Sounds of the town

The collective cacophony of New Orleans – the little peeps, the loud noises, the tuneful music and random conversations, the sounds of nature and the pounding of machines – all of it is grist for a new, interactive Web site and community media project called Open Sound New Orleans.

Its founders, Jacob Brancasi and Heather Booth, created the online project as a way to chronicle life in New Orleans with sound. A fundamental part of the project is input from people around the city, and the public is invited to upload recordings of important sounds in their lives or interesting sound bytes encountered along the way.

“If you go to our site and listen, you get something different than you’re going to have by reading an article or seeing pictures of New Orleans,” says Brancasi, who also works with New Orleans youth radio. “New Orleans is a sound-rich environment and I think people here understand that more than in other places.”

The audio clips now online range widely, including a French Quarter bartender discussing the quirks of her regulars, as well as the sound of traffic grinding along Veterans Boulevard, chatter among a marching krewe on Mardi Gras and the ambient midday sounds of an Uptown coffee shop. Together, however, they provide a diverse aural quilt of the city’s life and also provide an intriguing glimpse into the sounds contributors consider meaningful.

“On a very basic level, I feel it’s a reaction to the glut of media coverage New Orleans is getting,” says Brancasi. “What’s nice is this tackles a lot of different issues. It could be environmental, from birds to construction noise, to music, which is so crucial here.”

Open Sound New Orleans has easy-to-use digital recorders available on loan to people around the city to collect and share their own sounds. Project volunteers also record specific sounds requested by others through a feedback tool on the Web site.

“I’ve been thrilled at how many people have come out of the woodwork to do this,” says Brancasi. “Part of it is starting conversations that shed light on different aspects of the city. These can be like windows onto another person’s world and on a larger scale I hope it will be that way for people outside the city, too. These are direct dispatches from New Orleans without a lot of editing.”

Visit Open Sound New Orleans online at www.opensoundneworleans.com. 

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