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Maya Lin Conceives a Soundscape for “Ghost Forest”

May 25, 2021 | Art

Maya Lin Conceives a Soundscape for “Ghost Forest”

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Artist Maya Lin created Ghost Forest Soundscape, a 13-minute complement to the exhibition’s call to action focused on climate change. The audio program highlights sounds and calls of various native species once common to Manhattan and encourages parkgoers to reflect on what has disappeared from our environment over decades and millennia.

While walking through Ghost Forest, listeners will hear clips of species including a gray fox, cougar, American black bear, elk, and wild turkey. The calls of these creatures are unexpected to visitors used to commonplace urban cacophony from the din of everyday city life.

The artist’s goal for this audio and her website, What Is Missing?, is to focus public attention on and bear witness to the significant changes from massive habitat loss of species due to human intervention. By inserting Atlantic white cedar trees from a dying forest in the Pine Barrens and by gathering the noises from varied creatures, Lin is defining through virtual and physical means ecological history, present needs, and activism towards a sustainable future.

Lin described the Soundscape as integral to the conception of Ghost Forest: “As part of the installation, we will be coordinating public programs that focus on nature-based solutions to climate change as well as highlighting the ecological history of Manhattan through a Soundscape of species that were once common in the City…We are faced with an enormous ecological crisis — but I also feel that we have a chance to showcase what can be done to help protect species and significantly reduce the climate change emissions by changing our relationship to the land itself.”

The Soundscape draws from the Macaulay Library archive of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Lin collaborated on the audio with John Fitzpatrick, American ornithologist and Cornell Lab Director and Matthew Medler, Collections Management Leader. Seth Rothschild, Little Recordings, was the sound engineer. The common and scientific name of each species are spoken by Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer and also includes readings of animal names in the historic Southern Unami language from the Lenape Talking Dictionary website, a project of the Lenape Language Preservation Project, and for some species a second name is also included in Munsee (Lunaapeew), the language spoken by the indigenous inhabitants of Manhattan and spoken by Maaliish Molly Miller, formerly of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. A land acknowledgment was guided by The Lenape Center in New York City.

Listen to the Soundscape here. Or while experiencing Ghost Forest in the park, scan the QR code found on park signage and immerse yourself in the sounds. You can view the accompanying text and credits here.

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