Today we captured the hushed atmosphere of a 1920’s skyscraper – the first office building to be designed with sound-proofing in mind from the start. The New York Life Insurance Building has wall insulation made mashed up cow hair and heavy duty windows. What is hush anyway? Not complete silence but people in the distance talking amongst themselves quietly.
Searching for a café with music rather than muzak we found Caracas (Venezuelan) in the East Village playing Jimmy Griffin’s ‘All the Things you are’. I would have taken a photo of the customers but it wouldn’t have come out because, being New York, they were all dressed in black. Then round the corner to A1 record store (ta Libetz!) and a piece of luck. I have been trying for months to find a recording of a wind instrument called an ocarina – at the British Library, The BBC Sound Archive, I even got my brother in law, Eddie Wright-Rios, a distinguished academic of Latin American history, to put the word out. Then in this dusty store we found it, along with a pile of Ghanaian music and a spoken word album about the slave abolitionist Frederick Douglass. But for me the highlight of the day was when David and I were walking down Broadway and passed an elderly Chinese man handing out fliers for a photocopy shop. He suddenly burst into song, more to amuse himself than anything or anyone else. His voice reminded me of Nat King Cole, maybe not quite so in tune, and with his permission I swept him up in my net. Here’s the recording of our encounter. We have to smuggle this guy into the series somewhere.