My intention for the project, Listen Louder L.A., is to explore the diversities of our city’s people and ideals, by offering people the opportunity to listen outside their boundaries as the centerpiece of collective art
Los Angeles is celebrated as a city of diversity and a melting pot of cultures. Yet Angelenos have themselves trapped in the comfort of their socio-economic bubbles. Due to the geographic expanse of our city and overcrowded populations combined with inefficient transit connectivity from one side of town to the other, we’ve found ourselves resonating in our own echo chambers.
Then add the internet. Then add sheltering at home from COVID-19.
Our citizens are more isolated from each other than ever before. What’s more poignant is that the political dynamic of our country has never been more partisan.
Our ideas are existing in isolated events, only being heard by those who already have “followed” or “subscribed” to their handpicked philosophies. This scenario allows us to shout along to the chorus of what is comfortable, only amplifying that mantra in effort to drown out any ideas that are not our own. This also obstructs us from listening to what is shouted from opposing perspectives.
Without listening, we lose conversation. Without conversation, we lose sight of the humanity within one another.
Art and culture are often reasons that would organically gather people together, traverse neighborhoods and find curiosity in exploring community. Art asks us to be uncomfortable and, with enough commitment, can shatter the bubbles we find ourselves in. As a community artist in Los Angeles, I have worked my entire career to use community singing as my metaphorical hammer.
Directing choirs, we ask singers to “Listen louder than you sing” in order to be expressing your voice while hearing the voices around you. The goal is to create a harmonious sound built upon many collective layers and colors. Working in song leading in faith-based institutions, music is created to uplift the spiritual essence of the environment and invite the listener to join. Even with Mostly Kosher, my Judaic cultural band, our shows always end with tavern singalong, Yiddish refrains and a collective l’chaim (a toast) so that our voices join together. No matter what walk of life, music and art asks us to listen and see each other.
The Who & What:
Three pairs of artists will be invited to participate in a two-part journey of creating their art.
Artists will represent different artistic mediums, including visual arts and dance, as well as instrumental and vocal music, and will be selected from diverse socio-economic and artistic backgrounds. The project will intentionally curate pairs of artists that create opposing dichotomies. We will pair together artists that have had easier journeys to have their forms of expression heard with artists who continue to struggle to be heard.
All artists will be commissioned to create an artwork in response to the “Why” described above. A synopsis question will be asked: “How can L.A. listen louder?”.
Artists will then be brought together in pairs to share their commission with one another and have a moderated conversation to discuss their interpretation of the prompt. Their cross interview will be recorded and then shared as the second half of the artwork’s journey.
The presentation of works and the interviews will then be shared as the final deliverable to be premiered for audiences to watch. When these “Listen Louder L.A.” episodes are shared, we will survey the audience with similar prompts and invite the whole community to listen with new perspective to each other and to Los Angeles.
Leeav Sofer is on faculty at the Colburn School in Los Angeles where he conducts community engagement programs.
Sofer, recognized as one of the Jewish Journal’s esteemed “30 under 30”, leads the band Mostly Kosher, which is dedicated to preserving and progressing cultural folk music of Judaic heritage. In 2016, Mostly Kosher had the honor of being the first Jewish music ensemble at the Disney parks which was met with critical acclaim, including a special on PBS. The ensemble continues each year as both a touring ensemble at performing arts centers as well as its regular return to a residency at the Disney Parks.
He is the co-founder and director of The Urban Voices Project, a program that provides music workshops for the homeless and disenfranchised individuals on Skid Row and around Los Angeles County. Through healing-centered engagement and Sofer’s experience in social emotional learning, clients use arts to navigate their respective journeys off the streets and back into society. These programs were recognized on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, on NPR’s All Things Considered, and NBC’s Today Show and allowed Sofer to share the stage with various celebrities such as Dick Van Dyke, John Legend and Joan Baez as well as local politicians including television appearances.
After years of teaching from underserved high schools and Title 1 elementary schools in both classroom, lecture and assembly settings, Sofer has become one of Los Angeles County Department of Education’s lead teaching artist and lecturer on how music intersects with social and emotional learning.