While driving around yesterday I caught a show on PRI called The Next Big Thing, a weekly exploration of New York…sort of. I caught the tail end of the show, just in from the beginning of an essay by Bruce Odland on a project he and partner Sam Auinger have been working on for almost fifteen years: turning cities into musical instruments.
The tool they use is an aluminum pipe of a specific length – similar to an organ pipe – which resonates at a specific frequency; in this instance, a low B-flat. Microphones are mounted at specific distances along the inside of the pipe. They pick up the overtones generated by the vibration of the pipe. This data is sent to concrete speakers which feed the note and overtones back into the environment.
The result is something extraordinary.
Traffic becomes a chorus of Tibetan and Franciscan monks backed by cello and didgeridoo. Rough edges are smoothed and the crude instruments of industry become bellows in a gigantic pipe-organ.
There is a sample .mp3 at the bottom of this page .
The audio from The Next Big Thing is here . The Odlund piece is at the end of the hour.
A little digging at the O+A site uncovered a link to some more audio clips of their experiments in Germany (German site).