The armies of the earbuds are everywhere, as people – since the dawning of the Walkman – tune out their surroundings. What if, instead, your surroundings became soundtracks? That’s the question posed by a mobile app research project, partnering between New York’s Times Square and a creative team at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

UrbanRemix invites users to capture geo-tagged sounds with a free iOS and Android app, then to string them together into sound compositions on the Web (as seen above):

Download the app
Map + remix interface

There’s a great write-up in the local press here in New York:
Times Square Noise Gets Turned Into Music []

You may have seen this project before – it’s been in trials for some months – but a contest to produce music with the tools is coming to its conclusion.

It’s doubly amusing as I expect New Yorkers are largely the ones focused on trying to tune out these very sounds. (Noise complaints are the most common calls to New York’s 311 city help line, by a large margin, and hopefully not just during CDM-sponsored Handmade Music events.)

It suggests some of the creative and practical use of geo-tagged, mobile field recordings. But I’m struck in particular by seeing paths drawn through the city map as a kind of interactive score – see my rant on the topic of notation’s future, or better yet, play with this interface as it makes the point better than I can in words.

Try it out, and let us know what you think. Field recordings and found sound are nothing new, but they still raise the question: can this change how you hear, or how you respond to your environment?

  • kurt

    Aporee (1 guy) has had a platform up like this for years now; allowing anyone to upload field recordings to the places they were, tag them to a google map, and has android phone and mixing possibilities too. There are thousands of recordings from all over the world there. It's really cool!

  • mat

    We have so many pictures from places, why not more sounds? would be nice to hear into a map 😉 hopefully many people using it for a detailed soundscape…
    And I definitely like the idea of drawing paths (video 2:30)!

  • Jeffrey

    If I had an iphone or android, i'd love to get to doing this around Columbus Ohio.

  • Jason Freeman, one of the primary gentlemen involved with UrbanRemix, is a prolific (and super awesome!) creative composer and teacher who has a large body of work, including a couple of audio processing tools that I've used for years. Google that sh*t!