03. Ghosts of Denver
When I was in Denver for AAAS 2022 I went on a tour of Denver’s Chinatown organized by the conference. I didn’t think there was a Chinatown in Denver so I was curious to see where the tour would take us. Us being myself and two other conference participants. We met in front of Union Station, one of Denver's iconic historic landmarks. This area today is called LoDo (Lower Downtown) and known for its trendy shopping and dining scene. We learned that this was also where Chinese communities lived, faced hate crimes and were eventually driven out. There were multiple communities of Chinese people in Denver whose history was erased. Our guide was Dennis Martinez, founder of We Watta Row. He dove deep into archival material and made close architectural observations of old buildings in the neighborhood. He shared his findings on his tour. That there were thriving Chinese communities, that they were forced out of their homes and businesses. I learned that Martinez had a personal obsession with finding out what happened to the Chinese people, that he collaborated with AAPI community leaders, that the day I took Martinez’s tour the city of Denver formally apologized to early Chinese immigrants and their descendants, that there is a plan to revive Chinatown in Denver.
The conference was not far from Union Station. I stayed at the conference hotel and ate at nice restaurants where the old Chinatown once stood. I was surrounded by ghosts of Denver all around and I felt their presence. I wanted to write a piece about them and how I felt them.
On my final day in Denver I walked to Coors Field alone before getting together with my cohort for dinner. There was a game that night and I heard a man playing bucket drums near the stadium. I recorded the energetic percussion. I layered ghosts’ voices as I imagined. The mood of the city was celebratory but the history I absorbed from the tour became a musical counter narrative. I added Japanese festival sounds I was working on separately and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on the organ. Then I let the ghosts take over the party. The voices at the end of the piece are of my cohort dancing in the streets of Denver on our night out. I thought we could be descendants of Denver’s ghosts. This piece is made with GarageBand and field recording on Voice Memo.