As the city pauses, so does its normal soundtrack. In some cases, the familiar backdrop of people chatting and cars honking gives way to the whir of sirens and the new quiet (relatively speaking). On subway platforms, the patter of rush hour traffic has diminished, as has the perennial ruckus of nightlife.
A nostalgic nod to these noises, the New York Public Library has released an album titled “Missing Sounds of New York.” Clocking in at a quick 17 minutes, the digital record includes eight tracks that give listeners a Proustian sound cookie to nibble on. The playlist went live Friday and is available to stream for free on Spotify and the New York Public Library website.
The library stated that the album is a “love letter to NYC, connecting New Yorkers around the familiar sounds of urban life that they love and miss.” Created in partnership with Mother New York, the tracks capture sounds like riding the subway, walking through a busy park, eating at a restaurant, traversing by cab and (of course) visiting a library.
“The album finds comfort in the familiar for all New Yorkers,” the library said in a statement. “Whether it’s an essential worker who is still braving our new normal, or a resident who is socially distancing themselves indoors and dreaming about the city they used to know and hear: cabs honking, bike messengers whizzing by, snippets of conversations, cooing pigeons, or the not-so-quiet of a branch library. Missing Sounds of New York reminds us of what makes New York so special for so many people.”
Since the New York Public Library closed its 92 physical locations on March 14, the institution has been honing a catalog of digital resources that replicate the book-hunting experience. With physical titles inaccessible (kudos to anyone who snagged a hard-to-get tome before the stacks closed), the library has registered a 13% surge in e-book borrowing, with works by Michelle Obama, Tara Westover, Ann Patchett, Margaret Atwood and Sally Rooney clinching spots on the most e-checked-out list during self-isolation.
“This album is a different and creative way we can help,” Carrie Welch, the library’s chief of external relations, said. “Providing an entertaining distraction that allows New Yorkers access to something we are all missing: many of the quintessential sounds of the city we know and love.”