Today’s Special Guest: Evan Mazunik, Urban Sound Catcher

David Johnston

Welcome to the third in a series of Today’s Special Guest blog posts by previous Con Edison Composers-in-Residence. Today, we hear from Evan Mazunik, 2010 Composer-in-Residence at Florence E. Smith Community Center in Corona, Queens.


Evan Mazunik


In 2010, I was thrilled by the news that I had received a Con Edison Musicians’ Residency at Florence E. Smith Community Center in Queens. This formal award was a boost to my career in several ways. Trekking out to the community center gave my days and weeks an added structure over the usually languid summer months, and my travels to the center helped me mentally transition from everyday life at home to my “work” as a composer with a regular “commute.”

I also savored exploring an area of New York I had never visited: Corona, Queens. With each foray deeper into this neighborhood, I saw new sights and heard fresh sounds. I believe one of the foundational principles of composition is truly “listening:” listening to the nascent ideas in ones imagination; listening to where and how these ghostly sounds need to grow and develop; listening to ones surroundings – the ensemble, the space, the audience, the times, the culture, etc. So, I treated each excursion to the community center as an exercise in listening. I began journaling each walk I took to and from the 103rd St stop on the 7 train, documenting the sounds I heard along the way. I jotted field notes, transcribing the sounds around me. I imagined myself an urban sound catcher, treating each outing as a chance to capture something new.  Below are a few notable snippets:


– the loping clack of the 7 train passing over elevated tracks

– an accordion groove in a (Columbian?) 6/8 meter

– the “huit-huit” call of a (yet) unspecified species of bird

– a ringing hand bell from shaved ice stand

– that insistent minor third of a car alarm

– the enthusiastic singing of a Korean pop tune from a karaoke party

– the toot of the 7-train’s horn: a curt warning to the MTA workers on the tracks

– the shush of a stiff broom sweeping across a driveway

– the dry buzz of an electric door lock opening at a pay-o-matic check cashing store

– the abrasive tritone honk of a car horn

– the ping of a passenger’s requested stop on the Q23 bus, tuned to a concert “G”

– the gentle grind of a bicycle chain from a biker running a red light

– the rhythmic slap of flip-flops on wet concrete

– the chime of the Associated Supermaket’s register

– the snap of lotto flags flapping in the breeze, lining the edge of a bodega’s awning


When I entered the community center, I was charmed by the warbling sound of my piano’s decidedly untempered tuning. I pulled out a sketch from one of my visits to relatives in the Midwest and tweaked the piece a bit, playing with several spots, letting it breathe with a few pauses of varying length. This work, titled “On the Table,” was loosely inspired by the Sand Hills of Nebraska – its plateaus and valleys, dramatic canyons and sprawling vistas. The resulting composition received a reading at a concert with Chagall Performance Art Collaborative up in Boston on Oct 8, 2011.  You can listen to a solo demo recording of this piece here (see if you can hear the folks chatting and playing pool in a room down the hall).


This residency also gave me the opportunity to work on “Trigger’s Broom,” an ever-evolving suite of music for improvising chamber ensemble.  Several excerpts from this work served as seeds for a film score to the silent movie “The Student of Prague.” I premiered this score at Douglas Street Music Collective on October 19, 2010 as part of “Silent Scream,” my annual Halloween tradition of scoring and screening a silent film.


So, what’s next for me as a musican? I’m currently in the process of finalizing the mix for a live recording I did in the summer of 2011 with my band ZAHA.  I’m also working on material for “Kupala,” a piece for percussion ensemble I’ll premiere this summer at Irondale Center in Brooklyn as part of Make Music New York.  Along the way, I’m keeping my ears open for new sounds. Many thanks to Exploring the Metropolis for their support!


Evan Mazunik is a composer/keyboardist living in Woodside, NY.  Visit Evan Mazunik to download a FREE mp3 and get more information on upcoming performances. Plus … don’t forget to sign up on our homepage under “EtM News” for info on the upcoming 2012 Con Edison Musicians’ Residency!



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