Open Sound New Orleans

Posted by AJ Harbison at 4:32 pm

My lovely wife grew up in the city of New Orleans, and I was tipped off to this project by my cousin-in-law who emailed her and her parents when he heard about it on NPR. It’s called “Open Sound New Orleans,” and it describes itself as “a community media project that invites and enables New Orleanians to document their lives in sound.” The main page is an interactive Google map of the city, with sound bubbles in three categories (ambient sounds, music sounds and voice sounds) scattered around. You can click on the sound bubbles to hear the sounds that were recorded in that location of the city.


Eleanor and I clicked around for a while last night, and it was pretty fun. In the right sidebar there’s a list of “greatest hits,” which provide a better chance for interesting material than clicking on a random bubble. I’d highly recommend listening to “Amazing Grace at Cafe du Monde,” which is a recording of a violin and guitar playing the song at the famous Cafe–I think it’s the most soulful (and bluesy) version of “Amazing Grace” I’ve ever heard. Eleanor also liked “Cicadas at dusk,” which she said was a very familiar sound to her, though a new one for me (I’ve never lived in a place that had cicadas before). And, just for a laugh, listen to “Who dat!” on the last page of the “greatest hits”–the excitement and then disappointment of New Orleans Saints football fans (“Who dat” is their official chant).

It’s certainly a cool idea for a project, and it’s fun to click around for a while. I wonder a bit about the long-term value of the idea. But here’s their “vision statement:”

Our intent is to make more accessible the authentic, unedited sounds and voices of New Orleans. Sharing the sounds of our city as we hear them, move through them, and create them, is an act of celebration. But it also serves each contributor – you and me and anyone else who might participate – as a simple way to extend our own experience to others, harness our representations and those of our city, and participate in New Orleans’ public culture with intentionality.

Reminds me of The AudioBus Experience in San Francisco that I wrote about last summer, except less mobile and more authentic (since the AudioBus manipulated the sound live rather than recording it). What do you think? Cool idea that contributes to community, or a novelty with a little interest but no lasting value?



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