Before the world anointed Manhattan the “city that never sleeps,” the Lenape Indians knew it as Mannahatta, the “land of many hills.” While their way of life has since vanished into the mists of antiquity, a new virtual reality project seeks to recreate what Henry Hudson might have heard when he first sailed into the harbor more than 400 years ago. “Calling Thunder: The Unsung History of Manhattan,” draws from Cornell University’s Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds to replaces the sounds of four contemporary Manhattan locations—the Upper East Side, Collect Pond Park at Lafayette Street and Franklin Avenue, the Highline Park and Inwood Hill Park—with audio recreations of pre-1609 life.
You don’t need a time machine to peel back the curtains of time. A mobile virtual reality headset, such as Google Cardboard, paired with a smartphone, are all you require to tap into the area’s scientifically accurate soundscape, which was once replete with the incessant calls of red-tailed hawks, black-capped chickadees, wood ducks, and green frogs.
Bill McQuay, an audio producer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and David Al-Ibrahim, a graduate student in the interaction design program at the School of Visual Arts, say they hope that the immersive experience they’ve created will give people a fresh perspective of how Manhattan has evolved over the centuries, as well as a newfound appreciation of its former and current ecology.
“There has been a loss of language around the natural world and a loss of words to describe natural things, and with that we’ve lost our ability to see and experience and notice them,” Al-Ibrahim said in a press release. “This is a way of getting people to pay attention to nature within urban environments and their everyday lives.”
[Via TimeOut New York]