My Gracious Voices

Experimental Narrative + Creative Coding
Art Direction by Dermot MacCormack

In the summer of 1940, Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin visited the Arvin Migratory Camp with a portable phonograph recorder to collect music and stories for the Library of Congress. I created this digital interface to explore those recordings and the original notes and photographs of families who had been displaced by the Dust Bowl.

They called songs they made up about their current circumstances “migracious songs.” Charles Todd at first thought this came from “My Gracious!” but later realized it was from “migratory.”

Each recording of spoken word or song acts as a digital poster. On each page, the user can tap to create unique on-screen interactions related to the content of the audio. A tune by a 9-year old yodeller features a line that warbles with her voice. A poem about life in the camp allows you to click and add photos that slowly fade. A discussion of the dust bowl engages swirling clouds that responds to touch and the recorded audio.

The project is built for the web using p5.js, a javascript version of Processing. The code is all open source, a parallel to the public domain nature of the recordings, photographs, and original documents that make up the site.

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