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On 47th Street, you’re invited to a hidden musical sandbox

Posted on 26 October 2017

Photo by Andrew Ford

Every Monday night in the Suzuki Piano Studio on South 47th Street, David Ford tries to create a hivemind.

As his “Sonic Sandbox” begins, a circle of half a dozen or so people start to make whatever noise comes to mind; gradually, a haphazard ensemble of instruments comes in, and some structure appears. People copy each other. By the end of it, it’s hard to tell who’s copying who, and that’s exactly the point.

“It’s like being a kid again, I guess,” said Ford, who founded Sonic Sandbox. 

Ford discourages professionalism, and last Monday’s session was rife with dog barks, high-pitched whoops, and unsettling drones. Each participant contributes whatever comes to mind, but Ford’s ultimate goal is to absorb each individual into one whole. Repeatedly, Ford encouraged participants to copy one another; copying, to him, is a life skill. It’s a way towards togetherness.

“There’s a lot of people out there who are really lonely… and don’t know how to connect with each other,” he said. Compared to sex and drink, he continued, Sonic Sandbox is a healthier way to create community.

Ford first began to dabble in improvisational dance and music, including at the famous Group Motion dance company, as a way to cope with bipolar disorder. Then, about three years ago, he and a few friends started to develop a more formalized method of making music through improvisation. Finally, this September, Ford began hosting the regular Monday sessions, which he hopes can be financially self-sustaining. The first session is free, but later ones are $25. Those who go to many sessions can get discounts, since Ford wants to encourage regular attendance.

“[The group] becomes tighter over time,” he said.

Ford’s dream is that the technique will become popular enough to spread throughout the city. He says it can even be applied in business contexts, as a way to encourage collaboration. Sonic Sandbox is held at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays at Suzuki Piano Studio at 47th and Cedar.

Eduard Saakashvili

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