To The Listener: A Note from John Luther Adams

It’s a well-worn cliché that the streets of the city are noisy.

But what happens when we decide to listen to the sounds around us not as noise, but as musical voices?

Suddenly, the whole city becomes an enveloping, never-ending piece of music.

As we walk the streets with open ears, we hear far more than an undifferentiated roar. We discover much more detail than we might imagine—innumerable small sounds and unexpected pools of stillness. At times we can almost hear the city breathing.

These two Soundwalks are an invitation to listen more deeply to the music of the city.

All the sounds were recorded in the streets between The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Breuer. In composing these pieces I’ve added nothing more, but simply sculpted and filtered these street sounds to reveal resonances that lie hidden around us all the time.

Listening carefully you may pick out the faint aura of human voices, the ubiquitous chipping of sparrows, echoes from a distant trumpeter, the melodic contours of a jackhammer, or bell tones emanating from the airbrakes of a passing bus.

These pieces are not complete until you are present—listening, walking your own route, and creating your own unique mix with the sounds you encounter.

The ideal listening balance between the “live” and recorded sounds is one in which you aren’t always certain whether a sound you’re hearing is coming from your ear buds, your imagination, or from the streets around you.