Miss the Sounds of a Bustling City? The New York Public Library Compiled Them Into an Album

The ambient noise will remind people of a pre-pandemic life

A vinyl album
The immersive album capture's New York's ambient noise. NYPL

With an eerie emptiness filling otherwise crowded New York City landmarks, the frenetic buzz of normal times has a somewhat nostalgic quality at this point in quarantine.

That was the sense the New York Public Library is hoping to capture with a new album release this week. With tracks like “Out in Left Field,” Serenity is a Rowdy City Park” and “The Not-Quite-Quiet Library,” the white-noise-like audio captures the ambient sounds of various aspects of normal New York daily life in a way that derives a sense of soothing from the chaos.

Mother New York, the agency behind the project, said that each track is meant to tell a mini story amid the jumble of noises. The one set in the library, for instance, follows a visitor entering the building and the various interactions that ensue.

“The library has been chronicling daily life in New York City—and collecting and archiving it—for 125 years, and it’s been a huge part of daily life,” said Carrie Welch, the NYPL’s chief of external relations. “And so this just felt like an extension of who we are.”

Corinna Falusi, chief creative officer and partner at Mother New York, said the agency was aiming for universally recognizable sounds that would create a shared sense of community among all New Yorkers.

“There is something tantalizing about hearing a place that feels so familiar yet so distant right now,” Falusi said. “The album can hopefully bring New Yorkers back to a place they hold close to their hearts, and foster community during this time of isolation. So until we can hear the city again for ourselves, stay safe and stay home if you can.”

Mother previously worked with the library system most notably on a campaign called Insta-Novels, in which they translated classic literary works into an Instagram Stories format. The project won a host of awards at last year’s Cannes Lions.

While the physical spaces of the library system remain closed amid the citywide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the organization is hoping to remind people that it has a wide array of ebooks and other online resources as well as a slate of virtual events and services, like children’s story readings, book clubs and on-demand tutoring.

“This whole soundtrack idea is just another way for us to remind people about the library and that the library is very much open,” Welch said. “There’s a lot of other ideas in the works to keep people aware of the library.”

@patrickkulp patrick.kulp@adweek.com Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.