Experiencing Central Park Collectively – Sound Walk

Janet Cardiff

‘Her Long Black Hair’

An audio walk in Central Park

June 16 – September 11, 2005

The blending of space, time and perspective.

The experience of the audio walk felt like a collective one for me. I was experiencing Central Park through my perspective and Janet’s perspective simultaneously. Much like Janet, I was exploring the park with artifacts which lead me to my own story or the story I create for myself. It was an immersive experience tying together the essence of Central Park, Her Long Black Hair audio walk, and myself.

The stories and the sounds.
Note: orange text are audio from the audio walk.

Central Park: the shared experience between us

  • Description of space and time – creates context, allow you to adjust your thoughts to meet her context
    Evening, dark, day, birds.
  • Ambient sound – ease sympathy, experience what she is experiencing in the same space
    People saying hello, symphony, buses, birds, pond, children.

Her Long Black Hair: Janet’s own take on the lady

  • Opinion of photographs – let in to personal space in her mind, get to know her through her perspective
    Her hair is annoying. 

Myself: my invitation into her experience

  • Follow the stepping sound – establishing a space, a rhythm
    Heels or hard shoes on the ground
  • Detailed description – feel more connected, more nuanced with experience
    The long roots of the trees, that very last bench, walk down all the steps.
  • Direct command – feel active in the walk
    Now get up, walk to the end, sit for a while. 
  • Whispering – let in to personal space
    Wants to change memories in her mind.
  • Breathing together at the end – synchronize physically, get into the same wavelength, leave feeling neutral
    Inhale, exhale.

What did / did not work.

All the sound techniques helped with empathy. The only thing that did not work for me was the long pause which caused me to be distracted. Perhaps in addtion to the stepping sound, there could be breathing sound or other audio stimuli.

The audio walk, the combination of abient noise, narration and direct invitation, stimulated a lot of imagination, allowed me to empathize with the artist and made me feel more connected to the space.


What worked
  • empathize with person because she’s doing the same thing, trying to figure out a story
  • man phones in works
  • surround noise 
  • mimics the real sense of walking… random thoughts come into mind
  • the pace of the walk, step by step
  • pointing out very specific nuances like “last bench” or the “roots of the trees”
  • talking directly at you and stopping at the same time 
  • makes you feel like somebody is following you. 
  • stimulated by people who shout “hello hello”
What didn’t
  • the long pauses which are left for you to think? causes distractions?
How did it make you feel
  • stimulate very active imagination 
  • makes you question her story, why does she feel this/that way
  • makes you question her background, why does she imagine the worse of people, why is she doing this walk, what’s her relationship to the photos
  • made me feel like every place has a history and the place is made up of everybody’s history there
  • the ambience noise play a big part in making it seem very realistic
How effective was it
  • effective – made me feel scared, curious, something is about to happen but doesn’t
  • effective, I think those stories actually exist

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