conversations we've not heard

spectropolis live in city hall park, part of microradio soundwalk
october 1-3, 2004
michelle nagai

A NY Times reporter recently used the word "chatter" to describe current activity on the internet among anarchist groups preparing for the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC. The "level of chatter" was cited by the Times reporter as a means to estimate the number of anarchist individuals expected to visit NYC during the RNC and to gauge the intensity of their anticipated protests.  Chatter is also the word used to describe the information sharing that goes on among terrorists as they plan attacks on the US and other targets.  As the level of terrorist chatter rises, so does the level of the homeland security color alert system and related fears and anxieties.  By tapping into and deciphering these secret and intangible chatter streams those who would protect us create the illusion of the negation of threat.

But there is another thing: Trees and buildings, fountains, clocks and graveyards - solid artifacts of urban spatial and temporal expansion that are fixed and without perceived intelligence or memory. Mute objects that fill up the spaces they inhabit with an experience of  sameness, even as they transform themselves, visibly and plainly, from season to season and year to year. 

Within this landscape of inanimate placeholders there exists an even more hidden chatter stream - a chatter stream that relies on a lexicon of soundings informed by the flow of energy from point a to point b, the reflection of waves off of surfaces and the absorption of human states of being. Through the use of live microphones, a database of previously collected information and voice recognition algorithms based on the grammatical rules of the universal language of Esperanto, the chatter streams in the area surrounding City Hall Park, in lower Manhattan, are translated into audible sonic structures, revealing the conversations we've not heard.


chatter sources include (click on the photos to enlarge):

  1. The Manhattan Sun Building a.k.a. 280 Broadway
  2. 457 Temple Court Building and Annex a.k.a. 119-133 Nassau Street
  3. Tweed Courthouse a.k.a. 52 Chambers Street
  4. 1011 Entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge
  5. 12 Church of St. Peter a.k.a. 22 Barclay Street
  6. 1314 City Hall Park Clock
  7. 181920 Park Row Building a.k.a. 15 Park Row
  8. 22 City Hall Park Fountain
  9. 23 Statue of Horace Greeley
  10. 343536 Statue of Nathan Hale
  11. 37383940414243 Manhattan Municipal Building a.k.a One Centre Street
  12. 444546 St. Paul's Chapel and Cemetery
  13. 47 NY State Supreme Court House a.k.a 60 Centre Street
  14. 484950 The Surrogate's Courthouse a.k.a. 31 Chambers Street
  15. 59City Hall
  16. 626364 Woolworth Building
  17. Burial Sites Under City Hall
  18. 2930313233 The View Looking North
  19. 515253 Group of Three Pines
  20. 54555758 Open Arms Tree
  21. 21 Five Ginkos
  22. 9 Tree of Heaven a.k.a. Ailanthus altissima
  23. 2425262728 London Planetrees a.k.a. Platanus x acerifolia
  24. 1516 Corner Pine


1.   The Manhattan Sun Building a.k.a. 280 Broadway
2.   Temple Court Building and Annex a.k.a. 119-133 Nassau Street
3.   Tweed Courthouse a.k.a. 52 Chambers Street
4.   Entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge
5.   Church of St. Peter a.k.a. 22 Barclay Street
6.   City Hall Park Clock
7.   Park Row Building a.k.a. 15 Park Row
8.   City Hall Park Fountain
9.   Statue of Horace Greeley
10. Statue of Nathan Hale
11. Manhattan Municipal Building a.k.a One Centre Street
12. St. Paul's Chapel and Cemetery
13. NY State Supreme Court House a.k.a 60 Centre Street
14. The Surrogate's Courthouse a.k.a. 31 Chambers Street
15. City Hall
16. Woolworth Building
17. Burial Sites Under City Hall
18. The View Looking North
19. Group of Three Pines
20. Open Arms Tree
21. Five Ginkos
22. Tree of Heaven a.k.a. Ailanthus altissima
23. London Planetrees a.k.a. Platanus x acerifolia
24. Corner Pine