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New York, just like I pictured it…

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With apologies to Stevie Wonder and to all my college buds who revel in “skyscrapers, and everything!”, I gotta say that THIS is what puts me in a New York state of mind:

 Wow indeed.  As Eric Sanderson, author of the eye-opening 2009 natural history book Mannahatta, says, “If Mannahatta existed today as it did then, it would be a national park—it would be the crowning glory of American national parks.” More biodiversity per square mile than Yellowstone; more birds than the Great Smokies.

Now, in addition to Sanderson’s compelling graphic representations of the primal landscape of this “island of many hills,” we can also revel in an aural taste of what once was.  Calling Thunder is a  multi-media and VR project put together by a former NPR audio engineer and an NYU School of Visual Arts grad student, and it’s lots of fun to explore.

The presentation is centered around an almost ten-minute video (also broken into smaller, location-specific chunks) that takes us through four locations in the modern cityscape and back in time to hear a bit of what these locations sounded like when they were a wilderness of forest, pond, shoreline, and rocky outcrops. Utilizing sounds from Cornell’s Macauley Library of Natural Sounds, each location is also recreated in a longer binaural audio track that lets us go a bit deeper in to these ancient soundscapes. Also check out this recent NYT article to learn more about the project and hear from its creators.

It’s actually not all that surprising that this island at the mouth of the Hudson would have been home to such a rich and concentrated profusion of wildlife. That’s what woodlands, marshes, and rivers will do for ya.  Next, I’d love to see and hear something like this for the big-city landscape that has most enticed my time-traveller longings: the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento delta….

 

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