Under every city and town sign in Massachusetts, Noah Wisch, a lanky Emerson College senior, filmed himself playing a single note on his ukulele.
Just one note, played in 351 towns. But when combined, the notes create a whimsical melody that 21-year-old Wisch calls “Sidewalks.” It’s his ode to the state.
After hours of editing the snippets together, town after town in alphabetical order, he posted his video on YouTube Monday under the name “BananaCactus Ukulele.”
“I think there was a desire to see the parts of the state I’d never seen before,” Wisch said in a phone interview about his song. “I make videos and music and I’m really into these big projects that are seemingly impossible, but they just take a lot of work.”
For three months this past summer, the Stow native traveled around Massachusetts with his girlfriend, Emmalie Keenan, 22, a senior at UMass Amherst. On each day of a weekend, they could visit 20 to 30 towns and cities in every corridor of the Commonwealth, filming and sometimes staying with friends and family along the way. Keenan said it made for a fun road trip and long days.
Luckily, the car only broke down only once.
“We tried to stop at local places as much as we could,” Keenan said. “I don’t think I realized how many roast beef sandwich places there are around Massachusetts. Turns out, I don’t like them. We mainly ate a lot of seafood. It was summer so that was a big thing on the coasts.”
Nearly every frame of the video shows Wisch standing near or in front of one of Massachusetts’ distinctive white signs found at every town and city line.
“There was a lot of waiting for cars to go by so there wasn’t any background noise,” Wisch said. “Or playing [a note] at different lengths, trying to make sure I got the exact right length of note for the song. It was usually pretty quick each time.”
Their tour took them on drives to Florida, (Mass.,) where Wisch performed a note in beach clothes, to Monroe, the second smallest town in the state. They took a 10-hour ferry trip to Nantucket and Gosnold. In one case, they got off the ferry, filmed for five minutes, and got right back on. In Sandwich, Wisch played with a sandwich in his mouth.
“I had a hard time explaining it to people,” Wisch said of the project. “In hindsight, it makes total sense after you’ve seen the video, but trying to explain why you’re only recording one note and what it was going to sound like was difficult. Now being able to let people watch it is very relieving.”
Production challenges included removing overgrown bushes and tree branches that blocked signs and drivers whipping by yelling obscenities.
The couple’s favorite moments?
“The driving in between the signs was the best part,” Wisch said. “Just getting to be in the car and seeing the state.”
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