The soundscape of New York

What does New York sound like? And what does the sound of New York look like? London-based art director and designer John Davies’ latest project attempts to capture the music of the city’s Manhattan neighbourhoods in physical form

Harlem – a visualisation of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s track Autumn in New York (1956)

What does New York sound like? And what does the sound of New York look like? London-based art director and designer John Davies’ latest project attempts to capture the music of the city’s Manhattan neighbourhoods in physical form…

The aim of Soundscape: The Physical Sounds of Manhattan is to re-engage modern audiences with the world of sound, Davies says on his website, and address our “loss of multi-sensory experience in music”.

The result is a 3D-rendered map made from laser-cut perspex soundwaves – essentialy a recreation of the famous Manhattan skyline.

Gramercy – a visualisation of Iggy and The Stooges’ track Search & Destroy (1973)


As more of us consume music digitally, there’s something of a movement afoot which is questioning the nature of music’s physicality – and, if we no longer require record sleeves, even packaging to receive it – how far the idea of what music looks like can be pushed (something we’re addressing in our forthcoming music-themed January issue).

Davies believes that music has been increasingly relegated further into the background of our lives, that it’s something we more commonly experience while doing something else – our attention split all over the place. So hoping to offer a physical interpretation of some classic New York music, Davies’ used the shape of the sound waves from a selection of songs to construct 3D model ‘skylines’ of each area, which then lock together to form Manhattan itself.

Tracks include Patti Smith’s Gloria, The Ramones’ Blitzkreig Bop and Jimi Hendrix’s Machine Gun – respresenting Chelsea, Lower East Side and the East Village, respectively.

Davies’ has also created an accompanying record and book documenting the project. A Vimeo film about the project is below. All images are © John Davies. See the full project at knot1designs.com

Lower East Side – a visualisation of The Ramones’ track Blitzkrieg Bop (1976)

Soho – a visualisation of NYC Peech Boys’ track Don’t Make Me Wait (1982)

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