Project Mah Jongg is still going strong at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place in Lower Manhattan, New York City. I did the sound design for the exhibition, combining field recordings and period music pieces. The exhibition and catalog, designed by Abbott Miller of Pentagram, features artwork by Christoph Niemann, Isaac Mizrahi, Maira Kalman, and Bruce McCall and was curated by Melissa Martens. We’ve had great press in the New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. The show will travel, so look for updates here - it could be coming to your town.
On view in NYC through January 2, 2011.
What’s it all about? Since the 1920s, the game of mah jongg has ignited the Jewish-American imagination in living rooms and gathering spots around the country. Introduced to American audiences by Joseph P. Babcock who began importing sets en masse around 1922, the game delighted players with its beautifully adorned tiles, associations with other lands, and mysterious rules. Companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Milton Bradley, and Parker Brothers further popularized the game by selling affordable sets across America, setting a craze in motion.
Yet even at the height of the first fad for mah jongg, commentators debated the game’s image as a “vice”—a gambling game, a time waster, and a potential vehicle for rebellious flapper behavior. Introduced to America during a peak in immigration restrictions, the game’s foreign associations stirred both consumer intrigue and stereotypes in the press.