The entrance of sound studies in the humanities, particularly in literary studies, calls for a new approach to “listening” to a text, especially when the text was written prior to recorded sound.

The Walden Soundscape project is my effort to share the sounds at Walden Pond in Concord, MA with any interested reader of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden in the form of an immersive website experience. I’ve recorded sounds at the pond in all four seasons, and created companion stop-motion animation videos that offer users a guided walk around the pond in each season (go for a guided walk). The sound map offers users a space for self-guided exploration of sounds and images collected at Walden, and provides students new to sound studies some terms and listening exercises to aid in aural analysis. The podcast is an ongoing part of the project that includes listening exercises, some biographical and historical context, and interviews with Thoreau scholars.

This project calls attention to the musicality of Thoreau’s philosophy and writing, and serves to immerse readers of Walden in the visual and sonic landscape of the pond and surrounding woods. It is a companion website to my dissertation on the impact of sound and sonic vibrations on the American Transcendentalists, who were interested in maintaining harmony with nature (in a musical sense of active, reciprocal participation) and who understood music to be an experience not limited to the hearing world.

The Walden Soundscape project has won the Dewey Digital Teaching Award (June 2018), and the Digital Dissertation Award (May 2018). The project was funded by the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society Research Grant (2016) and two consecutive Provost’s Digital Innovation Grants from the Graduate Center Digital Initiatives (2016-17, 2017-18).

To read the full proposal for this project click here.