What Did New York Sound Like in the 1920s?
Noise pollution isn't a new problem for New York City. At least as far back as the 1920s, researchers were trying to measure and mitigate the city's sounds.
"In 1929, New York’s Noise Abatement Commission outfitted a truck with microphones and sound recording devices to measure the city’s din," writes Emily S. Rueb. "Researchers made more than 10,000 observations on the truck’s 500-mile journey past construction sites with billowing steam shovels and pounding pile drivers, underneath screeching elevated trains and past the cluster of electronics shops blaring music in Lower Manhattan’s 'Radio Row.'”
A new web site seeks to immerse listeners in those sounds.
"'The Roaring ‘Twenties,' as it is called, was created by Emily Thompson, a historian of sound, technology and cultures of listening at Princeton University who has spent many years thinking about how best to present sonic complaints in the Municipal Archives of the City of New York and videos from the Moving Image Research Collections of the Libraries of the University of South Carolina with the hope of getting people into a 1929 state of mind."
“It’s my attempt to build a time machine,” she said.