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The Minden Sundown Siren

Soundscape Design - A Tool For Social Justice



“The role of the urban soundscape designer is to expand the effective potential of the urban, which means identifying and disrupting the urban rhythms that dominate our experience: this is activism.” - Jordan Lacey, Sonic Rupture

For the last 2 years I’ve been focused on perspectives of qualitative studies on the effects of sound in the urban environment and everyday life. This interest turned into a passion for soundscape design practices and their applications within lower income and rural communities. At the same time, I began to follow a story out of Minden Nevada, a sonic horror story that replays repeatedly for its listeners and inhabitants for nearly 2 centuries.

The Minden Nevada sundown siren was revealed for public display in 1921, after a nearly 2 decades law established in 1908 requiring all native people to exit the town by sundown, scheduled to sound off every day at noon and 6 pm, a systematic form of discrimination akin to what Black people faced in the Jim Crow South. No marginalized group was more affected by these laws then the Native American Washoe people.

Research was conducted regarding Minden's sundown sirens history, impact of the siren, local and governmental views on the siren, Minden Nevada's race relations, history of the Washoe Tribe in Minden and an interview with Chairman Serrell Smokey of the Washoe Tribe and the architect behind the push to get rid of the siren.

My research goal was to learn about Minden’s sundown sirens history, the town’s race relations and political obstacles connected to the siren and to find out if its feasible to produce a full-scale soundscape intervention by applying exploratory sound art and soundscape design approaches that could lead to more equitable, sustainable and imaginative listening environments than those achieved through typical acoustic design approaches such as shutdowns, attenuations and masking for the town of Minden Nevada.

If you’re interested and you’d like to participate in this research project, please read this page.

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