Project Overview

An experiment with sound archive

Faculty Sponsor

Yi Cui (


Art and Art History


Over ten years ago, I produced a short fiction film called “A Closer Walk With”. It was situated in the long-abandoned Michigan Central Station. The film meanders through a real encounter and an imaginative encounter between a tourist and a musician who resides in the “past” of the narrative space of the old train station. Music played a central role traversing time and space in the film. Towards the end, the New Orleans funeral song “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” was played by Detroit based Jazz musician Vincent York in the abandoned architecture, carrying the viewers from a desolate and dead space into the realm of hope and revival.

Now after many years, Michigan Central station is being renovated and transform into part of Ford Motor’s new mobility innovation district. The history of the architectural space portrayed in “A Closer Walk With” will soon be buried under the new facade. And my short fiction film is turning into a documentary, in which the image and, more importantly the sound, archived the past of the historical building. Through my research on Michigan Central station and other historical buildings in the area, I encountered many images, but hardly found any sound. This led me to the question: can sound carry a unique dimension of the history that text or image cannot portray?

In the current project, I will use footage from “A Closer Walk With” as the prelude for an experiment of a “spatial Jazz”. Various Detroit based Jazz musicians will be invited to improvise music in a number of historical architecture buildings. These components will be harmonized into a larger Jazz music piece. What makes it unique is that the resonance of the architectural space to the music instrument will be an integral component of the music, which may be interwoven with oral history of the musicians. The finished work will serve as a sound archive of the urban space of Detroit. 

Student Qualifications

Students need to have comprehensive understanding of video art. In addition, they need to have at least one of the following skills:

1. skills of camera operation
2. skills of location sound recording
3. video editing skills

Extensive knowledge on music is considered an asset for this work. 

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2022 and close on 02/04/2022

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (