In the late 1940s and early 1950s, large-scale population shifts, urban-development projects, and new media transformed New York City in ways that were heard as much as seen. In this context, Langston Hughes and sound documentarian Tony Schwartz each experimented with techniques of montage to splice the sounds of their local New York neighborhoods. Hughes’s Montage of a Dream Deferred and Schwartz’s “New York 19” tape-recording projects locate a crisis in listening in New York’s postwar urban geography of race and economics. Although their projects differ in significant ways, both employ montage to expose listening as a mediated and socially constructed act often intertwined with the structural violence of racial and economic discrimination. In response, both develop alternative models of collective listening, which together offer contrasting perceptual strategies for remapping social, spatial, and sonic relations in the diverse and unequal urban geographies of the United States.

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