Posts Tagged ‘Subway’
For those with delicate ears, New York City in the 1930s was a 24-hour nightmare. The city rumbled, squeaked, mewed, and tooted thanks to the aural diarrhea of ice deliverers, cattle-car operators, jazz players, river dredgers, steam whistle-happy boat captains, cats, dogs, chickens, and construction workers shooting rivets into everything in sight.
The cacophony that thundered through New York in the Jazz Age has now received proper cartographic attention from Emily Thompson, a historian at Princeton who studies acoustic innovation and the historical “emergence of excessive noise,” according to her MacArthur “genius grant” bio. Back in 2002, Thompson penned a book about noise and architecture called The Soundscape of Modernity, which triggered a flood of people bugging her to work up a companion piece that you could actually, you know, hear. More than a decade later the result is here for all to savor: The Roaring ‘Twenties, an interactive map of roughly 600 peevish, outraged, and frequently hilarious noise complaints from 1926 to 1932.
By offering a website dedicated to the sounds of New York City circa 1930, The Roaring ‘Twenties is following the lead of countless other individuals and organizations who have turned the web into a vast sonic archive, delivering a previously unimaginable wealth of historic sound recordings to anyone with a connection and a desire to listen in. With The Roaring ‘Twenties, I hope we not only add to that archive, but also set an example by doing so in an explicitly historically-minded way. The aim here is not just to present sonic content, but to evoke the original contexts of those sounds, to help us better understand that context as well as the sounds themselves. The goal is to recover the meaning of sound, to undertake a historicized mode of listening that tunes our modern ears to the pitch of the past. Simply clicking a “play” button will not do.
Head on over to the site and you’ll be confronted with this pigeon’s-eye view of the city. Each target represents one noise complaint, often accompanied by old news-reel footage offering the sights and sounds of those responsible for the rowdy decibels: grinning jackhammer operators, clacking elevated trains, boys racing homemade scooters, whanging blacksmiths, a particularly loud-mouthed preacher from the Salvation Army:
More of the story– and wonderful sample cases– at “Exploring the Hilarious Noise Complaints of 1930s New York.”
As we cover our ears, we might recall that this is a resonant anniversary in the Big Apple’s sonic history: on this date in 1904 New York City Mayor George McClellan took the controls on the inaugural run of the city’s innovative new rapid transit system: the subway. London had the world’s first underground (opened in 1863); Boston, America’s first (1897). But New York’s subway quickly became the largest in the U.S… and a significant contributor to the din that accompanies life in The City That Never Sleeps.
Now, as he reports in his blog, “the war against geometric indecency” (and the resulting uneven distribution of cheesy good taste in a Subway sandwich) is won. At least in the Antipodes:
2 years, 11 months, and 13 days later, Subway has changed its policy. At least for the Australia/New Zealand area.
Heralding the victory, Drew at Left-Handed Toons writes, “Now is the time for the New Procedure. You can almost picture taking every homogenous bite. It’s okay now. Everything will always forever be okay now.”
Is this a regional test or the first stage in a worldwide phase-in? We can only pray.
And so one must.
As we spread our mayonnaise evenly and all the way to the edges of our bread, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that Mongolia held its first direct presidential election.
In 1911, Mongolia declared it’s independence from China under religious leader and king Bogd Khaan. But on his death in 1924, and with the “help” of the Soviet Union, The Mongolian People’s Republic was established. Mongolia stayed within the Soviet orbit until 1992, when Mikhail Gorbachev’s introduction of perestroika and glasnost in the USSR encouraged a peaceful Democratic Revolution in Mongolia and led to the introduction of a multi-party system and market economy.