A Celebration of Homegrown Music from Washington, DC
Out of Our Shells:
Out of Our Shells
Out of Our Shells
About the Project
A brief history of Out of Our Shells
The Humanities Truck Grant
In the summer of 2021, American University professor Aram Sinnreich, his PhD advisee Neil Perry, and his musical partner Dunia Best received a grant from the Humanities Truck Foundation to create a mobile recording studio. Our aim was to bring free, professional-quality recording equipment and expertise to the doorstep of deserving musicians across the DC region, with an emphasis on capturing the diverse range of sounds, styles, and cultures the region has to offer. We especially wanted to help people "out of their shells" after nearly two years in relative isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic — and to bring these diverse musical communities into greater contact with one another.
The Recording Project
With the help of local world music promoter Multiflora Productions and media coverage from local outlets like DCist and WTOP, the Out of Our Shells team fielded a call for any and all musicians in the Washington, DC area to submit their work for inclusion in the project. We sorted through a great many wonderful submissions, and eventually selected fourteen local artists, each of them representing a different community, genre, and neighborhood in the area.
Throughout the winter and spring of 2022, the Out of Our Shells team did weekly recording sessions with our selected artists — sometimes in the truck itself, sometimes in a public outdoor area using the truck as a control room, sometimes in the homes and studios of the artists, and sometimes in neighborhood institutions like places of worship and nightclubs. We were assisted by the undergraduate and masters-level students in the class taught at AU that semester by Sinnreich & Perry, entitled "Musical Cultures & Industries." In addition to assisting with recording, the students also assisted the team with capturing oral histories and b-roll video of the sessions.
Compilation and Concert
During the summer of 2022, the Out of Our Shells team — led by Perry, who has a long professional history as a Grammy-winning sound engineer — mixed and mastered each of the tracks we'd recorded over the course of the winter and spring. Additionally, we organized a free, live concert featuring eight of the artists from the compilation, which took place outdoors at Rhizome DC on August 14th — the same date on which the compilation was released publicly. In 2023, we released a short documentary film about the project, which was shown at the Humanities Truck Film Festival.
Dunia and Aram have presented our work with Out of Our Shells to a variety of audiences, from University College London to incarcerated students at the DC Jail. The response has been overwhelmingly positive; we have our amazing artists to thank for that. ❤️
Our next steps: 1) Donating the archive of music and video footage to libraries and archives so they can be accessed freely by the residents of Washington, DC and the world at large; and 2) Starting a private foundation to raise funds to continue doing this important work.
A new mobile recording studio aims to amplify overlooked D.C.-area musicians (NPR)
D.C. musicians record album with everything from bagpipes to hip-hop in mobile studio (WAMU-FM)
License and Copyright
All music, video, images, and text on this site are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.