Liberty Island’s new 26,000 square foot Statue of Liberty Museum, created by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SOLEIF) and the National Park Service, show close-up views of the Statue and offer an overview of liberty on a global scale.
A longer version of the following article, by Jennifer Walden, originally appeared in the May 2019 of Mix Magazine:
New York-based sound designer/mixer Jeremy Bloom created four soundscapes for the engagement gallery exhibits. For the first one, “Constructing Liberty,” Bloom extensively researched the Statue’s production process. In Paris, sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi used a technique called repoussé.
Supervising Sound Designer: Jeremy S. Bloom
Clients: Nat Park Service / SOLEIF
Exhibit Design Lead: ESI Design
Acoustic Design: SHAcoustics
AV Integration: Diversified
Bloom wanted to re-create this construction process as accurately as possible, so he headed to Les Metalliers Champenois (LMC Corp) in Paterson, N.J., whose team of metalworkers emigrated from France to help restore the Statue in 1984. Since they still had the molds they used, Bloom was “able to record copper of the proper thickness being hammered into the actual forms that were used for the Statue of Liberty,” he says.
“Constructing Liberty” also features a bed of workers’ voices calling out to each other as they’re building the wooden forms and hammering metal sheets, and even gossiping on their break. For this, Bloom worked with loop group expert Dann Fink, co-owner of Loopers Unlimited in New York, who hired a group of French-speaking actors to improvise their dialog based on Bloom’s research of the workers’ names, the production process, and popular theories regarding Lady Liberty’s model. Was it Bartholdi’s mother? His wife? Bloom, who recorded loop group and dialog at NYC’s Gigantic Studios and Sound Lounge, says, “Any Francophones visiting the exhibit may pick up on that information. That’s a fun little Easter egg, a special little treat for them. I love hiding that kind of stuff in my work.”
Historical research also drove Bloom’s next soundscape, called “Opening Ceremony,” which covers the Statue’s unveiling in October 1886. Bloom’s research assistant Amanda Belantara dug up old newspaper articles of the event. Because this was before the prevalence of recording equipment, Bloom notes that journalism of that era was more descriptive than our modern-day news stories.
“Accounts of the ceremony are full of chronological details, like specific interruptions from the crowd, tugboats in the harbor blowing their horns, guns firing from the sides of war ships, and the elocution of various speakers, like Senator William Evarts and President Grover Cleveland. The level of detail is spectacular!” says Bloom.
Casting: Dann Fink, Loopers Unlimited
Voice Actors: Aurelien Gaya, Bill Lobley, Dann Fink, Greg Baglia, Bruce Winant, Marcel Simoneau
Research: Amanda Belantara
Translation: Alexandra Pinel, Kate Deimling
Voice recordist: Patrick Christensen
Recording post supervisor: Rob Browning
Recording services: Sound Lounge
Mix stage: Gigantic Studios
For the voice of President Cleveland, Bloom—who sound designs several shows for WNYC—pulled a recording of Cleveland from the WNYC archives. Voice actor Bill Lobley used that to study Cleveland’s inflections and speech patterns, and then imitated those in his performance of Cleveland’s Statue dedication speech.
“Opening Ceremony” even includes marching band music. Bloom and Belantara researched the marching bands that participated in the event and their musical repertoires. “I’m very confident that the songs in the soundscape are ones that were performed during the actual event,” Bloom says.
“Using a combination of historical sources, we were able to make a script to follow for the dedication ceremony,” he adds. “It’s like a forensic reconstruction of this event. Even though there weren’t sound recordings of it, the soundscape gives a clear picture of what it was like to be there on that day.”
The third soundscape, “Welcoming Immigrants,” is a montage of interviews created from recordings captured as part of an oral history project at Ellis Island. With access to the entire audio archive, Bloom was able to select a diverse range of experiences and reactions to edit together.
There is no music or background ambience in “Welcoming Immigrants.” Since the exhibits are close together and open to each other, music from “Opening Ceremony” and the last exhibit, “Becoming Liberty,” can be faintly heard in “Welcoming Immigrants.” But that’s not a bad thing.
“All of the soundscapes are meant to be symbiotic and intertwine in a way,” says Bloom. “There are key moments when the speeches in ‘Opening Ceremony’ bleed over into ‘Welcoming Immigrants.’ For example, the cannon fire is timed so that it punctuates the interviews of ‘Welcoming Immigrants.’ And the abstract music of ‘Becoming Liberty’ is designed to be completely complementary to the marching band music in ‘Opening Ceremony.’”
In fact, some of Bloom’s evocative music for “Becoming Liberty” was derived from the marching band music in “Opening Ceremony.”
“The music overall is crafted in such a way that it doesn’t reference any musical era or specific instrumentation. It’s ambient music meant to express a timeless feeling,” explains Bloom.
A well-mixed museum environment set to the proper playback volume allows visitors to enjoy the content of the exhibits instead of being bombarded by it. “The design of the museum speaks to visitors on multiple levels, from informative to personal and interactive,” Webster concludes. “The audio has been strategically incorporated to build emotion and drama that brings Liberty’s story to life.”