HEAR BELOW: Listening to Chicago Underground

HEAR BELOW: Listening to Chicago Underground

A Soundwalk in Chicago’s Pedway System led by Christophe Preissing and Eric Leonardson

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Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 2 – 3 PM

Meet inside the Illinois Center located at northeast corner of Lake Street and Michigan Avenue, near Wow Bao. The soundwalk concludes near Starbucks below the Richard J. Daley Center near Clark and Randolph Streets.

Where can you go to get something to eat, see a movie, shop for apparel, go swimming, get a marriage license, and catch a train to Indiana? Why the Chicago Pedway of course! Begun in 1951 when the city constructed a tunnel connecting what are now the Red and Blue lines, the Pedway was not always a destination, serving the rather more mundane function as a safe passage for pedestrians while protected from the weather.

Chicago is a city of diversity: diversity of neighborhoods, of architecture, of sights and sounds, culture, and language. While the city above is not strictly mirrored below, the Pedway—a microcosm of the city—offers a seemingly endless maze of corridors, a labyrinth of passageways, that reflects the energy and the diversity of the city and its inhabitants above. Each passage is a unique sound environment, a world with its own sights, sounds, and aromas. In fact, each corridor is separated from those adjacent by airtight glass and revolving doors!

Like the city above, the Pedway was created in a somewhat haphazard manner, sometimes through planning, sometimes through the utter lack of planning, sometimes through sheer brute force. What can we learn about the city by experiencing and listening to this most ordinary of places? What is it that unifies the Pedway—and the city above. What makes each space, each passage unique? And by extension, what is it that makes Chicago, Chicago? By listening to and observing the details of human experience below, of the individual comings and goings, of the hustle-bustle of ordinary activities, can we come to a better understanding of the city, of the life of the city?

Hear Below: Listening to Chicago Underground will explore the east to west route beginning at the Illinois Center, passing through the Metra Platform, Millennium Station, South Shore Platform, the Chicago Cultural Center, Macy’s, the Red Line station, Block 37, the Blue Line Station, and end near Starbucks below the Richard J. Daley Center. Led by Christophe Preissing, of NON:op Open Opera Works, and MSAE’s Eric Leonardson, we will stop and listen to the unique sound environment of each of these segments of the Pedway, get a little history along the way and conclude with a conversation at the end of the soundwalk.

It is through experiencing the hustle and bustle of this rather ordinary of conveyances, the Pedway, that according to urban critic Jane Jacobs, reveals “the seemingly mysterious and perverse behavior of cities”. That by looking and listening “closely, and with as little previous expectation as is possible, at the most ordinary scenes and events, [we can] attempt to see what they mean and whether any threads of principle emerge among them.”