The Siren Project: A daily account of collected sound from a year in the pandemic by Heather Jones

For the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, I marked every siren, helicopter and construction noise I heard on paper. I charted it here, and included other sounds and events within earshot from my home. Each line in the project represents a day in my personal soundscape from March 29, 2020-March 29, 2021.

To me, the ambulance siren symbolized the aural manifestation of the invisible disease infecting the city, and an outward, palpable symbol of the fear many were experiencing at home. I live in New York City, by many standards the ground zero of the pandemic. The density of city life, with its hospitals, helipads and construction sites, obviously comes with noise but the new uproar made me ask, “What is the shape of racket, or the color of intrusion? What would a composition of sonic disturbance look like?”

My observations tracked with what was happening locally (such as protests) or personally (binge watching to pass time, or meditation to help process it). Weather is noted as well, as it correlates to what acoustic activities could happen during say, a hurricane. During lockdown I also heard some of these in a ‘meta’ way or virtually; on podcasts, video and phone calls or on TV.

By logging the sounds from mundane to noteworthy, I visually illustrated them to understand somehow, to make sense of it all. It revealed itself as a sort of orchestral score, with densely layered notes. I realized I had experienced stages of grief... anger, depression and finally acceptance. A year later, the capturing and interpreting of the project has sharpened my senses, and quiet is what I am keenly focused on in my audible environment now.

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