - “little bells” in Latin - which forms the basis of most of his work, was born from his vision for an extremely nuanced aural environment that could not be measured, so to speak, in kilometers or meters but only in millimeters. His pieces often revolve around a central tone that reappears consistently throughout the work.

Snøhetta has selected — and in some cases subtly altered — urban spaces that embody the concept of a central tone and extend the perception of sound into the realm of space.

Visitors will experience this confluence of music and architecture at five separate locations downtown that quietly celebrate the city, ten years after the September 11 attacks.

Travelling through sites along the periphery of Ground Zero, participants may encounter a green labyrinth created by The Battery Conservancy, reflect in an underground chamber at Governors Island National Monument, and enter otherwise inaccessible spaces in landmark skyscrapers.

The stillness and seclusion of these spaces heightens awareness and recalibrates one’s senses. Over the course of a day, participants may visit each space multiple times at their leisure to understand how their perception changes based on circumstances such as time, stress, appetite, and sleep. Listeners become increasingly sensitised as they are drawn in and ideally will be transformed to a focused and still state.

Additionally, the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University graduate school of architecture, planning and preservation was commissioned to develop a mapping study on silence and noise in New York City.

The interactive map developed by SIDL presents actual noise complaints generated by New York residents when calling 311, the city’s phone number for government information and non-emergency services.

Reading the complaints offers insights into the city’s noise, and the contrasts between private and social space and between residential and commercial necessities. In addition, SIDL challenged 15 graduate students from the Architecture, Urban Design, and Urban Planning programs at Columbia University to investigate new concepts of stillness in a fast-moving city.

Drawing from a series of seminars with speakers from various backgrounds, student work in the second half of the spring 2011 semester required inventing strategies for collecting data about silence and noise, and visualising this data into concepts. As a result, the work questioned and redefined conventional ideas about noise, information, the city, and imagery.

For more visit here.

To a Great City, the Manhattan edition of stillspotting nyc, will be open to the public for two extended weekends on September 15–18 and 22–25, 2011.