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Hari Kunzru

twice-uponOriginally unnerved by urban street noise, novelist Hari Kunzru came to embrace it, reports Jennifer Weiss in The Wall Street Journal (6/16/14). In fact, Hari became so enthralled with street noise that he’s written a book, Twice Upon a Time, that “combines text, images, music and city sounds.” The turning point came after Hari discovered “Louis Hardin, aka Moondog,” who was blind, and in the ’40s “performed in Viking garb on the Avenue of the Americas.”

“It intrigued me that he was blind, because I was having enough trouble negotiating the city as a sighted person,” says Hari, whose novels include Gods Without Men. “I thought, if I pay careful attention, then I can learn where I am in some sort of more profound way than knowing the difference between uptown and downtown.” He took to the streets “with binaural microphones in his ears” and “found that he was attuned to everything from birds in trees to street musicians in a new way.”

In the subways, he encountered “an elderly singer in a velvet tuxedo and an Andean panpipe ensemble,” as well as mariachi bands, for instance. “I think normally we’re really dominated by our visual sense … and if you bump up your auditory sense, it suddenly becomes rich in a different way … I value being in shared public spaces,” says Hari. “I value (New York) being a city where people from all over the world come and decide to occupy space together. That’s my idea of utopia, really.”