For this project, I will create and distribute a fifteen- to thirty-minute self-guided audio tour of DUMBO, narrated by a fictional resident and expert on all things DUMBO.

Passers-by will first encounter the piece on the street. A sign advertising the tour will draw people to a table laid out with mp3 players as well as instructions for downloading the audio tour onto a smartphone or other listening device. If one chooses to take the tour, they’ll receive a map of the route and audio to guide them. The tour will begin with a narrator welcoming them to DUMBO and guiding them towards the park and the water.

The tour’s narrator will present himself as a lifelong city resident and will act as a kind of familiar stranger – a friend of their friend’s friend – who has produced the tour as a kind of insider’s guide to DUMBO. What follows will be a fusion of instruction and narrative, and as the listener is directed through the neighborhood they will also come to understand (by way of digression, anecdote and reflection) the narrator’s life story. This narrator will
relate DUMBO’s history through his personal history, discussing where he was born, where he played, learned, worked, first fell in love and then where his heart was broken, places where his life changed, places he goes for comfort, for reflection, for release, for discovery. The tour will draw parallels between changes in public space and the narrator’s evolution through life and over time, as stories move from childhood to adulthood and old age. Similarly, his tone will be sometimes playful and nostalgic, and sometimes caustic and sarcastic, observing tensions between past and present in the architecture and physical world of the city.

The tour will use large-scale landscapes (views of the river, the bridges, and the city) as well as smaller objects (electrical boxes, inscriptions, graffiti, and architectural details) as jumping-off points for fictional and non-fictional storytelling: historical talk of warehouses and buildings under construction, as well as the narrator’s personal anecdotes set in the streets and businesses through which the tour moves. Sometimes the sensory emphasis will shift: the tour will guide the listener past a bakery and the smell will inspire an anecdote (or, perhaps, an instruction to go in and buy bread). Sound will be an especially important component, and the tour will make use of the live soundscapes in DUMBO (the noisiness under the bridge, the quietness of the park), heightening the listener’s sensitivity to the neighborhood sights and sounds even as her sensory perception is muffled by headphones. The piece will play upon the simultaneous feelings of isolation and immersion experienced in urban public space.

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