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?