Listening to the LES is a new media art project at P.S. 140 with special education students in Grades 5 and 6. It is lead by Robert Sember, member of sound art collective Ultra-Red. The project introduces students to inquiry-based art practices, and builds a shared historical awareness of the fabric of the city and the lives of those who live here. Students use oral history, site recording, and archival materials to explore their Lower East Side neighborhood. Students conduct interviews, make and edit audio recordings, and plan and facilitate listening sessions and contribute their compositions to the annual Young Artists Perform (YAP) presentation.
This year, we are listening to the deep history of the Lower East Side—sounds that no longer exist, sounds that are buried under the noise, bustle, and ambition of the present time. We call this project A Map of Echoes because echoes, like memories, come back and last beyond the events that cause them. We are visiting places of historical importance to each community to “return” or honor their presence with music by their descendants. We make recordings of this music played back into these places so that we hear the sounds of the past mixing with the sounds of the present. In the process, we are thinking about the echoes of our now on the Lower East Side.
– Robert Semper, Teaching Artist
For African Burial Ground, P.S. 140 students participating in A Map of Echos speak and engage in sound restoration on-site, 2018.