Sonic Memorial Project
Reviewed by: Asma N.
Review started: March 21, 2021
Review finished: April 29, 2021
- Project: http://www.kitchensisters.org/stories/sonic-memorial-project/
- SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/fugitivewaves
Data and Sources
- A four-part sonic memorial project about the social relationships tied to the World Trade Center/Twin Towers
- Audio collection process that began in the early 2000s
- The Sonic Memorial Project collected audio items through public submissions to their hotline
- Collection items include voice messages from the project’s hotline, interviews, field recordings, and other sonic iterations of oral history
- The Kitchen Sisters’ website and SoundCloud pages are the available web sources for the Sonic Memorial Project
- The website summarizes the project’s objective, goals, some of their collection methods, and its partnership with National Public Radio (NPR) for their program All Things Considered
Digital Tools Used to Build It
- SoundCloud and The Kitchen Sisters’ production team
- Details on digital audio workstations (DAWs) such as devices, applications, or software used for audio production are not clear
- English (primary language)
- Native/Indigenous languages and dialects (EP 02 “Walking High Steel: Mohawk Iron Worker and the Twin Towers”)
The Sonic Memorial Project is a Peabody Award–winning oral history project about the narratives and relationships tied to the World Trade Center/Twin Towers in New York City. It is a four-part audio project produced by The Kitchen Sisters in 2018 that was broadcasted through their SoundCloud feed and NPR’s highlighted program, All Things Considered.
The Sonic Memorial Project, which is described as “a collection of voices,” began as a project of the Sisters’ Lost and Found Series. The collection process began in the early 2000s through public submissions to their exclusive hotline and website. The Sisters’ used artifacts from both forums, voicemails, original recordings, audio messages, interviews, and field recordings for the project. The production and SoundCloud pages for the Sonic Memorial Project are its online relics, and I had an extremely positive interaction with both.
Each episode represents aural components (or metadata), which contextualize the recorded histories associated with the Towers for the project. The available episode topics are distinct and discuss gender, romance, the cultural heritage of New York City, and indigeneity.
The memory of the World Trade Center and its historical infrastructure contain narrative information that emphasize the cultural significance about the people connected to it in the Sonic Memorial Project. The Kitchen Sisters are careful and expositive about the potential of memorial this way, and episode 02, “Walking High Steel: Mohawk Iron Worker and the Twin Towers,” really evidenced that. This episode explores “six generations of Mohawk Indian Ironworkers,” who commuted from Canadian reservations to build what the Sisters describe as New York City’s skyline. Native language and its translation (by Native speakers) are given priority here, which felt like a methodological feature, distinct to production and the multiplicity of sound and sonic for our oral histories.
This episode treats the experience, and not just the role of Native ironworkers. One can hear this in what’s featured: the interiors of homes, celebration, language, and sounds of infrastructure (roads, vehicles, traffic). This example of sonic and memorial created images through my listenership, and that was particularly valuable to me in a discourse about land and life.
The collaborators for the Sonic Memorial Project are described as archivists, musicians, historians, and broadcasters. Their acknowledgments name NPR, WNYC, Ben Shapiro Productions, and The Smithsonian. Its sponsors include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Ford Foundation, and the Kitchen Sisters Productions/Sonic Memorial Fund.