There is no one way to listen to the river; there are multiple listenings and multiple rivers. Listening to the Mississippi is an iterative project that has unfolded over the course of a decade; it is a library of underwater sounds, artwork and actions. This work asks listeners to orient themselves to the river through sound, rather than sight alone. The sounds include water gurgling, train horns, barge engines, fish croaks, silt rushing by in a static crackle, bullfrogs, cicadas, and waves hitting the shore. It includes radio interference of a female voice singing and reporting on the dow jones industrial average.

Listening to the Mississippi is a perceptual adjustment to the river; it is a practice of critical attunement to histories and futures both human and non-human. Sound is a medium to access political, ecological, historical, and present realities that may not be visible by sight, but are always present. Whatever moment the river might invite me to, it is a thick moment, a moment in motion.

In 2013, Monica Moses Haller began a public artwork; a listening station commissioned by Northern Spark and in conjunction with a group of collaborators. In 2015, artist Sebastian Muellauer and Haller expanded the project, making underwater recordings that span the river from the headwaters to the Gulf to create a sound library of more than 200 recordings. In 2019, composers Michi Wiancko and Judd Greenstein used those underwater recordings to create the first “track,” which manifested as a sound composition and traveling listening station that moved down the Mississippi for listening events in towns and sites along its banks. In 2023, Haller expanded these tracks and invited Matt Rahaim to make a new composition for the Twin Cities Triennial, Wakpa. These tracks were accompanied by a book of essays Haller wrote collaboratively with others. The whole work was installed as a public artwork at four places along the Mississippi River.