SYLVANIA is an 18-channel audio installation that integrates interviews with South Philadelphia residents and synthesized sounds to explore the sound forest that urban dwellers navigate from day to day.



© 2013 Hannah Selin, ASCAP

OPENING: Friday 9/6 from 6 to 9 PM; special musical performance with friends l. fisher and c. thornton at 6 PM

GALLERY HOURS: 11 AM to 4 PM, Saturdays & Sundays 9/7, 9/8, 9/14, 9/15

ADMISSION FREE @ Metropolitan Gallery 250, 250 S. 18th Street, Philadelphia

Sylvania means “forest land” in Latin. This installation explores city as sound environment, creating an imaginative microcosm of the aural forest that city dwellers navigate on a daily basis. By moving through the space, installation participants develop their own unique listening experiences as different sounds play from 32 small speakers hanging at varied heights in a 7’ by 20’ grid. This past June, I recorded conversational interviews with 15 people in and around my neighborhood in South Philadelphia. Audio material for the installation is derived from these interviews, as well as synthesized sounds created using an audio programming language called Max/MSP. The installation explores urban life, culture and community through sound, dwelling on the tensions and congruences between human, mechanical, and natural sounds. Thematically, the installation calls attention to the measurement of human time, specifically through labor, and the formation of meaning through human speech and sounds. At the nexus of both themes is the development of community in an urban context.


The name of this installation is partially a response to William Penn’s original plans for a city in which every home was surrounded by its own spacious garden. Unsurprisingly, Penn’s aristocratic ideals evaporated as the city developed into a hub of industry and commerce over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. South Philadelphia’s rapid growth during the Industrial Revolution is clearly visible today: almost every block south of Washington Avenue is crowded with rowhomes, and as one moves further south, blocks are subdivided by narrow alleyways that carve out space for even more cramped housing. Only a thin layer of brick or wood separates one house from the next, and the greenery and spacious yards of Penn’s 17th-century imagination are hard to come by.

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