GPS Beatmap from Jesse Stiles on Vimeo.

“Locative art,” the idea that somehow location will feed into music and visuals, has eluded culture. We have the technology, in the form of sophisticated databases of location information and highly accurate, publicly-available GPS satellites. But it’s one of those solutions in search of a problem, and begs the question, why?

That is, until you unleash a nearly 6-liter V8 Ford LTD Crown Victoria on the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats, and your driving gets translated to music. Now it makes sense. And sweeping through the salty dust in one of America’s greatest action-car-chase cars of all time, manipulating music on a Max/MSP software patch, all becomes right with the world. (That’s how it is in my head, anyway.)

The planet is your control surface.

Such is the project sent by co-creator Jesse Stiles, who worked with Rich Pell (and editor/documentarian Olivia Robinson) under the name Face Removal Services to perform this vehicular musical production. (Thank, as well, The Center for Land Use Interpretation / GPS Expo 2006. PS – I think we now know what to do with all those clunkers Americans are turning in for Cash for Clunkers.)

Now, this covers only X and Y axis. I think we need to add the Z-axis, for base jumpers. (I had a dream last night in which I was hang gliding from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River below, a reminder that the Earth – and computer interfaces – do not have to be flat.)

  • OK, this is one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. Thanks for posting Peter!

  • If only my old Ford Taurus were still alive…

  • This is awesome, but

    Did you mean Z-axis?

  • @metaphreaq: Thanks for the correction. Hey, there's next to each other on the keyboard. I think that z-axis mapping would be possible; I believe GPS systems include elevation.

    @Adam: I think LTD beats Taurus; to go up against this you'd need a GM equivalent – Olds 88, anyone?

  • @Peter Kirn

    No worries, just wanted you to catch it. Yes I think that would be entirely possible.. Mapped to a beats volume? So the higher you drive the less the beat is heard. Guess that wouldn't work on the Salt Flats 😉

  • @Peter Kirn @metaphreaq: Here are the interesting variables that I was able to harvest using Max: latitude, longitude, altitude (meters above sea), and speed (km/h). In addition to lat/long for position we also used speed to tweak the cut-off frequency of a high-pass filter (the idea was to let the engine rumble cut through when you're gunning it). As @metaphreaq pointed out, altitude was not a very interesting variable on our principle test site. There's also some less interesting info I was able to grab via GPS like number of satellites in the sky, date/time, etc.

  • flangercize

    What a cool idea Jesse. This made my day. Thanks for sharing and thanks for posting Peter.

    It'd be fun to see this beatmapping beast cruising around the playa of Burning Man. People would love it.

    @Adam @Peter Kirn: Ford LTD rocks! My dad had a 1969 Plymouth Fury…LTD has that same cool boxy vibe. Yes.

  • This is great!

    a cool example of locative audio art…

    there is quite a growing history of these now, but none quite like this!

    i was involved with a project doing this on a ship on the Baltic sea at 2004's ISEA. – "Syren" by the AudioNomad group…

    more info:

    also a bunch of papers on the topic here:

    this one has a review of works:

  • Bekesy

    This could get really interesting if implemented with multiple motorists sending GPS data to a centralized generator. Imagine the possibilities. You could get a few drivers together and do a group performance. Or you could pool the data of hundreds of cars over a wide area and create a motor driven generative symphony.

    With the current one car implementation, the mashups are more or less predetermined by how the circles are arranged, which to me doesn't quite live up to the potential of what is otherwise a great idea.

  • sad

    now even musicians are into being tracked by gps.

    the end is indeed nigh.

  • @sad

    it will be even easier after we get our chips!

    buck it up, it's the future!

  • Davide

    Brilliant! and yet oh so wanky.

  • ben

    I was thinking about programming a little data logger onto my G1 so I could at least get some controller data out of the two hours a day I spend commuting… these guys look they have more fun doing it than I would.

    In addition to X,Y,Z, you have the three angles that could be used as controllers too. And then whatever you get from your accelerometers … lots of inputs.

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  • It'd be cool if they integrated this with something like Tour De France. Different cyclists passing through different melody or rhythmic zones as the race goes.

  • I like the idea, but there's something missing…maybe I'm occluded by the constant use of the term "mashup," but it seems like there is a reliance on process over meaning or feeling here?

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  • JavaJ

    This is screaming iphone app all over it. Plus using the compass feature and the accelerometers would be very interesting.

  • "what is it?"

    "its a gps controlled mashup techno freakout control device for location based remixing of techno freakout music"

    this is the coolest statement ever xD

  • tabo

    He, he, he… Someone would'nt have read William Gibson's "Spook Country" ? Besides being a thrilling SciFi novel, it's also a very convincing use of locative art and augmented reality.

    Check it here

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