19: THE ‘WISH WE’D THOUGHT OF THAT’ AWARD (THE ‘Wish we’d thought of that’ AWARD)

Missing Sounds of New York - Library - The New York Public Library JPG
Missing Sounds of New York - Library - The New York Public Library MP4 2m:05s

Missing Sounds of New York - The New York Public Library

Missing Sounds of New York - The New York Public Library - Library


Title of Entry: Missing Sounds of New York
Brand: The New York Public Library
Product/Service: Library
Client: The New York Public Library
Entrant Company: Mother New York
Creative Agency: Mother New York
Chief Creative Officer: Mother
Sector: N/A
Date of Release: 2020-05-01
Notes: As a result of the shelter-in-place orders designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, our cities were transformed into almost foreign spaces – unrecognizable to the residents that called them home.

New York, a city in many ways defined by the constant cacophony of beloved and reviled sounds alike, felt especially changed. Gone were the sounds of cars honking in Friday gridlock, aggressive bike messengers whizzing by, millennials’ self-absorbed phone conversations, and that guy who yells at you for looking in his general direction. It quickly became a time of discomfort for all 8.7 million New Yorkers, with everything feeling hopelessly different.

Throughout their 125 year history, the New York Public Library has worked tirelessly to ensure every New Yorker has what they need most. And in this moment of unique need, in the face of unprecedented uncertainty and fear, what New Yorkers needed most was the comfort of the familiar. A reminder that, though we occupy a city that feels foreign to us right now, the soundscape we all love will someday return.

So, to rise to this need, we produced the New York Public Library’s first album as an artist on Spotify, compiled of soundscapes that speak to every single New Yorker – from the Bronx to Staten Island and everywhere in-between. The unique challenge presented by producing an album designed to celebrate the sounds of our city while that city had gone unprecedentedly quiet posed unique production and sound engineering challenges. Over the course of a three week production involving over 100 people, we created eight unique tracks that draw from archival and found audio, sound libraries and select re-recorded audio staples. Our strategic sound engineering approach focused on producing these sounds as New Yorkers experience them, as if the listener were passing through the spaces and situations we replicated, not merely as a stationary observer. The result was a visceral and cathartic experience for listeners, serving as a reminder of the power we have when we all come together.

It’s also important to note that New Yorkers can always spot a fake: authenticity was key as we designed these soundscapes, and we had to hold ourselves to a high standard to please opinionated New Yorkers. To accomplish this, we tapped the experience and networks of our native New Yorker colleagues. First of all, we ensured there were no fake New York accents on the album, tapping into a network of New York natives, and collected clips of people speaking in XX different languages to pay tribute to our city’s incredible diversity. We also partnered with Kid the Wiz, legendary and Instagram-famous dancer, entertainer, and “showtime” superstar on our track “To See an Underground Show (feat. Kid the Whiz).”

This focus on authenticity resulted in an outpouring of appreciation, and honest expressions of the deep emotional response this album gave its listeners:

“don't mind me, i'm just sobbing at my computer at 10 in the morning over the sounds of people playing basketball or a glass breaking in a crowded bar because the @nypl put out this album of normal crowded NYC noises”

“The horns and jackhammers, late-night parties and crowded spaces that once enervated New Yorkers at every turn — has become a source of deep nostalgia and solace already.”
The New York Times
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