Covid-19 (Corona Virus)

The Sounds of New York City Have Changed. Listen for Yourself.

Un recordatorio de que no estamos solos

June 26
Canal Street, Manhattan

The music of the metropolis has been altered.Listen.

May 18
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

We once measured our days to New York City’s rhythms, keeping time to its idiosyncratic beat. But now the faint strains of Alicia Keys professing her empire state of mind come from some indefinable distance; wisps of “Rhapsody in Blue” float past in the evening breeze.

May 18
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

We are living in the echo — in the almost but not quite — of what had been our city life. It can be unsettling, melancholic.

May 21
East Elmhurst, Queens

July 2
Gowanus, Brooklyn

Gradually, though, hesitantly, we are emerging from our pandemic cocoon, resolved to pick up where we left off — which is here, in this chaotic urban scrum so maddening, so magnificent.

July 16
The Hub, The Bronx

Where else can you pause just about anywhere — leaning against a street sign, sitting on a stoop — and have a front-row view to the tragicomedy of life forever unfolding on a pavement stage?

April 23
East Village, Manhattan

This is a rhetorical question, my friend. There is only one place.Here.
New York.

May 21
Elmhurst, Queens

But as we and our city slowly reacquaint, let us hope that we have learned from these months of having our words filtered through the gauze of masks.

June 1
Brooklyn Bridge

Now, perhaps, we will listen more closely. Work harder to understand one another. Revel in the bouncing-basketball beat of the city’s heart.

March 12
Grand Central Terminal

That heartbeat grows less distant, as certain realities of city life begin to return. This would include realities we never dreamed could ever — ever! — stir feelings of nostalgia. For example:

Had we ever considered the subtle reassurance behind a full-throated morning rush hour?

June 15
Sunset Park, Brooklyn

How its harried mornings suggest the hum of a sound economy; the pursuit of knowledge; the commitment to provide and be self-sustaining.

July 14
Jackson Heights, Queens

The rush reflects the cyclical process of communal replenishment, as workers and students scurry to offices and construction sites and classrooms — only to stagger home together a half-day later, thoroughly spent.

May 26
SoHo, Manhattan

July 30
Times Square

Lately, though, our muted rush hours are cacophonous in the wholesale disruption of earning and learning. The effect of this quiet is the opposite of calming.

July 14
Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue Station, Queens

We find ourselves missing what we once loathed. Those car-horn bleats of annoyance. Those corner clusters of impatience, waiting for a green light. Those barks of “Excuse me!” that sound like the opposite of an apology.

May 26
Long Island City, Queens

March 19
Hudson Yards Station, Manhattan

We even miss, dare we say it, the subway. Those rickety escalators descending slowly, slowly, toward some hellish train platform near middle-earth, as Talking Heads lyrics loop through our minds: “My God, what have I done?”

June 23
7 Train, Queens

Someday, we will again be pressed against one another like cattle in a rail car, eyes averted, listening to teenagers share the inside jokes of adolescence, worrying that we will never again see daylight.

June 17
Canal Street Station, Manhattan

For now, perhaps, we can take one of the many available seats on the 7 train, or the B, or the E, and behind our masks, give in to the sweep and sway, the rocking, buh-buh-BUH, buh-buh-BUH, buh-buh-BUH.

June 17
Dekalb Avenue Station, Brooklyn

Give in as we reflect on the infrastructural wonder that is the subway system, which carries life to the city as arteries carry blood to the heart. It provides passage to those places — the open fields and quiet sanctuaries — that sustain the soul.

July 26
Prospect Park, Brooklyn

To the city’s parks. Where dogs share how-do-you-do sniffs while their owners engage in forced chitchat; where the unfettered air can flutter a bridal veil or grant flight to a kite.

May 27
Domino Park, Brooklyn

July 24
Citi Field, Queens

There are other kinds of parks as well. Among the many givens we now miss is the comforting knowledge that on nearly any summer’s day, you could lose yourself in a baseball park. If the Yankees were away from the Bronx, the Mets were likely home in Queens.

May 12
Yankee Stadium, The Bronx

Even when empty and silent — whether because of the off-season or a pandemic — these parks seem to retain the ruckus of thousands surrendering to a simple game’s pleasures.

May 29
Heritage Field, The Bronx

The somber analyses, the cheers of children, the roaring release uncorked whenbatmeetsball.

May 12
Kingsbridge Heights, The Bronx

There are also those parks of the intellect and soul, the libraries and museums from which we are, for now, precluded from freely wandering.

May 19
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan

We are left to stand outside these institutions and recreate with our imagination the experience within.

May 21
Long Island City, Queens

July 30
The Town Hall, Manhattan

The inquisitive tapping on terminals. The practiced but beguiling patter of docents. The churchlike hush in the presence of art, antiquities and literature…

May 28
The Guggenheim Museum, Manhattan

Reminders that even in the bleakest of times, humankind has produced works for the ages.

June 18
East Village, Manhattan

The physics of the city prevail: For every morning rush hour, there is an equal and opposite evening rush hour. The pandemic-altered beat carries into the night, as we continue to adjust to the not-quite-right.

June 26
West Village, Manhattan

People drink and dine on the sidewalks and in the streets, turning corners of the city into proof that human beings crave one another’s company.

May 30
Crown Heights, Brooklyn

June 26
Manhattan Bridge

Finally, home. Above ground this time, with a taxi’s back window framing the city panorama. The bridges of yesteryear and the skyscrapers of yesterday, the human silhouettes in preferred or resigned solitude.

All of it, cast in the natural
light of Gotham.

March 18
Times Square

More unnatural, though, is this cab darting east to west across 42nd Street — without once slowing for traffic. No further proof is needed of a New York City out of rhythm.

June 26
Chelsea, Manhattan

March 19
Central Park

The music of the city has been altered, forever — for you, for me, for the taxi driver, for everyone.

June 12
Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

But maybe
its new beat
is finally one that
we can
dance to.

Photographed by Todd Heisler. Written by Dan Barry.

Edited and designed by Jeffrey Furticella, Rebecca Lieberman and Meghan Louttit.

The New York Public Library and Mother New York provided the audio, from their collaborative album, Missing Sounds of New York.

Audio for the Clinton Hill photo provided by Chad Vill, featuring a recorded mix by Adil Rahman.

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