Muscota Marsh Harmony – Special Project

It’s that time of season where we like to feature each of our Special Projects so that you, the Make Music New York community, can have a better understanding of the many great ways to enjoy our music celebrations on Thursday, June 21st (mark your calendar!). Look for regular blog posts outlining events across neighborhoods and boroughs, featuring amazing and engaging musicians from the New York area. If you missed our past special project posts, be sure to check them out here, here, and here!

James Burke – our Executive Director – spoke this week with ​composer John Hastings, creator of the special project “Muscota Marsh Harmony.”

James Burke: Hi John! I’m thrilled to be presenting your latest special project “Muscota Marsh Harmony” as part of this summer’s Make Music New York on June 21st. I know that you have worked with MMNY in the past as well. Can you share with our fans some of your history with the festival?

John Hastings: Hi James! I’ve been working with MMNY since 2012 when I did a audience participation piece called “HUM 7 8 9” where people would join with me in humming along with the ConEd substation in DUMBO. It was a place I discovered by walking one day and it was great fun to integrate the city’s sound environment with New Yorkers into a sonic seance of sorts. I did that piece a few times as well as a performance of Christian Wolff’s Stones in Red Hook, at the beach near Valentino Pier Park in 2015. As with my humming piece, the audience were the performers as we all collected stones from the beach and made sounds with them together . One of the joys of MMNY is having people from all walks of life engaged with sound and music in all sorts of ways.


JB: Back to “Muscota Marsh Harmony”, can you explain the program for our followers and speak to the inspiration behind the concept?

John: Muscota Marsh Harmony is a performance that was directly inspired by my neighborhood and community in Inwood, at the top of Manhattan. What I want to do is to harmonize different parts of the neighborhood, whether it be the community, culture, history, and even the environment itself. How this will manifest is through 4 performers, moving through the park space, singing different pitches as well as melodies remembered from their own personal histories. Interviews that I conducted with my neighbors will also be featured, played back through speakers scattered throughout the park. The audience then is free to move through the park and to listen the singers and interviewees relate their perspectives and stories.


JB: Make Music New York is all about uniting New Yorkers in our shared social spaces through the power of music and you have identified a unique and site specific performance venue. How is the program integrated into the layout of the park?

John: The Muscota Marsh is a reclaimed wetland that sits near the convergence of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, properly called Spuyten Duyvil Creek. I wanted to site the performance at this place, between land and water, itself a kind of harmoniousness. With this performance, I don’t want to force the sound into the park, I want to place the singers and the pre-recorded interviews as an outgrowth of what would already be there. I see my contribution as a sonic “scrim” over the environment. Our NYC parks are really a shared space for all of us and this performance will hopefully only add to that.


JB: What are you most looking forward to and how can Make Music fans best enjoy the performance?

John: I’m most looking forward to the warm weather! Make Music New York is always a fantastic day and I hope to take in at least a couple other events before mine in the evening. For people coming to see Muscota Marsh Harmony, I would say come with an open mind and be ready to be surprised by seeing such a pastoral scene in Upstate Manhattan!