Audio landscapes take listeners to Manhattan before it was Manhattan

Experience Manhattan’s natural world before the Dutch arrived during journalists-only audio showcase and virtual reality immersion premiere

WHO:            Creators of “Calling Thunder: The Unsung History of Manhattan” project unveil soundscapes and 360 experience of the natural world of Manhattan island before the Dutch arrival with a formal audio presentation, and break-out sessions for journalists to experience the project via virtual reality technology

WHEN:          Tuesday, April 25, noon to 1 p.m.

WHERE:        Cornell’s ILR Conference Center, 16 E. 34th St., 6th floor, Midtown

MEDIA:         Journalists are invited to attend this special media-only lunch. To attend, please contact Daryl Lovell at (607) 254-4799 or (607) 592-3925 or by e-mail at


NEW YORK – What if you could use the smartphone to take a virtual step back in time to experience the island of Manhattan before it was the global metropolis it is today?

‘Calling Thunder: The Unsung History of Manhattan’ project creators David Al-Ibrahim and Bill McQuay will use the latest audio and visual technology to transport users to four Manhattan locations as they sounded before the Dutch arrived, when the Lenape communities and wildlife native to “Mannahatta” roamed the island. For the first time, they will preview the experience during a special journalists-only event on Tuesday, April 25 from noon to 1 p.m. at Cornell’s ILR Conference Center in Midtown.

Informed and inspired by Dr. Eric Sanderson’s work on the Mannahatta Project with the Wildlife Conservation Society, which identifies the species and natural wildlife on Manhattan before the Dutch arrival, project co-creators McQuay and Al-Ibrahim will use audio and visual technology to transport users to the same spots pre-1609. They use sounds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library – the world’s premier scientific archive of natural history audio, video and photos – to recreate an immersive, audio experience. McQuay and Al-Ibrahim began working together on NPR’s first-ever 360 story: Rocky Mountain VR. Their experience provoked continued efforts to connect people with their environments through immersive media, spatial audio, and interactive content.

The four locations include the High Line, The American Museum of Natural History, Collect Pond Park at Lafayette Street and Franklin Avenue, and Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan. Soundscapes from the High Line and Collect Pond Park will be showcased on April 25, but all four will be available at the event.

Presenters include:

  • Bill McQuay, project co-creator and audio producer with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For 15 years, McQuay was an NPR sound engineer and technical director for programs including Morning EditionWeekend Saturday and SundayPerformance Todayand NPR’s Radio Expeditions.
  • David Al-Ibrahim, project co-creator is an interaction designer and storyteller based in New York. He has created 360 content for news organizations and advised agencies on UX design for virtual environments. Al-Ibrahim is currently completing an MFA in Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
  • Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo and author of “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City.” His work has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic Magazine, CNN, NPR, and The New Yorker. He is also the director of The Mannahatta Project, an effort to reconstruct the original ecology of Manhattan Island at the time of European discovery in the early seventeenth century.

Journalists will have the opportunity to preview the experience on April 25, including immersive soundscapes and a 360 mobile experience using Google cardboard VR headsets where the user views, turns and interacts by moving the phone itself.



About Inside Cornell: This event is part of a series held in New York City featuring high-interest experts working at Cornell University in Ithaca and in New York City. The free, catered lunch sessions are on-the-record, and media members are welcome to record video and audio as desired.




Daryl Lovell
Office: 607-254-4799
Mobile: 607-592-3925