Person of the Crowd: We Hear

Nostalgia is a funny thing. I grew up in the suburbs of Philly, Belmont Hills to be exact, so I found myself standing at the entrance of 30th Street Station with some complicated feelings about space and time; while simultaneously trying to keep my feet grounded in the present. I was there with an enthusiastic group of students from Overbrook High School. We’d met earlier at their school so they could learn a little bit more about my practice. I was impressed by their questions and their inquisitive nature in general. After the short ride on a long yellow bus (the windows still open and close the same way!) we arrived at 30th Street. After what turned out to be some sort of pep talk on my part we entered the majestic space. After a brief walkthrough we found some benches to settle into for the first part of the exercise: listening for 10 minutes. Then the second phase: 10 minutes of writing down everything we remembered hearing. The third phase they broke into pairs and recorded each other recounting what they’d heard, and in the final portion we discussed it all as a group. I was again impressed with the students’ ability to focus, their insights, and with how they personally experienced and relayed what they’d heard.

I first learned of this exercise in theater (sans video), during my freshman year at Harriton High. It impressed upon me two things that have stayed with me: 1) You don’t always hear what other people hear and 2) While just listening itself is deeply rewarding, the experience of recalling sound is quite unlike how we access other memories, or other thoughts in general. In fact I’m still not sure entirely what it is, but there is an untapped power there. I’m looking forward to repeating the exercise next week with another group of students, this time from Albert Barnes’ alma mater.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be editing the students responses into the “We Hear” portion of the work I’m creating for Person of the Crowd. The other two components, “We Are” and “We See”, I’ll be talking about as they develop. Stay tuned!

And with that I’ll leave you with some photos from the day:

Rolling in Barnesmobile style with Jennifer Nadler
Overbrook High School (bad photo of a school with amazing architecture by Irwin T. Catharine!)
This. In the school hallway.
30th St. ready for its closeup

Many thanks to Jennifer Nadler for facilitating everything and working out all the logistics(!), Overbook’s art teacher Kim Gavin, the Promise Corps chaperones and especially the students (Richard Jackson, Duane Latham, Khomari Styles, Isaiah Jacobs, Angela Johnson and Marieke Moody), for making it happen!