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Watch Location-Aware Music on TED Talk


In this TED talk Ryan Holladay of Bluebrain tells us why he is experimenting with what he describes as “location-aware music,” a project that he created with his brother, Hays.  Location-aware compositions are special albums composed specifically for a particular place – in this case, Central Park – and each track on the album is synced with the listeners locations within the area.  Remarkably those outside of Central Park can not access this album – the music is only available through an app, and then only for people walking through Central Park.  The app is called “Listen to the Light,” and uses a phone’s GPS location to weave together musical themes inspired by New York City’s Central Park.  Ryan and his brother, Hays, who together formed Bluebrain, went to college in New York City and were inspired by Central Park, which motivated them to use this location for one of their location-aware music projects.

The Huffington Post describes how the app for “Listen to the Light” works: As you approach one area, you hear one piece of music. As you move, the music changes — the melody could be generally the same, but the piece may begin incorporating different instruments, different volume levels and other variations.  As you move to other areas of the park, the melodies may change completely. How it changes is up to you and how you move through the park, but it’s designed to always blend seamlessly.  Since the app is determined by a person’s movements, there are countless musical journeys from which to choose.

In this image of the Washington Monument, you can see some of the circles of sound that will play different compositions depending on the location of the listener:

Location-Away Music

This map shows the circles of sound that will play different tracks of Bluebrain’s album.

Many of us who jog or take walks with our little white earbuds connected to our iPhones know how much music can enhance an outdoor experience.  What is unique about a location-aware musical experience is that the music is composed for the space, forever linking the composition to the location.  This creates a new dimension that has never existed before.  It’s important to note how technology has enabled this experience, which would not even have been possible before the creation of “apps.”  If more musicians take on this initiative, every large city could have its own location-aware music compositions for its most popular landmarks.  This could create new activities for tourists, and add more access to artistic experiences for the community.  Let’s get Bluebrain to Griffith Park next!

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