Ellen Reid in New York: SOUNDWALK
Created by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid, SOUNDWALK is a GPS-enabled work of public art that uses music to illuminate walks around New York's Central Park, encouraging calm reflection.
Ellen Reid, SOUNDWALK composer: Music is powerful. And music is a way that we connect, in a big way, with each other.
It's a way to communicate and it's a way to communicate in this raw, pure form.
SOUNDWALK is a GPS-driven work of public sound art.
You download an app and it's a free app and you put on your headphones and then you just start walking.
And the app follows your GPS to trigger sounds that should illuminate the landscape around you.
I designed musical themes to kind of fit with the themes of the layout of the park.
So, there's a 'water theme' that comes in themes and variations any time you're around a water feature in the park.
And then woven through that, I was doing research about current and historical events of things that have happened in different locations in the park and subtly weaving clues about those things into the soundscape.
Mitchell Silver, Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation: We're now in Central Park, which is the most iconic park in the world and I have the privilege to oversee 30,000 acres of park land, here in New York City.
When you come here, most people don't know that this was designed and developed, this did not exist and so this is now a green oasis, where people can come and escape.
It's really the lungs of the city and people are really using it that way, both centuries ago, as well as today.
People come here for a personal trainer, we have festivals, we have walking tours, birthday parties, picnics, bachelorette parties, everything happens here in the park.
There's something about being in nature that just really makes you feel better.
I tell people, don't take a mental health day, just take a walk in a park.
Ellen: Mindscapes is an international cultural project that explores what mental health is, how we think about it, how we tell stories about it, how we interact with it.
So many people in a large city have multiple experiences within a park and this very spot has all of these layers of experience, of urban life and this richness that comes with urban life.
I wanted to create a project that lets you sit with that richness and explore that richness through sound and through stories and through individual sonic experience.
Mitchell: Central Park never gets old. This is a park for all people, regardless of your race, your income, there's something here for you to do and you walk away with an incredible experience, time after time after time.
To add music is just another element, it's another one of your senses that make you escape from New York but it just transports you away and helps you reduce that stress. So music, walking, parks, they all go together.
Ellen: The way that we've had to put SOUNDWALK together has been this really unique experience that's created a large, international team.
We have the New York Philharmonic, we have an incredible New York based jazz band called, 'Poole and the Gang'. We have the Young People's Chorus of New York City.
We have a small team of me and an assistant sound designer, Dante Green, who have been coming to the park through thick and thin, to test these sounds.
Mitchell: My hope going forward is that we can continue to invest in parks because when you do that you invest in your residents, you invest in health and you invest in present and future generations.
Ellen: I believe that music helps us connect with parts of ourselves and process and hold space for some challenging emotions and challenging experiences.
And this project is so special because you're fully surrounded by music and as the listener you can control exactly what sound world you want to be in.
So, in a way, we've created this structure where the listener gets to be the composer.
After downloading the free app to their phone and putting on their headphones, participants explore Central Park, triggering different music that has been carefully crafted to harmonise with the park's natural environment and attractions.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been extremely isolating. SOUNDWALK is a socially-distanced refuge, designed to get people safely out of the house and into green space. It promotes an active lifestyle, and aims to encourage self-care, mindfulness, wellbeing and joyful artistic connection.
Wellcome's Mindscapes programme is supporting the New York City iteration of SOUNDWALK, which is available in a number of parks across America.
Danielle Olsen, International Cultural Producer
At a time when people are living through a global crisis and dealing with multiple challenges and inequities, the restorative power of music and of public access to green spaces are to be celebrated. We hope the intimacy of SOUNDWALK will inspire moments of welcome reflection and calm for those that experience it.