Secret sounds abound in Newark and here are two spaces you can walk to if you’re in town and have a unique contemplative or social experience. There is an echo, a double echo in fact, which you can exploit to endlessly amusing effect, in the upper lobby of the first floor of Newark Symphony Hall. I would suggest visiting, perhaps explaining that you want to peek at the extraordinary, gilded, architecture of the place, and then walk slowly under the rounded, domed, ceiling until you hear the sound of your shoes bouncing back to you in reverb.
I know this might sound a bit esoteric but just try it, ok? And hey, a marriage proposal would sound great echoed back twice too. I have seen some excellent wedding parties held here, and if you rent the space for a wedding, your names will be put up on the wonderfully old school marquee out front, by an actual human on a ladder just like in the movies. #justsayin
Gallery Aferro has not one but two permanent sound installations. (and they are an official part of the programming rather than a magical building feature that I am on a one-woman campaign to have Newark Symphony Hall start promoting). On the second floor of the gallery, at the landing of the stairs, there is a permanent installation consisting of historic images of Newark’s legendary ark builder, Kea Tawana, and a pristinely restored and modded vintage payphone. Pick up the receiver, press any key, and you can hear different people from Newark telling stories about the ark that Kea built in Newark in the 1980s. It’s not didactic, but rather has the emotional intimacy of a real conversation, where you have to figure out things as you listen. Play detective!
At the other end of the second floor, just round a corner, is “Elevator Music,” a small, elegant vintage passenger elevator that was discovered within Gallery Aferro’s building years ago, extricated in pieces, refurbished, and installed as an idiosyncratic venue for sound art, small (audience of about 6 people) concerts, music, and poetry. Artists submit tracks that are changed out every few months, and a motion-activated speaker will play you music or sound art when you walk into the passenger car. You can move the crank controls and check out the delicate, old-fashioned buttons for first, second, third and fourth floors. Pile in for a group selfie, or have a quiet moment alone sitting on the little bench inside for visitors. So, to recap: in the front door, up the stairs, past the community book room, which has 2000+ books for browsing, and into the little green and gold elevator from a long long time ago.
Sounds abound, in the fabulous city of Newark. Just listen!
Evonne M. Davis and Emma Wilcox are working artists and cofounders of a Newark alternative arts nonprofit. Begun in 2003, Gallery Aferro offers exhibitions featuring local, national and international artists, a wide range of public events, a year-round studio residency program, educational offerings, group tours, a publication line, a gift shop and public art initiatives.