Articles

A Musical Urban Intervention Turns Brooklyn into Trumpet City

by Allison Meier on September 3, 2014

"Trumpet City" at the 2014 NYC Summer Streets (photograph by Beth O'Brien, all images courtesy On Foot Productions)

“Trumpet City” at the 2014 NYC Summer Streets (photo by Beth O’Brien, all images courtesy On Foot Productions)

North Brooklyn will soon be buzzing with the sound of a procession of trumpets, as an experiment in breaking up city noise with music takes over a stretch of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. On September 20, “Trumpet City,” an ongoing music installation by On Foot Productions, directed by Craig Shepard, will blanket Meeker Avenue from Metropolitan Avenue to Newtown Creek with an hour of blaring notes.

"Trumpet City" at the 2014 NYC Summer Streets (photograph by Beth O'Brien)

Performers warming up for “Trumpet City” at the 2014 NYC Summer Streets (photo by Beth O’Brien)

Shepard, who also wrote the score for “Trumpet City,” is a musician and composer interested in “music related to stillness.” As an example, in 2012 he spent 13 weeks walking 780 miles in New York for a project called On Foot: Brooklyn, which involved writing a new piece of music each week and then leading a silent walk on which attendees could hear it performed in public space. On Foot has previously staged “Trumpet City” in Zurich and Bern, Switzerland, as well as last month in collaboration with the NYC Department of Transportation’s Summer Streets, where 92 trumpets lined Park Avenue (you can listen to an excerpt from that performance here).

At least 18 of the instruments are necessary to play “Trumpet City,” with its four 15-minute sections, each of which has only one melody and pockets of quiet. The piece starts “in the low range of the trumpet, blending with the drone of traffic noise common to many cities. Over the course of the hour, the trumpets rise out of this drone.” Since the “range within which a single trumpet can be heard is about 200 meters, depending on the acoustic properties of the site,” each player stands 50 meters away from the next so that any “passerby hears the trumpet closest to him or her, the polyphony of the chamber ensemble as well as the hum of the combined sound.”

Below you can listen to the 2009 “Trumpet City” performance in Bern. Similar to interventions like Yoko Ono’s “Secret Piece” from 1953 (and revived in Central Park for the 2011 for Make Music New York), in which musicians bring instruments to a secluded area of Central Park to play a single note, “Trumpet City” shows how just a slight musical adjustment in the soundscape of a place can alter our experience of it.

Trumpet City” takes place September 20 at 3pm on Meeker Avenue from Metropolitan Avenue to Newtown Creek (Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn). 

h/t Laughing Squid

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