– What does Akron sound like? The answer will be revealed on Saturday, April 16 at EJ Thomas Hall when the Akron Symphony premieres a new work, entitled “Sounds of Akron.”
The symphony, written by local composer Clint Needham, incorporates hundreds of sounds recorded by Northeast Ohio residents over the past year. The project was funded by the Knight Foundation, in keeping with their investment, “in a culture of engagement through tools and projects that encourage people and groups in Akron to explore, debate and act upon local issues.”
From May 15 to Nov. 15 last year, community members submitted sounds via the Sounds of Akron smartphone app. According to Needham, hundreds of sounds were submitted from all over Northeast Ohio.
He said that the blimp, cars driving over a brick road and nature sounds were the most typical responses when asked “What does Akron sound like?” But “the sounds submitted were those of laughter, children playing in the yard, and people singing,” he explained. “While I have chosen to use many sounds throughout the work, both mundane and profound, it is those that offered a human spirit that gave the piece its direction.”
Two of those sounds were submitted by Akron resident Paul Stewart, who uploaded the sound of his son Desmond’s heartbeat in utero, and later the newborn’s cry. “A baby represents the future of Akron,” said Stewart. “Whatever Desmond does with his life, he will be able to say that he is connected to Akron, and perhaps he will do or make something that will mean something to the city. My wife, Valerie, and I will always tell Desmond of how we met in Akron, were married in Akron, and how much this city means to us. Hopefully it will mean something to him too.”
In addition to submitted sounds, ASO also reached out to neighboring organizations to partner in sound collection. Representatives from ASO attended a RubberDucks game to record the roar of the crowd, caught the sound of footsteps on pavement at the Akron Marathon, and captured the clatter of train tracks aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
As ASO Executive Director Paul Jarrett said, “The intent is to engage the entire Greater Akron community – everyone, everywhere. With many of these organizations, we’ve never had a solid reason to reach out before. Sounds of Akron provided that reason.”
The celebration of the city begins at 6 p.m. when the doors open on a big pre-concert party in EJ Thomas Hall. Over 30 different organizations will join the symphony to create an interactive experience that highlights the best of Akron.
Concertgoers will be able to visit with a zoo animal, take photos with Webster from the RubberDucks, test out guitar effect pedals by EarthQuaker Devices, experience art with Summit Artspace, listen to stories told by Wandering Aesthetics and watch live sculpture by local artist Joe Ott, among other attractions.
“We want to create a mini Akron inside EJ Thomas,” said Heather Roszczyk, the Symphony’s director or marketing and public relations. “This city is bursting with amazing experiences. The premiere of Sounds of Akron is the perfect time to celebrate everything we Akronites are lucky enough to have right outside our front doors.”
In addition to Needham’s work, the program will feature “Symphony No. 4” by Gustav Mahler, a preeminent late-Romantic composer. One of the leading conductors of his time, Mahler’s body of work is relatively small but he has remained one of the most divisive yet celebrated composers of all time.
At 7 p.m. on the night of the performance, Needham and Music Director Christopher Wilkins will give a talk as part of the “Previews from the Podium” series. They will discuss Needham’s experience composing Sounds of Akron, as well as Mahler’s “Symphony No. 4.”
“Sounds of Akron” takes place on Saturday, April 16 at EJ Thomas Hall. Doors open at 6 p.m. for pre-concert festivities, and the concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $25 for adults and $12.50 for students and are available by phone at (330) 535-8131 or www.akronsymphony.org.
The Akron Symphony thanks its sponsors, including media partners 89.7FM WKSU and Akron Life, Previews from the Podium sponsor, Audio-Technica, and the Ohio Arts Council, which helps fund Akron Symphony concerts with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. A complete list of sponsors can be found on the Akron Symphony’s website.