“Listening to the Mississippi” is an iterative project, a grouping of underwater sounds recorded in and around the river, a series of artworks and actions that have unfolded over 10 years. Here, those sounds are engaged by Tia-Simone Gardner, artist and Black feminist scholar; Matt Rahaim, composer and ethnomusicologist; Michi Wiancko and Judd Greenstein, composers and musicians; and Monica Moses Haller, artist. Each person has their own multitude of ways of coming to the river.  Some soundtracks are simple sounds, one recording within the water. Other tracks are compositions of layered sounds made by the artists here.

Here, sound is a medium to enter personal, environmental, political, emotional realities. Sound recordings are limited, and they are signifiers. They can offer listeners a subtle, non-visual way to enter deeper into a place, the present, the past, the future, and one’s own imagination.

I started listening because there was a familial distance that the river began to connect. This distance was contemporary and ancestral; and the river contained that over time. I listen to connect to the border relationships and broader systems of which the sounds are a part, of which I am a part. This is one way my ear is bent. How do you listen? What’s your inclination?

The book, notes for listening, share perceptions of the sounds written by the artists and me in April, 2023. These notes are not fixed; if we wrote them last year, or next month they would change routes, flow differently. By the end of the summer, they will be refuted and changed. We approach listening “as a process rather than a certainty.”1 An invitation to learn, attune, to know and pay attention.

The book, “notes for listening” also invites the participant to write what they hear. The blank pages make room for what cannot be contained here and the things that are not named.

What do you hear? What do you know? How do you change?

- Monica Moses Haller

1Hopinka, Sky. “The Centers of Somewhere,” Walker Art Center, Crosscuts, April 16, 2018, https://walkerart.org/magazine/sky-hopinka-op-ed-uncertainty-authority-indigenous-representation.
“I’m beginning to understand how to be a listener, without being a spectator, and knowing that it is a pursuit of process rather than certainty.”